My wife and I recently returned from a wonderful trip to St. Martin and St. Bart's.
This is our St. Bart's trip report including comments on activities, dining, auto rental and lodging. I have posted the St. Martin report in that forum.
This was our first visit to St. Bart's and we loved every minute of it!
This report includes reviews of the activities we did while on the island, reviews of the restaurants where we dined, a review of the auto rental agency and a review of our accommodations.
We stayed at a small villa called Villa Coral (http://happy-villa.com/villa-coral) which was above Lorient beach. The villa was even better than what was portrayed on the web site in that the view from the property was better than pictured. Of course seeing things in person usually is better than the pictures - especially when it is 81 degrees! The view of Lorient and St. Jean harbors as well as St. Martin and Anguilla are great!
We were met on time at the airport by Guillaume who drove us to the villa. It was very clean and there was water, beer, Coke, a bottle of Champagne, some nuts and olives in the frig.
He showed us how everything worked and left us to enjoy the villa. While small, the villa provided all that we needed. I researched many villas on the island and there are not that many smaller rentals in this price range.
The villa does not have a dishwasher. Since we do cook some meals at ourselves, we do miss not having that, but as it turns out, part of their daily maid service (included in the cost) includes washing the dishes (be sure to tip her well at the end of your stay – she was a very nice, Christian woman).
The villa only has French TV. It has a good Wi-Fi connection. It is not high speed (I guess that is not available at all on the island), but it was very good for most everything except connecting to our Dish DVR back home when we wanted to catch a show late at night.
If you like a hard mattress, then you will like the bed. If you like a soft mattress, this will take a night or more to get used to. The web site this is a queen bed, but it seems like a king.
Oh, by the way, have a four wheel drive to get here, or for exploring really any part of the island. There are some steep roads.
If you will be staying here in the near future, you will likely have to put up with construction noise a few blocks away. Not much you can do about that except enjoy the quiet on the weekends. There was not much noise on our last day, Friday, so perhaps the noisiest work is over.
In general, the location was private and quiet, with just some occasional traffic noise. No complaints.
This really was a fantastic little villa, about a 5 minute drive from St. Jean, or a 10 minute drive from Gustavia.
Highly recommended for a couple.
Restaurant/dining comments - these are also posted on Trip Advisor in the restaurant section.
All restaurants were good to excellent. Our reviews are listed from the ones we liked the most to the ones we liked the least.
Santa Fe (our 1 out of 6):
We dined here on a Tuesday evening when most, but not all tables were full.
The restaurant is open for lunch, but closes prior to re-opening for dinner at 7:00pm.
What this means, is that it is fairly dark by dinner time, and rather than seeing any part of a sunset, you see the twinkling lights of St. Kitts and Statia instead - still very romantic.
The view of the islands was great from the open air seating and dinner was even better.
Some other posts say that this is expensive place to dine, but that really is not true. Most entrees are no more than $28€ which is not a bad price for good food on a fancy island - it is especially a good price on this island!
All of the food was great and the service was attentive and not pushy (our check was even brought to us without us having to ask or wait 15 more minutes).
My wife had a nice cheese salad ($14€) and I took the opportunity to have an excellent lobster dish (half lobster Bellevue - $27€) which was prepared nicely with some radishes, chives and a tasty mayonnaise/horseradish sauce. The lobster was cut into about 8 nice chunks and was served cold.
For our main courses, we had the mahi-mahi ($27€) and the wahoo ($27€). Both dishes were just excellent with a lot of distinctive favors. The wahoo was made with ginger and cilantro - a great combination that I have to try myself at home during this summer's grilling season.
We each had the creme-brûlée ($11€) for dessert. You could tell it was freshly made and not made ahead of time and stuck in the frig.
The wine list was very good with a number of bottles available under $60€.
The menu had so many great choices that it was very difficult to choose either an appetizer or a main course. I guess one just has to dine here more often!
Truly an enjoyable evening.
Pipiri Palace (our # 2 out of 6):
What a very nice, romantic place to have dinner. Some areas were under a roof, but other were under the trees in an outdoor courtyard. A nice menu selection, but more limited wine selection, and not much under $60€.
My wife had a salad appetizer ($16€) and I had a special of the day appetizer of scallops profiteroles - very unique and tasty ($16€).
For our main course, my wife had the mahi-mahi with virgin sauce ($25€) and I had the mahi-mahi in curry sauce ($26€). I really liked the curry, but my wife liked that sauce better at a different restaurant. For dessert, we both had the crème brûlée ($12€). Those were also very good, but not the best we had on the island.
Service was excellent and the owner stopped by to chat for a bit.
Definitely one of the better meals, and good values on the island.
Jo Jo's (our #3 out of 6):
Stopped here for lunch on the way back from Columbier beach.
I had the fish burger and my wife had the cheeseburger.
The fish burger was very good, it had a nice tiny bit of sauce on it and needed no other condiments.
My wife has had a cheeseburger at La Jardin and Le Select, but liked the Jo Jo's burger the best. The fries were good as well.
They have larger entrees as well as tropical drinks.
Two burgers, fries and 4 Carib was $34€. Great place for lunch.
Cote Port (our #4 out of 6):
We dined here on a lovely night to sit out on the dock near the boats. This side of the harbor is certainly much quieter and relaxed.
The restaurant has some tables right outside on the water, but most are under cover in the all open air dining room.
The owner was very welcoming and took my wife's and my picture at our table using our phone.
The restaurant is very casual. Feel free to come here wearing just about anything accept your swimwear. The menu was fairly large and most entrees were under $30€.
I had the jumbo prawn appetizer ($10€). It was tasty and had 5 or 6 large prawns.
