Last year my wife and I walked out of the Blackwall tunnel in east London – surely one of the least salubrious tunnels on the planet – and were greeted by a gigantic poster urging us to visit Saint Lucia .
Beneath a stunning photo of the Pitons – two extraordinary Unesco-listed volcanic peaks that erupted from the Caribbean Sea in a volcanic eruption millions of years ago – the caption read: “She’s waiting for you”.
We had actually booked a trip to St. Lucia over two years ago but were unable to travel due to the pandemic so were pleased to learn that she was still waiting for us. And she was certainly worth the wait.
Saint Lucia is the rock star of the Caribbean, dripping with charisma, character and charm. Rich in history, the island offers much more than the stereotypical Caribbean attractions of sun, sea and sand.
After a shutdown that devastated tourism – by far the island’s most important industry – St Lucia is well above Covid. After showing our vaccination certificate and health check form on arrival, we were presented with a white wristband to wear for the duration of our stay. It featured the inscription: “Saint Lucia: Let her inspire you”.
Surrounded by nature
When we left the airport, what immediately grabbed us was the vividness of the colors. Wherever we went on the island, we were constantly assaulted by a dazzling array of vivid hues, from the eye-catching purple bougainvillea tumbling down the walls to the fiery red of the Flames of the Forest trees by the roadside.
Equally mesmerizing are the colors of the rainforest, which covers 8,000 hectares of Saint Lucia. Who knew there were so many different shades of green? The jungle has an elemental, jurassic park vibe. When a giant fern rustled past us, it wasn’t hard to imagine a T. rex about to burst from the foliage.
The tropical forest is also surprisingly fertile. Locals say that even if you had no money, you would never go hungry in Saint Lucia because you could feast on the fruits of the rainforest. There are, for example, more than 50 species of mangoes on the island.
Where to stay
We stayed at two hotels in St. Lucia. Jade Mountain on the southeast coast is an absolute sight. Hand-built into the face of a towering mountain and shaped like an ocean liner, it looks like something of a James Bond movie. It is a statement building simply oozing drama, a true visionary work of art.
But, if you can believe it, the exterior of the 29-room hotel isn’t even Jade Mountain’s most memorable feature. We were greeted at reception by our personal butler – hello to the wonderful Davidson! – who led us to our room across our own individual bridge.
He paused outside the door – drum roll, please – before flying it open to reveal a hotel room that was unlike anything I had seen in 30 years of history. travel writing. There was no fourth wall, leaving the room entirely open to the elements and giving us stunning panoramic views of the aforementioned Pitons. This is not the Blackwall tunnel.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, the room also featured its own five-foot-deep infinity pool, where we could swim (short) lengths.
The design of Jade Mountain, part of a 240 hectare estate, is a complete triumph. The “wow factor” is an overused phrase in travel writing, but I challenge anyone not to use it when they see this piece. If that doesn’t knock you down, nothing will.
And if you’re wondering how we managed to avoid being eaten alive by mosquitoes, that’s the smart part. Jade Mountain’s rooms only use yellow lights, which don’t attract night-hellish biters. So the only thing likely to keep you awake at night is the gentle lapping of your pool.
We were also guests at East Winds, a very pleasant hotel of yesteryear north of the capital Castries. Comprised of 30 charming mint green colored cottages scattered around a beautiful garden, it was a very tranquil place to stay, a world away from the ’24 hour party girl’ atmosphere of the larger resorts.
Outside each cottage was a feeder filled with honey that attracted delicious purple- and green-throated hummingbirds. And when our legs got tired from wandering the pretty gardens, we made use of the inviting hammocks strategically dotted around the property.
What to do
Rainforest Sky Rides is an unforgettable 800 meter cable car journey through the jungle canopy. Traveling 140 meters above the ground and escorted by a very knowledgeable guide, we ascended to 1,400 meters where we were treated to a spectacular view of the west coast of the island.
Along the way we saw everything from massive 150 year old coconut trees to the type of vines Tarzan used to swing in the jungle. They’re called, uh, Tarzan vines.
And Saint Lucia is teeming with as much culture as it is wildlife. It has everything from 45-hectare Sulfur Springs Park (the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano) to Fort Rodney, a spectacular crumbling British fortification atop a hill in Pigeon Island National Park.
Built in 1780, Fort Rodney has witnessed the island’s checkered imperial history. In 150 years, Saint Lucia has been colonized 14 times – seven times by the French and seven by the British, who held sway when the music stopped.
If you are looking for a dream vacation to give you a welcome boost after the misfortune and gloom of the pandemic, then Saint Lucia is the place for you.
Yes, the island has more golden sand than you can shake a Tarzan vine. But there are so many things to do beyond the beach.
Rates per night at jade mountain from £875 in a Sky Sanctuary based on double occupancy. Rates per night at East Winds from £239 per room per night all inclusive. Further information can be found at stlucia.org.