Hanging Out in St. Barts
Useful Tips and Resources
Jon Gerloff and Esrin Gozukizil
Plane landing at St. Barth’s Airport
|Its low season on St. Barthelemy right
now. But right now is when we wanted to take a vacation.
All the locals think it’s too hot and so a lot of restaurants close up
shop and won’t open back up until November. The island is empty, and
it turns out, that’s just the way we like it.
St. Barth’s, for anybody living on the west coast, is not an easy place to
get to. But three planes later we were in paradise, French West Indies.
You can only reach St. Barth’s via a ten minute puddle jumper airplane or
a ferry that takes a lot longer. Cruise ships do not, thank god, stop
there. The flight in can be a little hair-raising as they seemed to have
put the airport in the worse place imaginable. To land, pilots must
battle high winds while barely clearing the pass of a hill, before
dropping like an anchor onto the runway. Then it’s brake, brake, brake,
before sliding into the ocean. Keep a close eye out, for the runway
actually ends right at one of the more popular beaches, and topless
bathing is the norm.
We had a rental car for our stay and this is highly advisable. The island
is dotted with wonderful beaches where the sand is clean, the water
crystal clear and colored a beautiful light blue, and the waves are
gentle. The only way to get to them is to drive. The roads on St. Barth’s are not good, though. Signage is poor, the roads themselves are
narrow, and the locals are impatient. Driving on St. Barth’s is like
driving on interconnected washer boards because the roads are laid in
cement blocks with large seams between the blocks, which they further
corrugate for water runoff. But the good news is that the island is so
small you never have a long ways to go and the person following so close
behind you is bound to turn off before you.
What to do on St. Barth’s is pretty simple: eat, sleep, shop and lay in
the sun. When we were there the trade winds were blowing strong, the sky
was cloudy and there was some rain. But when it cleared you longed for
the cloud cover because it was so hot and humid. You could sweat just
drinking a beer, so you better drink it fast.
“St. Jean Beach II”
|Our favorite beaches were St. Jean II
(the II was our nickname for it because we usually went there after St. Jean I),
which is right at the end of the airport runway, and St. Jean I, right in front of the
restaurant Nikki Beach (an excellent place for lunch). Both beaches
have therapeutically warm water, a gentle slope, and very little wave activity. From St. Jean II you can
see the planes land and take off, which can be exciting.
Our third favorite beach was Flamands.
There the beach is wide, the slope a little steeper, and the waves a little
stronger. But the beach is long and wide and perfect for a soft sand run. Our fourth favorite
beach was Saline. It’s almost exactly like Flamands but you have to walk quite a ways to
Beautiful Flamands Beach
favorite beaches were Governors, though beautiful, it had too many rocks,
except for one opening, making it next to impossible to get into the
water, and L’Orient, which had too many kids and too many people all
together. At both Saline and Governors there’s a parking lot for cars.
At the others it’s street parking. But unlike some other Caribbean
islands, you can leave items in your car. The crime rate is negligible on
Here’s a little tip, don’t bother packing snorkel gear.
Instead bring along beach chairs. We schlepped snorkel gear all the way
from LA and never broke it out once. But oh, how I wished I had a beach
chair. Also, beach hop until you find the one suited best for you.
Weather conditions of the day might make one beach preferable over
We had some wonderful meals on St. Barths. My favorite was
Eddy’s. The menu includes local fish and Creole dishes and the ambiance
is relaxed. The ceiling is high and made of rattan and the art work is
African and Arab influenced. Prices were reasonable and the meal cost
$150 for the two of us, which included a before-dinner pastis, appetizers,
main course, dessert, a bottle of wine and after-dinner drinks. I had the
Wahoo stirred up with Chinese noodles and lots of cilantro. The fish was
blackened, highly seasoned and very tasty. My wife had the shrimp sautéed
in the curry of the day. Dessert was also phenomenal, a simple warm
chocolate cake with ice cream.
Another favorite of ours was the K’fe Massai. The owner is
a young entrepreneur, Michael Proust, who also owns Le Cave, a local wine
shop. He’s been the owner of K’fe Massai for only this past year but he
says that business is very good. The interior of the restaurant is
lovely. It has a very open feeling to it, with tasteful muted lights,
dark wood furnishings and African artwork. The menu is prix-fix and ran
us 143 euro, but again that included a before-dinner aperitif, dessert, a
bottle of wine and an after-dinner digestive. The choices change every
day, from salads to foie gras for starters, to lamb and lobster for main
course. And dessert was included. Once a week he offers a special menu
that the chef decides upon.
Another place to get an excellent meal was Maya’s, right in
Gustavia. Maya’s was right on the water, very casual, and yet cost us a
lot of money. I checked the bill twice so I know it was right and I’ll
justify the cost by saying that I had one of the better pieces of fish I’d
ever eaten, a Wahoo glazed with carrots, but $250 for that meal was too
View of St. Jean’s Beach from Nikki Beach
|On Thursday nights La Marine in Gustavia imports fresh
mussels from France and the place was packed. They were about the best
mussels I’d ever had but the service was so horrible that the meal took
three hours. It’s reasonably priced but besides the bad service there
were some additional items on our check that hadn’t been ordered. Still,
it was under 100 euro.
One of the more highly touted restaurants is Le Gaiac,
inside the La Toiny Hotel. Le Gaiac is fancier than the other
restaurants; shorts are not acceptable. It sits high on a mountain
overlooking the ocean and the service is exceptional. Unfortunately, we
found the food to be uninspired. Dinner with all the fixings came to 250
always had lunch at Nikki Beach in St. Jean’s.
wonderful location, right on the beach (St. Jean I), with the Eden Rock
Hotel (under construction for the next year) off to the left. Nikki
Beach’s Thai shrimp salad with noodles is so good you can eat it every day
and not get tired of it. And if your server really likes you, they’ll
bring some local vanilla rum over for an after dinner palate cleanser.
View from breakfast at Guanahani
|A lot of people that stay on St. Barth’s rent villas
instead of staying in hotels. Since this was our first time we decided to
stay in a hotel. We were booked at the Guanahani Hotel and had a very
nice room with a balcony overlooking the beach. The beach itself is
fairly windy but there are lots of chaise lounges and palm frond umbrellas
from where you can put your feet up, lay that good book you brought along
face down on your stomach, and watch all the wind- and kite-surfers
streaking back and forth. Breakfast at the Guanahani is not to be missed
of continental buffet or made to order American breakfast was included in
the price of the room. Rooms aren’t cheap, neither is food, and with the
falling dollar St. Barth’s is not a bargain. But it sure was nice.
Even without a lot to do on the island, the day fills up. You start
to get into an island rhythm. I can’t wait to go back, but next time
I want to stay even longer.
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Gerloff and Esrin Gozukizil are a husband and wife team specializing in world travel and fine dining. Jon is a writer currently working on his second novel. Esrin works in television development for a major production company.
You can reach the authors at: JonGerloff@aol.com (Jon Gerloff and Esrin Gozukizil)