Destinations

Style and substance: the two sides of St Lucia


Whoever coined the phrase ‘looks aren’t everything’ obviously hadn’t been to Saint Lucia. My first view of the Pitons was so breathtaking it was a good thing I was lying down.


We’d arrived as the sun set the night before, so my first glimpse came as I opened my eyes in a four-poster bed at Jade Mountain, a luxury hotel where the fourth wall of every room is missing. Instead of the wall, you get a panoramic vista of the iconic twin mountains. Oh, and your own private, in-room infinity pool.


The island’s five-star hotels are amazing, but five-star views can be found all over the place. There can be few islands more beautiful than this one, famed for its volcanic peaks, green jungles and clear waters. Saint Lucia is nicknamed ‘the Helen of the West Indies’, after Helen of Troy, the beautiful queen whose face launched a thousand war ships. Saint Lucia’s has launched a few too; the British and French fought over the island for more than 150 years, with each nation possessing it at least seven times before being ceded to Britain in 1814.


Britain still loves Saint Lucia, with British lovers particularly fond of it. The island’s gorgeous views have given it the reputation as a romantic idyll for honeymooners and couples, and there are certainly more than enough stunning vistas to give them an alternative to staring into each other’s eyes.


But Saint Lucia is no shallow dolly bird. Beneath the beauty there’s plenty of substance too, from jungle trekking and zip-lining to historical sights and jumping street parties. The island’s winding roads can make driving around picturesque but not speedy, so a twin centre holiday staying in both the north and south gives the opportunity to explore each end of the island without long car journeys.











Accommodation


Many of Saint Lucia’s hotels are located in one of two areas, with by far the largest concentration in the northwest. There are good three-stars such as the Village Inn and Spa, and St Lucian by Rex Resorts, which is located right on Reduit Beach, one of the island’s best stretches of sand.


The three Sandals resorts are dotted around this area, plus other all-inclusives such as the newly refurbished Rendezvous, Smugglers Cove and Almond Morgan Bay. Right up at the very tip of the island you’ll find the wellness-focused BodyHoliday at LeSport and the deluxe Cap Maison.


There’s a second clutch of hotels in the southwest around Soufriere, near the soaring Piton mountains. Perched on a hillside between the two peaks, Ladera is a luxury, secluded boutique property. Below this, The Jalousie Plantation nestles beneath the peaks, on a lovely stretch of beach.


It’s undergoing a $100 million redevelopment in preparation to rebrand as The Tides, Sugar Beach at the end of this year, and has new villas and spa facilities. Further north, on a stretch of coast looking back at the iconic Pitons, sits Anse Chastanet and its super-luxury sister, Jade Mountain.


The most notable hotels outside these two areas are Cotton Bay Village, a luxury villa resort on the island’s undeveloped east coast, and Coconut Bay. This popular all-inclusive is only minutes from the international airport on the southeast coast. There’s an adults-only side, and a family area with a water park.


Excursions


The wide range of activities on offer in Saint Lucia means there will be something to suit all but the laziest of tourists.


Most clients will stay on the coast, so an option that takes them to the interior of the island provides a nice contrast. There are two zip-lining centres, and whizzing through the jungle suspended on a wire makes for a fun-packed day.


At Rainforest Adventure in Chassin, the helmets and a triple-locking harness system made us feel really safe, and you need only a very basic level of fitness and an average head for heights to love the thrill. There’s a gondola ride for those who prefer something more sedate, plus nature trails and birdwatching hikes. rainforestadventure.com


Plantation tours get clients right into the rainforest. Fond Doux cocoa plantation runs a lovely short tour, where visitors are shown the chocolate making process and see local fruits and flora growing among the plantation’s residential cottages, from grapefruit trees to huge, colourful lilies. The restaurant serves up fantastic Caribbean food. fonddouxestate.com


A visit to the bubbling clay of Sulphur Springs to see (and smell) evidence of Saint Lucia’s volcanic make-up is easily combined with a side-trip to nearby Diamond Falls and Botanical Gardens, where clients can visit the waterfall and swim in the mineral baths. diamondstlucia.com


At the island’s northern tip, Pigeon Island is connected to the mainland by a causeway. Beyond the lovely beach, visitors can see the remains of a pirate cave and a naval base, and visit a mini-museum for an overview of the history.


Foodies will enjoy a visit to Castries Market, where there are stalls selling fruit and vegetables, spices and fish hauled from the sea the same day. We visited with Nico, the sous-chef from Cap Maison, which made it extra special, as he knew all the traders and took us for breakfast at his favourite cafe first, where we ate bakes, smoked herring and black pudding, and drank coconut water and sweet cocoa tea.


Über-fit travellers can mountain bike through the rainforests and even climb the Pitons – though many tourists may feel they look lovely enough from a distance.


Saint Lucia’s west coast is lapped by the calm, clear Caribbean Sea, and many hotels offer a wide range of water sports including kayaking and sailing trips – Soufriere and Marigot Bay are particularly popular spots to head for, and it’s a quick way to see the other end of the island if clients are sticking to one hotel for their whole stay.


The area around Soufriere has particularly good coral reefs, with dive school Scuba Saint Lucia sitting on Anse Chastanet Beach. scubastlucia.com


Nightlife


Rodney Bay, home to the island’s yacht marina, is a centre of tourist nightlife. There are cocktail bars and restaurants of many shapes and sizes, from steakhouses to Thai eateries.


For a taste of the Caribbean, many guests head out of their hotels for a street party.


The Friday night fish fry at Anse La Ray is famous, but there’s also – conveniently located for the large number of hotels in the Rodney Bay area – the Friday night jump-up at Gros Islet.


With street stalls selling food and drink and a large sound system, it’s a great night out, with both tourists and locals mingling on the streets.


Sample product


Caribtours offers seven nights from £2,566, combining four nights at Cap Maison in a Garden View room and three nights at Jade Mountain in a Sky Jacuzzi Suite including breakfast. The price includes return scheduled flights with British Airways and private transfers. caribtours.co.uk, 020 7751 0660


Virgin Holidays offers seven nights’ room-only in a Deluxe Garden View room at Saint Lucian by Rex from £699 including Virgin Atlantic flights and transfers.
vhols4agents.co.uk, 0844 557 3859

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