St Lucia – what an extraordinary, beautiful island, and the most incredible holiday. There’s so much to tell you…
After a comfortable flight – well worth the extra for the upgrade to ‘Premium Economy’ – our private taxi driver was our first experience of the friendly, helpful nature of the people on the island. Our first stop was in the capital, Castries. This is where the cruise ships call in, and if cruises started from St Lucia then the hotel I stayed in would be an ideal stop-over. A great location from which to explore the city – and offering amazing views across the city to the sea beyond – the Bel Jou hotel has a stunning hilltop location. A 3-star hotel (though it felt more like a 5-star) offers an all-inclusive, adults-only experience with amazing food cooked by excellent local chefs. On arrival we waited in a lovely, air-conditioned lounge, enjoying the complimentary rum punch whilst completing the formalities. We had a garden room - large and airy – and enjoyed the tranquility, as well as the two swimming pools and the terrace/rooftop restaurant with panoramic views.
If you want to visit the city, the hotel provides a shuttle service up and down the hill. Market days are bustling – make sure the vendors know you are not from the cruise ship and pay in the local East Caribbean currency if you can.
On our first full day on the island I had arranged for a treat – a taxi drive to the southwestern side of St Lucia for lunch at the Rabot Hotel Restaurant on the Hotel Chocolat Estate, Soufriere. Our very courteous and careful driver took us on the winding, hilly roads through extraordinarily lush, green scenery, stopping at viewpoints to enjoy views of the towns and fishing villages nestling at the bottom of the hills, with the blue expanse of the Caribbean Sea beyond. Close to the Hotel Chocolat Estate are the Diamond Botanical Gardens, home of the Diamond Waterfall and famous hot mineral bath springs. Here, many activities can be enjoyed including, I recall from my parents’ visit there a few years ago, Zip-Wiring through the rain forest!
The setting of the restaurant at Rabot Hotel is truly magical. It was, honestly, quite surreal. Sitting in an elevated open-sided covered terrace, with the rain forest and cocoa plantation stretching ahead of you, the eye then meets the stunning sight of the twin peaks of the Pitons mountains. These are two mountainous, dormant volcanic ‘plugs’ rising majestically from the sea. Named ‘Petit Piton’ (743m high) and ‘Gros Piton’ (nearly 800m), the mountains and the surrounding area forms a UNESCO site. Later in the week we had the pleasure of viewing the Pitons from the sea and were told that there was at least as much of them beneath the water as above!
The food at Rabot was also stunning – with a chocolate theme, of course. Irresistible! And, beneath the restaurant was the hotel’s infinity pool which added another magical element to this already extraordinary viewpoint.
Then on to Body Holiday for the main part of our stay. I’d always thought I wouldn’t enjoy a beach-based holiday but how very wrong I was. This was something entirely different to that which I had imagined. From the moment we arrived to the minute we were waved goodbye by the highly attentive staff, the Body Holiday experience drew us in. Having expected a garden room without a view, we were delighted to be upgraded to an ocean view room – ‘delighted’ is an understatement when we were taken to the fourth floor and presented with what was described as ‘the room with the best view in the hotel.’ We actually spent the first few hours pinching ourselves!
Body Holiday, founded in 1988, was a pioneering concept providing a world-class spa, luxury rooms (for most of the year it is also adults-only) and fine dining. It aims to provide a holiday focusing on the visitor’s well-being in every way. High on the hill is the impressive spa complex, next to two detached villas available for guests. A spa treatment each day is included in the all-inclusive rate, but the range of other activities is almost endless. This ranged from hiking and cycling trips off-site to beach volleyball, aqua fit in one of the excellent outdoor pools, tennis and golf, and numerous fitness classes, to mention but a few. Available too were more mindful activities such as yoga and meditation, and short informal talks from experts on various health-related topics. There was also, of course, the beach and sea activities – water-ski-ing, tubing (great fun!), sailing, kayaking, snorkelling and scuba to name but a few. Most of these activities were included, and for additional fees further adventures could be had such as training for the PADI scuba diving certificate. We paid for a boat trip to search for whales and dolphins – sadly, they chose not to reveal themselves, but the trip itself was a great experience as we saw the amazing coastline, right down to the Pitons mountains, and several interesting bays and harbours. Accompanied by shoals of flying fish leaping alongside the boat, we couldn’t really feel disappointed!
And yet, for some the beauty of the place, the calm, the mind-freeing expanse of sea and the private beach, was all they needed. And this was absolutely fine, too. We fell between the two extremes and enjoyed several activities but mainly felt completely relaxed and loved wandering between the sea, pool and our favourite café, then back to our air-conditioned room to enjoy the fine views.