Eden after the Fall ... Eden Rock, St. Barths

Some Caribbean hotels are smart, some are chic, some are elegant ... and then there's Eden Rock. It's less a five-star resort and more a fabulous stage set and whether you want to be Greta Garbo, Howard Hughes or John Lennon, you get to act out your fantasy against a showstopping tropical backdrop.

Certainly the panoramic setting is a remarkable piece of theatre. Most of this luxury hotel hugs a jagged piece of lava rock that juts out into the crystal clear Caribbean Sea, a living coral reef below and a couple of white icing sugar beaches on either side. Yet when gentleman smuggler Rémy de Haenan bought this unwanted piece of real estate for US$200 in 1953 and built his own private residence here, everyone on the island thought he was as fou as a hatter. Even when famous friends like the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers came to stay they were not so sure.

And they probably once had their doubts about the current owners too. English couple David and Jane Matthews took over Rémy's higgledy-piggledy 6-bedroom home in 1995 only to be faced with the catastrophic Hurricane Luis three days after they arrived. Hurricane Marilyn blew in a few days later. But thanks to the Matthews's grit and style, not to mention the integrity of Rémy's original construction (not so fou now, eh?), they were able to salvage and re-build the place, gradually turning it into a 34-room hideout that attracts Russian oligarchs and Brazilian supermodels.

And whilst Eden Rock has now been extended out along the beach, much of it still has the deeply satisfying air of a smuggler's bolthole. You can expect lots of timber decking and character-rich stonework, the hardwoods painted in a deep Jolly Roger red, with sailcloth, brass portholes and coils of rope inserted in all the appropriate places. Even the panoramic restaurant 'On the Rock' puts one in mind of a classic sailing ship, especially if you're fortunate enough to bag a waterside table and can look down on the fish swimming in the floodlit water 30-feet below.

Nowadays, of course, Eden Rock has plenty of other influences too. Suites bring to mind anywhere from a 1940s bachelor pad to a glamorous Hollywood boudoir, whilst the huge oil painting of St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall is just one of the intriguing pieces of artwork shipped over from England. The brasserie-style bar could be on any Parisian street and the culinary vibe is very definitely French - especially since celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten joined the team. Oh, and if you're wondering about all those bowls of apples, think Eden after the Fall. After all, a fast-paced social scene is right on the doorstep, nearby St. Jean attracting anyone who's anyone and the Riviera-style buzz that is Nikki Beach so close you can almost smell the Piz Buin.

Yet pampered Eden Rockers simply rise above it all. Whenever they've had enough of all that air kissing, they can sequester themselves away in their suites, their private pools and hideaway sun terraces pandering to a I-want-to-be-alone mentality. We suggest you go for one of the 'named' suites on the rock if you really want to be blown away - figuratively speaking, of course, as hurricanes are actually quite rare events in St Barths, 1995 notwithstanding!

Jackie Loxham

Jackie Loxham is a travel copywriter specializing in luxury hotels throughout the Caribbean region. ...(Read More)

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