Visiting St. Barths has been a dream of mine for many years. Call me an elitist, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that it’s one of the most exclusive places on earth, or there’s a Nikki Beach on the island (and it was once one of my lifetime goals to visit all the Nikki Beaches in the world).
But let’s be honest. My fiancé and I aren’t made of money; and with a wedding on the horizon, we weren’t looking to set ourselves back. Despite the otherwise hefty price tag, it is possible to visit St. Barths affordably. So, I’m sharing my 4 tips on how to do St. Barths on a budget.
But First, What Exactly Is St. Barths and Where is it?
St. Barths (short for Saint Barthélemy and also called St. Barts or St. Barth) is a tiny French island in the Caribbean, stretching a mere 25 square km, with a population of about 11,000. It’s the jewel of the Caribbean and combines all of my favourite things: beautiful beaches, warm weather, posh beach clubs, pretty architecture, luxurious accommodation, and excellent cuisine.
With no direct commercial flights to St. Barths, you’ll have to take a 10-minute puddle jumper plane or 45-minute ferry ride from St. Maarten. The island oozes wealth and poverty is pretty much non-existent. But with a little planning, you can certainly travel here without paying a fortune. So without any further ado, here are my 4 tips on how to do St. Barths on a budget.
Go During the Low Season
Different sources say different things, but it is generally accepted that April 15th to December 14th is low season, December 15th to mid-January is high season, and mid-January to April 14th is shoulder season.
The difference in prices for accommodation during the high season and low season will actually shock you. We paid about $9,300 CAD for our villa for 5 nights in mid-May, and the same 5 nights during high season would have cost over $30,000 CAD (not to mention most places have a minimum 7-night stay during high season)!
Since the rich and famous spend their holidays here in high season, it’s not only more expensive, but also more crowded. Avoid the crowds and excessive cost, and plan your trip during the low season.
Go with a Group of Friends and Get Shared Accommodation
Be smart, travel with friends. Decrease your costs and increase your fun! If you go with a group, like we did, you can divide the cost of transportation, groceries, alcohol, and most importantly, accommodation.
Shared accommodation is definitely the way to go. We booked through Airbnb, but you could also book through one of more than a dozen villa websites which all seemed to have similar inventories. There’s an expansive inventory of villas on the island to suit various budgets. Do some comparison shopping to get yourself the best deal! At $9,300 CAD for 5 nights, divided amongst 12 people, we came in at $155 CAD per person/per night, which is cheaper than most Toronto hotels!
Where We Stayed
I could not speak any more highly of where we stayed: Villa Seven! Newly renovated and modern, there were a total of 6 bedrooms, all equipped with queen-sized beds, bathrooms, and air conditioning. The villa had 2 levels, the main kitchen was huge, as was the living room. But the major attraction at Villa Seven for all of us had to be the outside patio/deck and INFINITY POOL!
The owners, Patrick and Ingrid, were the best hosts. They surprised us with a cake with our picture on it on the first day, a private massage during the week, and a bottle of Moët! If you go here, you need to make Villa Seven a part of your travel plans.
Bring Snacks, Buy Groceries and Alcohol Locally, Eat Like a Local
St. Barths is a duty-free port, so stock up on your hard alcohol here when you arrive. Believe it or not, you can also get bottles of Rosé at the grocery store for 5 Euros (Rosé all day!).
Some of our friends loaded their suitcases with snacks for the trip. We had Nagi energy bars, which came in handy for our afternoon hikes, and Hungry Buddha coconut chips, which I’m pretty sure I ate every day! We also brought some Twisted Shotz B-52 and Whipped Chocolate flavours to spike our coffees with (because, we were on vacation, so why the heck not?!).
We did a couple grocery runs and planned a lot of our meals (But who are we fooling? We were basically on a liquid diet on the trip!). Groceries are not that much more expensive than buying in North America, but fresh produce can be pricey since a lot of it is imported.
If you keep your eating out to a minimum, you’ll save a lot. You can then use the money you save to splurge selectively at beach clubs, like Nikki Beach, Cheval Blanc (my absolute fave), and La Plage at Tom Beach! That said, the cuisine on the island is top-notch, so you should have at least one fine dining meal. I recommend Bagatelle (Tip: if you go on Friday evening, there is free champagne for ladies between 8-10 p.m.). Le Select in Gustavia has very affordable prices and is a popular spot amongst locals for a casual meal.
Get Outside and Enjoy Nature (It’s Free!)
Put on your sunblock, grab a hat, and go hiking! In fact, you need to hike to some of the best beaches and spots on the island, like Colombier Beach.
One of my favourite moments on our trip was when we hiked to the Natural Pools in Toiny/Grand Fond. Tip: wear comfortable shoes for the hike. We wore Skechers running shoes, and everyone was raving about how comfy they were. When we got to the Natural Pools, we perched up, started playing some tunes on our Bose SoundLink Revolve Plus Bluetooth speaker, which was the perfect portable speaker to bring with us on the hike – the 360 degree sound in those caves was just incredible!
In case you’re wondering what our individual bottom line costs were for 5 days, here is a rough breakdown (all in CAD):
- Round-trip flights to St. Maarten from Toronto – $256 (including taxes)
- One-way flight to St. Barth – $100/One-way ferry ride – $86/Round-trip ferry ride – $132
- Villa – $9,300 divided by 12 = $775, divided by 5 = $155/pp/night
- Car rental – $500 divided by 12 = $42
- Groceries on average per person for 5 days $90
- Cost of a local cook per person for one meal $25
- Cost of outside food and drink – at your discretion
So you see, St. Barths is totally within reach for the average person and is a must-do vacation destination. In fact, I almost didn’t want to share this blog post with you guys, for a fear of letting the secret out about traveling to this gorgeous and exclusive island.