St. Barts, also known as St. Barths or St. Barthelemy, is a tiny French-influenced Caribbean island just off the southern coast of the more popular St. Martin (St. Maarten) typically associated more with lavishness and luxury, posh and pampering, than adrenaline and adventure.
Indeed, if you’re looking for a luxury Caribbean vacation in St Barts, there is no shortage of opportunities. This azure escape boasts delicious meals, extravagant hotels, hoppin’ nightclubs, and relaxing massages fit for the rich and famous.
But even if you are traveling on a more limited budget, there is plenty to experience and enjoy on the island. For me, that means focusing my time on adventure activities, while also enjoying some much-needed rest and relaxation.
Although St. Barts is the perfect picture of serenity and relaxtion, it can also be a great vacation destination for adventure seekers — particularly those who have a little more money to spare on food and accommodation than the typical hostel-hopping backpacker, but who are also looking to do more with their vacation than just lay around on the beach.
St. Barts is the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation. It offers you the opportunity to sleep in luxury (or, your definition of luxury!), adventure by day, and recover with a relaxing massage or a dip in the infinity pool in the evening.
It’s also the perfect place for the time-crunched Caribbean island hopper to stop over for just a few days, in between visits to St. Martin or St. Kitts and Nevis.
Here are 9 adventurous things to do while you’re on vacation in St. Barts
If you’re looking for a Caribbean adventure destination without the crowds, St. Barts may be just the trip. It boats stunning views and adventure sports activities, with a fraction of the crowds you find in other popular Caribbean vacation spots, like the U.S. or British Virgin Islands.
1.) Tour the island on an ATV.
Access some of the island’s more secluded beaches by exploring the island from the back of an ATV. See as much or as little of the island as you want, and go at your own pace. You’ll be surrounded by stunning seascapes, enveloped by the island’s white sand beaches and lush green mountains. Make your ride as relaxing or adventurous as you choose!
2.) Scuba Diving and Snorkeling.
My main reason for visiting the Caribbean is snorkeling, and St. Barts does not disappoint with its numerous opportunities. If you’re looking to snorkel or Scuba dive on St. Barts, I recommend you head to Lorient Beach, where you’ll have the chance to see sea turtles (because they’re my favorite!).
You can also access snorkeling locations from any of the island’s 14 beaches, or you can head out with a chartered tour to both snorkel and dive to enjoy the protected waters of St. Barth’s Marine Park.
St. Barts is considered one of the Caribbean’s premiere surfing destinations. If you’re looking to catch some of the island’s best rolling waves, you’ll want to head to the beaches of Lorient, Anse des Cayes, Toiny, or Saint-Jean. St. Barts makes a particularly appealing surfing destination for surfers from the United States or Canada looking to escape the colder weather of the winter months and catch some waves without completely breaking the bank.
4.) Kitesurfing and Windsurfing.
St. Barts is also known for its great kitesurfing and windsurfing opportunities. A combination of great waves, great wind, and limited crowds makes St. Barts a more appealing destination for these activities than some of the more popular Caribbean destinations. And you’ll never be short of a great view when you’re sailing through the breezy skies of the island.
St. Barts beautiful waters meet its beautiful weather, making it the perfect opportunity to enjoy waterskiing at almost any time of year. To hire a pilot to take you out on the water, you can contact Master Skil Pilou on St. Barts.
6.) Jet ski.
If you prefer to experience the island’s alcoves above the water, but still on it, then renting a jet ski on St. Barts is the perfect choice to enhance your stay and nurture your sense of adventure. For the best opportunities to enjoy water sports of all kinds, head to the Grand Cul de Sac on St. Barths, where you’ll find two beaches in one!
St. Barts sailing opportunities are plentiful — whether you’re looking to sail for yourself or charter a crew. Sailing trips on St. Barts are a great way to reach some of the island’s best snorkeling spots, and many boats come equipped with snorkel gear for just such an occasion. If you’re lucky, you’ll be treated to pods of Common Dolphins riding the waves of your sailboat or catamaran.
If you’re coming from St. Maarten, you may want to consider combining adventure with your transportation plans to and from the island with the St. Maarten Sailing and Snorkeling Tour to St. Barts. This way, you’ll experience the best of what both islands have to offer, but underneath and on top of the water.
For sailing excursions on St. Barts or sailing school opportunities, check out Jicky Marine Service.
8.) Deep Sea Fishing.
