St Lucia is often purely looked at as being a honeymooners’ paradise, but for adventure-lovers, this tiny Caribbean island, measuring just 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, is brimming with activities to set your pulse racing.
Before the second UK lockdown was announced, I made it out to the country to discover some of its top outdoor offerings – plus, the most jaw-dropping hotel I’ve stayed in to date.
Here’s an insight into some of the things I did during my stay on this little slice of tropical paradise…
Covid restrictions for travel to St Lucia
You currently need a negative PCR test to travel to St Lucia, taken seven days or less before travel. Temperature checks are completed at the airport in a tented area.
When it comes to accommodation, you must book a Covid-certified property and you can stay in a maximum of two locations.
During my stay, I checked into one of the island’s dreamiest properties, Jade Mountain. I’d heard about this place for years but it truly surpassed expectations.
If you’re looking for a-once-in-a-lifetime hotel experience, then add this to your bucket list.
Getting to the hotel is an adventure in itself as you have to climb one of the island’s worst roads, peppered with pot holes and with sheer dropoffs on one side.
Once you get to the property, prepare to be wowed. There are 29 suites in total, with sprawling bedrooms referred to as ‘sanctuaries’. They don’t have exterior walls, so it’s a little like glamping.
The visionary building, designed by Russian-Canadian architect Nick Troubetzkoy, who runs the place with his wife, reminds me of a sophisticated Flintstones abode, with chunky stone walls, oversized doors and organic lines.
It also has somewhat of an intergalactic feel with twinkling nightlights, a network of interlinking bridges and giant jungle plants delicately wrapping their tentacles about the place.
I was lucky enough to get upgraded to Jade Mountain’s ultimate bedroom, the Galaxy sanctuary, complete with a dreamy 900-square-foot infinity pool, four poster bed and a sun terrace, topped off with butler service.
This room is hands down one of the best I’ve stayed in but with a £3,500 ($4,806)-a-night price tag for an all-inclusive stay, it will be a bit of a wait before I return.
For a more affordable place to rest your head, check out Jade Mountain’s sister property, which is located further down the hillside towards the beach. The two resorts sit on the same estate, which covers 300 acres.
There are a total of four dining options between them, with local specials such as saltfish and green fig on offer, along with flavoursome Indian dishes, vegan creations and fine dining tasting menus.
Gros Piton hike
The two Pitons are St Lucia’s defining future, with Gros Piton measuring 798.25m (2,618.9 ft) high, and Petit Piton coming in at 743m (2,438ft) high.
The guided Gros Piton hike is highly recommended with some fabulous views of the coast and interior on your way up and from the summit.
But be warned, the schlep up is rather steep and our local guide Mia told us that only 30 to 40 per cent of people make it to the top.
Set off early for a cooler climb up and be sure to pack plenty of water. I was told Piton Piton is less high, but a more challenging climb with vertical sections.
The Sulphur Springs – the world’s only drive-in volcano
The Sulphur Springs on the southwestern side of the island is a sight to behold, with lunar-like craters, bubbling mud pools and steaming air vents.
It is the world’s only drive-in volcano and you can park up right next to the action.
Head to the steaming baths after your tour and slather yourself in some of the healing mud which is said to make you look ten years younger.
I can’t vouch for that but my skin did feel great after, although I had to throw my sulphur-infused T-shirt away, which still smelled eggy after two washes.
If you’re staying at Jade Mountain or Anse Chastanet, venture off piste and take a bone-rattling ride on the jungle biking track.
Our guide Joevan told us that even pro-mountain bikers have been impressed by the course, which leads you through lush foliage, along waterways, up steep hills and over bridges.
The Cannondale bikes have great suspension and are easy to get to grips with.
I was slightly fearful of whizzing through the jungle on the gravel tracks but I soon got the hang of it and when we got to the end, I was even keen to keep going.
After jungle biking, have a wander through the ruins of a former sugar plantation.
