This story originally appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of Elite Traveler.
There’s no better place to chill out than in the super laid-back island of St. Lucia. Life goes by a little slower here; the peaceful vibe is infectious. The south of the island is the best place to experience authentic Caribbean life—traveling through its winding roads you’ll see ice-cream colored houses peppered through its lush hills and rain-forest-covered mountains. The island has world-class resorts tucked away in the rolling landscape, with a whole host of activities to suit the adventurous traveler, the history buff or those who just want to relax with rum in hand.
Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Hotel
Nestled between the two Pitons, Sugar Beach is set on a beautiful beach (and the sand is as sugary as the name suggests). The residences were a new entry in Elite Traveler’s Top 100 Suites earlier this year thanks to the far-reaching views of the Caribbean Sea and the Pitons; light, airy decor; private access to the beach; a private boat dock; and a 1,164-sq-ft infinity pool with a waterslide connecting it to a plunge pool on the Jacuzzi deck. Although the villa has everything you could possibly need, the resort also has an excellent kids club, divine dining options and an impressive gym and spa. The facilities are dotted around quite steep hills, so bring your sneakers—or the candy-colored tuk tuks are ready to zip you around.
Marigot Bay Resort and Marina
If you’re sailing around the Caribbean,Marigot Bay should absolutely be on your itinerary. The pretty emerald bay is a swirl of tranquil shades of blue and green, and the gentle ocean breeze is best enjoyed with rum from the hotel’s Rum Cave. Marigot Bay Resort and Marina can accommodate superyachts, and as mountains surround the marina, your yacht will be protected from tide and weather changes. The Three-bedroom Penthouse is perfect if you’re after something modern; with dark wooden beams and coral-reef-inspired artwork, it has more of a city apartment feel with a few Asian influences.Wake up before sunrise and take the short but steep hike to the top of the street and watch the sun streak the sky above the alcove.
Situated on a Unesco World Heritage site on a volcano ridgeline, you can’t get a better view of the surrounding rain forests and, of course, the Pitons, than at Ladera. The Hilltop Dream Suite has a charming open-air bedroom to make the most of that incredible scenery—you can see the Pitons while lying in the four-poster king bed. Or gaze out at the sparkling Caribbean Sea and 1,000-ft tropical valley below from the swing that hangs over the heated swimming pool. The resort has a strong eco-friendly ethos—all 37 rooms were built using locally harvested tropical hardwoods, stone and tile, with furniture created on site by local artisans.
If you’ve always wanted to learn to sail, Marigot Bay Resort and Marina offers an introductory class for beginners. The fully certified course will cover everything you need to know. If you’d prefer to let someone else do the hard work, there’s boat charters available—sail into hidden coves and snorkel through the crystal waters, go deep-sea fishing or head on a romantic sunset cruise.
The Sulphur Springs are the hottest and most active geothermal area in the Lesser Antilles, and the world’s only “drive-in” volcano—you can drive right up to the edge of the springs. Apply the warm volcanic mud to your skin for a natural spa treatment (it’s wonderful for soothing any skin complaints such as sunburn or insect bites) and rinse off in the hot water of the mineral mud bath, or in the nearby Diamond Waterfall at the enchanting Diamond Botanical Gardens. Be sure to head out early to miss the crowds, and don’t forget to remove all jewelry as the sulphur can cause silver to tarnish.
Get a bird’s-eye view of the island with St. Lucia Helicopters. We recommend the North and South Island tour—you’ll see Castries, Pigeon Island, Rodney Bay, the Pitons, Soufriere Volcano, waterfalls, rivers and lush valleys. Your pilot will share tales of the island’s history and point out geological features and indigenous species.
For a special occasion, or if you just want some alone time, consider a private dinner. Marigot Bay Resort and Marina can arrange a candlelit dinner among the lush forest in a delightful treehouse. Or, on the top floor of the Harbor Club you’ll find Positano restaurant.With exceptional views of Pigeon Point and Martinique, it’s a heavenly spot. A custom-curated menu can be created and the intimate setting is ideal for small groups.
If you do one thing: Hike the Pitons
The landmark Pitons are twin mountainous volcanic plugs rising majestically out of the sea and surrounded by rain forest. Gros Piton stands at around 2,500 ft, while Petit Piton is slightly smaller at around 2,400 ft. Although Gros Piton is higher, it’s easier to conquer than its twin and the views of Petit Piton, St Vincent and the south of the island are worth the slog. Sugar Beach hotel will take you to the base via water taxi where you’ll begin the three-hour ascent. Post-hike, cool off in the ocean and enjoy a barbeque with an ice-cold beer or rum punch.
WHEN TO GO
As St. Lucia is close to the equator, there’s not a huge difference between the seasons. It’s hottest between June and August, and the rainy season is between June and November. Visit in May for the renowned Jazz & Arts Festival, or in June for the St. Lucia Carnival. Look out for new openings in 2019—a major international horse race is slated for launch in late 2019, and a brand new FBO is set to open in early 2019.