Monthly Archives: July 2014
As most Lucians will say when you meet them ” Welcome to Paradise” – and they are not lying.
I recently had the absolute pleasure of spending a blissful, slightly delayed honeymoon week with my husband on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Kudos to him too for selecting and planning such a tantalisingly tropical destination!
One of the most alluring aspects to most holidays for me is always the element of new meets old. Whilst we all love to kick back on the beach with a tall umbrellaed cocktail not too far away, its awesome to get away from the locations catered towards tourists and see what local daily life is all about. St Lucia manages this balance perfectly and also manages to avoid the commercialisation we often see in many short haul (4 hours from the US East Coast) island retreats.
Whilst the island is small, the winding roads hug the lush jungle and coastline, rendering your trip around the island in about half a day. Whilst we had the best of intentions of exploring the whole island, long lazy afternoons raised their heads and therefore we mostly stuck to the South West side of the island.
Here’s a rough guide of places to sleep, eat, relax and have some fun!
Where to sleep:
On the South West side of the island, there seem to be a number of luxury resorts dotted around, but staying with the theme of being balanced with nature, you need to know where to look. The resorts certainly don’t have large signage or advertising which make them all the more unique. Ladera Resort overlooking the majestic Pitons that St Lucia is famed for, is an eco resort high up on the mountain side that boasts open air wood log cabin type rooms with their own swimming pools. The restaurant, Dasheena (apparently frequented by Oprah) at the resort has the same views of the Piton’s for some excellent sundowner evenings looking over the yachts coming in to the bay at Sugar beach. On Saturday mornings, you can tag along with the chef to the local fish and produce market for a hands on local cuisine experience. Ladera offers daily multiple free shuttles down the mountain to Sugar Beach. Other resorts in the local area are Hotel Chocolat and the Sugar Beach resort
Where to eat:
As mentioned before, Dasheena restaurant at Ladera resort boasts a menu focusing on sustainable cooking sourced from locally harvested ingredients by award winning chef, Nigel Mitchell. Sugar Beach resort also offer 2 restaurants and bar area with great simple lunch items while you are lounging under the palm fronds. My ultimate favourite had to be Boucan restaurant at Hotel Chocolat – conveniently situated a short walk from Ladera. Each item on the menu is made with some variation of cacao or chocolate inspiration. I’m talking dark chocolate infused balsamic for dipping your cacao nib fresh oven bread, citrus salad with white chocolate dressing, creamy mash potato made with white chocolate along side your bittersweet dark chocolate orange confit of duck. Curried coconut cacao chicken, cacao Creme Brûlée……I think I died and went to my version of heaven and yes, if you were wondering, I did eat all these things myself – dragging my husband up the hill to Boucan on more than one occasion!
For a more local flavour, head down to Soufriere town marina where you will find local restaurants and bars bristling with life and all serving locally made rum and amber coloured Piton beers.
What to do:
After resting your bones in your private mountain top pool, its time to hit the beach. Ladera offers free shuttles down to Sugar Beach, however if you are driving you will find a small obscure sign on the corner of a winding mountain road towards Sugar Beach. Along the way you will pass Petit Piton Waterfall, a 5 minute walk through some lush jungle will bring you to a small waterfall with some natural pools for a quick dip.
Heading into Sugar Beach resort, you can park your car and your own private tuktuk will pick up to scuttle you down the treacherous steep paths and plop you down on the white soft sands of the beach. When you reach the bottom, prepare to be awestruck….
Nestled amongst beach almond trees, you will find small white huts with dried palm frond roofs and the beach bar, connected by pristinely swept beach boardwalks and bamboo lanterns which are lit at sunset. Looking across the bay you will see white shuttered residences nestled in the jungle overlooking the beach and blue, tepid lake quality shoreline with the two Piton sentinels standing guard. Spend your day sipping cocktails under the trees (watch out for falling beach almonds) or for the more active, hire a speedboat and go wakeboarding or tubing, grab a Stand-Up-Paddle board or some canoes. When in doubt, mull it over in a water hammock….
Back up the hill to the Babot Estate (aka Hotel Chocolat), which is a working Cocoa farm and provides tours of the estate as well as a chocolate making course. The course is about 2 hours long and you will be provided with raw cacao nibs to mull and pummel with cocoa butter and sugar into a runny liquid which in turn is poured into moulds and sent for setting. Each person receives two of their own hand made 70% dark chocolate bars to take away. Delicious!
One element on the South West coast you cant really ignore is the constant thought that someone dropped one. This becomes more apparent when you visit the Sulphur mines and volcano where the smell is less than charming which wafts through the valley. The actual volcano does not look that impressive except for plumes of steam emanating from the earthen ground, however the odd potholes of pure 170 degree Celsius boiling mud certainly leave you impressed. However, the true highlight of the Sulphur springs trip must be the mud baths. Head downstream for natural steaming pools of water and scrape the glutinous mud off the bottom and lather yourself up with these ancient Roman medical properties. The slight grit in the mud provides a great exfoliation back treatment if you have a helpful husband up for the job!
Slightly down the road you will find the Diamond Falls Botanical gardens and more steam baths. These gardens and steam baths date back to King Louis XIV of France who founded them in 1713 and are said to cure chronic rheumatism, respiratory complaints or ulcers. The gardens themselves are lush with flowers that look like they should be eaten and buzzing with hummingbirds.
About 40minutes from Sugar beach back towards the airport, you can find Sandy Beach. Once again, don’t expect to see signs leading you there, if you want to be sure you are in the right place, look for the kaleidoscope of kites in the air. Sandy beach is the kiteboarding beach in St Lucia, head to the Reef Café to sign up for lessons or hire kit and learn to kiteboard in the warm St Lucian waters. Grab lunch at the Reef Café who make the best toasted sandwiches and chocolate shakes and rest under the trees in this rustic little open air café. Many locals come down to the beach to swim and lots of friendly beach dogs will find their way over to you for a sniff. Don’t be surprised to see young local boys bareback riding their horses home after a day of grazing along the road – here you wont find beach chairs and waitered service, but get a true sense of how Lucians spend their off time.