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Port Day: St. Barthelemy, French West Indies

Tiny St. Barthelemy has an outsized reputation for an island that is all of 9 square miles. It is very French, very chic and can be very expensive. It is also absolutely beautiful with phenomenal beaches, crystal clear waters, and beautiful villas that tumble down its hillsides. It is also a wonderful place to spend a glorious day hobnobbing with an International crowd whose yachts line its superb harbor. You won’t find St. Barth’s, as its name is shortened to by just about everybody, on the itineraries of any giant cruise ships.

But its location, just a 15-minute hop by air or a 45-minute boat ride from St. Maarten, make it possible for large ship passengers to spend a day in this Caribbean version of St. Tropez. But bring your passport! If your ship is small enough to put St. Barth’s on its itinerary, you’ll still take a tender in and arrive at exactly the same place the ferries do in Gustavia, its capital. From there, everything is easily accessible from shopping to beaches to restaurants offering some of the best food in the Caribbean.

Here’s Our Guide to what to do for a day on St. Barth.

Luxury Shopping 

You couldn’t pick a better place to do it. Luxury retailers are at your feet when you arrive in Gustavia. On Quai de la Republique, every major French luxury brand is represented from Chanel to Hermes to Louis Vuitton. Since St. Barth’s is a duty-free port and there’s no sales or value added tax, it’s really a great place to shop for jewelry and watches. And then there’s the clothing on offer. Both women’s wear and men’s wear are represented in shops that line Rue de General De Gaulle at almost every price point. Look in at Victoire, Linen, Calypso, Laurent Eiffel to see what the French wear while sunning themselves.

 

RELATED: One destination makes Gustavia a tropical paradise

St. Barth’s Best Beaches

Shell Beach is actually walkable from the pier in Gustavia. You’ll get to see a bit of the town on your way. Shell Beach lives up to its name making walking on the beach not everyone’s idea of a good time. Bring your own towels. Or, if you’re feeling flush, Shellona, a pricy restaurant, rents not only beach towels but lounge chairs and umbrellas at 50 Euros a pop. A better idea might be to take a 20 Euro taxi ride right from the pier to St. Jean. St. Jean itself has shops galore and a lovely sandy beach in a protected cove—great for swimming. Right on the beach is Nikki Beach, where the rich and famous have lunch and you can too. Or you can head to Salines, a favorite of island regulars which presents you with quite a hike before you reach one of the finest beaches in the Caribbean. Always organize your return taxi to Gustavia and allow yourself plenty of time.

Tour St. Barth on your Own

No place on St. Barth is more than a 20-minute drive and it’s the best way to cover the most ground. Oscar Car Rental is a particular favorite because they’ll bring the car to you and retrieve it when you leave. Any valid driver’s license will do. And you can circle the island, stopping for jaw-dropping views from one end to the other. The view from Columbier is particularly picturesque. 

If you’re looking for a great place to eat…

You really have come to the best island to do just that. St. Barth has everything from great pizza to gourmet fare and even the original “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. The latter is found at “Le Select” 132 Rue de France right in town at the start of Rue de General De Gaulle.

If you’re a Jimmy Buffett fan, this is the place. A languid lunch is a St. Barth tradition. Sand Bar at the Eden Rock Hotel in St. Jean may be the closest ordinary mortals will get to this fabulously expensive hotel. Or walk across the street to Kiki e Mo for a better burger or up the hill to Le Piment both reasonable and really good.

In Gustavia, La Creperie Rue de Roi Oscar II is the perfect place for a sandwich to take to the beach or a crepe to eat right there. And for that pizza, you can’t do better than L’Isoletta, Rue de Roi Oscar II  which is up the hill on the same street. Finally, there’s Le Quartier General, 1 rue Jeanne d arc, Gustavia 97133 St. Barthelemy a great favorite of the locals and for good reason:

Great French food at affordable prices—that is, St. Barth affordable. Bon Appetit!

Don’t miss Winair where a roundtrip one day ticket will set you back a little under $300 or the Ferry Service closest to where your cruise ship docks in Phillipsburg, St. Maarten. Approximately 90 Euros Roundtrip. Bon Voyage!

Monte Mathews

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