Eden Rock Resort, St. Barths

Leisure island.

There’s an undeniable aura of exclusivity surrounding the tiny isle of Saint Barthélemy. It’s in the emerald-blue harbour teeming with yachts, and in the distinctively French flair that pervades the island’s way of life. Celebrities flock here, for the dearth of paparazzi as much as for the pristine beaches, and St. Barths is a true boutique island—a hint of Europe on the edge of the Caribbean Sea.

After landing on the 21-square-kilometre volcanic island, those in the know anchor themselves in heaven—also known as Eden Rock. The Relais & Châteaux beachfront resort, which ranks on Travel + Leisure’s 100 Top Hotels in the World list, sits upon a long-coveted plot of land: the first mayor of the island once lived on the very same lollipop-shaped peninsula. Eden Rock’s fine-dining restaurant, On the Rocks, has since replaced the mayor’s home, and has a sweeping vista of St. Jean Bay and Gustaf III Airport in the distance. (The airport has the second-shortest commercial runway in the world, at only 400 metres in length.)

With private beach houses, suites, and cottages, Eden Rock has accommodations to suit just about every taste. Then there’s Rockstar and Nina, two villas that are meant for large groups and are the epitome of luxury. Villa Rockstar clocks in at 16,000 square feet of white-walled mansion, with four suites, a gymnasium, a pool, and private beach access, which is mere steps away.

It’s difficult to believe that this Eden was born in the eye of a storm. Four days after resort proprietors David and Jane Matthews purchased the land in 1995, the first of two deadly hurricanes barrelled down upon the island. When the skies finally cleared, the Matthews family nursed the damaged property back to health. From the destruction rose Eden Rock resort.

 

 

“We want Eden Rock to be a place of inspiration,” says David. Fuelling that creative energy is an on-site art gallery with rotating exhibitions (many of which are collaborations with the likes of the Gagosian Gallery and Mary Boone Gallery, as well as fresh new talents from the New York Academy of Art). The resort also frequently hosts an artist-in-residence. “I don’t want it to be just a hotel, but a place for people to be immersed in arts and music,” he says. A stay here is a tailored experience; a painting class among palm trees can be organized at whim. As David puts it, “Boutique is anti-package. We never say non. The French are famous for that—but we never have to say it.”

 

 

The resort’s artistry also spreads to the plate, with a culinary collaboration with chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten for both On the Rocks and the more casual Sand Bar restaurant. Organic produce grown on the property makes its way into the kitchen—but seafood, unsurprisingly, is the star of the menus. The unwritten rule of dining in St. Barths seems to be, “thou shalt feast on lobster,” and Eden Rock enthusiastically complies. On the Rocks serves it in succulent tacos or as an entrée, cracked tableside with drawn garlic butter, basil, and lemon.

If you are lucky enough to stay in Villa Rockstar, expect a fully stocked bar (there are 40 different whiskies, if you’re counting) and a dedicated butler team, always on hand, to round out the experience. At the heart of the mansion is a personal recording studio, along with by-request sound technicians to help master the machinery, which is all state of the art. But the studio’s pièce de résistance is decidedly vintage: the very console on which John Lennon recorded “Imagine”. You don’t have to be a Beatles buff to feel awed in its presence.

 

 

For a lay of the land from the water, circumnavigate St. Barths on a yacht. It takes about three hours and will sail you past Russian businessman Roman Abramovich’s gargantuan plot. He lives about half of the year on the island and docks his superyacht—the world’s biggest—just off his private beach. For on-island exploration, those staying in Villa Rockstar have the use of a garage full of toys, including Harley-Davidson motorcycles and a Mini Cooper for a drive to the nearby capital city, Gustavia. While the store-lined shores of some sunny destinations can be borderline garish, Gustavia is all Parisian chic, with Vilebrequin and Lacoste boutiques tucked behind pastel-painted edifices. Simply follow the sunlight-drenched street signs en francais to find the right rue to stroll.

 

Photography courtesy of Oetker Collection’s Eden Rock, St Barths.

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