News & Reviews Caribbean & Mexico Saint Barths Review: Eden Rock St Barths

Dorsia Rating:

3.5/5

It’s no coincidence that it’s taken me so long to get around to properties like Eden Rock St. Barths, one of the so-called Grande Dames of the Caribbean.  In my early luxury travel days, my focus was on value for money, large rooms, a decent spa, and, you know, actual facilities.  Grande Dame really translates to old, expensive, and dripping in nostalgia – basically, the opposite of what you want your iPhone to be.  Or mistress.  Eden Rock doesn’t even have a swimming pool.  My home gym beats their feeble attempt at an exercise parlour.  My pantry provides more variety than their culinary offering.  A desert island provides more entertainment.  Okay, so they beat me on the weather, but in England, we watch The Day After Tomorrow and wonder what all the fuss is about.  Tsunami ice apocalypse?  Big whoop.  Try getting a train to Glasgow in February.

Anyway.  It turns out that all that fancy stuff you expect to find in a hotel—the things they use to justify charging you the GDP of Micronesia per night—is not essential to delivering a luxury experience.

Eden Rock was founded by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a tribute to his first wife, Eden, who tragically died in an unforeseeable wrestling accident involving a scythe, a signed Gary Busey autobiography, and three kilos of ketamine.  Of course, none of that is true.  But the fact that it could be says everything about the world today.  Or something.

In reality, it was “discovered” in the 1950s, making 2024 its 71st anniversary.  I’m no linguist, but I’m pretty sure the name comes from it being perched on a rock.  It overlooks the turquoise waters of St. Jean Bay.  The ocean is calm, and the beach is as soft as walking on puppies.  It’s elegant, classic, charming, and contemporary chic.  It’s also directly in front of the island’s airstrip, so if you want to know what it sounds like to have your head in a beehive while a band—with drumsticks inexplicably replaced by jackhammers—plays “When The Saints Go Marching In” for parts of the day, look no further.

The owners of Le Barthelemy are also building a hotel next door, although it’s been sitting there for three years achieving nothing.  Much like their existing property.

The location is interesting—it feels isolated, but you can see the road and cars driving past from the beach.  You can walk to nearby parks and shops.  You can also sit in the lounge area and have people blowing smoke in your face.  Welcome to the French Caribbean.

Getting there

First tip: under no circumstances should you fly to St. Martin without opting for the VIP arrival service.  None whatsoever.  If your grandmother needs life-saving treatment and you have to choose between that and VIP arrivals, you’ll achieve a greater degree of collective happiness by going for the VIP arrivals.  That airport is a wasteland of disappointment. It’s like Disneyland if Disneyland was…no, actually that analogy already works.  It still took 90 minutes for our luggage to arrive, so the VIP arrivals actually save you no time at all but make you feel better about yourself that you’re standing around waiting with other people around a metallic luggage dispenser, rather than waiting in a queue.  Sorry, Grandma.

After a 15-minute drive to the dock, we took a 75-minute boat ride to St. Barths.  Not my favourite experience, especially since a plane ride takes only 10 minutes, but better than my wife divorcing me for forcing her onto a small plane against her will.  After the terrible journey, even she opted to fly to Anguilla afterwards – small victories.  Strangely, you then need to switch to another boat to go through customs, followed by a 10-minute car ride to Eden Rock.  Door to door: 18 hours.  By the time we arrived, it felt like we’d fled persecution.  So, I was immediately relieved to experience some proactive service: “What drink would you like waiting for you when you arrive?” They wasted no time getting us to our room and settled in.

Room

Okay, we stayed in one of their top signature suites—Howard Hughes—but I was still impressed.  All the rooms here are named after someone.  Luckily, Diddy wasn’t a regular guest, so no one had to stay in the suite with his name on the door.  The room setup was absolutely perfect.  Like really, really perfect.  Like they went so overboard with it, especially all the free gifts, that I’m now able to run my own thrift store.  Does anyone want an Eden Rock-themed dining table?  I think that was one of the gifts.  I packed it anyway.

The room is themed, luckily more like a pilot than jars of piss.  The entranceway is a staircase that leads you upstairs to the desk area, kitchenette and expansive living area, with near-identical bedrooms with private balconies on either side.  They each have a bathroom, which differ in that one has a bath larger than a plunge pool.  In the living area, the TV folds down from the ceiling, whilst in the bedroom, it rises from the end of the bed.  The views remain perfectly intact, but your ability to watch Bluey is not hindered.

After the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017, the hotel reopened in 2019 after extensive work, and it’s all on display.  The room works exceptionally well and offers a host of comforts.  It only faltered with the loud humming noise from my bathroom, which I was told was the air conditioning and not a serial killer living in the drainpipes.

The Howard Hughes suite is the highest point of the property, with three balconies offering stunning views of Eden Rock’s beach, the ocean, and Nikki Beach.  I’d love to tell you all about the serene sunrises and majestic sunsets with the sun-kissed horizon making you feel alive, but I have a one and three-year-old.  Enjoying the views is not top of their bucket lists.  Buckets are, though.  They’d much rather have a bucket and be on the beach, so we didn’t spend a great deal of time in the room.  The time we did spend there managed to really piss off the neighbours.
It’s the first place I’ve ever received noise complaints from other guests.  I never want to disturb anyone, but we somehow managed to rack up three complaints from the two rooms below ours, all because they could hear our children running around.  First of all, they’re 3 and 1, so they’re not exactly making the sounds of Dwayne Johnson bodyslamming his ex-wife.  RIP.  Secondly, they were just walking around.  We did speak to them, but convincing a 3-year-old not to run is only possible in the Saw universe, where no one has any feet. I’m not here to ruin someone’s holiday (that’s the point of this blog after the holiday), so I want to be considerate.  We tried, but it meant quite literally tiptoeing around to avoid disturbing anyone.  Yet, in the room, they include a skipping rope and weights to work out with.  Basically, my children are louder than fat people jumping on the floorboards.

