Fancy staying in a classic tiki hutte overlooking the ocean?, I’m 10,000 miles from Polynesia but this particular south sea idyll has been transplanted on to St Tropez’s famous Pampelonne beach.
In an imaginative deceit, Camping Kon Tiki Village’s 198 huts, inspired by the owner’s travels in Bora Bora and Thailand, are wonderfully disguised mobile homes. As well as the cute facades – many of the rattan walls are actually weatherproof veneers – the Polynesian theme has infected the interior design with Kon tiki print bedspreads, sofas and curtains, and crockery sport tropical vegetation.
And instead of the backpacker beach hut staples of stifling humidity, the St Tropez version offers well-equipped kitchens, air-con, satellite TV and CD players, along with glass-sided power showers. You’re certainly not slumming it. “We’re not a campsite; we’re not a hotel,” says the manager, Alexandre Sommereisen. “We’re half way. You get comfort and freedom.”
The perfectly placed Tiki Hutte’s on the front two rows overlook the perfectly raked Pampelonne beach made famous by Bridgette Bardot, receive linen and towels, deluxe mattresses, and the option of paying for a regular maid service.
These hotel flourishes might seem small, but they speak volumes. The first two lines of tiki huts are unique. Their doors open directly on to the sand, something that, unless you’re camping, is a rare Riviera luxury. And Pampelonne is no ordinary sand. Punctuated with private beaches that suggest a South Pacific obsession – Bora Bora, Tahiti and Pago Pago- it’s littered with ludicrously fashionable bars and restaurants including Club 55 and Nikki Beach.
The result is that from late July to mid-August Kon Tiki village becomes the most exclusive mobile home park on earth. “Ferraris and Maseratis park by the front row huts,” and a lot of the guests are extremely well off. They eat at Hotel Byblos or go clubbing in Les Caves du Roy.
“People from Monaco rent out their houses and come to stay. Others have been guests at the Byblos or famous St Tropez hotels who visited Pampelonne and spotted us. This is an excellent location. Tiki huts wouldn’t work so well elsewhere.”
In fact they won’t break the bank. Top-rate, premium-spot, six-person tiki huts – two are in the living room so it’s really four adults and two children – cost €390 a night, or €65pp. Pricey for a crowded beach hut perhaps, but given the location and price of peak season St Tropez hotels, a snip.
Of course you could visit off-season, Four-person tiki huts back from the beach start at €60 a night, and there’s a refund policy for non-sunny days between 10-26 October.
It’s a perfect base for exploration. Swap Pampelonne for an afternoon of baking wind on Cap Camarat, before climbing the twisting streets of Grimaud village, awash with flowers and faded shutters. On another day you may wish to venture further east to the hilltop town of Biot behind Cannes for a sun-drenched al fresco lunch.
But Camping Kon Tiki Village also offers an even more bizarre travel experience, fusing budget and bling. Just 5km away is the swanky port town of St Tropez.
But OTT glamour doesn’t require a €40 taxi into St Tropez. Club 55 is just a few hundred yards south of faux Polynesia. It was lovely, all bleached tamarisk branches and shabby chic decor. But there was a suspicious amount of gold jewellery, mahogany skin, and deck shoes.
Oh, and gin and tonics were €16 a pop. But you could quite sensibly buy a litre of Gordon’s at the local Casino supermarket, crank up some ambient 1960s-tinged muzak so beloved of St Tropez types, and get all sunny and sophisticated on your veranda.
So perhaps your best bet is to anchor down in Kon Tiki with its invitingly wide sands. The French give good beach club, with everything from a hairdresser, shops and petite revamped spa, to sports and summer concerts.