St. Barths — also spelled St. Barts, or, if you’re fancy, Saint Barthélemy — is a rather tiny island in the Caribbean. It’s part of the French West Indies and is just to the east of Puerto Rico, close to Anguilla and St. Kitts. It’s a French territory and is known for being the go-to beach destination of celebrities and the ultra-rich, who are often photographed lounging at exclusive beach clubs and private resorts.
However, what may be suprising is that most of the island of St. Barts is undeveloped and natural. And better still, all 30-plus beaches on the island are public, including the beaches in front of the fancy beach clubs and hotels — anyone is welcome to use any beach. There’s no fee to access any St. Barts beaches and no fee to park, though beach clubs have entry fees if you want to use sun loungers and facilities. So while the island may be a bit pricey, the cost to spend every day of your vacation at a gorgeous tropical beach is absolutely nothing.
If you’re planning an overnight stay on St. Barts or just taking a day trip on the ferry from St. Maarten, these are the best St. Barts beaches you’ll want to add to your itinerary.
Map of the best St. Barts beaches
St. Barts is a small island, and when it isn’t crowded, it never takes more than 20 minutes to get anywhere. If you’re visiting in the off season (any time between April and September), you don’t have to worry about traffic. But if you’re visiting between November and March, expect traffic delays around Gustavia and St. Jean.
The best undeveloped St. Barts beaches
Some of the beaches in St. Barts have elegant beach clubs on their shores, but many have absolutely nothing. If you’re dreaming of sitting on a sandy St. Barts beach with no lounge chairs or cocktail bars in sight, head to one of the options below.
Gouverneur Beach, St. Barts
Gouverneur Beach is big and wide, with plenty of space to spread out even when it’s crowded. The far left side has a rocky wall that provides a bit of shade, but otherwise, there’s not a lot of space to shelter from the sun, so bring an umbrella or large sun hat with you. The same left side side near the rocks is also the best area for snorkeling.
It’s about a 10-minute drive from Gustavia to Gouverneur Beach, but the windy road to get there keeps many visitors away. It’s also an unofficial nudist beach, especially at the far end, which keeps even more people away. Because of those factors, it’s usually one of the least-crowded St. Barts beaches, even in the busy season.
There are absolutely no facilities at Gouverneur Beach, so bring everything you’ll need for the day with you, including water.
Colombier Beach is one of the most difficult-to-reach St. Barts beaches, but the trade off is virtually no crowds and picture-perfect views. To reach Colombier Beach, you’ll need to either hike down from roads at the northwest tip of the island, or arrive by boat, which is a popular option. Colombier Beach is a long beach with a very shallow and soft-sand bottom, making it an excellent place to anchor a boat and swim/hang out for a few hours.
Colombier Beach is well-known among island aficionados as its the beach that put St. Barts on the map, so to speak. At the southern tip of the beach is a massive white building that looks abandoned, but it’s actually the former mansion of David Rockefeller. It was built in the 1950s as his vacation home, and to keep it undeveloped, he started buying up much of the land on the island. He also invited his fellow high-wealth friends to come to St. Barts, and from there, it began to develop its reputation for exclusivity. The home was recently purchased by a new owner who will likely fix it up.
However, Colombier Beach is totally free and totally public. Like Gouverneur, there’s no shade and no amenities, so bring everything you need. If you’re hiking down, you’ll want a more substantive shoe to hike in, like a trail shoe or pair of hiking sandals.
Saline Beach, St. Barts
Saline Beach sits very close to an inland pond that once supported the primary industry in St. Barts: salt production. The primary industry now is tourism, but the nearby beach is still named for the pond. Saline Beach (saltwater beach) is one of the largest and prettiest St. Barts beaches, with absolutely no amenities or development of any kind.
The waves at Saline Beach can be a bit bigger than those at beaches on the other side of the island, so go in the mornings, or on afternoons when it’s not too windy. There’s a small, sandy cove on the far east side of the beach with room for a few groups, but you’ll need to swim to reach it.
