St. Lucia — an island in the eastern Caribbean possesses a wealth of natural beauty—lush mountains, a steaming sulfur volcano, 19,000 acres of rain forest (35% of the country), charming black- and white-sand beaches, rare colorful foliage and exotic wildlife. Add to this mix the pleasant St. Lucia weather and the nice beaches, and you understand why it is a popular Caribbean destination.
There’s plenty to do on this small island. The rain forest is an ideal place for hiking, mountain biking, bird-watching or standing near a waterfall to soak up the mist from its spray. There’s also whale- and dolphin-watching, snorkeling, kite-sailing, fishing and diving.
Vacationers who go to St. Lucia travel there generally for two distinct reasons: either to enjoy its charm and undeveloped feel, still found in some places, or to luxuriate in five-star waterfront luxury.
On my recent trip, I had the opportunity to sample the best of both worlds
Ladera Resort — an Eco Luxe Retreat
My first stop of the day was the hilltop retreat known as Ladera. Located in Soufriere, it’s about a 45min drive from the airport. Once a cocoa plantation, this resort is ideal for those looking to unplug from the world for a few days (there are no phones or televisions in the room). It’s a quiet, relaxing hideaway ideal for honeymooners or couples. Each of the 32 rooms and suites feature hand carved wood furniture, local artwork, four poster canopy beds with mosquito netting, outdoor rain showers, private plunge pools and magnificent views of the Pitons. Rooms are spacious and one whole wall is open to the outside to take advantage of those cool Caribbean breezes (= no AC). In the award-winning Dasheene, guests can enjoy classic Caribbean cooking utilizing all local grown ingredients. There is a main pool area near The Bar but sees little action since each of the rooms & suites have their own plunge pool. While there is occasional entertainment like local musicians in the evening, everyone pretty much retreats back to their own space once the sun goes down. For those that want to go to the beach, guests can use the beach club at nearby Sugar Beach which is about a 5 min drive down the road. This is also your next best option for dining outside of the hotel. This is a hard hotel to rate as it’s really unique and unlike any other hotel options on the island. Super romantic and I think eco-luxe describes it best.
Sugar Beach by Viceroy — Beachfront Chic
Hands down my favorite beachfront, non-inclusive resort that I saw on this trip. Formerly the Hilton Jalousie Plantation, the Viceroy Sugar Beach has reemerged after a 100-million dollar renovation and is just spectacular. It’s luxurious but not over the top in your face. Aesthetically for me, I love British Colonial + Caribbean decor (picture white marble, shutters, rich mahogany, four poster beds, breezy linens… sigh… ) so I thought this place was just dreamy. It’s a crazy drive down to the beach on horrendous roads but it’s completely worth it as the property is right on the beach. All beaches are public in St Lucia but because of it’s unique location in a protected cove, it’s primarily just guests of the hotel and the nearby hotels of Ladera and Stonefield Estate. Spread out over 192 acres, rooms in the main hotel overlook either the garden/pool or beach. Larger 2-5 bedroom villa residences are perched above the resort on the hillside. There is quite a bit of walking involved at this property however there are golf carts readily available to take you around as needed. The Rainforest Spa is a unique experience with treatment rooms up on stilts and in the trees (picture a cooler version of Swiss Family Robinson). There are numerous types of rooms to choose from depending on the size and location that you prefer. With the larger villa residences, Sugar Beach is also a great option for families or groups. The villas are all individually owned and in a rental pool but with consistent decor. When I was there they were setting up for a wedding on the beach followed by a reception at The Terrace Restaurant, one of two main dining options onsite. This resort is a gorgeous setting for a wedding! I did speak with a couple on the plane ride home that stayed at this resort for their babymoon and they were thrilled with the accommodations. Biggest shock for them was the sticker price on food. You are pretty much in the middle of nowhere so unless you’re ready to take a taxi back/forth to town, you’re dining at the restaurants onsite and prices are high. So definitely look at meal plan options when factoring your overall budget.
Anse Chastenet & Jade Mountain — Brothers from another Mother?
These two resorts are owned and operated by the same Euro-Canadian couple and the resorts couldn’t be more different. Anse Chastenet is a laid back, beachfront, Caribbean style resort. Whereas Jade Mountain would be it’s ultra modern, wealthy, chic big sister. Or little sister because it’s so much smaller? I’ll stop with the analogies now. I arrived late in the afternoon to the resort in the middle of a rainstorm just as a yoga group was checking in so unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to see the individual rooms but I have had clients at both properties. And just as the resorts are so different, they would each cater to a very different type of traveler. Anse Chastenet is super casual, fun and quite modest as far as accommodations go. Rooms feature traditional Madras patterned linens which are authentic to the island and most do not have air conditioning. The best feature really is the beachfront location. The hotel does not accept small children so it would be ideal for a honeymoon, romantic retreat or even a spa/wellness escape with your friends! The onsite Kai Belte Spa is very popular and offers a range of treatments, fitness and Yoga classes. Rooms are spread out throughout the property so if you book a garden view, be prepared to be up on the hillside and ready for a healthy walk (or golf cart ride) to the main hotel. There is a full range of water activities available at the beach club as well so if you’re looking for an active holiday this would be a good spot.
Jade Mountain is located majestically on the hillside behind Anse Chastenet. If you’re staying at Jade, it’s only about a 5-7 min walk down to the beach and you can utilize all the services available at Anse Chastenet including the bars, restaurants and spa. Jade Mountain is stunning architecturally with private bridges leading to each suite. With just 29 suites you’re assured a private and relaxing escape from the rest of the world. Each of these majestic suites feature either a jacuzzi tub (Sky Suite) or large infinity pool that is open to the outside. The way the property is built makes each suite very private as you can’t see into any of the suites near you so if you prefer to sunbathe au natural it’s not an issue. Each of the suites (or sanctuaries as they’re called onsite) are very large ranging from 1400-1800 square feet and elegantly decorated. There is one restaurant onsite on the roof which again offers fantastic views. Most guests that stay at Jade Mountain are usually on either a romance / honeymoon package or meal plan. Honestly, if you’re going to pay the money to stay here you will not want to leave. It’s on par with rates of a Sandals resort vacation once you factor in the meal plan but the experience is completely different. Way more private and more personal. The roads again are insane getting to the property and many times I thought my driver was lost but the drive is completely worth it to be embraced by the pure luxury of Jade Mountain. This is the ideal resort for those looking for an uber luxe escape.
I wish I had better photos but I had to zip in and out in between rain storms. Feel free to contact me with any questions! Stay tuned for Day 2!