Day Trip: St. Barths

Earlier, we shared our excitement about flights offered by Trans Anguilla Airways, and now we’re sharing our experiences for guests interested in bringing together a Caribbean excursion with a taste of different islands. Our first excursion with TAA? St. Barths. 

We departed Anguilla at 10AM, just as scheduled. After chatting with the team at Trans Anguilla Airways, the flight to St. Barths was half of the draw for me. I had heard about the  landing and after having experienced it, it lived up to its hype.

Despite the small plane size and close quarters, the flight was actually pretty spectacular. I personally love flying (hate airports, but love flying) so the small plane was actually a bit of a draw for me. The view of Anguilla, St. Martin and St. Barths during the trip was stunning and the contrast between the islands’ topography was even more pronounced from above.  The short flight took us from Anguilla to St. Barths in 12 minutes, where we scooted into the airport and walked right onto St. Jean Beach.

Also worth noting, the AXA airport is quite possibly the nicest and simplest airport on the face of the earth. If you haven’t been through Anguilla’s airport before, you’re in for a pleasantly easy experience. We arrived about 30 minutes prior to flight time, which may have been 15 minutes earlier than necessary. Since there are inevitably only a few people on your given flight there’s not this entire production about safety, exits, etc. (though they do make sure to point out exits and make sure you buckle up). The plane is smaller than an SUV, so everything is pretty obvious at first glance.

St. Jean Beach – Anse de Lorient

After a quick landing and deplaning, we were on our way to explore St. Barths. The airport is adjacent to St. Jean Beach, home of Eden Rock Resort, which was clearly visible in the distance. Since we had opted out of renting a car, we decided to walk down the beach to check out the area and the architecture of the island. At first glance, it looked much like St. Martin: red-roofed buildings built into a sea of mountainous greenery.

Walking through the streets surrounding St. Jean Beach and Anse de Lorient, I was immediately impressed with how chic and clean the areas were. The cobblestone roads were quaint, and the brightly colored boats added to the Caribbean feel. Unlike Anguilla’s bright candy-colored Caribbean houses (think bright orange, teal, lime green, etc.), St. Barths’ homes and buildings are very French Caribbean, straight off of a Coastal Chic Pinterest Board.

Gustavia

While there’s a fair bit of nice shopping in the St. Jean area, we wanted to get out and explore different regions of St. Barths before lunch. The staff at Eden Rock was kind enough to call us a cab since there were none available on the streets. When a black Mercedes cab pulled up, I looked at Scott with both excitement and fear. Can I have them send a Kia cab? This is going to cost a fortune. As if by government mandate that all things in St. Barths embody all that is beautiful and perfect, the cab smelled like fresh cut flowers inside and the interior was spotlessly perfect. Verdict: 20 euros to Gustavia. That I could do. Do note that cabs in St. Barths are extremely expensive (not unlike Anguilla). Keep costs down by staying near the airport — there’s plenty to do within walking distance of the airport.

We made it down to Gustavia with no real plans in mind. We asked the taxi driver to drop us off at the starting point of the main shopping ‘strip’, an area dotted with boutique shops and luxury stores like Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Bulgari. I dared to window shop, but didn’t venture too much further than that. We approached the end of the strip and a restaurant that was recommended by our cab driver for a drink, a burger place called Le Select. While I wouldn’t have known any better, Scott recognized Le Select’s name as being the inspiration for Jimmy Buffett’s Cheeseburger in Paradise. Sure enough, the sign confirmed this. For all of you Jimmy Buffett lovers, I’m sure this is on your agenda.

We had about an hour before we wanted to leave for lunch and Le Select was dead but for a few weathered locals sitting at the bar inside. We decided to find a place with outdoor seating and a view to grab a drink. Just down the street, we ran into La Cantina which fit that very description.

I grabbed a margarita (no mint for my mojito go-to) and Scott grabbed a Ti Punch, the famous drink of the French Caribbean. Near the water, this place offered great views and a perfect perch to people watch. Plus, the prices were refreshingly reasonable. If you’re looking for an affordable place in Gustavia, La Cantina offers street side tapas and cocktails.

Note: If you’re taking the ferry from Anguilla or St. Martin to St. Barths, you’ll get dropped off in Gustavia on the main drag, which is perfect for walking around. There are plenty of shops and dining in Gustavia to keep you intrigued.

Lunch at Le Gaiac

We asked our taxi driver to take us to Le Toiny Hotel for lunch, a €30 cab ride. I have no idea if we were getting totally ripped off on cabs all day, but based on Anguilla’s taxi prices, I think that may be the norm. Unlike the Merecedes cab of earlier, this was a beat up old van with a wizened cab driver at the helm. €30 seemed a bit outrageous, but he explained that the restaurant was ‘across the island’. On an island that’s 8 square miles, that makes you raise your eyebrows a bit.

Lunch was one of our main missions for the day since that was the only dining we were going to experience in St. Barths. We wanted to see Hotel Le Toiny so we opted to eat at their on-site restaurant, the acclaimed Le Gaiac. On Tuesdays, Le Gaiac offers a gourmet ‘Fish Market’ prix fixe lunch special in lieu of their standard menu. For a set price, you get a three-course lunch with a selection for each course. There are certainly less expensive options (see below) but we wanted to explore the hotel for future trips to the island. With the hotel and restaurant set up on the hill, the view from Le Gaiac is a stunning one; sweeping views of Anse Toiny and the green hills that surround the beach.

If you’ve looked into a trip to St. Barths, you’ll know that dining can be very expensive. There are a number of high-end places with entree prices that will make you look twice. There are also a number of places that are reasonable by St. Barths’ standards. Do a bit of research beforehand so you know what you’re getting into. You don’t have to spend a fortune on food. There are super casual dining spots scattered throughout the island, plus grocery stores which offer easy options for a beach picnic.

Looking for something more affordable for lunch? Check out these places in St. Barths:

The Wall House Restaurant, Gustavia
Andy’s Hideaway, St. Jean
Le Creperie, Gustavia
K’Fe Massai, St. Jean

While you could easily spend a few days in St. Barths, six hours was the perfect taste of the island if you’re just looking for a glimpse. Since you’re only there for a brief period, plan your day out in advance to ensure you’re making the most of your brief time on the island. If you decide to stay by the airport, you’ll have St. Jean Beach and Anse L’orient within walking distance, plus great lunch spots and plenty of cute boutiques to do a bit of shopping. Save that cab money and spend it on lunch and a ti punch. Tres chic indeed.

This post originally appeared in its original form on The Traveling Scholar.

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