February 21, 2016

Soufrière, Saint Lucia

Sometimes the best travel experiences are those that are least expected. I was surprised with the option to visit St. Lucia, a lush tropical gem in the Caribbean. Known as one of the top honeymoon destinations worldwide, although my trip was not for that purpose, I anticipated it would be gorgeous. Even though I traveled during hurricane season, I was pleased with how the weather turned out.

Sometimes the best travel experiences are those that are least expected. I was surprised with the option to visit St. Lucia, a lush tropical gem in the Caribbean. Known as one of the top honeymoon destinations worldwide, although my trip was not for that purpose, I anticipated it would be gorgeous. Even though I traveled during hurricane season, I was pleased with how the weather turned out. Sometimes chances are worth taking, so don’t let hurricane season scare you from traveling then. You might see some clouds in the sky, but consider them a way to cool you down on those sunny, humid days.

Although St. Lucia has several great areas to enjoy, I recommend Soufrière, a region that boasts many attractions and an excellent array of hotels. Soufrière is French for sulphur and is home to Gros Piton and Petit Piton. These giant volcano plugs are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are known as being the only “drive-in” volcanoes in the world.

I spent my first night in Hotel Chocolat, which has stylish, modern décor. Surrounded by the verdant rainforest and St. Lucia’s oldest Cocoa Estate, the hotel houses 14 lodges, all of which overlook Petit Piton. Eight of the lodges are the Luxe Lodges, which are elevated to view both Pitons and the Caribbean Sea.

I couldn’t resist a visit to the Cocoa Juvente Spa, a cocoa-themed spa that provides treatments infused with antioxidants and vital nutrients found on the island. The two treatment rooms, named after the Pitons, offer stunning views while the open slat walls catch the cool and soothing tropical breezes.

I decided to relax with a tranquil massage with a selection of cocoa massage oils (cocoa pure, spice infused nutmeg, and cinnamon, floral infused with floral, and mint infused with peppermint). It was one of the best massages I have had and just what I needed after my flight and before my dinner at Boucan.

Overlooking pool and views

I was blessed with an impeccable sunset after a day of tropical rain. Overlooking Hotel Chocolat’s infinity pool is a direct view of Petit Piton.

Boucan is the hotel’s open air restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Like the rest of the hotel, the restaurant specializes in cocoa. The bar offers unique concoctions to enlighten your senses such as chocolate-spiked cocktails, chocolate daiquiris, and cacao-infused bellinis, of which combine cacao pulp, prosecco, lemon verbena, and soursop juice.

For starters, the bread was made with the island’s local coconut and served with a choice of three cocoa infusions: balsamic, cocoa nibs in butter (heaven), and basil nut pesto.

Relaxing evening ending here, with one of my favorite reads, delicious local chocolate, and a fine glass of champagne.

The next day I moved to another hotel in Soufrière, Sugar Beach Viceroy, which is located on the beach, in between the Pitons. On the island’s west coast is a steep mountainside and small white sandy beach along the Caribbean Sea. The resort is spread across more than 100 hundred acres of tropical rainforest, unsurpassed for its natural beauty, with the only white sand beach in the area. The resort exudes  luxury, and every villa is accompanied with a private plunge pool. Eight private bungalows are located right on the sand.

Viceroy was highly accommodating and welcomed me with a Grand Luxe villa atop the hills, situated perfectly near the clear Caribbean Sea, surrounded by palm trees and Pitons.

 

The modern, elegant villa was spacious and had a living room, a walk-in closet, a large bathroom with a Victorian-style claw foot bath and an enormous shower, a second half-bath with a shower, and a lovely oversized plunge pool on a private patio with dining and lounge chairs. At all times I had direct access to a personal butler.

I was welcomed to experience the Rainforest Spa, which consisted of seven traditionally built treehouse treatment rooms, a wet room with manicure and pedicure facilities, a relaxation pavilion, and an earthen Amerindian steam dome—known as a temascal—which reconnects the spa to the island’s earliest settlers.

I indulged in a Vitamin C Revitalizing Facial in one of the treehouses to help brighten my skin with use of products from Environ and Natura Bisse.

Me without makeup, a rare sight. I was truly glowing and hydrated after the facial.

The view was priceless.

I couldn’t resist going on a sunset dinner cruise and was picked up at the dock of Viceroy Sugar Beach. A live local band on board set the fun mood as we coasted along the beautiful St. Lucia Soufrière for two hours.

The next morning I enjoyed the gorgeous view of the hotel’s Sugar Mill lily pond while dining on a complimentary breakfast at Viceroy’s restaurant. The whispering sounds of the waves crashing on Sugar Beach made for a relaxing meal.

The breakfast was a large buffet of breads, fresh preserves, fresh fruit and juices, cereals, meats, and options from the full menu, which included egg dishes, smoothies, and more. I recommend the cocoa tea! (Also, an establishment always gets extra points when it offers almond milk).