While this is certainly not my idea of a great adventure (talk about sea sickness!), this can be a great opportunity for fishing or wildlife enthusiasts. Year-round opportunities exist to head to out sea with local fishermen to help catch marlin, barracuda, and more. You may even have opportunities to get in the water yourself for some spear fishing, so long as you act within the local guidelines.
I, personally, would rather observe wildlife than take their lives, but fishing is a very important industry in St. Barts, as well as the rest of the Caribbean, and it’s how so many locals earn a living. The St. Barths Marine Reserve offers a protected area for local marine life to ensure they continue to grow and flourish.
To plan your excursion, contact these recommended St. Barts fishing and charter companies.
St. Barts is perhaps better known for its water-based activities, but there are nonetheless a number of good hiking opportunities for those looking to dry out for a day or two and get their land legs back. I recommend climbing to the top of Mt. Vitet, the highest point on the island at 286 meters, and checking out the views.
You can also combine some moderate hiking with beach relaxation by hiking to some of the more isolated beaches, like Anse a Colombier, which rewards with its spectacular views. Check with the local St. Barths Tourist Office before you head out on your hike, to ensure you’ll be traversing safe (and public) property.
More things to do in St. Barts (that don’t involve much activity!)
If you’ve had your fill of adventure and want to experience St. Barts specialties — rest, relaxation, glitz, and glamour — here are a few additional activities to consider.
Visit the beaches.
White sand beaches are in no short supply in St. Barts. Because St. Barts is one of the lesser-visited Caribbean islands, most of the beaches are not too crowded, even during peak tourist season. For the more secluded beaches, head to Lorient, Marigot, or Petit Cul de Sac. Gourvenour beach also offers stunning views and seclusion, as does Anse des Flamands on the island’s northwest point.
For many of the beaches, you will need to rent a car, take a boat, or plan to do some hiking to reach them, but they are well worth it.
Treat yourself to a massage.
Every day! If you’re in the luxury land of St. Barts, you might as well embrace it and pamper yourself. The luxury hotels offer in-house and often mobile spa options, with massages, facials, and the whole treatment. If you’re not staying at a hotel that offers a spa treatment, there are plenty of health spas and massages on St. Barts for you to choose from.
You can also find spas that offer dance class options and yoga, if you’re looking for a slightly more active spa experience — or if you prefer to get some exercise before your massage!
Experience the nightlife.
St. Barts may not have as many tourists as other Caribbean islands, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come alive at night, right along with the best of them. For a highly recommended and lively experience, head to Le Ti St. Barths Caribbean Tavern, where the dancing goes on well into the morning.
Explore the island with the top down.
While you will most likely need to rent a car to get around the island if you want to explore it beyond the main ports, you might as well have a little fun with it. Jeeps are available for rent and quite popular with visitors looking to take in panoramic views of the island, as well as the lush island air.
Watch the planes land.
Ok, so maybe this isn’t so relaxing, but it’s certainly interesting. Head to St. Jean to watch planes take off and land from Gustavia airport, flying right over the beach.
Shop duty free.
rewareaw For the best shopping on St. Barts, head to St. Jean or Gustavia (the island’s capital city), though I’m not much of a shopper myself — especially while traveling. But sometimes duty-free luxury items are just too good to pass by.
Planning Your Trip to St. Barts
How to get there
St. Barts can be reached by airplane or boat, depending on your preference. You can take an international flight into St. Maarten and then catch a local charter flight on to St. Barts.
Others prefer a water-based approach. People often take the St. Barts ferry transfer from St. Maarten, which is a convenient, scenic, and relaxing way to hop between the two stunning islands.
How to get around
Getting around in St. Barts will require you to rent a car if you want to be able to really get the full experience of all the beaches, scenery, and restaurants that the island has to offer. Fortunately, the island is small, so you can access most places on the island within a 30 minute drive.
Best time to go
The best time to go to St. Barts is generally November through June, with December being peak travel season when prices will be higher and you will need to make your reservations well in advance. We recommend 6-8 months, if possible.
You should be prepared for intense sun, and plan your clothing and sunscreen accordingly. As with most places in the Caribbean, trips from late July through mid-October are riskier, as this is hurricane season.
Still need some inspiration to travel to St. Barts? Check out this video and start planning your trip today.
This post was brought to you by LuxuryRetreats.com, though opinions are my own.
Featured and other images: Purchased from DepositPhotos.com