Saint-Barthelemy, Caribbean miniature
An iguana, lying on a rock baked white-hot by the sun, watches indifferently as you pass, not moving an inch. Taking in the heady fragrance of the flowering hibiscus, you spot the turquoise waters of Anse Colombier stretching below. Stairs lead down the rock where the path then turns into a passage shaded by dense vegetation, between cacti and succulents. In an instant, you’re at the beach. The narrow strip of golden sand is almost deserted and the sea takes on a full palette of blue.
On this tiny 25 km² island lost in the Caribbean, you live with your feet in the sand. On the miniature beaches, you can feel like the only person on Earth, or you can lounge around in a beach club, part hippie, part chic. Shell Beach is covered with shells and Marigot coconut palms. You can go to Corossol to lie on its brown sand and to Grand Cul de Sac to ride the waves. Governor and Grand Saline are empty and wild. The sea changes from aquamarine to turquoise. The Anse Grand Fond is more daunting, with its natural pools carved out from the swell-battered rocks of Morne Rouge. Slip inside with the Atlantic waves splashing all round.
Saint-Barthelemy is a quiet island with a festive village feel to it, everyone greeting and calling out to each other. Its untamed terrain inundates the sole road that crosses the island. Time passes, marked by tranquility and lightness. Here you don’t make plans, you just let yourself be carried away by the sweetness of island life. The tiny capital Gustavia, a rectangular port with a few pink-roofed houses hidden in the lush hills, is set to the rhythm of sailboats. You can spend time wandering among the small shops, flame trees and palms that fill the few streets. There are dozens of restaurants, with all types of atmosphere and cuisine. In the port as well as in the panoramic heights, you can enjoy the catch of the day exquisitely prepared.
In the early evening, the bars fill up and pulsate with Creole music. As the beautiful wooden houses decorated in bright colors gradually come alive, you know it’s time for some infused rum and a Caribbean beer. The beach clubs light up and resonate with the sound of the turntables. Here you dress up to go out, in a nonchalant but chic style, nothing ostentatious, an art that is acquired quickly and which is here, more than anywhere else, totally natural.
When to go?
A perfect image of a little tropical paradise - golden, green and blue - St. Barth is pleasant all year, even in summer. At that time, the island has more of its authentic appearance and the beaches are almost deserted. But the cyclonic period from late August to October is rather unpredictable and many places close. To experience the festive St. Barth, you have to go there from November to March, particularly at Christmas and New Year: the island buzzes with visitors, the heat is mild and the beach clubs organize their most memorable evenings. In February and March, the whales pass between Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy.
How to get there?
To reach the island, you have to make a stop either at Saint-Martin, the nearest airport, or at Guadeloupe to get into one of the tiny planes that serve as shuttles to Saint-Barthelemy. If there aren’t many people in your plane, ask to be the co-pilot. The landing is quite spectacular: the small plane literally traces the outlines of the hill before landing on the track. You can also reach Saint Barthelemy by boat from Saint-Martin: the ferry runs around the island and lets you observe all the shades of green. In season, the airplane and boat tickets get snatched up quickly, so it is necessary to book in advance. To travel across the island, rent a car, but beware, the only road on the island can be quite jammed in high season.
The science of pearls
Enter into the world of Jeremy, successor of a family of fishermen and passionate about pearls.
Follow the rhythm of the island
At dusk, lay your mat on the sand of the deserted beach of Anse des Flamands for a yoga session.
Embark toward the great wide
Discover big game fishing with Tony, who has been exploring the seas for over 25 years.
Our address book
Plates and records
This tiny cabaret is a must-see. Go there in the evening for a tuna tataki, lobster tartare and strawberry cake. As dinnertime ends, around 10pm, the dishes are cleared, the costumes distributed and you dance till the early morning in a totally whacky atmosphere.
Tel. : +590 (0)5 90 51 15 80
Slightly withdrawn in comparison, l’Esprit is nonetheless, one of the best restaurants in St. Barth.. Its chef, who used to work at Eden Rock, prepares a foie gras with Périgord olives, a tuna tartare or a crab salad with equal enthusiasm. The fish is brought in every morning by a local fisherman and the vegetables picked from the nearby garden.
Route des Salines
Tel. : +590 (0)5 90 52 46 10
Gastronomy with a view
The Bonito has one of the most beautiful views of the port of Gustavia and its docked boats. Go there for lunch or dinner in a stylish all-white décor: the fish and seafood are fresh and perfectly prepared. On the menu: wahoo ceviche with sweet potato, marinated mahi-mahi or lobster risotto, served by kind and humorous staff.
Rue Lubin Brin, Gustavia
Tel. : +590 (0)5 90 27 96 96
Music and sea shells
This lovely bar on Shell Beach welcomes you with its linen drapes, large wooden benches and a touch of that Ibiza hippie atmosphere. There is always a DJ playing during the day. In season it is open in the evenings and you can watch the sunset by the light of the torches planted in the sand. But bear in mind, out of season, it is open only at midday and in the afternoon.
Tel. : +590 (0)5 90 29 06 66
Rums and cigars
"François Plantation" is the Villa Marie Hotel bar, embracing a Creole atmosphere in the heart of a beautiful garden where you can taste some of the best rums in the region, accompanied by some exquisite cigars. A perfect cozy atmosphere that gives you that time-out-of-time feeling.
Tel. : +590 (0)5 90 77 52 52
A beautiful beach
At the small Nikki Beach bar red sofas and white net curtains face the beautiful beach of Saint-Jean. With a musical background fashioned by the world’s biggest DJs, you sip excellent house punches while watching the tiny planes leave the landing strip nearby. Every Sunday, there is a new dress-up theme and the party is in full swing: you really should see the unbelievable show put on by the staff.
Tel. : +590 (0)5 90 27 64 64
Kalinas & Tainos
Pearls and fantasies
This small shop at the end of the pedestrian street of Gustavia is filled from floor to ceiling with pearl jewelry. At the back of the shop, sitting at his work desk, a craftsman makes bracelets and necklaces with natural pearls of all shapes and colors. Talk to him and he will custom-make a piece of jewelry for you.
23 Rue du General de Gaulle, Gustavia
Tel. : +590 (0)6 90 65 93 00
The Wild Coast
To the south of the island, the landscape suddenly turns arid. Trees are rare and the waves break against the cliffsides. It is here that the dancer Rudolf Nureyev bought a house in the 1950s. Word is that he had a terrace built so that he would be able to dance while facing the immensity of the ocean. Try your luck by going to see his dacha – it can be entered but there are no fixed visiting hours.
South of the island
This small fishing village has not lost any of its authenticity. You walk among the beautiful Creole huts, home to the last wheat weavers on the island. Go see how the straw hats and baskets magically take shape under the skillful fingers of these women who have been keeping alive a tradition imported here at the end of the 19th century.