St. Barts Guide: Your Vacation Starts Here
Escape to paradise and discover why Saint Barthélemy is truly the "Jewel of the Caribbean.” This small but spectacular isle in the Lesser Antilles’ Leeward Islands has long been a haven for sophisticated travelers, jetsetters and celebrities.
St Barts appeals to those who appreciate a somewhat exclusive vibe when vacationing. In St Barts you’ll find an intimate island that’s only 8 miles long, with 16 glorious beaches, private villas and hotels with high-end amenities, a chic french vibe, and some of the Caribbean’s best dining and shopping.
Perhaps you’re weighing a trip to St. Barts against travel to other islands like nearby St Martin or Anguilla. Or maybe you’ve already decided to visit this exclusive island and want to learn more ahead of your vacation.
Either way, our St Barts travel guide will provide you with a wealth of insider tips, from travel essentials including finding accommodations, dining out, sightseeing and activities.
Table of Contents
Entry Documents & COVID-19 Restrictions
Traveling to St. Barts is, all things considered, pretty straightforward. In terms of documentation, you’ll need a valid passport to enter the country. Its expiration date should fall six months or more after your planned return date.
If you’re coming from the U.S., Canada, any EU country, or most Central and South American countries, you don’t need a visa to enter St. Barts. (Arriving from elsewhere? Then see this page )
Regarding COVID-19 restrictions, the island no longer requires proof of vaccination or negative test results to enter this French overseas collectivity.
For more details, see St. Barts entry requirements
St. Barts Nuts & Bolts
French (Official). English is widely spoken.
11 miles (17.5 km) long and 2.5 miles (4 km) wide. 8.1 sq. miles (21.0 km²)
Leeward Islands of the Eastern Caribbean Sea
Gustaf III Airport (SBH)
220v (not 110v as in the United States)
Atlantic Standard Time with no Daylight Saving Time. (GMT/UTC -4). During daylight savings (fall to spring) in the US, this places St Barts one hour ahead of New York's Eastern Standard Time (UTC −5) and five hours behind Paris' Central European Time (UTC +1).
Euros (€) and U.S. dollars are widely accepted, and prices are often listed in both currencies. Major credit cards are accepted everywhere.
The rolling hills and valleys of St. Barts add to its alluring charm. Each valley boasts its unique architecture and landscape, with a dozen villages and the capital: Gustavia. Since the island is small, everything is conveniently located close to one another.
Local area code is 590. From the U.S. dial 011-590 plus the local number.
Best Time to Visit St. Barts
The tropical trade-wind climate that prevails on St. Barts results in pleasant weather year-round. So weather, for the most part, isn’t a strong determining factor in planning when to come. We’ll spell out the conditions throughout the year.
For many vacationers, seasonal pricing for accommodations and the timing of school vacations are more significant considerations for deciding on St. Barts travel dates.
The high travel season stretches from November through April, peaking at New Years. That’s when rates will generally be highest, with a bit lower prices from February through April.
Expect significantly lower rates — and more elbow room — from May through October.
What is the Weather Like in St Barts?
We’ve got a dedicated page on St. Barts weather we recommend checking out, but here’s a TLDR version. St. Barts enjoys consistent weather and near-constant cooling breezes.
Average temperatures range from the upper 70s Fahrenheit in the “winter” to the mid-80s Fahrenheit in the “summer.”
The rainy season is in summer and fall, and the dry season is in late winter and spring. But even in the wetter months, showers tend to be fast-moving, and days usually have plenty of sunshine.
Humidity is fairly high year-round, 75% or so on average, but decreases during the January-March dry season. The easterly tradewinds, which moderate heat and humidity, keep things feeling pretty darn pleasant any time of the year.
Bear in mind that the Caribbean is subject to stormy weather and even occasional hurricanes. The so-called hurricane season stretches from late August to mid-October.
Landfalling storms are rare, and modern forecasting power means you’ll have plenty of advance warning if one does approach the island. If you’re OK with the low risk of having to cancel or shorten your trip, this timeframe rewards with thinner crowds and better rates.