To reach Saline Beach, park in the lot near L’Esprit Restaurant, then walk about 10 minutes across and around some sand dunes and short rocky areas to reach the beach. If you arrive by boat, expect a slightly choppy ride as you curve around the southern tip of the island.
Note that Saline Beach is one of a few St. Barts beaches where nudity is no problem, so feel free to let it all hang out.
Grand Fond Beach
Grand Fond Beach is fairly close to Saline Beach, though Saline Beach is better for laying out. But what makes Grand Fond so special is something you’ll find fairly close to the beach: natural swimming pools. Grand Fond Beach is fairly rocky and mostly covered in stones, but it’s just a short, 20-minute walk to reach the natural pools in the area, where you can swim. The hike is along the coastline, so expect a bit of exposure, and make sure to wear a hiking shoe or sandal. There’s a bit of a steep scramble to get down to the actual pools.
The route to the pools is unofficial, so do your research in advance and make sure you’re prepared with sunscreen, water, and a backpack so you can use your hands to scramble through some of the rockier parts. While the pool is pretty unaffected by tides, you’ll want to visit on a day with nice weather when the seas are relatively calm. There are two ways to reach it — either by walking along the coastline, or doing a steeper, longer hike from the road above.
Ask any local what their favorite beach is on St. Barts, and there’s a good chance most will mention Shell Beach. It’s very close to Gustavia, making it an ideal stop for visitors arriving via ferry. It’s a little on the small side compared to other St. Barts beaches, so it can get somewhat crowded during busy periods (such as around Christmas). But it’s worth trying to visit, since the cove has reliably calm water and excellent swimming and snorkeling. At one time, the beach was entirely covered in seashells, but after Hurricane Irma, many got washed away. Now, it’s a mix of sand and tiny pieces of shells.
On Shell Beach is Shellona Beach Club, open only until 6 PM. Expect DJs and a lively atmosphere during the day. Contact the club to reserve a beach chair; as of last check, it was around $50 per day.
But if the beach club isn’t your thing, no problem. Head to the right (on the side closest to Gustavia) when you arrive to find a quiet spot away from the beach club’s tunes, or swim out to the east side of the beach (past the beach club) to find the island’s most popular cliff jumping spot.
The best St. Barts beach clubs
In St. Barts, you can also opt for a beach club, rather than an undeveloped beach. Beach Clubs are set just a few meters away from the shoreline and offer loungers, cocktail and menu service, loungers, blankets, and everything else you could want for a luxurious day at the beach. Many also have music and beachside restaurants; some have pools. Depending on the club, you may be able to use a beach lounger as long as you order food and drinks, while others have an entry fee. The fee may cover just your sun lounger, or it could come with perks like cocktails or lunch.
Dont forget that you can use any beach in St. Barts for free, including the ones directly in front of the beach clubs. But you’ll need to bring your own blankets, beach towel, drinks, and more.
Gyp Sea Beach Club
If you love the Bohemian beach vibes of places like Tulum, but prefer them to be a bit more elegant and relaxed, one of your favorite St. Barts beaches will likely be Gyp Sea Beach Club. It’s in the town of St. Jean very close to the iconic Eden Rock hotel. Beach chairs and daybeds are set just a few feet from the sand, with large sun umbrellas for all of them. Gyp Sea has a very cool restaurant and bar, designed with natural material like woven lamps and eclectic local decor. It has more of an organic, hippie-type vibe than most St. Barts beaches — even flip flops may be a little too formal.
It’s also one of the most reasonably priced beach clubs in St. Barts, at €50 for a day pass with a covered lounger. Make reservations in advance in the busy season, but you can probably just show up if you’re visiting in the middle of the slow season (June, July, and August). You can order off the food and cocktail menu both from the restaurant or the beach (or sit in a shady area at the laid-back bar).
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Le Barthélemy sits on Grand Cul de Sac beach, more commonly called “the lagoon.” It’s one of the most shallow St. Barts beaches, and you can actually walk from one side to the other and never be more than waist-deep. As with all beaches in St. Barts, the entire space is public.
