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The Civilized Explorer

The Beaches on St. Barth

Photo of a woman 
swimming under water. The twenty-two beaches on St. Barth are a real treat. Baie de St. Jean vies with Anse de Lorient for the calmest water. You can see the surf breaking over a reef a hundred yards away, but it's as calm as a swimming pool at the beach. Once in a while the windsurfers can catch a wave just right on the airport side of Baie de St. Jean and get airborne. But the swimming is easy, perfect for the kids. At Anse de Lorient, you can snorkel out to the reef and look around. There is also good windsurfing at Anse du Grand Cul de Sac, and you can snorkel out to the offshore reef, where the view is indistinguishable from Lorient. In fact, this picture was taken at Lorient or Grand Cul de Sac, but I can't remember which.

The drive to Anse du Gouverneur is down a mountain; the view is nice, so drive slowly enough to enjoy it and not fall off the road. The mountain marches on down into the sea on a steep slope, leading to enough surf to generate an undertow. Since the beach is also clothing optional, this may not be your best pick for bringing the kids, unless they're strong swimmers and don't giggle at naked people.

[A couple on vacation from France wade in the surf.] Anse de Grande Saline, where these two were wading in the water, has excellent swimming and a nice offshore rock at the southern end of the beach with sergeant majors and angel fish lurking about. There was an oil spill somewhere that washed up on Grande Saline, so be prepared to have tar on your feet and fins after you wade in. This beach is also clothing optional. If you've never sunbathed nude before, there is enough unoccupied beach at both Gouverneur and Grande Saline to take the opportunity. Be sure to put on plenty of sunblock before you leave your room; waiting until you get to the beach will guarantee a burn.

If you drive north past Anse des Flamands, with its long golden beach, until the road ends at Petite Anse, you will come to a goat path that leads to the end of St. Barth and then crosses back over to the Caribbean side, one of St Barth's many nice hikes. There you will find some steps leading down to Anse du Colombier. This is a long, U-shaped beach with probably the best snorkeling on the island. Facing away from the beach, you will see Sint Maarten in the distance, and you may even see a cruise ship lying off Philipsburg. To your left will be a strange blue pyramid. This is a guest house built for and originally owned by David Rockefeller, but rumor has it that it is now owned by Harrison Ford. The cliffs to your right tumble down into the water and become a jumble of rocks where you will see angelfish, sergeant majors, blueheads, parrotfish, and maybe even a pair of cuttlefish.

If you have your sea legs, you might go to La Maison de la Mer or Marine Service, both on rue J. d'Arc, and take a sail to Ile Fourchue. We sailed over on the "Zavijava" with Capitaine Phillipe in the middle of a squall. Going to Ile Fourchue, the waves were "following," which means the boat wallowed around until one of us got seasick. Although the snorkeling is probably wonderful, the rain pelting into the ocean made it cloudy, the clouds in the sky made it dark underwater, and the nausea made lying in the rolling water unbearable (no wonder there's a "sea" in "nausea").

Lunch was catered by La Rotisserie and included quiche lorraine, salad, roast chicken, cheese, and a tart for desert. One of us thought it was delicious; the other took her word. Sailing back into the rolling waves was much better, the rain had stopped, and the dark clouds were a dramatic backdrop to the whole world.

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