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Diving in Saint Barthélemy

With pristine beaches and luxurious resorts, Saint Barthélemy is a dream. What’s under the water is set to impress as well. Discover this underwater Shangri-La by diving into St. Barth’s depths.

Diving in Saint Barthélemy

Quick facts

Scuba diving in St Barth is by no means the best in the Caribbean, but the corals are worth seeing. The colors are magnificent, largely because of the shallow water (the channel between St Barths and St Martin reaches no deeper than about 100 feet, 30 meters) and the sandy bottom, which reflects the sunlight.

There is a distinct lack of large fish at the dive sites. However, there are plenty of small and colorful reef fish. The wonderful reef biodiversity has several explanations. The first is that the reefs have been left largely untouched by local fishermen due to the local disease ciguatera, a food borne illness caused by eating reef fish whose flesh is contaminated with a tropical toxin known as Gambierdiscus. Secondly, in 1996, St. Barth created a Marine Reserve in order to protect coral and sea life that was heavily damaged by hurricanes in the early 90s as well as careless anchoring. Because of this measure, St. Barth’s coral reefs are today ready to welcome divers wanting to explore the beauty of the underwater world.

In addition to gorgeous reefs, St. Barts also plays host to a wreck dive, The Kaïali. In 100 feet (30 meters) of water, this site contains two entrances and is suitable for advanced divers. There are also several large caverns scattered around the island’s walls, adding a little diversity to the 22 dive sites scattered around the island.

While St. Barth has lots of great diving with healthy coral and a colorful fish population, it’s real appeal is as a luxury destination. And at that it truly excels. But, for divers visiting this Caribbean paradise, it's good to know there's some enjoyable diving just minutes away.

When to go

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What to see

Colorful sponges and corals play host to a wide range of reef fish. In addition, lobsters, reef sharks, nurse sharks, sting rays and eagle rays are all common visitors in the waters around St. Barthélemy. Smaller creatures like eels, anemones, sea urchins and sea cucumbers are almost always present.

On occasion and particularly from December to June, a few larger species can been spotted. These include dolphins, loggerhead turtles, green turtles, humpback whales and hammerhead sharks.


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Saint Barthélemy, also known as St. Barth or St. Barts, is commonly regarded as the jewel of the Caribbean. This gorgeous island is renowned as a luxurious retreat and its pristine beaches and isolated coves live up to that standard. It’s one of the four Leeward Islands and neighbors Saint Martin to the southeast and Puerto Rico to the west.

The history of this island has largely benefitted the locals. In 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered Saint Barthélemy on his journey to the New World, but it wasn’t until 1763 that French Buccaneers settled here, bringing with them a relatively large amount of wealth. In 1784, the island was sold to the Swedish who established an important center of trade on St. Barts. In 1878, the island returned to the French and in 1946, St. Barths became equal to a territory of France with all citizens having French passports. The next seventy years brought a boom in tourism, beginning in 1957 when David Rockefeller bought land on the island.

Today, the population is rapidly growing owing to the snow birds that arrive to the island and never want to leave. However, the island is growing politically as well. In 2007, St. Barts elected its own council and thus became the new Overseas Collectivity of Saint Barthélemy. As one of their first acts, the council made the island tax free. Of course, today both visitors and locals enjoy the relaxed and luxurious life of Saint Barthélemy.

Other attractions

Saint Barthélemy has long been known as a luxury destination and it lives up to that reputation today. Built-up beaches such as St Jean, Flamands, Shell Beach and Grand Cul de Sac all feature gourmet restaurants and pristine resorts. However, wild beaches such as Columbier, Saline, and Gouvensor offer a different kind of relaxation, far away from the crowds. Lounging by the pool or having a head-to-toe massage in your villa are also great ways to capitalize on your beach holiday. Of course, there is the shopping too. French boutiques line the streets of the capital, Gustavia. For the more adventurous, there are plenty of watersports, including paddle boarding, kite surfing, jet skiing and wind surfing. If you get the timing right, don’t miss the several annual large boat races, including The Bucket Regatta and Les Voiles de St. Barth.

Getting there

There is a small airport on the north coast of the island called Gustaf III Airport. This airport can only welcome small planes. Therefore, international visitors must first fly into St. Martin or Guadeloupe and then transfer by island-hopper flight or ferry to Saint Barthélemy.

Once on the island, scooters and cars can be rented. Taxis are also an option, as is walking. The island only measures 8.5 square miles (22 square kilometers).


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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