There are many, many things to love about St Lucia. Arriving on this, one of the most beautiful Caribbean islands, there is no rude attack on the senses, no must-do, hectic itinerary, just the warmest, friendly people and an eternally smiling sun.
Besides the beaches, there are opportunities to go mountain biking, hiking, horse riding and bird watching. You can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the island on a helicopter trip, visit a botanical garden or go on a rum tour. Those interested in the island’s history might go to Pigeon Island. This national park features tucked away beaches, old British military barracks, a rustic lighthouse and ruins of gun batteries. It’s a great place to come for a picnic or a meal at one of the beachfront restaurants.
There are plenty of festivals on the island too, the biggest and most popular are the annual jazz festival which takes place every May and the month-long Saint Lucia Carnival, an explosion of colour, rhythm and creativity held every June and July.
So why not kick back, go with the flow and do as much or as little as you like….
At first sight, Windjammer Landing Beach Resort and Spa at Labrelotte Bay on St Lucia’s north west coast could pass for a Mediterranean village with its red-tiled roofs and whitewashed buildings spread across a hillside. Fronted by a 200-yard-long sweep of sandy beach, the resort has six swimming pools, a water sports centre, tennis courts and high-end spa with several treatment rooms and a juice bar. Next door to the spa is a well-equipped gym. There is a kid’s club for children aged between 4 – 12 which offers a programme of supervised and fun activities and there is a teen club for older ones. Guests can choose to spend their holiday in one of 60 ocean view guest rooms or suites or opt for an elegant, modern villa – there are 131 to choose from, each accommodates between four and twelve guests and most have a plunge pool. Due to the hilly terrain, a clutch of shuttle buses with smiley drivers ferry guests up and down the winding, steep roads that link villas, public areas and restaurants.
Dasheene in the Ladera Hotel offers one of St Lucia’s top dining experiences, not only as far as food is concerned, but also thanks to its location. The upmarket, adult-only, all-trimmings-present boutique hotel ranged along a 1,000ft-high forested ridge offers superb views of the Caribbean Sea framed by the cone shaped twin peaks, the Pitons, St Lucia’s trademark landscape. The hotel’s imaginative chef focuses on sustainable cooking sourced from locally harvested ingredients and produces Creole dishes with a stylish twist. The menu offers delights such as plantain gratin with coconut rum sauce; sautéed shrimp with island peppers and saltfish patties with coleslaw or micro greens and Creole sauce.
Papa Don’s is one of Windjammer Landing’s five restaurants. Specialising in rustic Italian fare, this pretty restaurant sits halfway up the hill from the resort’s centre. Guests don’t have to hoof it up there though, you can arrive in style by way of one of the hotel shuttles. It’s best to reserve a table for this restaurant which is only open for dinner. Menu offerings include pumpkin and ginger soup and Champagne shrimp Risotto. As you might expect from the Italian theme, there is also a tasty selection of pizzas and pastas to whet your appetite. Staff are efficient and super-friendly.
You can’t really come to St Lucia without visiting the world’s only ‘drive-in volcano’ at Sulphur Springs near Soufriere. The locals say it is dormant, but there’s probably no need to worry as the last time it erupted was in the 1760s. You can have a mud bath here, apparently ‘guaranteed’ to take 12 years off your age! Maybe that’s something of an exaggeration, but the mud acts as a detoxifier and is helpful for those suffering from eczema and sunburn. Potential visitors should be aware that it can be rather malodourous here, but you do quickly get used to the ‘rotten egg’, sulphur smell!
The volcano is near the island’s other main natural attraction, the cone shaped, twin peaks that are the Pitons. These are not only St Lucia’s trademark landscape but also topographical icons of the Caribbean forming part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
St Lucia is big on vegetation and wildlife. Guides at the Lushan Country Life trail have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the herbs and plants which grow there and delight in explaining their medicinal and culinary uses. Comfrey is used for colds and flu, coconut milk facilitates digestion and improves teeth and gum health while aloe vera is the business for earache, burns and as a hair treatment.
Party animals should head for Rodney Bay village with its nightclubs, restaurants, chic cocktail bars and the island’s only casino. Named after Englishman Admiral George Rodney, who sailed out of the bay to defeat the French in one of the many battles for the island, it’s the throbbing hub of the island’s nightlife.
A tropical rainforest covers much of the island’s mountainous interior. Zoom over the ancient undergrowth on a zip line, follow a nature trail with a knowledgeable guide or glide gently up towards the clouds above the abundant tropical foliage in an aerial tram.
Ah, chocolate! St Lucia has been a prime producer of the sweet stuff for hundreds of years. At Howelton Estate, near Castries the island capital, you can make your own chocolate bar. Mind though, it’s no easy job, much tougher than it looks – but worth the effort when your masterpiece finally takes shape.
And of course, when evening comes after another day in paradise, you could just grab a rum punch and watch the sun drop sizzling into the Caribbean Sea…..
The island’s African heritage is evident in its colourful art and crafts. Popular with visitors are the vividly coloured handmade wooden masks and handwoven beachwear. Wood carvings often feature wildlife such as turtles or the island’s national bird, the gaudily beautiful St Lucia parrot. Foodies might opt to take home whole spices and authentic cocoa sticks. Grate them then steep in hot water with bay leaves, nutmeg and cinnamon and voila! You have the local specialty, cocoa tea.
How to Get to St Lucia
British Airways flies from London to St Lucia from £499 return including taxes/fees/carrier charges. Flight time: 8 ½ hours direct from UK. To book see britishairways.com/st-lucia or call 0844 493 0787
Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort. Prices from $170 US dollars per person per night including breakfast for premium ocean view room. AI package is an extra $129 per person. To book see www.windjammer-landing.com
Airport Parking: I Love Meet and Greet provides valet parking at Gatwick and Stansted airports. Weekly prices from £110. www.ilovemeetandgreet.co.uk
More about St Lucia at www.stlucia.org