St. Lucia: The Caribbean’s Crown Jewel
Stepping off a direct flight from Chicago to St. Lucia the week before Christmas, I couldn’t wait to shed my sweatshirt. But first, I was greeted with ice-cold sorrel juice upon entering the airport. The friendly St. Lucia tourism board was welcoming tourists with a deep-red local Christmas beverage, both appropriately festive and the perfect thirst-quencher.
St. Lucians are friendly and proud of their home. On the drive across the island’s scenic rainforests to Gros Islet, my driver happily chatted with me about the island’s history, his aquamarine house, and his family’s holiday plans. Snorkeling and ziplining are great ways to take in the sites from land and ocean, and don’t miss the therapeutic mud baths at Sulphur Springs.
You won’t find any resorts on the rough Atlantic east coast. Instead, all the hotels are situated along the western coast. Here, the warm, turquoise Caribbean Sea is calm enough to entice locals and visitors alike to dive in. Tourism is the primary industry here, with agriculture second. Bananas are the biggest export, and tropical fruits galore grow on the island. Castries Market is a great place to shop for local produce, spices, and crafts. Visit on a Saturday when the market is busiest—during the week there is not nearly as much going on.
Here are our picks for some of the best resorts and spa experiences in St. Lucia.
Milky coconut rum punch over ice is a sweet and refreshing greeting upon arriving at this most magnificent of resorts nestled between the Piton Mountains on a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow visited shortly after the hotel, formerly Jalousie Plantation, rebranded as Sugar Beach in 2012. You’ll feel like a celebrity too when you arrive to hibiscus blooms scattered throughout the room and a plantain chip, coconut water, and rum snack. Each of the 86 guestrooms has its own pool and butler service, but book a beachfront bungalow for an extra luxurious experience. There’s a patio with your own hammock and unmatched beach access, along with a private courtyard, Jacuzzi, and outdoor shower. I wish I could live in my own St. Lucian version of Eloise at the Plaza, starring as Amber at Sugar Beach.
The long and winding covered wooden walkway leading to the Rainforest Spa is built atop the original aqueduct for the sugar mill that once stood here. In terms of design, this is one of the most unique spas I’ve ever visited, with each of nine treatment cabanas perched in various trees, and all well-equipped with ceiling fans and air conditioning. You’ll feel like Indiana Jones, but your treasure is the perfect peaceful massage or body wrap.
French chefs here ensure that the dining is top notch. An excellent selection of French wines complements fresh Caribbean crudo and coconut shrimp, along with creative vegetarian options like the organic tomato trio in the Great Room, featuring gazpacho, sorbet, and tomato jelly with mozzarella balsamic crisp. A mignardise platter with classical French macarons, madeleines, and financiers cap off the spectacular meal.
The lush tropical landscaping at this cliffside boutique property brings the rainforest to your doorstep. Cap Maison opened in 2008 with 50 rooms and suites perched above a small, sandy beach. Separate villas, many including private pools and rooftop terraces, create a serene atmosphere that doesn’t feel crowded, even at maximum occupancy. The resort was previously a sugar plantation and shot to fame after hosting The Bachelor in 2010.
Last year, the resort started aging its own rum in the wine cellar. When you step in for a barrel tasting, a distinctive smell hits you—a mingling of sweet caramel rum notes and red wine’s dark berry fruits. The rum is aged in port and bourbon barrels, before being finished in three small Kentucky white oak barrels. It’s bottled to order, making it the perfect personalized souvenir to bring home. Robinson, or Robbie for short, is both the rummelier and the sommelier upstairs at The Cliff at Cap Restaurant. Tuesday offers a taste of local Creole food while Saturday evening is tapas night, with a trio of creative appetizers, main courses, and desserts served in succession. Honeymooners can reserve a romantic meal on the private deck where champagne is ziplined down to your table in an ice bucket.
The convivial atmosphere here is contagious. Strangers become fast friends after a water aerobics class or playing beach volleyball on the sand at sunset and will dance together late into the evening to live local music at the clubhouse. This all-inclusive resort is a great choice for a health and wellness vacation that can be as relaxed or active as you wish. Every guest receives a spa treatment a day, and the large spa facility offers an array of great massages, Ayurvedic treatments, and facials. However, with the volume of guests coming through each day, it can feel a little impersonal. I could clearly hear a fitness class going on in the studio during my Elemis facial. For guests wishing for a more intensive regimen, the new BodyScience clinic, launched in March 2015, harmonizes Western science, including DNA and blood testing, with Eastern Ayurvedic philosophies to create customized fitness and nutrition programs.
There are more than a dozen group classes each day, ranging from morning beach bootcamp to Iyengar yoga and meditation. Reading the chalkboard of options for the day made me feel like I was at adult summer camp. Working out on your own is always an option, too. Walk or jog along the fitness trail while challenging yourself with obstacles along the way—scurry up the cargo net and channel your favorite Olympic gymnast to stick your landing while dismounting from the rings or parallel bars. Juices, smoothies, and colorful salads all made with local, organic produce at the beachfront deli make healthy eating both convenient and delicious. That being said, the decadent chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings at Cariblue Windows is a well-deserved treat after a hard workout. The sommeliers here will even test your wine acumen with a blind tasting in the wine cellar.
Is a wellness vacation to St. Lucia on your horizon? Discover even more magnificent St. Lucian resorts and spas at spafinder.com.