Saint Barthelemy

St Barth @Hervé Bré
St Barth @Hervé Bré
St Barth @Hervé Bré
Pélicans St Barth @Hervé Bré

Saint Barthelemy is a small tourism-oriented island in the Caribbean with remarkable natural scenery. Its maritime domain is preserved with the setting up of five reserves. Ample spaces of wild nature enable the tourists who have the privilege of staying there to discover a stunning biodiversity. The 25 Km2 surface area of this miniature paradise is shared by 8,500 inhabitants. Multiple islets located on the border offer heavenly mooring spots to navigators in search of nature and tranquillity. Humid areas, salt marshes and ponds are among the many sites of exceptional beauty for those eager to observe birds in the phantasmagorical lights of dawn or dusk.

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An Exceptional Natural Environment

Tourism and nautical or maritime activities are the pillars of the economy of Saint Barthelemy. With time, the island has made itself a name among the classiest destinations in the world, thanks to an exceptional natural environment, outstanding accommodation and a ‘French way of life’ which enables visitors to taste the best of international cuisine and enjoy personalised service.

General Climate

Owing to its tropical climate, the island enjoys sea temperature varying between 27 °C and 29 °C for most of the year. Air temperature averages 27 °C with peaks at 32 °C. There are two seasons, a dry season between February and April and a more humid season during the rest of the year. Between July and November, strong tropical depressions or cyclones can occur in the northern part of the Caribbean but there can also be none in the area for years.

Nature and Environmental Management by Local Authorities

The local authorities are aware of the value added that a preserved nature can bring to the destination and have completed a number of environmental projects. New sustainable development projects are presently on the agenda. Located at the border of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the maritime domain of Saint Barthelemy thus counts a natural marine reserve since 1996 with the aim to preserve the riches of the seabed.

The community currently finances 85% of the operating budget. Given that the island is frequently visited by leisure crafts, a number of sites have been equipped with anchor buoys to avoid the excessive use of anchors, which cause much damage to the meadows and coral. An incineration plant has been built and the steam generated by this activity serves to run the neighbouring seawater desalination plant.

The daily supply of treated sea water complements the traditional supply provided by a hundred rainwater holding tanks spread out over the island. An underground cabling network policy enables the elimination of visual nuisances such as electricity and telephone poles.

Used cars and metallic waste are also compacted before being transported by ship from the island. Local authorities have decided since the beginning of 2011 they will deliver building permits only to people who equip their houses with water solar equipment. Builders will receive financial assistance for both photovoltaic and thermal solar equipment.

Economy and Sustainable Development

Guests can enjoy activities related to the environment, sea sports, fishing and diving. A proper management of the Marine Reserve and the professional starting to integrate the notion of sustainable development now enable better resource management and preservation of the biodiversity. Various species have returned to the island, namely green turtles (Chelonia mydas), which are present in numbers in the bay of Colombier, leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) and reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi), which are regularly spotted by divers. These are very encouraging signs and not only enable to secure the long-term viability of existing activities, but also to consider the development or setting up of complementary activities. It is to be noted, for example, that some ten new young people have taken up professional fishing.  We will also note with pleasure several private initiatives which contribute to the well being of the collectivity, we can mention the commitment of Hélène Bernier with her company Easy Time who take care every year of visitors and residents, showing and explaining her island as anybody else on Saint Barthelemy or the involvement of associations like Saint-Barth Essentiel or Saint-Barth Environment. We can also mention the important donation of Mr Abramovitch to restore the surroundings of St Jean’s pond which is an important island’s spot for birds nesting or resting during their migration from or to America.

Nautical events in Saint Barthelemy

Major nautical events are organised annually in Saint Barthelemy.

Bucket Sailing Race

The Bucket Sailing Race, a race open to yachts whose length exceeds 100 feet, takes place every spring. The number of boats allowed to take part in this nautical event is limited to 40. This race with individual departures is organised in pursuit mode. The route around Saint Barthelemy is a very rare opportunity to watch a confrontation between such giants of the sea under different wind conditions, including running under the wind using a spinnaker. An unforgettable spectacle!

St-Barth Sailing Week

The St-Barth Sailing Week is another annual event open to different categories of boats which is held just after the Bucket Sailing Race at beginning of April. It is another opportunity to see superb yachts or Classics facing modern, monohull or multihull boats. Various events organised on land help to keep the Saint Barthelemy spirit alive.

