You may have already decided to start living in the French territory and Caribbean nation of St. Barts, or maybe you’re still weighing your options and just want to find out more about the tiny Caribbean federation. Either way, we have compiled some information on the French West Indies.
Everything you need to know to about residing in St Barts
Top 10 Must-Know Facts About Living in St Barts
It is home to an array of stunning beaches, luxury yachts, designer boutiques, and breathtaking restaurants that have helped it become a travel hotspot. It is known as the perfect place to retire, with many activities to keep you busy, from restaurants, to shopping, to nightlife.
Here is a list of some key lifestyle considerations to make before moving to St. Barts.
The official language of St. Barts is French. They also have a native dialect called Creole that is unique to the island and not too hard to understand as it is based primarily on French as well.
However, many residents and businesspeople also speak English, as there is a growing American tourist population on the island.
2. Climate & Topography
St. Barts is renowned as one of the oldest volcanic islands in the Caribbean consisting of hills and lowlands of rocky soil. It has a rugged coastline that is fringed with sparkling sand. The 24 square kilometers of land has about 8,500 inhabitants.
The climate is classified as Tropical Maritime type, with temperatures ranging from 27-32 degrees with moderate humidity and sweeping ocean breezes. The islands experience varying measures of sunshine year-round depending on the season. There are only two seasons in St. Barts. From December to May, there are more mild temperatures, and from June to November is a warmer winter period. The region is also prone to hurricanes between the months of September and October. Don’t underestimate the importance of a cistern, generator and storm shutters when buying or building your home.
St. Barts is one of the safest places in the world, and crime is very rare. There is a vested interest by the government and populace to maintain its safe and foreigner-friendly vibe due in part to tourism being the main industry. Crime of all degrees is low.
The streets are mostly empty at night and loitering is not common. It is considered safe to walk around with cash.
The only reported crime is petty theft, so it is important to adhere to typical safety precautions like locking your car when out of it and locking your home at night. Excuse yourself from situations that may make you uncomfortable and keep personal belongings and valuable items secure.
4. Quality of Life
The island nation is considered a good place to live for international citizens, retirees, families, and remote workers.
The islands are clean and uncongested with minimal interference from others and next to no air or noise pollution. You can be outdoors and take in the beautiful scenery or spend quality time at home without worry or interference. People who live on the island are likely to have high life expectancies.
Overall, St. Barts offers a higher quality of life, for those who seek freedom, warm weather and quiet enjoyment.
5. Exercise and Wellness
As a tropical island, St. Barts offers various outdoor physical activities you can enjoy like hiking, fishing, biking, and swimming. Island roads make for excellent jogging routes complete with inclines, straightways, and trails. However, if you must go jogging at night wear reflective clothing as some roads may be poorly lit.
Proximity to the warm ocean filled coral reefs, lots of marine life and wrecks make the shores of St. Barts great for swimming, sailing, snorkeling, diving and other water sports like water skiing.
For indoor work-outs you can visit the local gyms or many multi-unit residences and hotels offer gym memberships. Wellness centers and spas are easy to find and most massage therapists offer private services in their spare time.
St. Barts is very pet friendly; most residents own dogs and cats or other small animals. The government provides veterinary services on the island and there are also many pet-friendly hotels and restaurants, and dog-friendly activities.
Pets must enter St. Barts through Gustaf III Airport, although they can enter through the cabin, luggage or air cargo. Make sure to verify ownership or other requirements before you travel!
7. Cost of Living
Many expats who move to St. Barts find that the cost of living is higher than in the United States, Canada, or Europe. The main currency is the Euro, as a French territory.
Most vacation rentals cost anywhere from US$ 300 to US$ 1,000+ per night. Hotels range from US$ 200 to US$ 1,000+ per night.
Supermarkets carry basic home goods from popular American brands. Many items are imported so expect higher prices for certain staple items. However, cheap locally and regionally grown fruits, veggies, and herbs are abundant and can be found in supermarkets or various shops and roadside stalls. For scarcer items like some retail or special brands consider ordering online.
The island has public preschools and primary schools, under the authority of the Académie de la Guadeloupe. There is a non-selective high school on the island, but no options to pursue higher education such as universities.
