For such a small Caribbean island, St. Barth’s is blessed with 14 pristine beaches that are free and open to the public. Even in the high season, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a beach that is crowded. Pack your sunscreen, your most fashionable swimsuit, a bottle water and a towel to head out for a beach experience unlike any other in the Caribbean.
There are plenty of spots along the white sand to settle in and look over the bright, clear, turquoise waters. If you are looking for adventure, enjoy the sun at these must-see beach locations:
By far the most remote beach on St. Barth’s, getting to Colombier is as much of an adventure as the beach itself. To get here, you must take one of two paths — the upper trail or the lower trail. Active travellers looking for a bit of a challenge should take the upper trail. You begin at the top of the mountain and follow a narrow, winding trail down the steep mountain side, navigating rock scrambles and more as you hike down the mountain towards the sea. For travellers who enjoy a slightly slower pace, head for the lower trail where you’ll stay relatively flat as you walk on a trail around the side of the mountain.
After 45 minutes or so (for both trails), the landscape opens onto one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Completely natural and without any development, Colombier will be your playground for the day. Plan ahead; pack a picnic and eat a light lunch or breakfast while enjoying the calm waters, incredible views and untouched beach. Keep your eyes peeled for pelicans dive-bombing schools of fish and for the blindingly-white yachts of the rich and famous looking for a beach to enjoy sans paparazzi.
Saline sits comfortably at the top of St. Barth’s most popular beaches list. Always busy and always moving, Saline is a favourite for tourists and locals alike. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon, locals flock here for their daily dose of sun, but tourists rule the roost mid-day as the sun beats down. To get to Saline, you must take a slight hike up craggy rocks before you can access the hill. Once you reach the top, though, it is worth it. You can finally see the wide and deep white sand beach that curves far to the left and right and hugs the bright turquoise water.
While nude bathing is officially illegal on St. Barth’s, it’s still widely practiced and you’ll more-often-than-not find enthusiasts of the movement baking in the sun of Saline beach. Wear comfortable shoes for the brief hike, an umbrella for the sun (there’s no opportunity for shade on this beach) and find your spot among the dunes for a lazy afternoon at Saline.
For the anthropological traveller, head to these beaches for great observations:
Don’t be surprised if you see a person hiding in the bushes with a camera pointed directly at you when you visit Flamands. It isn’t a stalker, per say, just a paparazzo keeping an eye out for celebrities. Saint Barth’s has long been a popular destination for celebrities looking to unwind in private. The illustrious and private Ile de France, located on Flamands beach, is where many go to relax. Most days, some of the world’s wealthiest and most influential people can be found basking on the blue and white reclining chairs in front of Ile de France. Take a walk down the beach to see who you can spot, or just enjoy the surf at Flamands.
Shell Beach is the only full beach in downtown Gustavia and as such is a great spot for people-watching. As its name suggests, instead of pure white sand Shell Beach has a number of small and colourful shells that you are welcome to look through take as a souvenir. The delicious and always-entertaining Do Brazil restaurant is located on its shores. Once you are done scoping out the beach for cool shells, you can relax in their cabanas while watching other beachgoers.
Looking to be alone with a good book? Many St. Barth’s beaches provide just that opportunity. For the optimal amount of silence, check out these beaches:
Quiet, serene, calm. All these words describe Gouvernor beach. No matter what time of the day you visit, you’ll be struck with the untouched natural beauty. You can see peeks of the beach as your wind down the massive mountain to the small parking lot. A Russian multi-millionaire owns all the land surrounding the beach, and has taken massive efforts to keep everything natural, clean and maintained. With massive cliffs on each end of the beach, it will feel like your own private paradise. You won’t be bothered here, and the constant but calm waves create a great backdrop to let go, meditate, swim, sunbathe or just be.
Instead of sand or shells lining this beach, rough rocks of every kind make up this small beach. Nicknamed “The Washing Machine”, Grand Fond is on the opposite side of the island from Gustavia and is a rough and tumble place where you can wander along the rocks, climb cliffs, and enjoy the rugged feel. Swimming is not advised, though bringing your camera is — sunrise at Grand Fond is hard to beat if you can wake up for it.
By all measures, Lorient is a local’s beach. There are few resorts around this beach, few restaurants and few additional amenities (like beach chairs for rent, or a beach bar). This is where many local fisherman dock their boats and where avid surfers come to practice their sport. The surf is good, the people are friendly and there is plenty of shade available. You’ll find solace from the more touristy beaches and still get the true vibe of Saint Barth’s beaches.
If you are looking to frolic all day, see these beaches for the best chance for fun:
The most visually different from other beaches, Grand Cul de Sac is protected by a coral reef and has some of the calmest waters on St. Barth’s. This creates the perfect spot for families looking for a safe and fun beach for everyone. The water stays shallow through much of the lagoon and is a mecca for those looking to try windsurfing, kiteboarding or paddleboarding. You’ll find no shortage of water-sports outfitters dotting the beach, so you’ll never run out of things to do, see, or try.
St. Jean is one of the most popular beaches on the island thanks to its favourable and central spot. Here, you can find outfitters who are ready to help you try windsurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and more. There are also a number of restaurants and bars where you can relax with a cold drink once you’re done. Perhaps the most unique thing about St. Jean is its location. The airport is just to the left of the beach, so you can lay back and watch planes take off and land on the tiny airstrip that ends on the beach.
There is no such thing as a bad beach on Saint Barth’s and if you are lucky, you’ll have the opportunity to them all. Each is different, each offers something unique to the visitor, and each will stay with you long after you’ve left the island. Keep yourself and your memories safe with an international travel insurance policy from Cover-More. Enjoy the beaches without the worry!
Images courtesy of Hannah Bryan