Is St. Barts Safe?
St. Barts is an exceptionally safe travel destination by any measure. It’s regularly ranked at or near the top of the safest islands in the Caribbean. Petty theft can certainly occur, but you’d be amazed at how many unlocked cars and properties there are here. (Not that we recommend that approach.)
If crime is a concern, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better Caribbean destination than St. Barts.
How to Get to St. Barts?
Getting to St. Barts is a bit of an adventure as there are no direct flights to it from either the US, Europe or South America.
Most people fly to either St Martin or San Juan, PR, and then take a small commuter plane into St Barts famous Gustaf III Airport (SBH), which has a runway that ends right on St. Jean Beach.
Direct flights to St Barts are also available from Antigua, Guadeloupe and Martinique.
With one of the shortest runways in the world (roughly 2,100 feet), the airfield, it can only accommodate small prop planes seating up to 16 people. That and the absence of a pier for cruise ships are two of the main reasons why the island feels so intimate and exclusive .
Helicopter flights into Gustav III Airport are also available from St. Martin, Anguilla, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Ferry service also operates between Saint Martin and St. Barts, embarking from either Marigot (French side) or Princess Juliana Airport (Dutch side). You can also charter a private boat from Saint Martin or steer here by private yacht .
Check out these articles for a more detailed look at transportation to St. Barts, and learn about the island’s famous Gustav III Airport.
Airport Arrival Services
If you’re renting a private villa for your vacation in St. Barts, a WIMCO Villas concierge will meet you at the arrivals door of Gustav III Airport. Our friendly team member will collect your baggage, take you to your rental car, and then escort you to your luxury villa. ( Learn more about WIMCO’s concierge services .)
If you’ve booked a hotel room directly with the hotel, they will send a shuttle bus to the airport for you.
If you’re traveling with a large group, facing a tight connection, or otherwise desiring the most carefree travel to St Barts, consider the joys of WIMCO Privé . We can arrange VIP arrival service at San Juan or St. Maarten, ensuring the smoothest and quickest transfer of your group and your luggage to Saint Barthélemy.
There is no faster way to get through immigration in St Martin than by purchasing VIP airport transfer service.
Getting Around on the Island
Without a doubt, renting your own car is the best way to get around on St. Barts. The island doesn’t have public transportation or ridesharing services such as Uber or Lyft. In addition, there’s a limited number of taxis, with drivers usually expecting a tip of 10% of the fare.
Because of those limitations — and because St. Barts is so delightfully compact — rental cars offer the optimal mode of transport. Smaller vehicles are best for navigating the narrow, meandering roads, with the Mini Moke and Mini Cooper being downright classic choices. You can learn more about good options for St. Barts rental cars right here.
And why not take advantage of WIMCO’s On-Island Concierge Service on this front? We’ll deliver your rental vehicle to your villa or any place of your choosing.
Traveling With Kids
A family vacation in St Barts is about as good as it gets. Visit St Barts with kids, and you’ll be amazed at how much there is to do with the whole crew. That includes quality time on a host of family-friendly swimming and snorkeling beaches. Then there’s kitesurfing and other watersports for bigger kids.
Charter a sailboat together or peer into fish- and turtle-thronged waters on a glass-bottom boat tour. Gustavia offers plenty of stroller-friendly walkways. Young and old alike will delight at the plane-and people watching available on St. Jean Beach.
Learn more about the nuts and bolts of family getaways here in our St Barts With Kids: The Ultimate Guide.
Top Activities & Attractions in St Barts
One of the most striking things about St Barts is how much it packs into less than 10 square miles. Whether you’re looking for all-out leisure or action-packed sightseeing and recreation, the Jewel of the Caribbean delivers.
Let’s start with the island’s 16 beaches, each unique and enjoyable. Several have restaurants and beach bars on them, while others are pristine and undeveloped - take your choice.
Go snorkeling or diving amid seagrass beds and reefs. Try your hand at kitesurfing, or join a jet-ski tour.