The island has a small hospital, the Hôpital de Bruyn, in Gustavia with a diagnostic laboratory. There is also at least one private diagnostic facility. You can also find specialists in cardiology, general medicine, dentists, ENT, OB/GYN, paediatrics and rheumatology on the island. There are many pharmacies. Patients must travel to other areas to receive specialized treatment, such as Guadeloupe, United States, San Juan or France.
St. Barts has a small airport that receives regional flights. There are no direct flights from North America or Europe. Visitors often take a connecting flight from the nearby island of St Maarten. There is also a ferry service from St. Martin to St. Barts. If you live in the United States, it is recommended to fly to San Juan, then board a one-hour flight into St Barts. If you live in Europe, fly into St Maarten, then board a 12-minute flight into St Barts.
In terms of traffic, the island has narrow roads that are often congested. There is no form of public transport on the island other than taxis, so most people own their own vehicle on the island. Due to the rocky nature of the island, the ultimate option in terms of safety and style, is a Land Rover. It is a popular choice among locals,
Yachts are also a common form of travel here. Affluent individuals and celebrities alike can often be seen mooring their personal ships on the island. However, travelers can also charter crewed luxury yachts, superyachts, and sailing yachts during their stay.
Top 8 Beaches in St Barts (In no particular order)
1. Grand Cul-de-Sac
The Grand Cul-de-Sac is a spacious, turquoise shallow land filled with tropical fish. You’ll find palm trees around the edge of the sand dunes. If you’re lucky, you might even meet a few sea turtles. And wading into the lagoon, you will find a beautiful coral reef.
2. Petit Cul-de-Sac
The neighbor and smaller sibling of the Grand Cul-de-Sac, this bay may not have the same surprising panoramas, but offers more privacy and solitude. This exceptional beach is much more quiet, made up of pebbles and beautiful shallow water. Many adventurers make a walk from here to nearby natural swimming pools which are surrounded by absolute cliffs. Ask your local guide to help you locate them and navigate the difficult path through the rocks.
3. Salinas Beach
At the southeast end of St Barts lies a hidden treasure, Saline Beach. With white sand, white sponges and crystal-clear waters, Saline Beach is the epitome of a tropical oasis. This beach is unlike any other on the island, as there are no villas, hotels or restaurants in sight.
Saline Beach is perfect for afternoon snorkeling among coral formations or sunbathing. The beach is also a popular spot for joggers, hikers and swimmers due to the early morning peace and quiet.
4. Shell beach
Nestled at the foot of a rocky bay a short walk from central Gustavia, Shell Beach exudes true Caribbean charm. True to its name, much of the coast is covered with seashells of all shapes, sizes and colors.
Shell Beach is one of the best in St Barts, with restaurants, lavish villas and shops within walking distance. One of the most popular local restaurants is Shellona. Be sure to stay for the sunset, as the beach faces southwest and offers some of the best sunset views.
5. Saint Jean Beach
Minutes from Gustavia on the north coast, Saint Jean is one of the most popular beaches in St Barts. The beach itself is very quiet, but Saint Jean, the second largest village on the island, is located right behind it, where you will find hotels, shops, restaurants and spectacular luxury villas for rent on the hill. The island’s main airport is located near the village and daily small flights land on the sand of the beach. A variety of water activities are also available nearby, as well as a variety of beach-side restaurants. Saint Jean is also home to native sea turtles that can be seen swimming along the coast.
6. Colombier Beach
Located on the western part of the island where the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet, Colombier Beach is definitely worth the trip. Because there are no roads leading to this part of the island, you have to walk 30 minutes through trails. Alternatively, you can reach Colombier Beach by boat. However, a long stretch of white sand, deep blue sea and verdant forested hills welcome those who make the journey.
7. Lorient Beach
Lorient Beach is one of the largest beaches on the island, with excellent surfing at the western end and much calmer waters at the eastern end for swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding. Lorient is one of the liveliest beaches, with plenty of space for beach picnics, two local restaurants and a vibrant food market. It is also ideal for young children, with a series of small rock pools allowing even the youngest to have some fun.
