Following my quick but wonderful stay in Anguilla, I ventured to St. Barths. This is not at all the Caribbean I am used to. St. Barths is basically Europe, and France to be specific. No “island time” here, everything is run more on a laidback European time. Euros is the currency and French is the language. It is the vacation mecca for the ultra-rich jetset of Europe and France. On approach you see mega yachts lining the bays. Mansions dot the mountains and beaches. Hotel and restaurant prices rival if not exceed those of Paris. People here are for sure well to do. It is a place to see and be seen for sure.
But I came here mainly for the airport and planespotting. St. Barths airport is world famous for its landings and approach and for the many accidents that happen because of this. It is a aviation nerd’s heaven. I would say the planespotting here is more thrilling than SXM / Maho Beach because you are a lot closer to the planes and you witness the hair raising final approach. The planes are all smaller turboprops but oof what an exciting final approach where the planes are barely above the ground flying over the steep hill that opens to the runway.
Getting There and Around
You have 2 main options to arrive on the island if you dont own a yacht or private jet. There are many daily flights from Sint Maarten, San Juan Puerto Rico and a handful from Anguilla and Guadalupe. A flight from SXM or Anguilla is around 15-20 minutes. The other option is to take the ferry from Philipsburg in Sint Maarten. If you have a fear of flying or get angsty in turbulence, avoid the flights, trust me, even as a private pilot, I got a bit scared on the final approach, but I found it so thrilling and exciting.
Once you arrive you have a few options. If like me you are here for a short time an mainly staying and spending time around St. Jean and the airport, then you can walk everywhere. If you have more time and want to explore more, rent a car, the most popular option it seemed was mini-coopers as everyone seemed to be driving those. There are 2 passenger electric vehicles, open air 4-wheeler, buggies and other vehicles you can rent as well. There are taxis and private transfers you can also book or arrange a transfer through your hotel. As with everything on the island, none of these options other than being on your feet, are cheap.
Euros are the currency, credit cards are accepted everywhere, but wise to have cash on hand for tips / just in case.
As mentioned, I experienced the scariest, most thrilling landing of my life. I was actually shaking. but so amazing and exciting and I geeked out.
After arriving and clearing customs/immigration in like 2 minutes, I was out the door and off up the hill by the airport for an overview of the airport, but sadly I had missed the last arrival for another 2 hours or so. There is not paved sidewalk up this hill and you have to walk through the small car rental parking lot in the airport. Exit the airport, turn right and just keep going straight. It is not that steep a hill, but it is slightly pebbly.
I then walked to my hotel to check-in and set my things down.
I booked and stayed at Hotel Le Village St. Barths, up a steep hill from St. Jean Beach, a 15 minute walk from the airport and at $376/night, including taxes and fees and breakfast, it is one of the cheapest options on the island regardless of season. Facilities include a gym, an infinity pool, a spa (extra), an honesty bar (closes when the reception closes at 8PM) stocked with water, beer, wine, champagne, and free WiFi. Rooms include kitchenettes, TV, A/C, some have outdoor decks with loungers, some have large balconies with loungers.
My private sundeck, the room also comes with a private driveway and parking spot
After settling down, I walked back down towards the airport for lunch and planespotting. I headed to Eden to Go, a cafe/deli serving delicious and fresh foods (sandwiches, quiche, pastries, salads), juices and coffee/tea, at very reasonable prices, probably the most affordable spot in town. It also has a great outdoor area to sit, eat and watch planes land/takeoff as its right next to the runway, and a short 2-3 minute walk from the terminal, they also open early, at 7AM, you can have all 3 meals here.
Delicious spiced carrot cake with fresh squeeze orange juice.
I then walked back up the hill for some planespotting and managed to catch an arrival bank of 5-6 landings back to back. It was exiting, scary, and thrilling, you can basically touch the planes at some parts and if something goes wrong on final approach the planes could easily fly right into you.
Warning signs everywhere because people can be stupid
Following some nerding out and mission accomplishing, I walked down to St. Jean beach, here you can stand near the edge of the runway and watch planes takeoff, which is also fun.
At the end of the beach is the famous Eden Rock hotel and villas. It is one of the most famous and expensive properties on the already expensive island.
I had read that you could rent loungers for the day at Eden rock but when I asked they said not the case. There is also no clear reception here, but staff were pretty nice and not as pretentious as I would have expected for this property.
I then decided to spend the rest of the afternoon on my private sundeck and the Le Village hotel’s infinity pool. It was very relaxing and avoided the crowds on St. Jean beach and Eden Rock.
I had booked a dinner at Sandbar Bar and Restaurant at Eden Rock and before that I decided to have sunset cocktails at the Remy Bar
DIY Ti Punch from Remy Bar, rum of your choice, syrup of your choice, ice and lime. I chose an aged rum with agave syrup. My perfect miss as all rum, half agave syrup and 2 limes with some ice was my perfect balance.
Welcome cocktail, grapefruit, star anise, and bubble, actually very tasty. The bubble had burst by the time I took the photo sadly.
Sandbar Restaurant by Jean Georges at Eden Rock, reservations recommended, doable online.
Delicious and served warm, multi grain baguette with olive oil and sea salt
Sea scallop crudo with truffle yuzu ponzu and puff rice
Whole grilled catch of the day…coming down to a whopping 69 euros…..
Truffled mashed potatoes, probably the best thing of the night
12 month barrel aged Negroni, served table side, it was amazing.
Banana souffle with dark chocolate sorbet
The next morning was a simple Continental breakfast at the hotel, eggs cost extra. Do not waste money on the plain omelette, just egg regular fried/scrambled eggs.
After that it was time to walk to the airport for a departure flight on Tradewind Airlines to San Juan, Puerto Rico via Anguilla (where you stay on the plane as they pick up passengers). The St. Barths airport is small but very nice and clean and to my surprise did not have any security check of any sort. It is a super easy airport to go through. Tradewind is a great semi-private airline to fly. Onboard they provide free snacks and drinks (Self serve, inclusive of alcohol) and in Puerto Rico you are transported to and from the aircraft via private bus, and you depart directly from the airline’s lounge.
Scary and thrilling takeoff from St. Barths, landings more thrilling and scarier though.
St. Barths airport lived up the hype and thrills. For a plane nerd like me, well worth visiting the island just for this. Unfortunately the island does not have very many affordable overnight options but Le Village was actually fairly good value given the size of my room and amenities offered. The main areas around the airport and St. Jean are convenient and walkable. Eden Rock food and beverage is pricey but its fairly guaranteed to be good as a Jean Georges establishment, with excellent service and views (both the actual views and the interesting people watching). I think I would return and rent a car to explore the other beaches and bits of town, but I would easily be happy to come back for a quick day trip just to see some planes and have a bite at Eden To Go.