Moving offshore, you can ride steady tradewinds on a sailboat — from sunset cruises to weeklong charters. Enjoy an afternoon of surfcasting, or charter an offshore fishing boat to target marlin and other big gamefish.
St. Barts is famous for its world-class dining and shopping scene, with Michelin-star quality eateries and everything from upscale French boutiques to local handicraft shops.
In the capital, Gustavia’s nightlife is lively and vibrant. And did we mention the plane-watching at St. Jean Beach?
Get the full scoop on things to do in St. Barts right here!
St. Barts boasts an enviably busy and diverse calendar of annual events. These range from cultural festivals such as the Caribbean Rum Awards and St. Barths Film Festival to numerous sailing competitions. These include the New Year’s Eve, the St Barths Bucket Regatta, and the West Indies and Les Voiles de St. Barth regattas.
And there’s so much more, including vigorous observances of Bastille Day, Christmas, and Easter.
What to Wear in St Barts?
St. Barts is a very relaxed island, and apart from not entering shops in bathing suits, the unwritten dress code is casual, especially at lunch.
For dinner, even in the nicest restaurants, casual wear is welcomed – for women, a casual dress or skirt will do, and for men, khakis and button-down shirts are perfectly fine.
In fact, jackets and ties would appear out of place. The St Barts style is smart casual.
Where to Stay in St. Barts?
Your St. Barts travels may be based in a private villa, a hotel, a resort or a combination of these. Here are some basic details on each accommodation type and links for more information and inventories.
Whether a standalone luxury villa rental or a property sited on the grounds of a hotel or resort property, private villas are arguably the ideal place to stay on St. Barts.
St. Barts offers a huge selection of villas, ranging from one to 11 bedrooms and covering most of the island. They’re, therefore, ideal for all manner of vacationers.
A coveted few of the villas provide beachfront perches. Given how small and easily navigated St. Barts is, though, even those villas not directly on beaches put you close to sand and surf.
And for the epitome of villa living, WIMCO can secure you one of the Special Reserve Collection villas that come with private-chef services.
St. Barts comes (rather delightfully) free of huge hotel and resort developments. Instead, the island offers a refined array of small, charming five-star boutique hotels. Some of these are downright iconic. And there are numerous outstanding small resort hotels ideal for family getaways.
There are technically no all-inclusive St. Barts resorts, and no island hotels or resorts offer all-inclusive food and beverage packages. But because Saint Barthélemy is so packed with excellent restaurants and is so quick and easy to get around, that’s not really an issue. (Indeed, some of the finest St. Barts restaurants lie on hotel grounds.)
Some St. Barts hotels and resorts include villas, a best-of-both-worlds kind of situation.
Is There Internet, Phone, and TV/Cable in Villas & Hotels in St Barts?
The hand-selected luxury villa rentals on St. Barts available through WIMCO all offer Wi-Fi, satellite TV, and telephones to make local calls.
Where to Eat?
St. Barts is one of the best destinations for gastronomy in the Caribbean. It offers an absolute wealth of great restaurants, cafes, and bars, from white-tablecloth establishments to casual beach grills.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll find lots of French cuisine on offer, plus sumptuous Creole fare blending Old World and West Indian stylings.
But there’s much more served up at St. Barts eateries, including Mediterranean, Italian, Middle Eastern, and Japanese cuisine.
From L’Isola and Bonito to Le Tamarin and L’Esprit, browse the best St. Barts restaurants in our WIMCO roundup!
Tipping & Taxes
As far as tipping goes, most St. Barts restaurants automatically add a 15% service fee to your check. Make sure you look closely at your bill.
Banks & ATMs in St Barts
There are banks with ATMs in St Barts, and you can use your debit card to withdraw Euros, the official currency of St Barts island. Most restaurants and shops in St Barts accept both US dollars and Euros.
The exchange rate is calculated based on the best available rate that day. The best exchange rate is most often available through the ATM and your credit card company.
All major businesses accept major credit cards, however, if you are booking a service with an individual instead of a company, it is a good idea to ask before you purchase anything.
