St. Barts General Information
In the days prior to the Europeans, the Carib Indians were native to St. Barts Island for hundreds of years. The small island was called St. Barts Ouanaloa, but Christopher Columbus changed the name after arriving in 1493. The current name of the small island came from his take on the original name, St. Bartholomé, after his brother. The French were the first major European power to take an interest in St. Barts Island. The French were intrigued by St. Barts Island’s special location within the West Indian Trade Route. Despite the lack of agricultural prosperity, the well-situated island post offered access to shipping lanes in a tumultuous and profitable part of the world. Disputes with natives on St. Barts Island were finally extinquished in the late 17th century with the establishment of a more formal colony.
St. Barts Island’s protected harbor through the 17th century until the island came to be worth more to others. France took the opportunity to trade St. Barts Island to Sweden in 1794 for port rights to Goteborg. King Gustav III took a first-hand role in developing the port and island (as it was their only outlet within the profitable Caribbean trade triangle). St. Barts Island grew exponentially. Gustavia (named for Gustav) turned to a thriving shipping and trading port within years of the massive investment. A series of setbacks, including fire and earthquake, in the 19th century sidetracked St. Barts Island’s growth. The resulting impact to St. Barts Island’s economy turned the small colony into a terrible financial burden to Sweden; Oscar II decided to take action and St. Barts Island was eventually sold back to France, who renamed it once again, Saint-Barthélemy.
Many of St. Barts Island few thousand residents are descendent from the original Norman and Breton settlers who first came to in the 1600s. The island also provides an outlet for many native French working in the Travel & Leisure industry. Tourism is an the most integral part of the island's economy, yet local government officials have done much to control the growth on St. Barts Island in an attempt to preserve the natural beauty of this Caribbean paradise.
St. Barts Island is a dependency island of Guadeloupe, which in turn is an Overseas Department and Region of France. As such, St. Barts Island participates in French elections. It has its own mayor, who is elected every seven years, a town constable, and a security force consisting of six policemen and 13 gendarmes. The latter are sent from France on tours of duty lasting two years. St. Barts Island and neighboring St. Martin comprise a Sous- Préfecture of Guadeloupe, which is administered by a Sous-Préfect who resides in St. Martin and has a representative on St. Barts.
The Aéroport de St. Jean is the only St. Barts airport to serve the island. The facilities are composed of a small, recently refurbished landing strip that is in operation during daylight hours only. The options for St. Barts airport are few, as the island is only 8 sq. miles. It is relatively simple to reach the St. Barts airport through many Caribbean air hubs. Travelers coming from international destinations may connect via the Juliana International Airport on St. Martin/St. Maarten. Several large airlines, including American and Continental, fly direct to St. Martin Airport making the flight only one connection. The short flight from St. Martin to the St. Barts airport takes only 15 minutes from tarmac to tarmac; providing amazing views of the beaches and hills of St. Barts and the Terres Basses on St. Martin. Plane service to the St. Barts airport is offered by Windward Island Airways and Air Caraibes.
Most destinations on the island are within easy reach of the St. Barts airport.
St. Barts airport:
Aéroport de St. Jean
Documents for arrival onto St. Barts:
All foreign citizens need a passport and a return or ongoing ticket.
St. Barts Airlines
Air St. Thomas
St. Barth Commuter
Winward Islands Airways International (Winair)
Approximate flight times:
St. Martin to St. Bart: 10 minutes
Guadeloupe to St. Bart: 55 minutes
Boat and Ferry travel:
Voyager offers ferry service for day trips between St.Barts and St. Martin
Rapid Explorer from St. Martin to St.Barts is 40 minutes.
St. Barts Island Airport Transfers:
The Airport St. Jean is located approximately 15 minutes from the majority of the villas on St. Barts. Guests will need to rent a car, which we are happy to arrange and we will provide a complimentary airport meeting and escort to the villa.
The island charges a $5 departure tax when your next stop is another French island, $10 if you are off to anywhere else. This is payable only in cash, dollars or euros, at the airport.
Guests to St. Barts who wish to stay in touch with the latest news, St. Barts local as well as international affairs, will not have a hard time while on vacation. For those seeking a bit of local French language news, St. Barts' official periodical - Le Journal de St. Barth, is a weekly publication offering all the latest affairs on-island. Many guests to the island are not able to speak French but there are many other ways of keeping abreast of the news. St. Barts prints a number of monthly and annual magazines that are geared towards American visitors to the island. These periodicals feature both French and English articles, making the island more inviting to those who lack the language. Many of these publications are free and contain useful information for guests to St. Barts. New visitors to St. Barts will find helpful hints such as restaurants, points of interest, and cultural news. St. Barts tourist centers and magazine shops may also carry some of the more well-known international newspapers.