Maritime History

Saint Barthelemy was inhabited by Caraib Indians when it was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. They used to call the island Ouanalao, meaning Pelican. The island was occupied by the French as from 1648 and was sold to Sweden in 1784 before being ceded back to the French in 1878. It is now a territorial community with a strong autonomy. The powers of the executive are shared between the Assembly and the President. The history of the island is, of course, linked to maritime history of the region, which saw flotillas of trading and navy ships as well as buccaneers and pirates of all sorts come and go.

Informations pratiques


If you are coming from an international destination you must transit via the neighbouring island of Sint Maarten, situated 15 miles away, to reach Saint Barthelemy. Long-haul flights only land at Princess Juliana Airport in Sint Maarten. If you are coming from a regional destination, i.e. an island in the Caribbean, you can land either at Princess Juliana Airport or at Grand Case Airport in the French part of Sint Maarten. In both cases, flights are provided by various local companies using small aircraft and the journey takes only 15 minutes. To avoid any unnecessary complication or confusion, it is not recommended to call upon a travel agent to organise any airport or boat transfer, unless it is a taxi boat. If you are a resident, in transit or on holiday in Saint-Martin and whether you want to spend one or more days in Saint Barthelemy, travelling by boat is the ideal option. The trip takes between one and two hours and provides the opportunity to approach Saint Barthelemy by boat and discover its islets and points. You can thus admire the islets of Fouchue, Colombier, Pain de Sucre and Gros Islets, which are all situated in the marine reserve, before entering the famous little port of Gustavia. Various companies provide transportation for you and your luggage (without having to weigh them!) in very acceptable comfort conditions from a number of sites:

  • From Marigot in the French part: The journey lasts longer, but it provides an opportunity to discover a large part of the coasts of Sint Maarten and Saint Barthelemy as well as enjoy a beautiful sunset on the way back.
  • From the Philipsburg Marina: It is the guarantee of a shorter trip and the possibility of leaving a vehicle in the closed and guarded parking of the marina.
  • From the marina of Oyster Pond: A number of companies offer a high-speed boat service with a journey that takes less than an hour.

Whichever option you choose, online bookings are a better option than an often long wait at the counters of some companies, probably in the blazing sun! If you do not have a vehicle, you should book a taxi in advance since there is no such service in Oyster Pond or Philipsburg. A fact that is rare enough to be emphasised is that in Saint Barthelemy, all air and sea service providers sell one-way tickets at the price of one-way trips! It is thus easy to undertake a triangular inter-island trip, for example between St Martin, Saint Barthelemy and Saba, or to arrive by air and return by sea. Over time, the airport of Saint Barthelemy has earned itself a certain reputation due to the configuration of its runway tucked between a hill and the lagoon. Approaching the airport requires delicate handling and a first landing usually gets the adrenaline going. However, there is no need to worry as the pilots flying on this route all hold the necessary special certification to be allowed to land in Saint Barthelemy. Moreover, the beauty of the landscapes helps in mitigating this little inconvenience.

An Upmarket Destination

Living conditions have always been harsh for the inhabitants of Saint-Barthelemy, mainly due to aridity and lack of water, and it has been so since the arrival of the first French settlers on the island in 1648 and until the 1970s. However, over the past few decades, living conditions have improved and above all, the destination has become a very trendy one with American, European and Russian tourists, amongst other celebrities from the worlds of arts, industry and finance. The small size of the island and heightened awareness of the urgent need to safeguard its landscapes and biodiversity have contributed to a hike in real estate prices. Subsequently, life has become very expensive there. If your budget does not compare with that of a Hollywood star, we recommend that you avoid at all costs the festive season as well as the period between December and April to find accommodation at rates that are two to three times cheaper. There is an over-abundance of fine restaurants but there are also some little restaurants all around the island where you can sample excellent local produce including fish and seafood landed every day by small fishermen.

Water activities

You can rent a boat directly in the port of Gustavia at rated that can indeed be compared to those practised in other tourist destinations.
A variety of water activities are available locally and prices are in line with international standards.
The presence of a number of marine reserves allows nature lovers to discover beautiful underwater landscapes with a well-preserved fauna and flora, which unlike in certain other tourist destinations, can be seen for real and not just on posters produced by tourism offices!