Day Trip, Anguilla to St. Barths

Trans Anguilla Airways: Day trip to St. Barths

Once upon a time, during my first trip to Anguilla, I sat next to a Caribbean-American couple who frequented St. Maarten. They talked about their experience with the region and brushes with Anguilla and St. Barths. I asked them their thoughts on both and the one thing I can remember vividly is their account of St. Barths: beautiful but expensive. They recounted how they spend $200 on lunch for two and she couldn’t even remember what they had.

I thought they were exaggerating but that story stayed with me as did many other subsequent accounts from guests recounting similar tales. When we left for our trip yesterday morning, I went in with a St. Barths mindset: we’re going to spend more than we typically would but this is what we’re signing up for. My biggest takeaway for anyone that’s going to experience St. Barths? Go in with that mindset. If you’re prepared to spend some money and enjoy yourself, you’ll be able to enjoy the experience, soak in the island’s beauty and appreciate the fact that it serves a niche (read: affluent) market.

The flight

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. Check out my video below:

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.  Anguilla is incredibly flat and scrubby while St. Barths is a volcanic island; super lush and mountainous, which is part of the reason the landing is so treacherous. You hover above the island for a moment before heading in at an angle to land. If you hate flying, there’s a ferry option. Based on what I’ve heard about the channel from Anguilla to St. Barths (boats lovingly referred to as the ‘St. Barfs Ferry’ due to seasickness factor), flying is a better bet. 12 minutes and some seriously stunning views. After our flight, I would never even consider taking a ferry.

Flight to St. BarthsFlight to St. BarthsPrivate Charters, Trans Anguilla Airways

Also worth noting, the AXA airport is quite possibly the nicest and simplest airport on the face of the earth. 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

St. Jean Beach, St. BarthsSt. Jean Beach, St. BarthsSt Jean Beach, St. Barths

We arrived in St. Barths twelve minutes after departing Anguilla, and after a quick landing and deplaning, we were on our way. 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 sands 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, we were 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.

St. Jean Beach, St. BarthsSt. Jean Beach, St. BarthsSt. Jean Beach, St. BarthsSt. Jean Beach, St. Barths

 

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. Plus, let’s be honest, I wasn’t going to buy a $500 bathing suit cover up. 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.

Day Trip to St. Barths
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 Buffet’s Cheeseburger in Paradise. Sure enough:

Le Select, St. Barths

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.

Day Trip to St. BarthsDay Trip to St. Barths

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 reasonable which was refreshing.

We went back to the taxi pick up point near St. Barths’ ferry terminal. 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.

Le Gaiac at Le Toiny {Lunch}

Le Toiny, St. Barths

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 (€55), you get a three-course lunch with a selection for each course. We knew going in that we were going to spend some money on lunch, but we had accepted that before deciding to make the trip over. There are certainly less expensive options (see below) but we wanted to explore the hotel for future trips to the island. While €55 isn’t cheap, many of the restaurant menus we looked at were in that range for appetizers and lunch. 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.

After lunch, two bottles of water, a glass of wine and another ti punch (a requisite order in St. Barths), our bill was nearly $200. I expected it in part, but it’s still a bit of a shock when you actually see that lunch bill. Regardless, lunch was great and the backdrop was beautiful.

Day Trip to St. BarthsDay Trip to St. Barths

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

Costs for a Day Trip to St. Barths

For others making the day trip to St. Barths, I thought it may be useful to see a breakdown of our costs for the trip. Obviously a less expensive lunch would have a big impact, as would either a) renting a car or b) staying in one central location for your day (e.g. St. Jean Beach/Anse Lorient would be a perfect place where no car is needed).

R/T flights to St. Barths: $420 ($105 each way, two people)
Departure tax, Anguilla: $40 ($20 per person, two people)
Cab from St. Jean to Gustavia: $30 (€20 but we were operating in dollars)
Drinks at La Cantina: $18 (€13 euros)
Cab from Gustavia to Anse Toiny: $40 (€30, rounded up in dollars)
Lunch at Le Gaiac: $194 (€144)
Cab from Anse Toiny to airport: $40 (€30, rounded up in dollars)

Grand total: $782 

Again, we could have cut costs significantly by picking a different lunch spot and not cabbing around (lesson learned). Despite the expense assocaited with St. Barths, we had a great time. Six hours was the perfect taste of the island but definitely made us want to plan a follow-up two day trip where we can experience the nightlife a bit and enjoy a couple of St. Barths’ beaches. In six hours, there’s not really time to relax since there’s more of a focus on sightseeing and taking it all in. Still, great trip and a refreshing option when looking for a day trip from Anguilla.

Have any of you done this day trip? What did you think? How did you spend your day? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect, formerly The Traveling Scholar. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. She is a former resident of London and San Francisco and now calls the island of Anguilla home. In addition to The Wanderlust Effect, Shannon is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort and is on the Board of Directors of the Omololu International School in Anguilla.

  • HippieInHeels

    Looks amazing, way out of my price range now… but something to look forward to!

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  • wife of a peeler

    You can eat good food a lot cheaper as advised. We hired a car for €40 for the day, the roads are brilliant and so easy to drive on. Getting there is costly but it’s worth it. Great Blog!

    • Yes — after our experience there we could easily go back and spend WAY less on food and transportation. There are certainly ways to do it on more of a budget with a bit of research and advanced planning!