Facilities

So, what does a beach property without a swimming pool offer?  Surprisingly, not a lot.  The property’s entrance leads into a lounge area, which connects to the bar, restaurant, and beach.  You’ll find a floating platform, some watersports (kayaks, paddleboards, seabob’s), a large boutique, a yoga deck, one bar, one restaurant, a tiny gym, and a spa with three treatment rooms—that’s really about it.  There’s no kids’ club, but it actually feels very kid-friendly with amenities and how they’re treated—except by our neighbours.  Our neighbours seemed more keen on a kids’ camp where children are sent off for heinous crimes like breathing too loud and existing.

Kindly, they offer free water refill dispensers around the property, which is a nice environmental touch.  The gym is very claustrophobic but does have a decent amount of equipment, as long as you don’t have to share it.  There are some old-looking treadmills and a broken Peloton mixed with a bit of weights and Pilates equipment.  There’s also a treatment room by the beach.

We always had to ask for a sunbed but always got one without any fuss or delay.  The beach staff were as efficient and omnipresent as the mosquitos.  With it being epically hot, and nowhere to be but the beach, it was a choice of bites and burns vs boredom.  I never choose boredom.

Service / Food

We flew for almost an entire day and, after staying at The Emory in London, ended up with the same menu as the night before.  Yes, once again, there’s a Jean-Georges.  I laughed at the absurdity of staring at the same options.

The setting, however, was certainly different.  The vibe is very relaxed, and the staff are always prompt to look after you.  There’s often a DJ around—it’s that kind of place but doesn’t feel showy-offy.  Except for the young couple I saw spending an hour taking a single picture of each other, which really made me question the purpose of life.  And why the death penalty was outlawed.

What was immediately obvious was that the service was far beyond anything you are used to in the Caribbean.  There are some really friendly people working here, as well as some very experienced staff—it’s not just people coming for a summer job or gap year.  That, as often happens, excludes housekeeping, though, who had to be called to clean the room several times.  We were recognized by name, our preferences were remembered, and the children always had colouring books right away.  There are no dedicated butlers, so you’re dealing with guest relations for most communication, but it worked out well.

The menu changes dramatically at night, whereas the in-room dining, bar, and lunch menus are essentially the same thing—it’s basically two bars and one restaurant, all serving variations of the same food.  There’s no food service between 6 and 7, which is when we eat.  The afternoon menu is very limited.  Like most of St. Barths, the resort offers enough so you can dine on-site if you really want or need to, but in reality, they’re tempting you to try other places.  That’s not ideal for us with young children, at least not for another year or two, so it was quite restrictive for us, but still the usual Jean-Georges high-quality offering.  The beef carpaccio with cheese was a particular highlight.

Breakfast opens at 7:30 – a good ninety minutes too late for our jetlagged souls.  We got there at 7, and it was mostly open, but hot food wasn’t available until 7:30.  The small buffet offered everything we needed—amazing pastries, cheese, meat, fruit, yoghurts, and bread.  The best gluten-free food I’ve ever tried; I only gave in because the signs weren’t out yet.  Some breakfast pastries change daily, but the best one was the caramel option on day one, which I never saw again.  Ultimately, the food gets a big tick from me.

The Good

  • Food
  • Service

The Bad

  • Near airport
  • Lack of facilities

The Luxurious

  • Setting
  • General vibe
  • Rooms

Rating

Good

Conclusion

If you told me I’d love a property with no pool, I’d have sent you back to the hell from whence you came.  I still might, as love is perhaps too strong a word here.  Liked more than I expected?  Better.  Eden Rock offers so little, yet you can take so much.  There’s almost nothing here, but it feels so cosy and charming, and you’re so well looked after that they could be renamed Eden Rock St. Brothel.  And you’d still invite your friends and family.  The stylish uniforms and abundant branding with the red make it so chic.  My god, I could even see myself working here if I knew what hard work was.  Even my skin got in on the fun, burnt to a crisp from the lack of shade—I’m now officially a copyrighted product of Oetker.

My feelings about this place are what I wished I had felt about Hotel Esencia—a charming property that, on paper, should make you feel loved and find comfort in its simplicity.  But Eden Rock St. Barths is far better and even simpler.  It’s hard to describe the appeal, but once you’re here, you’ll find it.

We enjoyed it, but it was a stretch to keep the children occupied.  I’m hesitant to recommend it if you have younger kids.  They do have a few villas along the beach that might be more suitable, particularly as they have pools.  For those who love to enjoy both the property and the island, it’s one of the two best options in St. Barths.  But for the rest of us, well, I’m struggling to think straight due to the constant ringing in my ears from the plane noise.  If you’ll excuse me, I need to see an ear doctor.

Signature Suite Howard Hughes starts from €6,000 per night

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 22nd May '24

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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