The beautiful volcanic island of St Lucia has to be one of the most romantic places in the Caribbean. You can stay in luxury accommodation, hike up a Piton or dive in the warm sea
St Lucia has it all... romance, adventure and the sort of sunsets you dream of. Framed by the majestic Pitons, two volcanic spires rising side by side in the sea, it’s no surprise that some of the most spectacular views and beautiful places to stay on the island can be found on the south west coast. This area also has a protected marine park and is one of the best snorkelling and diving sites in the Caribbean. Add to this the great hospitality and the friendliness of the local people and you have one of the most perfect holiday destinations imaginable.
Where to stay
For a totally unique experience and the ultimate getaway the Ladera Resort is an absolute must. I was fortunate enough to spend a night there on the eve of my birthday and it truly is heaven on earth. Everything about it is just perfect, from the thoughtfully designed and unique villas to the wonderful food at the award winning Dasheene restaurant. Ladera is perched 1,000 feet above the sea and there are only a handful of villas and suites; each one with its own private pool and panoramic view of the sea, Pitons and rainforest. As it is partly open air you can literally fall asleep under the stars to the sounds of the tree frogs and crickets. Worried about getting to sleep? Don't be, as included in your welcome basket are eye masks and ear plugs as well as binoculars and a star chart, so you can name the constellations as well as gaze at them. Also worth mentioning is the shuttle that runs regularly to either the stunning Jalousie or Anse Chastanet beaches which are moments away, and as a guest at Ladera, you are entitled to use the loungers and facilities at both hotels as well as snorkelling equipment. If you don't fancy the beach, there is also a fantastic on site spa with sulphur spring baths and a wide range of treatments or you can laze by the swimming pool and lose yourself in the majesty of the Pitons and sea views.
Alternatively Stonefield Estate Villa Resort is situated just around the corner within 26 acres of a former lime and cocoa plantation at the base of the Petit Piton. The villas have secluded plunge pools, private gardens and hammocks and provide you with the flexibility to self cater or eat at the acclaimed Mango Tree Restaurant on site. The restaurant caters to all tastes and there is a good vegetarian selection as well as traditional St Lucian dishes including beef, chicken and vegetable rotis and a wide range of fish dishes. Not only is it one of the best places on the island to watch the sun set into the sea, it is also really popular with the locals and other guests from neighbouring hotels so make sure you book a table. Stonefield Villas provide a shuttle bus service too that takes you to the beautiful Jalousie Beach and the palm tree lined Malgretoute Bay. A little further up the coast the Ti Kaye Village offers a similar experience or you could rent a cottage (http://uk.luxuryretreats.com) and hire a car to discover even more of the island.
What to do
Places to visit include the Sulphur Springs, said to be the world's only drive-in volcano, and the beautiful Diamond Botanical Gardens (http://www.diamondstlucia.com) with its mineral rich baths and waterfall. Soufriere, the quaint capital city during French colonial times, is close by. Walking away from the Pitons, make your way to the end of the beach and be sure to go for a snorkel or a dive in the sea and look out for the volcanic vents gently forcing bubbles up to the surface - just breathtaking. Afterwards check out the nearby Hummingbird Beach Resort (http://www.istlucia.co.uk) a great spot for a meal; the restaurant specializes in French creole cuisine and the live entertainment in the evening from the local performers is second to none. Head a little further north and you’ll find the pretty small coastal village, Anse-la-Raye, definitely worth a visit on ‘Fish Friday’ where the local fisherman showcase their culinary skills using the catch of the day to the sounds of live music in the village square.
For the adventurous and energetic there is also plenty to do. There are 19,000 acres of rainforest in St Lucia and 29 miles of trails that run through it - ideal for hiking, biking or riding. You can even hike up a Piton or two, but watch out, the Petit Piton (743m) is much steeper than the Gros Piton (770m)! More leisurely activities include whale and turtle watching and sailing trips including sunset cruises.
The underwater world is just as colourful and the variety of diving from pretty reefs to wrecks will appeal to both novice and experienced divers. The sea is a warm 26C to 29C, depending on the time of year, and you can expect to see a diversity of marine life including turtles, seahorses and nurse sharks. My favourite dive has to be Superman’s Flight, situated at the base of the Petit Piton where the cliff face was used in the filming of Superman II. This amazing drift dive takes you around the base of the Piton, which is covered by many soft corals that attract an abundance of fish. There are many spectacular dives in this area and the Anse Chastanet Resort specifically caters to those who are looking for a diving holiday with one of St Lucia’s top dive sites, the stunning Anse Chastanet reef just a few steps away from the shore.
If you’re after a deal it is definitely worth considering travelling out of season. High season runs from mid December to May; outside of this period hotel rates can be significantly cheaper. You can get deals of up to 50% off the high season prices. I have travelled to the Caribbean out of season on many occasions and the weather has never disappointed. Ironically, the only bad weather I have experienced was one New Year, proving that paying a premium doesn’t always guarantee the sunshine!
How to get there
There are regular scheduled nonstop flights from the US, Canada and the UK directly to Hewanorra Airport. UK carriers include BA, Virgin and Monarch and depart from London Gatwick.