There are three ATM machines on the island: two in Gustavia next to Le Select café and one near the airport, which will give you Euros.
The American Express office across the street from the airport will allow you to buy American Express Travelers Cheques with your AMEX card. You will need your passport or a piece of identification with your name and photo.
Is There Cell Phone Service in St Barths?
Yes, most cell phone carriers offer international calling plans for travel to St Barts, which you will need to activate before you leave to ensure uninterrupted service.
If you want to use your cell phone, you can dial zero upon arrival and talk with a local operator who will take a credit card number from you, set up an account, and assign you a local number.
Or, you can purchase a cell phone (approx. $70) and phone cards (various $ values) at the gas station across from the St. Barts Airport. The average cost of a cell phone call to the US from St. Barts is approximately $1.40 per minute.
Power Plugs & Voltage in St Barts?
The voltage on St. Barts is 220V with a 60Hz frequency. While many European travelers can use their electronics without trouble on St. Barts, those from the U.S. — where the standard voltage is 110V — will need a converter.
We suggest packing a transformer to charge your electric razor, hairdryer, phone charger, and the like. (You can buy them on the island, but that takes time away from your vacation R&R.)
You’ll also need a plug adapter to handle the round-pin sockets. You can pick up a free adapter from the WIMCO office on the island , conveniently situated right across from Gustav III Airport in St. Jean.
Is it St. Barts, St. Barths, St. Barth, or Saint Barthélemy?
The terminology of this lauded little Caribbean island can be a bit confusing. Christopher Columbus named it Saint Barthélemy after his little brother, Bartolomeo.
The official French name is Collectivite territoriale de Saint-Barthélemy . St-Barthélemy is the snappier French formal name.
But that’s a bit of a mouthful, right? Many French speakers shorten the island’s label to St. Barth. English speakers, meanwhile, tend to add an “s” and may scratch the “h.” Brits, for example, commonly refer to St. Barths, while the most widespread spelling, if you are from the US, is St. Barts.
To add to the confusion, an apostrophe is sometimes added — mistakenly — to make “St. Barth’s” or “St. Bart’s.”
St. Barts History
Saint Barthélemy has quite a fascinating history for such a small, rugged, and historically waterless island. It originally served as a seasonal home for Taino and Arawak peoples.
The Arawaks likely gave it the name Ouanaloa , possibly in reference to the native Lesser Antillean iguana. The Island Caribs, meanwhile, were dominant early in European colonization.
Columbus visited St. Barts in 1793 and, as we’ve mentioned, named it after his brother. The French claimed ownership in the 17th century but struggled to establish a viable permanent settlement. During these early days legend has it that Gustavia was a haven for pirates. The British took over the island for a spell in the mid-1700s before France reclaimed it in 1764.
Two decades later, France traded St. Barts to Sweden, which renamed its main port Gustavia. St. Barts is the only Caribbean island to have spent any considerable time under Swedish control, which ended when France repurchased it in 1878.
Since 1950, St. Barts has been a chic tourism destination — and a big-time celebrity retreat. Spotting famous faces at the table over from you at the restaurant remains a real possibility.
Explore Saint Barthélemy's history in more detail here.
WIMCO’s Top 7 Travel Tips for St. Barts
Booking your St. Barts travel through WIMCO gives you access to our island team's insider knowledge, experience and connections.
We can suggest under-the-radar activities and attractions, plus arrange excursions through our concierge services. To whet your appetite, here are seven of our top recommendations and tips for a St. Barts getaway. (These are presented in no particular order, mind you.)
1. New Year’s Eve in Gustavia – A Unique Experience
Mark New Year’s Eve in the capital of St. Barts, right in the thick of peak tourism season! You can take in some splendid fireworks over Gustavia Harbor and plenty of live entertainment in the restaurants and bars that ring the harbor. And Gustavia also serves as an excellent launchpad for the New Year’s Eve Regatta.