For guests who prefer online source of news, St. Barts telecommunications are equipped to hook up short-term visitors with a temporary dial-up internet connection. The service is offered by Power Antilles, a local provider based on the French side of St. Martin, who will set up any laptop with an account. With an internet connection, any news, St. Barts or otherwise, is at your fingertips.
St. Barts Area Code
If you bring a cell phone to the island and wish to activate it for local use, visit St. Barth Electronique across from the airport, as many alternatives are possible depending on your service plan.
Public telephones do not accept coins; they accept telecartes, prepaid calling cards that you can purchase at the gas station next to the airport or at post offices.
St. Barts Villa Communications:|
The villas are all equipped with telephones and guests will be advised of the particular phone number of the property prior to departure. Please do note that none of the properties have an open international line. International calls can be made with ATT and MCI cards. Phone cards or telecartes can be purchased at the gas station next to the airport or at post offices.
220 Volts. Adapters are necessary for visitors from North America
Many of the villas come equipped with a Fax machine.
Centre Alizes on rue de la Republique in Gustavia provides Internet access. Some of the villas will allow you to establish a laptop internet connection.
The island of St. Barts is only 8 sq. miles, but an absence of public transportation and an unreliable taxi system make St. Barts car rentals a necessity. Most roads are perched on hillsides and are quite narrow and very winding. Many guests will find that their St. Barts car rentals will have the small size to fit side-by-side on these small streets while having the power to move you up the hill! Most villas are located on the hillside and the island's great beaches are scattered from corner to corner making a St. Barts car rental even more essential for finding the right sandy experience. There are many boutiques and fine restaurants to explore in Gustavia and other parts of the island, a St. Barts car rental will allow your party to explore with complete freedom.
Though the island can be a bit pricey, St. Barts car rentals are moderately priced. There are many different St. Barts car rental agencies to choose from. Most St. Barts car rentals are found near the airport and are easily found while exiting the small terminal. Included in the collection of St. Barts car rental agencies are major companies like Avis and Budget, as well as local operators dealing in St. Barts car rentals. From these, average St. Barts car rentals will cost in the area of US$50 per day, but prices do vary between high and low seasons. Choices of vehicles ranging from small four wheel-drives, to jeeps, to mini-vans, are available. For all St. Barts car rentals, drivers will need a valid driver's license and credit card.
Driving is on the right.
St. Barts is a duty free port. Shopping at this islands 200 boutiques is a shoppers’ delight. You can find beachwear, accessories, jewelry and casual wear. They say shopping for decorative items for the home is better in St. Barts than anywhere else in the Caribbean. New shops are opening all the time, so there is always something new to discover.
In Gustavia, boutiques line the two major shopping streets. And the Carre d;Or plaza is fun to explore. Shops also cluster in La Savane Commercial Center ( across from the airport), La Villa Creole (in St.-Jean), and Espace Neptune ( on the road to Lorient).
St. Barts ATM’S:
The island offers 24 hour ATM’S at the Francaise Commerciale and the Banque Nationale de Paris as well as in the front of the airport Saint-Jean.
Banks on St. Barts are generally open weekdays from 8 to noon and 2 to 3:30 PM.
Budgeting in St. Barts:
In addition to the weekly rental rate for a villa on St. Barts, the additional costs involved include but are not limited to the following:
Groceries and Beverages
Tip for the maid
Tip for the chef or cook if hired
Stores are generally open weekdays from 8:30 to noon and 2 to, Saturday from 8:30 to noon. Some of the shops across from the airport and in St. Jean stay open on Saturday afternoon and until 7PM on weekdays. A few in St. Jean stay open on Sunday afternoon during the busy season...
Services are available for approximately 15 to 20 euros an hour.
The official currency in St. Barts is the euro, which is approximately worth about $1.25 at the present time of 2005. Dollars are accepted in almost all shops and in many restaurants, though you will probably receive euros in change. Credit cards are accepted in most shops and restaurants and generally will yield a better exchange rate.
You will enjoy the selection of French, Caribbean and American specialties in the islands’ grocery stores, bakeries and pastry shops. For wine lovers, the St. Barts caves offer fine French vintages stored in temperature controlled cellars.
