| ||Maps provided by
Got questions? Cruisers share about St. Barth's.
Find Caribbean cruise deals
View 58 port reviews of St. Barth's cruises
Read more about Caribbean cruises
St. Barth's Overview
When Mariah Carey wants to throw a birthday bash or Leonardo di Caprio decides to host a New Year's Eve party on his chartered yacht, St. Barth's is the island of choice. The favorite of celebrity jet-setters, the island is known for its chic French ambience and cuisine and its white-sand beaches.
That's quite a lofty success for a stony, volcanic, eight-square-mile island with no fresh water and little workable land. Named for Christopher Columbus' brother, Bartolomeo, St. Barthelemy is located near the northern end of the Lesser Antilles group in the West Indies, 15 miles east of St. Martin.
Many St. Bartians are descendants of 17th-century settlers from Brittany and Normandy. In the 18th century, France leased the island to Sweden in exchange for trading rights to the Baltic. Almost a century later, locals voted to restore rule to the French. Today, St. Barth's, population 6,500, is a dependency of the French overseas department of Guadeloupe.
The island's beautiful beaches lend themselves to water sports, from windsurfing, scuba and snorkeling to jet skiing, sailing and deep-sea fishing. The island's other claim to fame is its fine dining, considered among the best in the Caribbean. Lunch or dinner at one of the island's top restaurants can be a major splurge.
Surrounded by elegant designer boutiques, topless beaches, vibrant nightlife and waterfront bistros, it's easy to think you are in the South of France. St. Barth's even has its own Riviera-like festival calendar, including winter music and film festivals and a spring food festival.
Print the entire port review.
Other Southern Caribbean Cruise Ports:
Antigua • Aruba • Barbados • Bequia • Bonaire • Curacao • Dominica • Grenada • Guadeloupe • Martinique • Nevis • Port of Spain, Trinidad • San Juan • St. Barth's • St. Kitts • St. Lucia • St. Vincent
A Kronenbourg at Le Select, the popular bar/cafe immortalized by Jimmy Buffett.
French is the official language, though English is widely spoken.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The Euro is the official currency of St. Barth's. ATMs are located in Gustavia at the Banque Francaise Commercial (BFC), rue du General-de-Gaulle and the Banque Nationale de Paris, rue du Bord-de-Mer.
Where You're Docked
Most cruise ships anchor outside sheltered Gustavia Harbour and tender guests to Port de Pleasance, in the heart of Gustavia, the island's charming capital city.
Gustavia is a pedestrian-friendly town. A short stroll away from the pier are an Internet cafe and ATM, cafes and restaurants, elegant shops with imported French goods and a food market. The popular Shell Beach or Grand Galet, south of Gustavia by the commercial pier, is also just a short walk.
St. Barth's is steep and hilly, with narrow roads, switchbacks and hairpin turns. There are stop signs, but no traffic lights. At intersections, the car to the right has the right of way. Small rental cars that fit the narrow, two-lane roads are available from Budget, Europcar, Island Car and Top Loc. Taxis are less frequently used, but available in Gustavia. Most cab drivers don't work at night, so if you need a ride back to the port, it's best to make arrangements in advance. (590) 0590 27 75 81.
Explore Gustavia. Well-preserved colonial buildings set the stage for a bit of elegant ambience. Prime examples of Swedish colonial architecture are City Hall and the Clock Tower. Many of the French warehouses along La Pointe on the far side of the harbor have been converted into boutiques and cafes. Also near La Pointe, the Musee Municipal features old photographs and a watercolor collection by local artists.
A leisurely lunch or dinner at a restaurant along one of St. Barth's white sand beaches. Accompanied by a bottle of fine French wine, a meal becomes an event. Choose from authentic French, Creole, Caribbean and Eastern cuisine.
Duty-free shopping. In Gustavia, find that perfect perfume at Gold Fingers, rue de la France; designer knockoffs at Laurent Eiffel, rue du General-de-Gaulle; and the real thing from Armani to Hermes on the main drag. The slightly less expensive village of St. Jean features trendy boutiques for clothing, art and home accessories.
Picnic on the beach. Pick up the three B's -- baguette, bris and Beaujoulais -- and you're ready for a picnic lunch. Anse du Governeur and Anse de Grande Saline on the south coast are pretty beaches, easy to reach from Gustavia. A law prohibiting nudity doesn't stop folks from sunbathing au natural.