8. Flanders Beach
Flamands Beach is located three miles north of Gustavia, and known as “Billionaire’s Beach”. It is home to some of the most impressive villas on the island, with elegant sea views and direct beach access.
Purchasing Real Estate in St Barts
St. Barts is one of the most desirable destinations in the Caribbean, as it embodies the very definition of elegant luxury living. Within its 24 square kilometers, this tiny island manages to boast a distinct French aesthetic and blends the best of French culture with the rugged natural beauty of the Caribbean.
With exceptional beaches, sophisticated nightlife and prestigious annual festivals and events, St. Barts has established itself as one of the world’s most desirable real estate investment locations. As a result, the St. Barts real estate market is geared to the top end of the market. Luxurious hill-side and beachfront villas offer buyers an enviable lifestyle and an opportunity to invest in a property with the potential for significant returns by renting it out. Popular areas include Anse des Cayes, Colombier, Corossol, Flamands, Grand Cul de Sac, Gustavia, Lorient, Lurin and Toiny.
Foreigners can buy property in St. Barts, and the buyer does not need to be a resident of St Barts or France. Buying property in St Barts is a relatively simple process, which typically involves the following steps:
- Begin searching for a property with the help of an expert
- Submit an offer
- Once the offer has been accepted by the seller, a notary will draft a Purchase and Sales Agreement which includes comprehensive terms such as the agreed date of closing.
- Once signed, the buyer will need to pay a deposit of at least 10% into an escrow account held by the notary.
- Sales are normally closed within 60 to 90 days
Costs for real estate purchases in St. Barts include notary fees and a one-time transfer tax of about 5%, which are the responsibility of the buyer. There is no annual property tax in St. Barts.
Some of the most popular areas for real estate on the island include:
1. Colombier and Flamands
These areas are both located on the north-western end of St. Barts. Quiet Colombier Beach is renowned as one of the best beaches on the island. Villas overlooking the beach are among the market’s most enviable properties. Nearby Flamands Beach is also highly attractive for real estate properties.
There are also some beautiful homes for sale in and around the capital of Gustavia. Gustavia is home to world-class restaurants, cafes and boutiques and still offers a beautiful view of the St. Barts coastline. The nearby small village of Corossol also offers a quiet escape.
On the northern coast, St. Jean Bay and Lorient are some of the key locations for those investing in luxury real estate. St Jean Bay has some of the island’s most prestigious hotels, such as the very popular Eden Rock. Located close to St. Jean Bay, Lorient Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the island. Nearby Pointe Milou, Grande Saline and Petite Saline also offer well-known beaches and beautiful homes for sale.
Located on the eastern coast, Toiny, Grand Cul-de-Sac, Petit Cul-de-Sac and Vitet are also of interest to those considering buying a home. These luxury properties for sale are a bit more remote, nestled into the hills. However, as a result of their high elevation, they offer amazing views of the ocean and beaches below.
Famous People Who Regularly Visit St Barts
1. Beyonce & Jay-Z
This couple has been spotted on the beaches of St. Barts many times. The most popular time for celebrities to visit St. Barts is during New Year’s, or during festivals. Once, Beyonce even performed an hour-long show on New Year’s Eve.
2. Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani has been spotted on boats in St. Barts, also around New Year’s. She travels with her beau, Gavin Rossdale.
3. Rachel Zoe
Rachel Zoe, the fashion stylist who has worked with many celebrities, has also been seen frequently on the island, both with her family and friends. These exotic vacations no doubt provide an escape from the chaos of the city.
Usher has attended music festivals in St. Barts, such as Beyonce’s New Year’s Eve performance.
5. Alessandra Ambrosia & Miranda Kerr
Victoria’s Secret supermodels such as Alessandra Ambrosia and Miranda Kerr frequently travel to the island, either for a relaxing retreat or a photoshoot with Victoria’s Secret campaigns.
6. Nicole Ritchie
The former reality TV star on the “Simple Life” and current designer of House of Larlow has been seen vacationing with friends on the island.
7. Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, the world’s second richest man, has been spotted in St. Barts with his partner.
8. The Kardashian family
The whole Kardashian-Jenner family has visited the island during the summer, where they went shopping, dined out, went parasailing and ATV-ing across the island.