One of the best parts about the French West Indies has to be the dining. St. Barts restaurants on their own are capable of drawing new guests every year. Many claim that St. Barts restaurants are the best in the Caribbean (some would say St. Barts restaurants are comparable on a world-wide scale!). Dining is one of the many amazing experiences provided on this tiny island, as St. Barts restaurants serve up an eclectic variety of flavors and styles. French cuisine is clearly the focus, as fresh ingredients are shipped in to this dining refuge on a daily basis. Restaurants in St. Barts also offer Caribbean-influenced dishes that figure prominently on the menus across the island. Asian and Italian cuisine have also become popular choices in many St. Barts restaurants. Seafood is the center feature of most St. Barts restaurants, as spiny Caribbean lobster and other mouthwatering catches are brought in fresh daily. Though St. Barts restaurants are one of the best dining experience to be found in the Caribbean, they can be a bit expensive. Finding a good-valued meal is easy to do as well. The main road running from Gustavia to St. Jean has many smaller shops and restaurants that are less fine-dining and more quick-bite oriented.
St. Barts compares favorably to almost anywhere in the world. Varied cuisine, a French flair is the décor, sensational wine and attentive service make for a wonderful epicurean experience. There are dozens of charming places to eat from beachfront grills to restaurants serving five-course meals. Restaurant owners take great pride in their service as well as their food. Check your restaurant bills carefully as a service charge is always added by law, but you should leave the server 5-10% extra in cash.
Villas Caribe St. Barts restaurants selections:
One of the most popular St. Barts restaurants for fresh lobster and other local favorites.
Flamands Beach. Reservations a must. Note: closed September, and Monday in the summer.
La Route des Epices
The most classic-style St. Barts restaurant. Good selection of wines and lovely terrace compliment the food well. Colombier. Reservations a must. Note: closed Sept. to Oct., does not serve lunch.
Classic French cuisine among St. Barts restaurants. Gustavia. Reservations a must. Note: closed May to Oct., does not serve lunch.
Le Ti-St. Barths
Phone: 590 590 27 97 71
This unique bistro offers barbecued daily specials. Internationally known for its authentic character and musical atmosphere, Friday & Saturday-night guests find themselves dancing on the tables. Pointe Milou.
French and Caribbean tastes blend seamlessly at this fine eatery, one of the many St. Barts restaurants worth visiting just for the views. Pointe Milou.
This beachside St. Barts restaurant serves delicious local Creole dishes.
Enjoy tasty Thai influenced food on the terrace of this St. Barts restaurant overlooking Gustavia Harbor.
Popular dockside tables serving mussels that arrive from France every Thursday. The menu also includes hamburgers, steaks and omelets.
A leisurely lunch on the way to Saline Beach is a must. Delicious French and Creole cuisine is served at this open air restaurant.
Chef services are available at approximately 40 Euros per hour in addition to the cost of the food.
Technically, there isn't a way to play St. Barts golf on-island, though avid golfers shouldn’t necessarily forego a trip to St. Barts. The island of St. Barts is filled with world-class restaurants, dramatic views, and a trendy-chic atmosphere that offers style and sophistication. The best news for golfing fans is that St. Barts is also within a short trip to a number of premiere Caribbean golf destinations.
The closest golf course to St. Barts is just ten minutes away on St. Martin. For those who really want to have a St. Barts golf experience, the course on St. Martin makes for a nice afternoon experience on the fairways. For golfers looking for more substantial play, St. Croix and St. Thomas host a number of respected golf courses and are also a plane ride away. St. Barts is connected to the USVI by several flights daily. A round on one of the great championship courses on St. Kitts or Nevis is only forty minutes away from St. Barts with a connection on a short flight from St. Martin on Windward Island Airways.
There are nearly twenty St. Barts beaches dotted along the island's coasts. All St. Barts beaches are open to the public, though not all are that easily accessible. There is a very different character and feel to the different St. Barts beaches and it can be felt upon any visit. Most guests to the island try to have a little sample of several St. Barts beaches during their trip, finding one or two that suit their style and personality.
St. Jean is one of the liveliest St. Barts beaches. This strip of sand runs right from right at the runway that brings new guests to the island. Located on this St. Barts beach are some of the best restaurants and hot spots (including La Plage and Nikki Beach). For those who prefer a bit more serenity while soaking in the sun, Anse a Colombier and Marigot are St. Barts beaches a little more your style. Many visitors say that the soft sand on St. Barts beaches is the best at Saline, while a steady flow of small-capped waves at Lorient makes it a popular destination with local surfers. Anse du Gouverneur and Grande Saline are two St. Barts beaches where many sunbathers go nude or topless.