2. Reservations in Restaurants are Recommended on St. Barts
We highly recommend making reservations for St. Barts restaurants. Dining out is, understandably, a top activity on this gourmet paradise of an island, and drop-ins may not be easily accommodated during the peak season. Look no further than WIMCO’s concierge services in this regard. We can take care of all your restaurant reservations during your stay.
3. Hike to Colombier Beach & Have a Picnic There
Among the most remote of St. Barts seashores, Colombier Beach in the far northwest can only be reached by foot or boat. Hiking to this splendid beachfront with picnic essentials is sure to be a highlight of your getaway. (The trails in themselves serve up lovely vistas.)
4. Hang Out on St. Jean Beach & Watch the Small Airplanes Land at Gustav III Airport
Not many beaches in the world offer the kind of unique spectacle as St. Jean Beach, the most popular on St. Barts. Gustav III Airport’s famously short runway adjoins the beach, giving you front-row seats to skillful prop-plane takeoffs and landings.
5. Sunday Jazz Brunch at Nikki Beach
Barefoot-chic ambience and zesty cuisine make Nikki Beach on St. Barts among the most popular eateries on the island. The “Amazing Sundays” tradition of live music translates to a reliably fabulous beachfront party.
6. Have a Picnic at the Lighthouse in Gustavia at Sunset
Gustavia’s 30-foot-tall lighthouse, handsomely decked out in white and red, affords stunning views over the harbor and out to neighboring islands. And there’s no better time to soak up that panorama than sunset!
7. Ask WIMCO to Provision your Villa With Groceries Before Your Arrival
The private luxury villas available through WIMCO on St. Barts include beautifully appointed kitchens and spacious indoor/outdoor dining areas. For the most seamless and convenient enjoyment of these spaces, use WIMCO concierge services to have your villa pre-stocked with groceries and beverages on the day of your arrival.
7 Reasons Why Vacationers Love St. Barts
There are many reasons to love St. Barts — and if you’re making your first visit here, you’re just about guaranteed to fall in love! Here are a mere seven Jewel of the Caribbean attributes that leave vacationers in awe.
1. Striking Scenery
St. Barts is a volcanic isle with lots of topographic relief. Its interior hills and bold headlands offer transfixing views out to sea. Instagram-worthy photo ops abound, and most villa rentals provide beautiful sightlines.
2. A Small Island With Lots to Do
Just shy of 10 square miles, St. Barts is wonderfully easy to get around. Hopping between destinations — beaches, stores, restaurants, historic sites — generally takes only 20 or 30 minutes. That makes taking in the surprising variety and abundance of activities and attractions super-easy.
3. Nature is Preserved
Extensive swaths of St. Barthélemy’s coastal waters and islets fall within a protected nature reserve. A case in point? Anse de Colombier, where beachgoers have some marvelous snorkeling to enjoy (with sea-turtle sightings commonplace). The dive sites of the protected Gros Ilets are also ecotourism highlights.
4. Uncrowded & Not Overly Commercialized
Compared to many Caribbean isles, St. Barts has a less-crowded, more exclusive feel. And you won’t find gigantic mega-resorts, hotels or cruise ships here, either.
5. French Culture in the West Indies
Its deep-rooted French heritage makes St. Barts a fabulous place to savor European style and culture against a tropical West Indian backdrop. That certainly includes the shopping department. You’ll find legendary French luxury brands well-represented among St. Barts boutiques.
6. Huge Number of Amazing Restaurants
As we’ve already noted how celebrated St. Barts is for its dining scene. A remarkable number and diversity of restaurants and bars make this island a top choice for gourmets. You’ll find long time mainstays run by locals like Le Repaire and Eddy’s, alongside outposts of famous chefs and restauranteurs like Atelier Joel Robuchon, Nikki Beach, Bagatelle and Petite Plage
7. World-Class Beaches
The dozen main beaches of St. Barts come nicely spread around the island’s perimeter. From lively, well-developed oceanfronts to tranquil, unspoiled sands, they offer a fantastic spectrum of beachgoing experiences.
Featured St. Barts Villa Rentals