Now that my body was nourished and energized from a healthy breakfast, next stop was to conquer the Gros Piton, which has an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet. I was up for the challenging climb (take note: water is upmost importance on this hike and they will mention it many times). The hike is split into four sections, a helpful indication of how much more hiking is ahead. Each quarter has a resting point.

– an example of some of steep climbing.The hike is best suited for fit, healthy, and determined individuals. Sometimes manmade steps are there, sometimes only rocks.

I reached the summit of Gros Piton in 1 hour and 45 minutes and was worth the big reward of a breathtaking view I believe only the naked eye can truly grasp. Every drip of sweat and every step climbed was worth it. What an accomplishment.

Sitting on the edge of the Peak of the Summit.

After the strenuous and challenging hike that took nearly four hours to complete, my first thought was to return to the villa and relax near my private pool overlooking the palm trees and the glistening ocean. It was pure bliss.

I couldn’t miss one of the most stunning views in St Lucia at sunset, so I went to Ladera Resort, the only resort in St. Lucia located on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the Soufrière Volcano. The bar at Dasheene Restaurant is situated perfectly to allow guests to enjoy a cocktail before dinner. This deserved much time to soak up the beauty.

Afterwards we dined at Dasheene, well-known for providing the finest of Caribbean gourmet cuisine. The award-winning restaurant consistently provides a fine dining experience that surpasses all others. The food was fresh and innovative, combining the flavors of the Caribbean. The menu consisted of fresh seafood, local organic fruits and vegetables, and premium meats from around the world. The restaurant is also known to have one of the best wine cellars on the island.

This doesn’t get old…

The next day was for adventures. First on the list was a morning at St. Lucia’s Sulphur Springs. It is recommended to do this early in the morning since the humidity and heat at midday can be too much in addition with the heat from the springs.

Soufrière Volcano is considered the only “drive-in” volcano in the world. Even though the volcano is dormant, the crater emits steam and sulphur with boiling mud, water bubbling just meters away from where tourists go to enjoy the experience. I soaked for several minutes in the hot springs, then my guide gathered mud to put all over my body. Now I reap the benefits of the mud’s minerals. Finally, I removed the mud by rinsing off in one of the showers. My skin felt like silk when I was done.

The next adventure was zip lining, which was also in Soufrière. I was set up with a harness and then taken to the first platform to go over the guidelines. The first platform is the longest of the eight zips, which extend between giant banyan trees. At each platform a guide informs you of the ecosystem and the history of the surroundings. I found it all interesting, but the highlights were the spectacular views. My favorite was on the last zip, which allowed me to glimpse both Pitons. The course takes approximately one hour to complete.

Here we go...

Loving it!!!

Eight zip cables move flyers effortlessly through the estate and offer the chance to take air-borne photos of the Pitons and the town, before being carried into a canopy of banyan, coconut, plum, and mango trees and across a bamboo-shadowed gorge. The sights, smells, and sounds of the thriving ecosystem can be experienced in a pond below the zip line.

For the third adventure of the day I went snorkeling in the waters just off the hotel’s Sugar Beach. The hotel provides gear at no extra cost to guests and is conveniently located so you can walk straight into  the sea. A few meters from shore it drops off into a deep crater created by Petit Piton. You will then be able to free dive to see coral, eels, and a great variety of tropical fish.

The last evening on the island was reserved for a visit to Jade Mountain at sunset for cocktails and dinner. Jade Mountain is most easily accessed by boat. We arranged pick up to be at Viceroy’s dock. It took only 15 minutes to arrive to the sister hotel of Jade Mountain, Anse Chastanet Resort, which sits below Jade Mountain. A van then transported us up the road to Jade Mountain.

Unknowingly, we visited the hotel on the most idyllic evening. Monday nights on the Celestial Terrace above the restaurant offer happy hour at 5pm. All guests were welcome to enjoy complimentary wine, champagne, and delightful appetizers. The stunning views were truly breathtaking, and Jade Mountain was a captivating wonderland of architectural surprises and mesmerizing details.

And then the incredible sunsets of St Lucia…one of the best places to view them.

After indulging in happy hour drinks and watching the gorgeous sunset, we dined at Jade Mountain Club. Chef Allen Susser, winner of the James Beard Award, likens the food at Jade Mountain to “a tropical vacation on a plate.” The menu features dishes such as cinnamon-roasted mahi-mahi with blue crab couscous. After a delightful dinner, I treated myself to delicious dessert.

Bittersweet chocolate tart with chocolate ganache, coconut marshmallow with Nutella ice cream; the options were heavenly, all of which were served with delectable house cookies and a rich bar of local organic chocolate.

The last morning on the island was amazing. The rainfall had blessed the sky, and my eyes, with a double rainbow.

Thank you Viceroy Sugar Beach for this incredible stay and welcome. I will surely be back.