St Barthelemy (more commonly known as St Barts) is a pricey destination. We had only a day to spend here, and chose to explore this tiny island by ATV. Before linking up for our ride, we walked up to Fort Gustave, for fine views over Gustavia Harbor, and Fort Oscar. The ATV ride was fun, and our convoy of a dozen ATVs noisily made its way around the entire island. First stop was at the airport, where we watched in amazement as planes precariously touched down on a tiny landing strip with almost zero room to spare. After zooming around the entire island, we stopped for a dip at Gouverneur Beach, before drip drying in the wind on our way back to Gustavia. We tried for a cheeseburger at Le Select (of Jimmy Buffet’s Cheeseburger in Paradise fame) but the chef was out sick for the night so we opted for a meal at another location. The rest of the group griped about the pricey Thai food at a more upscale restaurant, and we all managed to barely scrape by St Bart’s with our wallets intact. Overall, it was a fun destination but be prepared for the sticker shock!
We visited St Bart’s on an Easycruise itinerary. Our LP guide stated that the island is a “jet-setting hot spot for the rich and famous, the sort of place where one could go only by private plane or with at least one Oscar nomination…many who come to St Barth return year after year, giving the island the feel of an adult summer camp…St Barth is pricey, but remember, you’re paying for a Caribbean stay refreshingly free of casinos, golf clubs and megaresorts.” Our Easycruise daily bulletin tantalized us with the following “It wouldn’t be too hard to confuse St Barts with the south of France: the people are chic yet friendly, the scenery is divine and the restaurants rival the top-notch cuisine of just about anywhere in the world. Yet something sets St Barts apart from France itself, besides geography. It’s that subtle essence of the Caribbean, a certain je ne sais quoi pervading all aspects of life here. There are 14 beaches on St Barts, all blessed with gleaming white sand. Few are crowded, even in peak season. All are public and free. Nudism is ostensibly prohibited; topless is not unusual. Whether you decide to relax on a pristine beach or go sightseeing, you’re sure to soak up the charm this beautiful island has to offer.”
The cruise pulled up next to Pain de Sucre Island at St Barth’s fairly early in the morning. Little did we know but an early morning passenger safety drill (mandatory) had been arranged. So even though we were still clubbed out from Club Bliss the night before, all of us groggily gathered on deck with our life vests and messy hair in tow. Good thing we were forced to get up, as it got us moving and ready to go at a decent hour. The first tender left for Gustavia Harbor at around 0930. We hopped on and planned on exploring a bit of Gustavia before linking up with everyone else for our afternoon ATV ride. As we pulled into the harbor, we noticed Fort Oscar to our right hand side, dominating the view. At first glance, Gustavia looked like a quaint little town, lined with shops and restaurants.
Fort Gustave was pretty easy to spot, and we decided to hike up for a panoramic view over the harbor. The effort was well worth it, as we had a bird’s eye view of the yachts, U-shaped harbor and Fort Oscar. The cannons at Ft Gustave were surprisingly made of fiberglass, but from a distance the replicas looked like the real deal.
We still had some time to kill, so we decided to walk over to Fort Karl. It was a leisurely stroll, and we passed by the Anglican church. There was a massive anchor situated in front of the church, which made for a charming photo. Beware of the prickly thorn bushes at Fort Karl! We had to walk precariously in between the lookout points to avoid getting stabbed by the thorns. Robby was enjoying the view over Shell Beach, where two topless women were frolicking in the surf.
It was nearing lunchtime when we wandered back down towards the ferry terminal/tourism office. The all terrain vehicle expedition was gathering for our 1300 excursion. A quick ferry ride towards the marine service center on the other side of the harbor brought us to our boisterous and super friendly French guide, who boasted that we would have a blast exploring St Bart’s today. We were given our ATV, helmets, and a quick class on how to start, stop, apply emergency brake, etc, and then we were off, zooming down Rue Jeanne d’Arc towards Rue Samuel Fahlberg.
Our first stop was near St Jean, at the St Barts airport, where we watched in amazement as tiny planes landed down on a miniscule landing strip. We heard that St Bart’s airport is the second shortest runway in the world, with the shortest being at Saba. Our guide explained that because so few tourists fly into St Barts, the island is able to steer clear from mass tourism and maintain its quaint, small town feel.
Since we had a couple of steep hills to tackle, our guide stressed the importance of using our ATV brakes and keeping our distance from each other (we were riding in a convoy formation) and we jetted off to explore a bit more of St Barts. The island itself is not very big, and we managed to circumvent the entire eastern section in no time. After stopping for some photos and a drink break, we headed down towards Gouverneur Beach, which is a pretty beach surrounded by high cliffs at both ends. It was a steep ride down to the beach, and once we reached it, we simply had to jump into the ocean for a dip. Gouverneur beach would make the perfect spot for a bit of seclusion, but our ATV group interrupted everyone else’s reverie for about 20 minutes while we romped around in the ocean. Afterwards, we drip dried on the ATV ride back towards Gustavia.
We were starving by the time we bid adieu to our guide, so our group split into two in the quest for food. Le Select’s chef was out sick, so we strolled across the street for a meal instead. While our meal was reasonably priced, everyone else faced sticker shock at a nearby Thai restaurant. Note to self: when in St Barts, bring your credit card and be prepared to pay! It may be a gourmand destination, but prices are steep and bargains are few.
The sunset over Gustavia harbor was absolutely spectacular, with gorgeous hues of pink painting the horizon. Overall, we did enjoy St Barts. It is a very aesthetic island, and we can certainly see its appeal to the rich and famous. Unfortunately for us, we are neither, so we’ll probably opt to return to a more budget isle in the future.