Famous for its curious characteristics, Saint Martin gives you all the thrill and novelty you’ll naturally look for on an interesting tropical island. Saint Barts, on the other hand, is big on resorts, and luxury, the laissez-faire life, with a side of celebrity and quaintness.
What are Saint Martin and Saint Barts?
Saint Martin and Saint Barts used to be colonial islands of the former French crown, now turned into separate territories that make up the French overseas territories in the Caribbean. Both the islands have had the status of territorial collectivity or Collectivité territoriale of France since 2007 after being granted the French Parliament, thanks to a referendum elected by the populations of the islands.
Saint Martin is rather a special case, which is also in itself one of its biggest draws. Saint Martin only makes up the northern half of the island of the same name, as the southern half is Dutch, called Sint Maarten, a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is basically two countries on a single island.
French Saint-Martin boasts its laissez-faire approach to the Caribbean experience, packed with a rich, and colorful history, not to mention all the beaches, however, thanks to both sides being in the EU, borders are relatively loose and exploring both sides of the island are completely accessible. This means you can hit two birds with one stone, making traveling here all the more exciting.
Saint Barts was once a single territory within Guadeloupe, under the French crown, and eventually in the French Republic. However, thanks to the voter referendum by the people of Saint Barts it was granted its own autonomy, seceded from the commune altogether. Currently, under French headship, Saint Barts is synonymous with “holiday paradise” for moneyed holidaymakers, especially from the US.
Just like the rest of the French Caribbean, or the entire Caribbean in general, Saint Barts is famous for its dreamy beaches, ridiculous expansive views, and interesting local cultures. Saint Barts is especially famous for its well-heeled set, even the stars of Hollywood choose to descend to its beaches. With its line of top-rated stays and its 14 beaches, Saint Barts has every reason to be at the top of the Caribbean’s best list.
Where are Saint Martin and Saint Barts?
Saint Martin lies at the northern side of the Lesser Antilles, sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Caribbean to the west. The island is situated in the northeastern Caribbean, neighboring other Caribbean jewels like St. Barts, St. Kitts, and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Anguilla to the north.
Saint Barts lies 250 kilometers or 160 miles east of Puerto Rico, and 200 kilometers or 124 miles east of the Virgin Islands, all straddling along the northern Caribbean, at the head of the Lesser Antilles, and the Leeward Islands. Saint Barts also lies just southeast off the coasts of Sint Maarten, making it accessible if you’re traveling from Saint Martin.
How Far is Saint Barts from Saint Martin?
With just the coasts slightly visible from the southeasternmost reaches of Sint Maarten, Saint Barts is extremely close. With just a short distance of 31 kilometers or 19 miles directly, you can easily get to French Saint Martin, from Saint Barts quickly.
How Do You Get From Saint Barts to Saint Martin?
With their proximity to each other, you can easily get in between these islands in two common ways: by ferry or by plane. However, your choice of transportation depends on what you want to experience, your time or itinerary, and of course your budget.
Traveling by ferry obviously is the cheaper choice, it also takes the longest time, as ferries from Gustavia in Saint Barts going to Marigot, Saint Martin usually takes around 45 minutes to an hour, but only costs 45 USD, one way. If you want a more scenic route, a ferry trip can give that to you, with the ferry company The Voyager.
Traveling by air, on the other hand, is obviously more costly, but takes the shortest amount of time of around 15 to 30 minutes, and flights usually range from 100 to 360 USD. If you like to get to places fast, and efficiently, taking a plane might be the right choice, given a well-prepared budget. You can fly with regional air carriers like Winair, St Barth Commuter, and Air Caraibes.
Celebrity Favorite Saint Barts
Saint Barts’s size might be overshadowed by bigger Caribbean islands in the region, and with its neighboring Saint Martin, but the island is pretty much synonymous with “celebrity” and a favorite among the moneyed travelers. The island is nothing short of spectacular, a lush oasis, encompassed by stunning white sand coasts, and surrounded by the fabled turquoise blue of the Caribbean Sea, with a town, best reserved for tourism, and relaxation.
Reminiscent of Marseille, and the French colonial era perfectly blended with ridiculous natural beauty, compared to other destinations in the Caribbean, Saint Barts is more of a household name than just a mere entry in the list. First occupied by the French, then the Swedish to connect to the port of Gothenburg, a century later returned to France was Europeanized at its core, then reclaimed by the tropical spirit of its modern denizens.
The island’s modern local culture remains true to its colonial roots, with an air of pride, and respect to their traditions, the island isn’t just solely about luxury resorts, celebrity sightings, and beach bums’ paradise. Saint Barts’s rather conservative and quaint local scene is a perfect contrast to its limelight reputation, which offers a more authentic side to a very commercial disposition.
Saint Barts doesn’t have much happening if you compare it to Saint Martin-Sint Maarten, Jamaica, Aruba, or even Mexico’s Yucatan, but it is a true testament to how a certain kind of beauty stands out even among giants. The charm of Saint Bart is hard to pin down, but the ceaseless arrivals of yachts, countless celebrity visits, quaint and conservative local culture, are just some of the many telltale things about its “je ne sais quoi” factor – which makes sense as one of its charms is the French language itself. Brush it up before your visit. You know you want to.
The Differences Between Saint Martin and Saint Barts
With a plethora of similarities among all the Caribbean islands as it can be hard to pinpoint how different they are, especially with all the gorgeous beaches, sunny days, mixed post-colonial cultures to revel on. A seasoned traveler, a culture buff, or a connoisseur of foreign stamps and visas, will always be able to appreciate the subtle differences that set each island differently.
Saint Martin and Saint Barts, at first glance, may seem greatly similar, with their relatively identical French cultural undertones, and natural landscape, but once you get to them, you’ll eventually be able to set them apart, For one Saint Martin is laid-back and relaxed but heavy with the cosmopolitan scene, usually flooded with tourists, while Saint Barts is more quaint, and relaxed, with features catering to the more moneyed crowd.
Saint Barts is smaller than Saint Martin, making for a quainter, and intimate, and quieter scene than that of Saint Martin, especially with its Dutch “twin” on the south side, Sint Maarten, which is said to be big on cosmopolitan living.
Speaking of living, the costs and prices in both islands are different as well, with Saint Barts being more expensive. An inexpensive meal in Saint Martin can cost around 12 to 20 USD, while Saint Barts can cost up to a whopping 25 to 29 USD, and half a liter of beer can cost from 2 to 4 USD in Saint Martin while it can set you back around 5 to 8 USD in Saint Barts. Just by looking at meal prices and other common purchases you can already tell the not-so-subtle difference with the island’s prices.
Which is Better – Saint Martin or Saint Barts?
To compare which is which may leave the rest of the islands closed off, and many people would rob themselves of the inspiration to check out everything the Caribbean has to offer. What you would deem “better” will ultimately depend on what you want to experience in the Caribbean.
Saint Martin is best reserved for those looking to do so much on such a small island, thanks to its bicultural landscape, and numerous beaches, Saint Martin is best for heavy tourism. Saint Barts on the other hand is perfect for the well-heeled set, seeking a quaint, and intimate yet flavorful experience in the Caribbean.
If you plan on taking a chance on the Caribbean, it is wise to be well-informed on some of the many islands’ distinct features and characteristics, so that you can tailor your travel plans according to your Caribbean dream experience. Saint Martin and Saint Barts, just like the rest of the French Caribbean, have so many similarities that you might think that traveling to one will cover the rest.