By Doug Hansen- For my wife’s birthday, I arranged a five-day visit to St. Lucia that exceeded our expectations. Getting there required a couple of flights, but it was worth the effort for a number of reasons — super-nice people, memorable meals, spectacular landscapes, good beaches and lots of fun activities.
The small island nation (27 miles long by 14 miles wide) and its 185,000 residents are located in the eastern Caribbean Sea, northeast of St. Vincent, south of Martinique and just 350 miles north of Venezuela. We did not need a visa, though a passport was required. While most of the people can speak a variant of French called Creole, the official language spoken universally is English, which makes sense given the country’s history of alternating French and British colonization for nearly 200 years.
It is known for having an attractive interior and being a great honeymoon destination and for its pitons (pointy mountains) and the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano. After landing at the small, welcoming airport, we arranged for a driver to take us to the Landings Resort and Spa in the far north. The only road led us past banana plantations, coconut palms and verdant mountains during the nearly two-hour drive.
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, large balcony and private Jacuzzi, our room was spacious, attractive and comfortable. At breakfast the next morning, we had more than 20 food options. That evening, our outdoor candlelight dinner at The Palms by the marina couldn’t have been 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 seeking rest and pampering, along with ample sunbathing by the curving sandy beach. We also had a choice of some 45 activities in which we could participate.
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 wooden 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 up a mountainside while a guide educated us about the local fauna and flora. Below us we heard gleeful screams from riders careening down one of the attraction’s two zip-line courses. We finished with a 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 2,500-foot-high volcanic spires covered with greenery. We were excited to stay at the Ladera Resort because it was perched on a knife-edge ridge a thousand feet above the sea in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage Site overlooking the Pitons.
When we entered our 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. We relished this scene as we reclined on the 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.
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 the raw 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.
For snorkeling and swimming, we drove to the secluded Ti Kaye Resort & Spa, a secluded adult-only resort that provided a protected bay for swimming, snorkeling, paddle-boarding and kayaking. Our final outing, however, 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. Afterward we went to the nearby Toraille Falls for a cooling swim in the pool beside the 50-foot falls. Returning to the hotel, we splurged on a couples massage in our room, and that evening we needed a golf cart ride to get to our sunset dinner.