9. Greta Garbo & Howard Hughes
Celebrity sightings in St. Barts is not a recent trend, as Greta Garbo and Howard Hughes have been spotted at the Eden Rock hotel back before it became world-renowned.
10. Dua Lipa
The up and coming world-famous singer has been spotted taking breaks from her career to enjoy the sun off the coast of St. Barts as she enjoys time sailing around the island.
Things To Do in St Barts
St. Barts has an active lifestyle. With the hilly topography and coastlines of the island, there are many sights to enjoy. Make your way through rich foliage, traverse bushy hillsides, discover waterfalls and emerge at the rim of dormant volcanoes. There is a trail for everyone, and something to be seen no matter the difficulty.
You can also join a hiking tour from anywhere between a half-hour to five hours long. One half-hour hike starts in Grand Fond, will lead you along a rocky beach and then high up on dramatic cliffs overlooking the ocean. From there, you will have a spectacular view of a small local beach where the water churns and crashes dangerously against the shore. This is known locally as the Washing Machine.
If you are a fan of watersports, Grand Cul de Sac Beach is the perfect spot for windsurfing and kitesurfing. The sheltered bay keeps the water calm, but the wind blows strong enough to fulfill your need for speed. The best surfing can also be found at Lorient beach.
If you’re new to water sports, lessons are readily available across the island. Paddle boards and kayaks are also available for rent if you love the water but prefer something a bit calmer.
3. Scuba Diving
Much of the water surrounding St. Barts is protected by the Nature Reserve, a marine reserve that is divided into five zones around the island. Thanks to this protection, you will be able to witness amazing marine life while diving near the island. The best spot for exploring is the Kayali Wreck, a 30m dive with tropical fish, sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, and even reef sharks!
St. Barts is known for its island-wide party to ring in the New Year. The festivities start off with a regatta, followed by music and dancing on the docks and fireworks at midnight. In January, the Festival de Musique de St. Barts features jazz, chamber music, classical music, and modern and classical dance. Mardi Gras is also a huge celebration in St. Barts, with parade floats, bands, and costumed dancers. Later in March, super yachts compete for the St. Barts Bucket, three days of regattas around the island. In April, there is the Caribbean Film Festival, an island tradition for almost thirty years.
You can charter a half-day, full-day, or even a week-long cruise on a catamaran. You can also rent luxury yachts to explore nearby waters and use the boat as your homebase. On these charters, you can cater events, have chefs on board, or even stop by a deserted island.
In the spring, St. Barts hosts two major sailing regattas: The St. Barts Bucket in March, and Les Voiles de St. Barts in April.
The Caribbean waters around the island provide for some fantastic fishing spots. Surfcasting and shore fishing is a great way to relax. However, you can also opt for more adventurous options such as deep-sea fishing. Or you can charter a fishing boat, go out past the reefs and pursue larger sportfish. May until September are the best months for Marlin fishing.
The island of St. Barts is known for its nightlife. The city comes alive at night, especially in Gustavia. Nightclubs open around 9 pm, but start to really pick up pace at 11 pm. If you are looking for the best recommendations to dance, you can visit Casa, Sky Bar and Bagatelle in Gustavia, and Modjo in St Jean. There are many upbeat restaurants that turn into bars and clubs as the night goes along, making it convenient to stay the whole night.
Visit the Ligne St. Barts factory in Lorient. Ligne St. Barts is a lifestyle brand, where products are made in St. Barts from local and natural ingredients. For the past thirty years and more, the native founder Hervé Brin and his family have continued to enhance the experience. By visiting the factory, you can join a tour to experience the process of this creation and you can leave with your favorite products! Ligne St. Barts has also partnered with Eden Rock to open their new spa. At the hotel, you can experience a relaxing massage with these amazing products.
Practice yoga everyday with yoga instructors in St. Barts. You can practice different types of yoga on a terrace overlooking the ocean at sunset. This can be a magical experience and can also help you to relax.