Been There, Done That
Charming Corossol. This fishing village north of Gustavia is known for intricate straw baskets and the quichenotte, a traditional starched white bonnet. Stop by the Inter-Oceans Museum to see the amazing sea shell collection.
Rugged Flamands. Further north, visitors can enjoy the gorgeous coast and beach by horseback with a morning or afternoon excursion from the Stables at Ranch des Flamands. The ride often ends with a gallop along the beach (0590 27 80 72).
Deep Sea Fishing. The waters off Lorient, Flamands and Corossol teem with tuna, mahi-mahi, wahoo and barracuda. Blue and white marlin are generally released after being caught. Excursions are available through Marine Service, Ocean Must and Sea Cursion.
With over a dozen beaches to choose from, St. Barth's is a beach lover's paradise. Here are highlights:
Half Day Visit: Popular St. Jean is abuzz with activity, from St. Tropez-like cafes to windsurfers and sailboats.
Dedicated Beach Bum: Surfing beaches include Lorient and Anse de Cayes in the north. The rocky shoreline along Toiny is considered an expert surfing area.
Active Types: Windsurfers, kayaks and sailboats can be rented at calm St. Jean and Grand Cul de Sac to the east.
Naturists: Fringed by steep hills and coves, Grand Saline to the south offers the classic Caribbean beach experience. Wander up a rocky path throguh dunes to reach the gorgeous soft sand beach.
Privacy: At the far western tip of the island, Colombier features a long expanse of soft sand and leeward calm. This secluded, hard-to-reach hideaway is accessible either by hiking trail or boat.
With its waterfront terrace, Maya's, at Anse de Public northwest of Gustavia, is the perfect spot for Creole specialties (590/27-75-73).
Another quiet, simple restaurant with authentic Guadeloupean food is La Gloriette, on the water at Grand Cul de Sac (590/27-75-66).
Renovations at Eden Rock at St. Jean's Bay are nearly complete, including the Sand Bar serving grilled fish, sauteed shrimp and Dover sole. In addition to the crashing waves and great food, celebrity watching is part of the lure at this resort voted best Caribbean hotel by Conde Nast Traveler (590/29-79-99). Le Rivage at the St. Barth Beach Hotel near Grand Cul de Sac serves popular chilled gazpacho and luncheon salads (590/27-82-42).
Convenient to Main Attractions: Do Brazil, tucked up against a rocky precipice overlooking Shell Beach, is a great spot for lunch with a menu of salads, ceviche, fresh grilled fish and barbecue dishes (590/29-06-40). Jimmy Buffet immortalized the Cheeseburger in Paradise at Le Select, a popular Gustavia watering hole (590/27-86-87).
Picnic Fare: Produce, cheeses, pate and other gourmet items from France are available at Match in St. Jean, A.M.C. in Gustavia and JoJo Supermarche in Lorient. For pre-made delicacies and French wine, try La Rotisserie and La Cave du Port Franc in Gustavia. In St. Jean, Maya's To Go offers everything from meatloaf sandwiches to taboule and sushi.
Staying in Touch
Le Centre Alize in Gustavia is conveniently located on the 2nd floor across from Carat. Visitors pay by the minute, at about $20 for 2 hours. A second Internet Cafe is located further afield at the Village St. Jean Hotel in St Jean.
St Barth's Overview and Beach Break is a minibus tour of the island. Highlights include St. Jean Beach and the salt ponds at Saline, followed by lunch at Le Rivage at Grand Cul de Sac, one of the island's best windsurfing spots. After lunch, guests relax at the beach and Saint Barth Beach Hotel pool.
Water enthusiasts take the plunge aboard a catamaran along the island's leeward coast, stopping at St. Barth's Marine Park by Colombier Bay to snorkel or scuba dive.
Thrill seekers can circumnavigate the island on a Fast 'n' Fun Boat Tour, slowing down for a swim at the bay at Rockefeller Beach.
For More Information
French Government Tourist Office: 212-838-7800
On the Web: www.st-barths.com or The Territorial Tourism Committee
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Caribbean
The Independent Traveler: Caribbean Exchange