According to your Instagram feed, everyone you know is currently on a tropical vacation. Well, it’s about time you joined them. But where to go? , an overseas collectivity of France, merges the sophistication of the French Riviera with the tropical setting (turquoise waters, sun-kissed coastlines) of the Caribbean. And while its reputation for being a playground for the rich and famous -- models, celebs, socialites -- certainly rings true, there are ways to enjoy the paradisiacal island without spending a fortune. Namely, the island’s white-sand beaches are not only all free, but also open to the public. Here are nine of our favorite sandy stretches -- choose one or beach-hop between a few.
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Despite being an island-favorite, Gouverneur Beach, on the south side of St. Barts, still feels like a well-kept secret. Those who brave the twisting path required to reach this secluded spot will be rewarded with peace, quiet, and frothy waves perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Upon arrival, follow the lush walkway, which eventually gives way to white sand and crystal clear water tucked between two rocky promontories. There’s nary a bar, restaurant, or shop in sight — ensuring nothing breaks the soothing soundtrack of the ocean — so pack a picnic, umbrella, and any other beach essentials. You may, however, stumble upon topless sunbathers lying heads up or down, and you should feel free to strip down, too.
This slightly off-the-beaten-path beach is one of the most highly photographed spots on St. Barts. And the moment you lay eyes upon the wide, unspoiled landscape, you’ll understand why. What you’ll find here is turquoise water and soft, white sand that’s bookended by rocky hillsides. Beachgoers frolic in their birthday suit or picnic with spreads that include baguettes, cheese, charcuterie, and of course, rose. What you won’t find, however, are bars, restaurants, shops, or even crowds. So, while you might not bring your swimsuit, make sure to carry your own food, drinks, umbrellas, and chairs.
St. Jean Beach
Split in two by the uber-luxe Eden Rock Hotel, St. Jean is the place to see and be seen. Between the brilliantly blue water and the occasional famous face, you’ll find yourself in good company. Thanks to its location near of Gustaf III Airport, beachgoers can sit back and enjoy the thrilling view of planes taking off and landing. On the other side is Nikki Beach, a beach club where the Champagne flows and dancing on the tables is the norm. Plus, the water here is calm enough for windsurfing, snorkeling, and paddleboarding, but when you need a break, there are several toes-in-the-sand bars, as well as nearby boutiques.
While every St. Barts beach has its own personality, there’s a common thread that runs through all of them — and that’s pristine sand and clear water. Flamands Beach, located about three miles north of Gustavia, in the northwest part of the island, is no different. Unlike many others on this list, however, this wide and quiet swath of sand offers some shaded areas — a nice reprieve from the scorching heat. Plus, it’s backed by a few hotels, and there are plenty of facilities in the vicinity should hunger or thirst hit. On most days, the surf welcomes swimmers and boogie-boarders, though many visitors just choose to bask in the Caribbean sun.
Accessible only via a 30-minute hike or, more easily, by boat, Colombier Beach is arguably the most secluded spot on the island. If you opt for the former, wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be traversing pebbly paths and dodging plenty of plant life before emerging onto the powdery sand. Luckily, many tours and catamaran sailing trips stop at the beach, too. Once there, scope out some sea turtles and other marine life in the calm, clear water. Beyond snorkeling and swimming, visitors should also keep an eye out for David Rockefeller’s former home. And while privacy is not lacking, amenities are, so bring drinks, snacks, and other beach supplies.
Locals and visitors both commingle at this north coast beach, which follows a similar formula — white sand plus blue water equals gorgeous views — as other island favorites. Backed by green mountains, this unspoiled stretch is popular among sunbathers, swimmers, snorkelers, and surfers. Off-the-sand activities include exploring the nearby village of Lorient, one of the oldest on the island, as well as the 19th-century church and historic bell tower.
Grand Cul-de-Sac Beach
Those who only have sunbathing on their beach itinerary need not visit this activity-centric spot on the northeast side of the island. The winning combination of calm, shallow, and warm waters plus optimal wind speed make it a mecca for kayaking, kitesurfing, windsurfing, and fly-fishing. This C-shaped stretch of sand is also lined with tasty eateries and hotels, so you won’t be without a place to fuel up (or crash) after all that exercise.
Small it may be, but Corossol Beach still has its charms. Located right off the road, on the western side of island, this quiet piece of sand has a distinctly local vibe. Yachts and fishing boats bob in the water, which also puts other small islands in view. Head here in the evening to take in the sunset.
Shell Beach is exactly what it sounds like — a stretch of sand covered in shells. The water is calm enough for snorkeling the day away, but cliff-diving is also an option for adventurous types. When you start to prune, make your way to the nearby town of Gustavia. Or, head to Do Brazil right on the beach, for lunch, dinner, or drinks. Shellona Restaurant is also a popular pick for those who like their Greek grub with a side of sand, sea, and pretty sunsets. The overall vibe is relaxed — everyone, even the occasional celeb you might find lolling in the area, will be barefoot and laid-back.
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