My wife and I both had the mahi-mahi ($28€) for our main course, but we each had different sauces on the side (I had a pepper sauce and she had a mushroom sauce).
The fish was a large portion and really tasted fine without the sauce.
For dessert, I had the chocolate mousse and could hardly finish it. My wife had the profiteroles - three huge, tasty chunks of ice-cream, chocolate and pastry with a large portion of whipped cream. Definitely share one of these desserts.
The wine list was just okay, not many choices under $60€ a bottle. Service was a bit disorganized and slow. All in all, just an okay dining experience.
Le Jardin (our #5 out of 6):
A very nice selection of lunch entrees including tuna, fish, and burgers. The menu was all in French, but our waitress translated for us (we are just starting to use the translation app on our phone, and that takes more time than having someone tell you). A nice covered patio and a huge hamburger (that was not too flavorful).
The tuna I had was the toughest piece of tuna I ever had.
Service was on the slow side.
After eating lunch at other places, we probably would not return here.
La Case d'Isle (our #6 out of 6):
Under whelming and overpriced was how I would describe our dinner here. I had such high expectations, and was so disappointed. I did a lot of research to choose a restaurant that had great French food, but was not going to cost me $300 (with wine). Well, I chose wrong. My research had far out dated food prices. I guess the reason they do not list the prices on their web site is to not scare anyone away. The first courses ran $25-$35€ euros and the main courses ran $30-$50€.
Maybe it would not have been so bad if the food was special, but nothing except the dessert stood out. We have a great French restaurant back home in St. Paul, Minnesota that is heads and tails above this place, and I can get a 6 course tasting menu there for the same price.
I know St. Bart's is expensive, but the food should back up the prices.
The ambiance was very nice and the service okay. The wine list was a good one, but hardly anything under $70€.
For our first course, I had a black risotto with calamari in a light tomato sauce ($28€) and my wife had a cheese salad ($30€).
For our main course I had the roasted Branzino (filet of white fish) Sicilian style ($45€), and my wife had a beef dish accompanied by cheese stuffed pasta ($40€).
Except for the pasta, nothing stood out. While the reduction on the beef was good, the beef itself was basically tasteless.
The peanut chocolate dessert ($15€) was the best part of the meal.
Just very disappointing, and a horrible value. The bottle of water was $8€.
As we found out during the week, there are better places to eat dinner for less money.
We rented a 4 wheel drive vehicle, Suzuki - Jimny, from Gumbs (http://gumbs-car-rental.com). Since we know how to drive a car with a manual transmission, that is what we rented and saved a few bucks. We have travelled to many different Caribbean islands and the cost to rent a car here is much higher than anyplace else we have traveled. No matter where you rent on St. Bart's you are going to pay a ton of dough. With our discount for a manual transmission, we paid $270 euros ($454 US) for a full week. We also took the collision at another $11€/day.
Gumbs was very nice to work with. They quickly responded to emails and had an on-site kiosk at the airport.
On our first day, we drove around the area a bit, including driving up to the Santa Fe restaurant so we knew where it was for dinner later in the week. Definitely some steep hills to get there.
On another day, we drove most of the island, the south, north and east sections, checking out the views and beaches. We liked Goveneur beach the best for its quietness, nice sand, few people and the great views of St. Kitts, Nevis, Statia and Saba.
You must drive to Pointe Milou. The view from here of St. Bart's, St. Martin and Anguilla is fantastic. The crashing waves on the unnamed beach are great as well.
Just a great day driving around much of the island. We will leave the west and southwest end beaches for another day.
On another day, we stopped at Lorient and St. Jean beach. St. Jean really is a great looking beach with calm waters and nice sand. A great view from on the beach or from viewing from above. Great view of the planes taking off and landing from here.
Our second favorite beach overall.
Lorient was pretty with its breakwaters, just a tad off the beach. Very nice for the surfers (we saw about 15 there one day), but not as nice of sand - lots of small shells.
We also checked out the shops In St. Jean.
On another day, our last tour around the island, we visited Flamands and Columbier beaches.
Flamands is very nice - soft sand and a very wide and long beach.
However, Columbier was the best beach on the island. It was definitely worth the 25 minute hike each way. We hiked there from the lower entry point at the end of Flamands. This made for a nice, fairly flat hike with some great view along the way.
The beach itself was just gorgeous. A number of sail boats were a anchored here and there were a few other hikers there as well. The view of the sand, water and boats was just picture perfect. We have been to about 2/3 of the Caribbean islands, and this may be the best beach we have found.
My wife and I are not avid hikers, nor are we fit and trim. The hike was no problem at all.
Definitely do yourself a favor, take some drinking water and do the hike.
We flew in from the Grand Case airport on St. Martin. A no hassle 15 minute flight and we were on the island. No customs to go through on arrival. So, we had our luggage and car in just a few minutes. We flew in on St. Bart's commuter airline. About the same cost as a ferry, but so much faster and no sea sickness. They had the best price among the smaller airlines available. I would highly recommend them.
On our return, we are flying back on the same airline, but flying into Juliana instead since we have to catch our flight home from there.
We did our grocery shopping in St. Jean. Be sure to take along your own bags to pack the groceries. Otherwise, you will need to buy bags at $1eour each or use a spare box, if they have one.
It was a plus being able to drive on the right side of the road and have the steering wheel on the left side of the car.
We drove through all parts of the island, and it is very clean, well-kept and the roads are in generally excellent shape. The people are friendly and the island is gorgeous.
We have visited about 2/3 of the Caribbean islands, and this would be our second favorite island. If it was not so expensive, if may have been our first favorite.
If you are interested in seeing any pictures of the villa, restaurant food or menus, or of the beaches/scenery we saw, please send me a private message.