ST. LUCIA – There are so many ways to enjoy one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful islands. And so many hotels to try.
I can’t say I’ve been to them all, but I’ve bedded down at a half-dozen or so over the years. Here’s a look at my personal favourites, with a nice variety of styles and locations. Plus some tips on things to do on achingly beautiful St. Lucia.
CAP MAISON This is a relatively small but delightful and luxurious hotel in the far north of the island. The property sits high on a hill, with fantastic sunsets and views out toward Pigeon Island. There’s a marvellous beachfront restaurant at the bottom of a relatively steep hill and also one in the main area of the hotel. They have several pools, including ones great for kids. Many units have private splash pools of their own, which is great for romantic types.
JADE MOUNTAIN This place, built by a B.C. businessman named Nick Troubetzkoy, is one of the most romantic and fanciful hotels on the planet. Units are open on one side, allowing unobstructed views of the fabulous coastline and, for many, the island’s famous Piton rock formations. You’ll get a private pool with shimmering tiles and 24-hour butler service and, naturally, mosquito netting to keep any unwelcome critters away. All units are reached via long, elevated walkways in the sky, so you don’t really have a next-door neighbor. Stars have been known to come in, order all their meals in the room and never leave. But they’re missing on a beautiful, outdoor dining area and the fine beach below, reached by a shuttle.
WINDJAMMER LANDING Located on a nice stretch of beach with shallow water near Pigeon Island Park, the property was to undergo a major renovation in September. There’s a large, beautiful marina and units spread around the property, some with private pools and two bedrooms. They also have hillside villas and ocean view rooms, so you’ll get a great variety. They also have several restaurants, from casual on up. A nice spot for weddings, too.
CAPELLA MARIGOT BAY Capella runs a series of sinfully beautiful resorts around the world. This one is located on lovely Marigot Bay, roughly midway up the western side of the island. The units are spread across a piece of sloping land on the south side of the bay. There’s a nice spa and several restaurants to choose from, as well as a rum bar. The marina is quite pretty, and they can run you across the bay to small, local restaurants or to a nice beach. The property has been open less than a year.
SUGAR BEACH Formerly known as Jalousie Plantation, this is probably my favourite hotel on the island. The views are absolutely killer, as you’re nestled between the two Pitons; perhaps the most dramatic geographic formations in the Caribbean. The suites are sumptuous but somehow simple at the same time, with a super relaxed vibe but all the amenities you can imagine. Expect private splash pools and exceptional service. The Rainforest Spa is built in, well, a rain forest, with luscious local treatments and a super romantic feel. The beach is small but one of the best in St. Lucia, with great snorkeling.
RODNEY BAY has a series of smaller, and less expensive, options. There also are three outlets of the popular Sandals Resorts on the island, one next to Windjammer Landings on a nice stretch of beach.
THINGS TO DO
GET OUT ON THE WATER The coastline of St. Lucia is one of the prettiest in the Caribbean, and the waters are blue and green perfection. Try a charter boat or catamaran ride with any number of good companies and enjoy the views from the water.
PLAY SOME GOLF It’s not overly fancy, but the St. Lucia Golf and Country Club on the north end of the island is a fun, approachable course with more than a few challenges.
GO FOR A HIKE Hiking opportunities are numerous and varied. You can try extended walks in the jungle interior, or just try the steep but rewarding trek to the old fort on top of the hill at Pigeon Island, where you can often see the nearby island of Martinique.
ROAM A GARDEN Diamond Falls and Botanical Gardens is a gardener’s dream, filled with brilliant red flowering ginger and deep orange and blue Birds of Paradise and more. They filmed part of “Romancing the Stone,” here, as well as scenes from “Superman II.”
SHOP IN CASTRIES The Castries market is a delight, with fruits and veggies and colourful vendors. Try a special lunch from one of the many small shops, then roam the small but attractive downtown.
TOUR A VOLCANO Close to Sugar Beach and the Pitons is what’s billed as the island’s “drive-in volcano.” You’ll find pots of boiling hot, bubbling water popping out of the ground, as well as thick, grey mud. And some lovely sulphur smells. It’s carefully monitored for danger so it’s quite safe for visitors.