St. Barths is not just home to an eclectic mix of cultures—French, Swedish, Caribbean, and more—it’s also home to a unique assortment of wildlife. Thanks to a host of protected environmental areas, visitors with a keen eye and a bit of luck can expect to spot some of the Caribbean’s most exotic animals.
Here are a few to keep an especially watchful eye out for while visiting the island:
1. Sea Turtles
Go out kayaking, surfing, or snorkeling and chances are you encounter one of the Caribbean’s six types of sea turtles. Though endangered, these beloved animals are often seen surfacing for air either in smaller lagoons like Grand Cul de Sac—a preservation sanctuary for turtles and fish to nest—or further out at sea. Get especially lucky and you might spot the majestic leatherback, which can grow to over nine feet in length and 2,000 pounds in weight.
Going for a hike can also lead to an encounter with the turtle family, albeit the smaller red-footed tortoise. Commonly seen along forested trails like the hike to Colombier Beach, these gentle creatures are easily identified by their orange-spotted shells and brightly colored scales. They grow to a size of around 12 to 16 inches and are endemic throughout northern South America and the Caribbean.
Bottlenose dolphins are prevalent throughout the Caribbean and St. Barths is no exception. Renowned for their intelligence, curiosity, and acrobatics, these beloved mammals can often be spotted off the coast or playing in the wake behind boats. Highly social and possessing few natural enemies, they have even been known to rescue humans from danger.
Visitors who head out on the open sea between February and May have a chance of seeing one of the most extraordinary mammals in the world: the humpback whale. The only whale species established to this region, these massive animals come down to the Caribbean during mating season before making the long journey back north—as far as Quebec. It’s a sight you won’t soon forget: a humpback whale spewing fountains of water and launching into the Caribbean air.
5. Exotic Fish
Life beneath the Caribbean Sea is as captivating as it is diverse. Make the hike to Colombier Beach—an environmental sanctuary and our favorite place for snorkeling on the island—and you will experience a full spectrum of exotic colors, including hundreds of species of fish plus countless more varieties of marine vegetation and coral reefs. Keep an eye out for especially noteworthy species like angelfish, grouper, barracuda, snapper, and triggerfish.
Another of the Caribbean’s most iconic animals, the Lesser Antillean Iguana is no ordinary lizard. Growing up to four feet in size, it exhibits a near dinosaur-like appearance marked by a long row of spines running down their backs to their tails. Like its cousin the Green Iguana, this species is highly endangered and is declining rapidly. Count yourself lucky to spot one!
7. Exotic Birds
St. Barths is a birdwatcher’s dream, offering countless varieties of birds both big and small. Be it along the coast or further inland in the island’s dense tropical forest, visitors can catch the sights and sounds of the Caribbean’s most renowned species: Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Red-Tailed Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Short-Eared Owl, Pelican, and many more.
Take one of the island’s many natural trails—such as the path to Petit Cul de Sac—and you might just run into some unexpected visitors: a pack of wild goats. Widespread throughout the island’s myriad overlooks and hillsides, these communal animals spend their days grazing on tropical grass while looking out over the Caribbean Sea. Not a bad place to live.