Largely autonomous today, the main language is still French, and customs and culture dating back centuries are more European than Caribbean. Two words are always used here: expensive and exclusive. And that’s a fair description, because almost everything’s designed for the wealthiest world travellers. If you want complete escapism, gorgeous beaches, chic restaurants and exquisite resorts, few other places do them so well. But, unless kids are passionate sailors or young enough to play on the sand all day, you may find you reach the limit of family holiday fun quite quickly in this peaceful patch of paradise.
Why go on holiday in Saint Barth
Flights from London to Saint Barth take between 13 and 15 hours and include one to two stops.
Year round temperatures of between 25 and 30˚ with heaviest rainfall from June to December.
January to May is high season in Saint Barth the time to catch annual events like the Saint Barth Music Festival and Caribbean Film Festival.
Quite a few of the world’s most celebrated hotels are Saint Barth residents including Eden Rock – known for its art gallery and connections to young British Royals.
Almost all of Saint Barth’s 14 beaches are public and most resorts have their own private beaches too.
Four of the world’s seven sea turtle species have protected nesting sites on Saint Barth.
Between December to May large schools of migrating whales can be seen around the island and there are dolphins are regularly sighted all year round.
Where to go
Gustavia might be the island capital but it could never be described as a city. More like a delightfully pretty 19th century French seaside town, it concedes to the Caribbean in its cheerfully painted architecture, gloriously lush gardens and ever-present sea views over the idiosyncratic harbour. Few ports in the world are as packed with luxury yachts in high-season; even more reason to walk the elegant promenade. Exploring the 18th century Swedish era’s interesting and if you dig a little deeper into the heart of town, you’ll come across traces of Creole heritage too.
Don’t miss: Gustavia Harbour; Gustavia Lighthouse; the Wall House Museum; Shell Beach; Fort Gustave.
What it lacks in museums and attractions, Gustavia more than makes up for in shopping. The town’s cute and beautifully kept cobbled streets are charming and packed from end-to-end with global luxury brands.
Nestled round a sheltered and sandy horseshoe bay, Saint Jean is inarguably, ‘the’, place to stay in Saint Barth. Legendary Eden Rock set the tone here in the early 1960s and continues to define the rarefied atmosphere of wealth and privilege. A collection of beautifully designed boutique hotels; gorgeous beachfront villas with private docks; and the chicest versions of international luxury resort brands are what to expect. Prices are high to, ‘if you have to ask you can’t afford them’, extortionate and nowhere else, not even the capital, has quite such glamorous shops, restaurants and smart little cafés.
Baie de Saint Jean is the source of all that’s wonderful in this part of Saint Barth. So horseshoe it’s almost circular, the bay’s waters are etched in infinite shades of blue-green and trimmed with whiter than white sands. Anything you desire, from a paddleboard to a perfect sundowner, you only have to think of and it appears and your absolute, perfect happiness is all that’s important here.
What to do
The waters round Saint Barth are a designated Marine Reserve and some of the clearest, safest and most rewarding for diving in the Caribbean.
Kids as young as six are welcome into the marine-life rich seas round Saint Barth on Plongee Caraibes catamaran snorkelling expeditions.
One of only four in the world, Shell Beach is entirely made up of shells. Kids love the beachcombing bit, the gentle waters are good for swimming and it’s only a short walk from Gustavia Harbour.
Marigot Beach Nature Reserve
Surrounded by forests of palm trees and covered in lush, dense vegetation this fascinating little nature reserve is great for spotting birds and local wildlife or swimming and snorkelling in calm waters off Marigot Beach.
Climb Mount Vitet
At over 200m, the highest peak on St. Barth is a bit of a climb but well worth it for the wide open sea views from the top.
Motor Yacht Cruises
Even if you don’t sail, you have to go sailing on Saint Barth. Half and full day motor yacht cruises with kids are relaxed and friendly, smooth going and a good way to see the lovely island from another perspective.
Stand up Paddleboard and Kite Surfing
Time for older kids and teens to pick up some new holiday skills? Saint Barth is a bit of a paddleboard and kitesurfing legend and the friendly team at Saint Barth Kite will have them working the waves in no time.
Kids’ Holiday Sailing Courses
A holiday is quite enough time to learn the ropes at Saint Barth Yacht Club. Kids as young as seven are welcome for five day courses (morning only).
Saint Martin Island Hopping
Saint Martin is Saint Barth’s nearest neighbour and just an hour’s sail away by fast ferry. All the paradise Caribbean elements are in place here too but mixed in with extreme water sports and fun outdoor activities for older kids and teenagers.
Loterie Farm, Saint Martin
A combination of wildlife sanctuary, eco-reserve and adventure playground this is the day out destination for kids in search of tree canopy ziplines, hiking expeditions, rope challenges and the Ti-Tarzan aerial obstacle course.
Educational value for kids
Saint Barth has several excellent multi-lingual dive schools with fully qualified French PADI instructors. Kids as young as seven can learn the basics in some of the world’s clearest waters.
Guided rainforest hikes on neighbouring Saint Martin are lessons in conservation packed with wildlife spotting thrills.
The Eden Rock Art Gallery stages important contemporary art exhibitions year round and is worth a visit with older kids or teenagers – part of the celebrity-haunted Eden Rock Hotel.
Short courses in everything from sailing and surfing to stand up paddleboard and kitesurfing are designed to fit into a few holiday mornings for kids.
The Wall House Museum in Gustavia Harbour is housed in a beautifully restored 18th century Swedish house and contains an eclectic collection of art, ephemera and objects detailing the islands social and cultural history.
The shell museum in the village of Le Corossol holds 9000 different types of sea shells and its expert curator is one of the world’s leading conchologists.
Saint Barth’s hosts the Caribbean Film Festival every year at Easter and the January’s annual Music Festival is a broad-spectrum mix of genres with a lively international atmosphere and dozens of free performances around the island.
Getting around with kids in Saint Barth
Saint Barth is a small island but, if you want to explore and visit every one of its 14 beaches, hiring a car is the best way to get about. Taxis are expensive and public transport’s non-existent. On the plus side, many resorts have their own mini-buses and private boats to ferry guests round the island.