In the winter of 2006, I visited the island of St Lucia in the West Indies. Today, as I watched the colorful sunset from my Brooklyn apartment, an evening on a terrace in St Lucia came to me. I vividly remembered the sea breeze, rainforest sounds, hummingbirds, the scent of tropical flowers… In honor of that moment, here comes a post about St Lucia.
What I saw of the area around the capital of Castries and the island’s northern part left me pretty cold. While there are plenty of resorts and hotels for a variety of budgets, it’s an overdeveloped area without much soul – not my cup of tea. But base yourself on the southwest coast around the tiny colonial town of Soufriere, and you’ll be in St Lucia’s sweetest spot. This is the land of lush rainforests, simmering sulphur springs, pretty fishing villages, gorgeous waterfalls, and stellar beaches. There’s plenty to keep you happily entertained without giving in to the tourist traps of the north.
My home in St Lucia was Le Haut Plantation, a working family-run plantation with two swimming pools, a set of pleasant rooms and, best of all, affordable prices (from $175 a double at the peak of winter season). The rooms have no television or phone – a perfect way to really disconnect! The highlight was the unobstructed view of the Pitons, St Lucia’s landmark twin mountains, from my private veranda. This vista made my jaw drop at every look, no matter how many times I rubbed my eyes to ensure I wasn’t dreaming.
A short drive from Le Haut Plantation (there’s a complimentary shuttle for guests) is the beach at four-star Anse Chastenet Resort, a lovely strip of volcanic sand. After a day of tanning and swimming, you can take a water taxi to Jalousie beach and get a stellar view of the island from the sea. For first-class snorkeling, head to Hummingbird Beach, a twenty-minute drive from Le Haut Plantation.
Don’t skip the many rainforest trails in St Lucia, a definite draw card for outdoorsy types. The island’s mountainous interior is covered by 19,000 acres of rainforest, crisscrossed with 29 miles of scenic trails. The easiest path – it takes about two hours – runs through Barre De L’isle Forest Reserve, a ridge that divides the eastern and western halves of St Lucia. If you’re feeling fit, venture into Edmund Forest Reserve for a four-hour trek through pristine bush.
For culinary pleasures, head to Jade Mountain Club, where the award-winning chef conjures up tasty tropical treats. If you have cash to splash, book a table at Dasheene, the signature restaurant of five-star Ladera. If dinner is a stretch, at least have a cocktail at Ladera’s Tcholit Bar known for its panoramic vistas. Other places to stay and eat on St Lucia’s southwest coast are Mago Estate Hotel at the edge of the rainforest above Soufriere, with a series of open-front rooms providing Piton views, and the more upscale Stonefield Estate Villa Resort on a former lime and cocoa plantation.