11. Art & Fashion Scene
Discover the local art and fashion scene combined at Christian Charriere Art. To find him, you must pass by the Edgar Store in Gustavia. Christian Charriere has worked closely with Louis Vuitton for over two years to customize bags for clients. Clients can choose the theme of customization or initials. It makes the perfect souvenir to bring back home.
Top Places to Stay in St Barts (in no particular order)
Since hurricane Irma, most hotels have been rebuilt in St. Barts and the island is bouncing back in tourism since before COVID.
- The Toiny has undergone complete remodeling to update the rooms.
- The Eden Rock is a classic option and popular hotel
- The Barthelemy is a new hotel that was finished in 2020 and is known for its VIP services and new rooftop bar.
- Hotel Christopher is more reasonably priced, giving you bang for your buck. It has also added a new poolside terrace and dining area.
- The Sereno has likewise added a beachside bar to its roster.
If you prefer privacy, hotels may not be the best option for you. You can also rent many villas in St. Barts. The privacy and freedom of these villas makes it perfect for families.
Top Places to Eat in St Barts (In no particular order)
At the heart of Gustavia, L’Isola transports you back to Italy. The authentically Italian cuisine offers the best dishes prepared with the finest ingredients imported exclusively from Italy. Known for its antipasti, fish courses, and of course pasta (especially the gnocchi), there is something for everyone. L’Isola also offers an outstanding wine list, in which one can denote some of the finest wines from Tuscany, Sicily and more. Tables are set with white tablecloths and lit by soft candlelight, which makes it a luxurious experience for a romantic night out.
Located on a hill overlooking Gustavia’s harbor, Bonito offers a great view and even better food. An open kitchen puts a modern twist on exotic flavours. Chef Laurent combines bold flavours of French and South American cuisine. Bonito offers fresh, locally sourced ingredients and is known for having a range of exotic proteins. The restaurant is also known for its creative cocktail menu. Bonito also has a resident DJ from 9 pm, when the atmosphere becomes livelier. The experience is like no other, offering a range of flavours for your taste buds.
Orega is perhaps the most popular fine-dining experience in St. Barts and the toughest table to get on the island. This small hole in the wall restaurant focuses on Franco-Japanese fusion food such as sushi, confit duck and mahi-mahi. Orega is also renowned for its desserts! The restaurant prides itself on sourcing many of its ingredients from Paris, Tokyo and New York to ensure that its dishes are authentic and of the highest quality.
Le Tamarin is located in Saline and has a signature garden if you are looking to get away from the popular beach views. The garden is centered around a 200-year-old tamarind tree and accented with ponds filled with lily pads. The refined decor reflects a meshing of Caribbean, French and Swedish cultures. If this isn’t enough, the refined food may just be enough to convince you to give it a try.
Shellona is located on Shell Beach, which is famous for its thousands of small shells covering the cove. This makes the ideal location to watch the sunset. At the heart of Gustavia, the Shellona is a go-to experience, renowned for its culinary creativity, beachy atmosphere, and lively music. Shellona takes pride in fusing Caribbean and Greek cuisine.
6. Nikki Beach
Another beachside restaurant, Nikki Beach is nestled into the smaller part of St Jean Beach. The Nikki is known for its lunch service, including lobster, local fish, caviar, and Nikki-style chicken. It also serves only the finest wines, champagnes, and cocktails. The menu and atmosphere is considered eclectic, as the cuisine borrows flavours for restaurants all over the world. The most inviting attribute? The beautiful views overlooking St. Jean Beach, or catching a glimpse of a celebrity seated near you!
7. Pearl Beach
Pearl Beach has a blend of Latino and French food that has been converted into Caribbean cuisine. Pearl Beach restaurant also serves as a beach bar where you can party into the night. On the outdoor deck, there is a DJ booth and cocktail bar that borders the sandy beach. At night, the Bay of St Jean is vibrant with music and shows, such as dancers, fire spinners, wine tastings or lobster barbecues.
8. Black Ginger
At Black Ginger, authentic but elevated Thai dishes are created by chefs from Bangkok trained by Vichit Mukura. The menu includes traditional fare and is especially known for its fresh and local seafood dishes. The restaurant features a beautiful interior courtyard that allows you to dine outdoors. It is also the place to go if you’re searching for upscale vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free options.