There is something rather exclusive and endearing about the Caribbean archipelago, which I have been fortunate enough to explore in depth throughout my years working in travel. Despite the quintessential trios of sun, sea and sand that can be found on these islands, each boasts its own unique features. Enter: Saint Lucia.
Located in the eastern aspect of this string of tropical pearls and one of the Lesser Antilles, Saint Lucia is a place where bustling markets smell of warm spices and there is no escape from the lulling sound of reggae.
The world-renowned Pitons, a set of emerald green tree-clad peaks that tower majestically over the colourful town of Soufriere, offer superb hikes and challenging climbs, while an array of boats sail beneath them along the rugged coastline. Off the beaten track, but well worth exploring, lie majestic waterfalls and gurgling sulphur springs.
Nestled on a hillside on the other side of Soufriere rests Anse Chastanet, a property that offers stunning views of the sparkling Caribbean Sea from its panoramic rooms. An enchanting place where uninterrupted views of dramatic sunrises are interrupted only by birds that congregate on the balcony, it is the ideal spot for sipping an ice-cold glasses of Bounty rum as the surf surges below. As one of the only island properties to grow and harvest their own cacao, guests are invited on a bean-to-bar chocolate experience that includes a generous serving of samples.
On its dark-sand volcanic beach, where crystal-clear azure waters lap the shore, I stumble upon two of the resorts’ four restaurants (as well as its superb Kai Belte spa and dive shop fit for adrenaline-junkies). These waters form part of a designated marine reserve that protects miles of colourful coral reefs, and they are teeming with a myriad of tropical fish. Given the proximity to the Pitons, this is one of the most superb dive sites in all of Saint Lucia.
Later in the week, a dazzling road journey full of unnerving switchbacks takes me to the other end of the island and Gros Islet – the 50 shades of green that adorn this island really come to the fore while traversing hills, undulating valleys, banana plantations, small Carib towns and villages. The route is flanked by cerulean ocean that glistens under the golden sun and an interior rainforest that rivals the coastline’s drama.
On arrival at the property East Winds, I was struck by the scent of its 12 acres of breath-taking tropical gardens made up of ancient mango trees, rainbow-coloured bougainvilleas, ginger lilies and carmine droplets of russelia. Taking time to explore the grounds with Sylvanus, the head gardener who hosts a garden tour each week, was an unmissable opportunity to delve into the mind of a local expert. With the abundance of flora comes a myriad of birdlife – hummingbirds flash past at every turn, magnificent frigate birds glide on the thermals high above, doves coo in the trees and mockingbirds whistle a merry tune.
From my own chocolate box cottage nestled within the greenery, a pretty private terrace overlooks a huge mango tree and quaint bandstand. Bird feeders encourage fleeting winged visitors who squabble over the sugar-sweet nectar, providing remarkable photo opportunities for birders. What’s more, an inviting turquoise pool offers respite from the Caribbean sun with a swim up, “help yourself” pool bar (complete with handy cocktail-making guide), and green turtles nest on the nearby beach (guests are even invited to assist with the data collection).
Expect an English colonial feel with a modern twist – this isn’t an expansive resort, but rather a place where guests congregate for supper in a small bar, weekly beach barbeques serve up freshly grilled sweetcorn, and rum and champagne cocktails are the tipples of choice. Perhaps dabble in yoga in the morning, meander around the vegetable garden in the afternoon, or sample their exclusive East Winds tea blend. With luck, dog-lovers might even be accompanied by sociable Stanley, the hotel’s four-legged mascot!
Despite boasting year-round temperatures of anywhere from 26 to 32 degrees Celsius, the occasional spurts of tropical rainfall ensure that the island retains its lush green hills and valleys. Reachable by a direct flight from Gatwick, travel to Saint Lucia for a convenient tropical adventure that offers a welcome dose of laid-back island life.