Beaches in St. Barts:
St. Jean Beach which is actually two beaches offers watersports, restaurants as well as some shady areas. This is the beach at the end of the airstrip.
Flamands Beach, to the west is a wide and long beach with a few hotels and some areas are shaded by lantana palms.
Lorient Beach, on the north shore is quiet and calm with shady areas. It is popular with surfers.
Marigot Beach, on the north shore is narrow but offers good swimming and snorkeling.
Shell Beach on Grand Galet is south of Gustavia and is known for its seashells.
Gouverneur Beach, on the southern coast is beautiful and completely uncrowded, but there is no shade.
Grand Saline Beach is east of Gouverneur Beach. The beach offers some waves, but no shade. Bathing in the nude is common here.
Colombier Beach can only be reached by boat. Shade and snorkeling are found here. It is sometimes referred to as Rockefeller’s Beach because for many years David Rockefeller owned the property surrounding it.
St. Barts is very informal. Casual sport clothes in cotton and other light fabrics are fine by day as are jeans and T-shirts, etc. At night, women usually dress up in light cotton dresses. Ties and jackets are never required for men.
The “In” clubs change from season to season. There is more nightlife than ever before. There are places for quiet conversation and sunset watching to a cabaret and disco. There are establishments that rock from lunch through its late night closing with the young and beautiful. Many of the establishments that are open late into the night are located on the harbor at Gustavia. Discotheques such as The Yacht Club, Casa Nikki, and Pumpkin all are located within walking distance of each other and offer late-night drinks and dancing.
Weddings in St. Barts have a sense of French style and sophistication with a degree of hospitality that can only be found in the Caribbean. St. Barts has the well-deserved reputation as a romantic destination. Couples can arrange for barefoot ceremonies by the sea or luxurious affairs at some of the grand hotels on-island with a history of organizing St. Barts weddings. There are many coordinators on-island who ensure that St. Barts weddings are professionally orchestrated. Weddings in St. Barts will are capable of bringing imagination to life.
There are strong legal requirements to holding St. Barts weddings; couples must have at least one member residing on-island for no less than one calendar month with documentation certifying this. Birth certificates for both members and certificates of good conduct and single status must be presented before weddings in St. Barts can legally take place. Both members should also ensure they have taken blood tests within three months of their planned St. Barts wedding. All relevant English-language documents must be translated into French before arranging weddings in St. Barts.
Fishermen are fond of the waters around St. Barts. They can catch mahi-mahi, wahoo, Atlantic bonito, barracuda and marlin. Several different companies offer boat rentals for half day and full day excursions.
Deep Sea Fishing and Water Sports in St. Barts:
Most fishing is done in the waters north of Lorient, Flammands, and Corossol. Popular catches are tuna, marlin, wahoo, and barracuda. Several companies on the islan offer deep-sea fishing trips.
Scuba diving is a popular activity on St. Barts and can be done by both beginners and advanced divers. Snorkeling is another favorite pasttime on St. Barts. You can test the waters at hundreds of points offshore, just by outfitting yourself with a mask, fins and a snorkel. There are daily snorkeling expeditions and a 7 hour excursion.
Windsurfing is an easy sport to try on St. Barts. Professional instructors are available by the hour.
Boating in St. Barts:
St. Barts is very popular for yachting and sailing. Full day outings on a 40 ft. catamaran are available for charter. Deep-sea fishing trips can also be arranged along the same vein. An hour’s cruise on a glass bottom boat is another fun on-the-water outing that can be arranged by our concierge.
Two-hour horseback trail-ride excursions in the morning or the afternoon are about $40 per person at St. Barth Equitation. Instruction is also available for those first-time riders.
Several tennis courts are available at an approximate cost of 25 dollars an hour.
Carnivals, Festivals, Seasonal Events:
January: St. Barts hosts an international collection of musicians as part of the St. Barts Music Festival.
February: enjoy a flood of feasting, dancing, music, and parades during Carnival season.
April: The Caribbean Film Festival takes place.
July 14: Bastille Day is celebrated with a parade, a regatta, parties and fireworks display.
Public holidays include New Year’s Day, Easter weekend, Labor Day (May 1), Pentecost (mid-to late May), Bastille Day (July 14), All Saints Day (Nov 1), Armistice Day (Nov 11), and Christmas.
Tourist Board Contact Information:
Municipal Office of Tourism:
French Government Tourist Office New York/New York