Surprising St. Lucia offers natural beauty and friendly people
“I want to go to somewhere nice in the Caribbean,” my wife asked me maybe a thousand times. So finally, for her birthday, I arranged a five-day visit to Saint Lucia that, I’m relieved to say, exceeded our expectations. Even though getting there required a couple of flights from our home in Carlsbad, CA, it was worth the effort for a number of reasons, including super nice people, memorable meals, spectacular landscapes, good beaches and lots of fun activities. Based on our experience in St. Lucia, I’m suggesting a new marketing slogan: “The 4-C’s of St. Lucia: clean, courteous, colorful and comfortable.”
Understandably, my wife’s first question was, “Where is St. Lucia?” The small island nation (27 miles long by 14 miles wide), and its 185,000 residents, is located in the Eastern Caribbean Sea, northeast of St. Vincent, south of Martinique and just 350 miles north of Venezuela. My initial internet research revealed that “St. Lucia is known for having an attractive interior and being a great honeymoon destination (true!), and for its pitons (pointy mountains) and the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano.” So far so good.
After landing at the small, welcoming airport, we arranged for a driver to take us The Landings Resort & Spa in the far north. The island’s only road led us past banana plantations, coconut palms and verdant mountains during the nearly two-hour drive. We appreciated the island’s cleanliness and constant breezes that kept down the moderate heat and humidity.
Only in the island’s capital and largest city, Castries, did we encounter a few minutes of traffic congestion. Once we entered the Landings’ gated compound, we felt at home among the tidy, two-story buildings that encircled a private marina. Our two-bedroom unit overlooked one of the resort’s three pools and the marina’s assorted boats. With elegant furnishings, a full kitchen and a 200 square foot balcony with a private jacuzzi, our room was spacious, attractive and comfortable. At breakfast the next morning, I worried that my wife would implode as she had to select from among twenty food choices. That evening, our outdoor candle-light dinner at The Palms by the marina couldn’t have been nicer or more romantic.
Since the north part of the island is known for its upscale homes, hotels and restaurants, we decided to check out several special places, starting with the BodyHoliday Saint Lucia hotel and spa. We ate lunch by the beach at one of the resort’s five restaurants, and later mingled with guests from Europe and the US seeking rest and pampering, along with top rated meals and ample sun-bathing by the curving, sandy beach. The resort might set a Guinness record for “most activities offered in one day”—I counted 45 listed on the signboard!
That night we had an enchanting dinner at The Naked Fisherman restaurant, tucked away in the Cap Maison hotel’s compound. Dodging a brief rain shower, we walked down 93 steps to find a cozy restaurant perched on a large wood platform overlooking a nearby sand beach, tucked between two rocky cliffs. As we savored our grilled fish and baked bananas, a row of glowing tiki-torches and a musician’s soothing songs provided the final touches to a memorable evening.
The next day we drove to Rainforest Adventures where a cable car carried us a thousand feet up a mountainside as a young woman educated us about the local fauna and flora. Below us we heard gleeful screams from riders careening down one of the attraction’s two zipline courses. We finished with a twenty-minute rainforest hike that introduced us to some of the island’s tropical flowers and exotic trees.
For our final three days, we headed south to the most picturesque part of the island, just past the crowded but colorful town of Soufriere. What made this area so special were the Pitons—a pair of 2500-foot high volcanic spires, covered with greenery, that resembled a lion’s pointed canine teeth. We were excited to stay at the Ladera Resort because of its unique location–perched on a knife-edge ridge a thousand feet above the sea, in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage site overlooking the Pitons.
To say our room at Ladera Resort was special is an understatement. As we entered the rectangular, all-wood room, we noticed the unusually high ceiling and the mosquito-net-covered king bed, but nothing had prepared us for our postcard-perfect view of the Pitons towering over the azure bay below. The room’s open design meant that no walls or windows obstructed this surreal scene, which we relished as we reclined on our lounge chairs next to our private, indoor dipping pool. Each of the hotel’s rooms enjoyed the same view, as did the open-air restaurant and adjacent swimming pool. Not surprisingly, many of the guests were honeymooners.
Shortly after our arrival, we walked to the nearby Hotel Chocolat Boucan, known for its fine food and its chocolate-making tours. The property grows its own cacao and invites visitors to learn how to make chocolate from raw cacao beans. After our lesson, we appreciated chocolate as never before, since it required 30 minutes of non-stop, forceful bean grinding to prepare the chocolate paste. Before leaving, I discovered that the pool below the restaurant offered a superb reflection of one of the Pitons.
My wife is crazy about snorkeling and swimming in tropical waters, so we drove to the secluded Ti Kaye Resort & Spa to indulge her passion. This adult-only resort, situated at the end of a long dirt road, provided an attractive, protected bay for swimming, snorkeling, paddle-boarding and kayaking.
Our final outing proved to be our toughest—a climb to the top of Gros Piton. Euphemistically called a hike, the top half of the trail forced us to grab branches, roots and ropes before we finally staggered to the top. The view from there was nice, but afterwards, we relished our visit to the nearby Toraille Falls for a cooling swim in the pool beside the 50’ falls. Returning to the hotel, we splurged on a couples massage in our room that never felt better. That evening I confess that my tired legs needed our room butler’s golf cart ride to our sunset dinner.
After five memorable days, it was time to say goodbye to St. Lucia and the people we met whose names reflected their good-natured personalities: Miracle, Tenderly, Hope, Majestic, Scholasticus and Precious. How can you not fall in love with an island full of such nice people, spectacular scenery and so many fun things to do?
Doug Hansen is a travel writer and photographer in Carlsbad, CA. See more photos and articles at www.HansenTravel.org or Instagram @doug_hansentravel.
IF YOU GO:
St. Lucia Information: www.stlucia.org
Activities: Chocolate making tour & lunch: Hotel Chocolat Boucan, http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/boucan/the-experiences.html.
Rainforest Adventure: rainforestadventure.com/pages/st-lucia