What to pack for a St Lucia adventure
When I visited St Lucia in October the weather was around 28 degrees Celsius during the daytime. There were a couple of tropical rain showers but for the most-part it was dry. Here are some things I packed which came in handy…
- Boardies Swimwear, from £52 – Tropical print bikinis and board shorts made from recycled materials and a flattering fit
- Columbia Facet 30 OutDry Shoe £125 – Great lightweight hiking shoes, waterproof for wet terrain and with bungy tie instead of fiddly laces
- Smartwool Merino Sport Tank £22.50 – Sweat-wicking and fun prints
- The North Face Reduce Shorts £45 – Comfy fit and light fabric
- Anker PowerPort and Wall Charger £25.99 – Charges devices quickly while plugged in and can be used as a battery pack to keep your electronis charged at the beach
- Oakley Low Key Sunglasses £100 – Glare-free lenses and lightweight
- Lucy Bee Natural Deoderant £12.50 – A vegan-friendly and palm oil-free alternative, easy to apply and non-sticky
- Marshall Major IV Wireless Headphones £129.99 – Perfect for hitting the beach and using on long flights as they will not fall off while snoozing
Dive in stunning waters
Below the water, there is a mesmerising world to explore in St Lucia.
These were some of the most spectacular waters I’d seen in a while, with architectural corals, a spread of different fish species and crystal clear clarity.
Scuba St Lucia has a dive shop on the Anse Chastenet estate and the introduction to scuba course is great for beginners.
You get a theory session and some practical instruction before a 30-minute dive. The reef is just off the shore and it is an incredible spot for divers and snorkelers alike. It is roped off for safety so no boats can access the area.
We saw some rather scary-looking Spanish mackerel during our dive, along with slender-shaped trumpet fish and schools of colouful parrot fish.
If you prefer staying above the water, on the same beach your can rent a kayak or paddleboard for free if you’re staying at Jade Mountain or Anse Chastanet.
Another way to explore the coastline is by boat, and the Suzie Q yacht is available for half and all-day sails, with rum punch and nibbles included.
Rainforest zip lining
St Lucia is blessed with a blanket of dense tropical rainforest, with the centre of the island home to giant ferns, towering teak trees and colourful parrots
To explore its lush interior, put your fear of height to one side and book a zip lining experience.
I ventured to Rainforest Adventures St. Lucia which is located in the highland community of Chassin, in Babonneau.
With a small group we did a total of eight zip lines of varying lengths and heights.
Remember to use insect spray before your jungle visit as the mosquitoes came out in force on the day I visited.
For a more sedate journey through the canopy, book an aerial tram ride which takes passengers to the heights of the forest reserve.
Rope swinging and rum tasting
Needless to say here, it’s best not to combine these two. Definitely head for a rope swing before the rum punch.
For a change of scenery, Marigot Bay Resort, Spa and Marina is located on St Lucia’s western coast, around a 20 minute drive from the capital Castries and around an hour from the international airport.
This is a great hangout for keen sailors as a calm tucked-away marina is attached to the resort. This is considered a safe haven in the Caribbean and many boats zip into this marina if a storm is approaching.
Guests at Marigot Bay have access to a private beach area which can be reached via a little shuttle boat.
While enjoying the sandy spot, channel your inner-Tarzan have a swing on the rope swing. In the afternoon head to the little Rum Cave at Marigot Bay Resort to get a taste of one of St Lucia’s popular exports after bananas, rum.
During this experience you will get to try different rums from the Chairman’s Reserve distillery, paired with cheese and chocolate. A good dose of history is also thrown into the mix.
How to plan your own St Lucia adventure
When lockdown measures allow, here’s how to plan your own St Lucia adventure:
- BA and Tui are the only carriers offering flights from Europe to St Lucia
- easyJet runs regular flights from European destinations to London
- For overnight airport stays check into Premier Inn Gatwick or Heathrow with restaurants on offer and easy airport access. Between December 3 and 31, 700,000 rooms will be available from £35 in selected locations
- In St Lucia stay at Jade Mountain for pure luxury or its sister property Anse Chastanet has 49 individually styled rooms
- Marigot Bay Resort and Spa is a great spot for keen sailors and group bookings with 124 apartment-style suites on offer. For Christmas and New Year deals click here
- To see all of the experiences on offer, visit the main tourism site
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Credit: Original article published here.