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Cheyenne Palma-Tinghir plays in the sand on the nearly empty Saline Beach.
Cheyenne Palma-Tinghir plays in the sand on the nearly empty Saline Beach.

Caribbean

St. Barthélemy: A wilderness about to be tamed Add to ...

"We had three sets of people wanting to spend 25,000 euros [$35,650]a night to stay here over Christmas," Matthews says, without blinking an eye. His dream is to have Paul McCartney christen the recording studio.

The former Beatle could certainly afford it. And if Sir Paul were to write a song about St. Barth, it would probably focus on the simplicity of life, that feeling everyone talks about. You can spend a fortune, but it's what's available for free that gets you in tune with paradise - taking in the views as you drive the winding roads, sunbathing, surfing or snorkelling, and watching small airplanes touch down on the island's tiny landing strip.

Magras, St. Barth's President, also enjoys the simple pleasures of his home, and says he would rather be strumming his guitar with friends than going to fancy cocktail parties.

He seems to have the faith of many locals and expatriates alike, and he will probably keep it if he takes a strong stand against the development around Saline Beach, or at least if he puts off making a decision. At this time, Balazs hasn't submitted a formal proposal for his eco-lodge, and his company isn't responding to questions about this project.

Blissfully unaware of the debate over the future of her favourite beach is four-year-old Cheyenne Palma-Tinghir. She's just happy that her sand castle is complete, and she's taking a break before digging a moat.

" J'aime les vagues," she says of Saline's waves before running into the water to cool off. Her mother takes a break from tanning and walks slowly after her. Noon is approaching, and the sun's heat is getting more intense. The long stretch of beach still seems almost empty. Just another Sunday in paradise.

Special to The Globe and Mail

* * *

Pack your bags

St. Barth's high season ends mid-April. Prices for accommodation spike during Christmas and New Year, and drop during the low season (mid-April to October).

Getting there You can't take a direct flight to  St. Barth. Major airlines fly to St. Maarten, and travellers can get to St. Barth by boat (Voyager, www.voyager-st-barths.com) or by small plane (Winair; fly-winair.com)

Where to stay Budget
Sunset Hotel Rue de la République, Gustavia; 590 590 27 77 21; www.st-barths.com/sunset-hotel. Double rooms from $148.

Mid-range
Les Villages St. Jean
Colline de St. Jean, St. Jean; 590 590 27 61 39; www.villagestjeanhotel.com. Double rooms from $316.

Five-star
Eden Rock Hotel Baie de St. Jean, St. Jean; 590 590 29 79 99; www.edenrockhotel.com. Double rooms from $985. Hôtel Le Toiny Anse de Toiny; 590 590 27 88 88; www.letoiny.com. Double room rates start at $1,798.

Where to eat Breakfast Go to a bakery. There are plenty on the island, especially in the port of Gustavia. Lunch Hôtel Christopher (Pointe Milou; 590 590 27 63 63; hotelchristopher.com); Maya's To Go (Les Galeries du Commerce, St. Jean; 590 590 29 83 70; www.st-barths.com/mayas-to-go); Le Grain de Sel (near Saline Beach; 590 590 52 46 05). Dinner Maya's Restaurant; Eden Rock Hotel; Pa Cri (Route de Saline; 590 590 29 52 24; pacristbarth.com).

J.D.



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