The Romance Island“Romance” is not a narrow word. It’s part hearts and flowers, Valentine’s Day every day. But romance also connotes adventure, the epic quest, the mountain conquered, the tale told. Bear this in mind when you hear St. Lucia called the “romance island of the Caribbean.” It’s a lover and a seducer, sure. But it’s also rugged and game.
Relax at the Anse Chastanet beach
Consider, for example, the twin Piton Mountains. Icons of the island, the Pitons have been the exotic backdrop for thousands of honeymoons, destination weddings, and sunset catamaran cruises captured in snapshots of couples kissing before a volcanic landscape that looks to be straight out of the South Pacific. I was so attracted to the Pitons that several years ago I climbed one, the taller but gentler 2,600-foot-tall Gros Piton. It was a sweat-slimed, two-hour slog up over slick roots in the fetid jungle, culminating in an exhilarating 360-degree view at the summit. Romantic, at that moment, in the second sense of the word.
Hotels here cover the broad romantic range. Most of the 49 rooms at Anse Chastanet, one cove north from the Pitons, are positioned hillside to capture stunning views of the peaks in open-air suites that make breakfast in bed mandatory. But you must earn it: Between your aerie and the beach lie 100 steps. And if that’s not enough to get the heart pumping, explore its 600 lush acres over a 12-mile mountain-bike path through the jungle, jumping downed trees, passing colonial ruins, and cooling off in a river swimming hole.
Don’t miss the Cap Maison hotel
Indoor-outdoor living is elevated, literally, at sister property Jade Mountain, located up-slope from Anse Chastanet. Twenty-three extra-spacious rooms — the resort calls them “sanctuaries” — come with their own infinity pools where the fourth wall should be. Every aspect of the property pivots around the concept of sensuality, from morning yoga stretches and couples massages to a four-week culinary series in 2011 from chef Allen Susser focusing on indigenous ingredients such as mangoes, spices, and chocolate.
The sensualist’s destination, naturally, has a robust appetite for food. Whether you stay at the 32-room Ladera resort or not, its Dasheene restaurant is dinner worth the drive around St. Lucia’s famed hairpin curves. Chef Orlando Satchell brings island flair to contemporary cuisine in dishes like smoked duck over christophene; a Caribbean-grown green, crisp salad with sweet potato strips and a dash of Scotch bonnet hot sauce; and shrimp prepared with local sugarcane. “It’s sexy cuisine,” says Satchell. “We give the food some love.”
Among the trendiest tables, Cliff at Cap at the 49-room Cap Maison hotel that opened in 2009 just announced a new series of guest-chef appearances from January through April. Nature meets novelty in its bar, which sends drinks down to tipplers sitting on a deck built atop a wave-bashed headland not with a waiter but via zip line.
Sample the shrimp with sugarcane at the Dasheene restaurant.
The concierge at The Landings St. Lucia, A RockResort will arrange for you, rather than your rum punch, to zip line (there’s even a mini zip line for the kids) or summit Gros Piton, bike to a waterfall for a swim, or snorkel in a marine preserve. Refuel post-adventure while learning the secrets of island jerk at the 122-room resort’s new cooking class. The four-hour barbecue course — “jerk” refers to the secret spice blend — culminates in dinner.
Expanding on the farm-to-table connection, Hotel Chocolat, the U.K.-based luxury chocolate retailer that produces a single-estate line of chocolate from its 140-acre Rabat Estate near the Pitons, plans to open its first true hotel, with 14 Cocoa Pod Cottages and Villas, in December 2010. The upscale farm-stay will allow guests to tour the working side of the estate, take part in the cocoa harvest, book cocoa-infused massages, and dine on gourmet dishes sprinkled with nutty cocoa nibs.
Enjoy the Rainforest Spa at The Jalousie Plantation
Romance as indulgence brands The Jalousie Plantation, Sugar Beach, which in October 2010 unveiled its new Rainforest Spa with six treatment “rooms” in tree houses open to the tropical canopy at the foot of Petit Piton. Organic treatments feature herbs and fruits grown on the property, and the steam room is partially heated by volcanic stones and spring water. With new villas under construction, the resort is on its way to being branded The Tides, Sugar Beach in late 2011, but it already boasts four new bars and restaurants and more than 100 acres on a rare white-sand beach on the island’s south end. Located between the two Pitons, Jalousie bridges the two faces of St. Lucia: Lie on a chaise and look at the view, or get up and climb it. Whatever your definition of romance, St. Lucia is a keen suitor.
The Landings St. Lucia
Cliff at Cap
St. Lucia Tourist Board