But if you want to experience the lagoon with a little more luxury, buy the 95 Euro day pass from luxury hotel Le Barthélemy. It includes not just a posh lounger for the whole day in the hotel’s pretty beach area, but also a two-course meal while you’re there. There’s top-notch service in the beach area, so you can order everything from champagne to cocktails to items off their beach restaurant menu without leaving your chair. Le Barthélemy also has a high-end spa with a Nordic plunge area and an on-site beach activity desk in case you want to add any additional services to your experience.
Le Barthélemy is on the opposite side of the island from the ferry terminal in Gustavia, so take that into account if you’re planning a day trip from St. Maarten.
Hotel Manapany St. Barts
If you love the idea of relaxing on a pretty beach but aren’t so much about going in the beach, consider the buying a beach pass at Hotel Manapany. The chic eco-resort sits on Anse des Cayes, which is more of a cove than a beach. The waves are generally a bit rough for swimming or snorkeling, but it’s absolutely gorgeous, and the hotel has covered beach loungers so you can admire the views all day. That said, it’s one of the best St. Barts beaches for surfing and kitesurfing, so you may want to look into staying at Hotel Manapany if those are your sports of choice.
But if you’re just coming for the day, you can buy a resort day pass for 150 Euro, which includes way more than just beach access. You’ll get a beach lounger for the day, plus a 60-minute massage, as well as a three-course lunch including a started and desert. Day pass visitors also get to use the resort’s large beachside swimming pool.
The resort is less than 10 minutes by taxi from the ferry terminal, so this is a great option if you’re visiting from St. Maarten and don’t want to spend all your time traveling to and from a beach.
Nikki Beach St. Barts
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Nikki Beach is probably the most popular beach club in St. Barts, known primarily for it’s daytime dancing-on-the-table-type vibe. Granted, it’s still St. Barts, so it’s a much classier affair than, say, beach clubs in Cancun. But it’s still rowdy for St. Barts. It’s chic, with modern, mostly white decor that feels very much like what you’d expect on the island. There are DJs and music events every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, plus a very highly rated on-site beach restaurant.
Reservations are essential, even in the off season. There’s no cover charge, but you should expect to spend quite a bit if you’re hanging out for the day. Cocktails at Nikki Beach St. Barts start around $20. Not bad at all by St. Barts standards, but still, they’ll start to add up. Nikki Beach is in St. Jean on the same beach as Gyp Sea Beach Club, so you can always opt to just bring your own blanket and hang out on the public part of the beach, listening to the DJ tunes but forgoing the beach club access fees.
How to get to St. Barts
There are two options for how to get to St. Barts. Perhaps surprisingly, both are pretty easy.
The first option is to fly in. You can fly to St. Barts from multiple nearby islands, including St. Maarten, Guadeloupe, and Puerto Rico. Flights take anywhere between 15 minutes and one hour, and the views from the plane as you land in St. Barts are incredible.
The second way to get to St. Barts is to take a ferry from St. Maarten. The ride is about 35 minutes and multiple companies make the trip several times a day. Tickets are anywhere between €50 and €100, and leave from both the Dutch side (St. Maarten) and the French side (St. Martin). It’s always best to buy your tickets in advance, though you can usually buy them at the ticket window during the summer when there are fewer tourists moving between islands. Be sure to bring your passport for the flight or the ferry.
Getting around on St. Barts
St. Barts isn’t a very big island, and if you’re not planning on leaving your hotel much, you can probably get away with not renting a car. But otherwise, the best way to travel around St. Barts is to rent a car. The island has narrow, winding roads, but everyone drives very slowly, and people are rarely in a hurry. So most people will do fine driving around the island, even if they’re nervous.
Having a car will allow you to move to between St. Barts beaches you’d like without relying on taxis, which can be both very expensive and slow to arrive. Rental cars are inexpensive (starting around €25 per day) and available both next to the airport and next to the ferry terminal, making them easy to rent for day-trippers. Parking at all undeveloped beaches is free, and all beach clubs offer valet parking for a rather reasonable €10-15.