With majestic views of the twin Piton Mountains, sensational snorkeling and diving, and luxe accommodations, St. Lucia caters to travelers seeking adventure or relaxation.
by Alicia Valenski
Bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in the West Indies, St. Lucia is a glittering gem of a destination tucked between Barbados, St. Vincent and Martinique.
What the island may lack in size and population — its 180,000 residents inhabit roughly 240 square miles — St. Lucia makes up for in a vibrant local community, spectacular landscapes and abundant opportunities for both adventure-seekers and visitors looking to relax and unwind.
Just 17 miles from Hewanorra International Airport and 600 feet above the Caribbean shoreline on Morne Chastanet, Jade Mountain is an exclusive resort within a resort at Anse Chastanet.
Anse Chastanet was architect and owner Nick Troubetzkoy’s first project on the island. Dozens of octagonal, whitewashed cottages tucked behind coconut palms offer panoramic views of either the ocean or jungle — or both. The resort encompasses two soft sand beaches, a marine reserve with miles of protected coral reefs and more than 600 acres of lush tropical flora.
Troubetzkoy, a native of British Columbia, brought a new level of sophistication to visitors when he later designed Jade Mountain.
Each of Jade Mountain’s “sanctuaries” — the resort’s preferred term for its lodgings — is individually designed and unique in layout, shape and furnishings. Personal infinity pools range from 450 to 900 square feet, and the fourth wall is missing entirely, offering stunning views of the majestic Pitons and Caribbean Sea. The only similarities across all sanctuaries are the king-sized beds, 15-foot ceilings and oversized whirlpool tubs.
Each infinity pool is designed with a unique reflective glass-tile color scheme, ranging from deep plum to bright emerald to ruby red. The recycled glass tiles, designed in collaboration with David Knox of Lightstreams Glass Tile of Monteca, Calif., were individually handcrafted to create an iridescent visual display in the sunlight.
You won’t find televisions, radios or telephones in the sanctuaries, and guests are asked to keep their cell phones on silent throughout the property. The goal is to keep the outside world from intruding so that guests can truly disconnect and relax during their stay.
One exception is a “firefly” remote communication device that guests receive upon arrival, which allows them to instantly summon their major-domo 24 hours a day. Trained by the British Butlers Guild, the major-domos are available to provide any service guests might need during their stay at Jade Mountain: breakfast in bed — or your infinity pool — or fetching forgotten items.
While Jade Mountain offers a bit more privacy and exclusivity than the larger resort, its guests also enjoy access to Anse Chastanet’s beaches, restaurants, bars, boutiques, art gallery and watersports facilities.
EAT & DRINK
If you decide to venture outside the resort, the Soufriere area offers plenty of local libations and cuisine.
For a no-frills, home-cooked lunch, make your way to Martha’s Tables, open Monday through Friday at the base of Petit Piton. When you enter this cheerful yellow restaurant owned and operated by a local family, you can expect to find authentic St. Lucian fare, large portions and friendly service. Main courses, which include a pan-fried pork chop and fish in Creole sauce, are served with fresh vegetables, rice, beans, macaroni and cheese, and potato salad — yes, five sides per person.
Back at the resort, Apsara at Anse Chastanet serves East Indian-Caribbean fusion cuisine in an oceanfront setting. Start off with a Caribbean cocktail such as the Stairway to Heaven, a blend of rum, coconut cream, orange juice and Seventh Heaven Liqueur made of Ginger and Bois Bandé, which is known as a local aphrodisiac.
The Chatpati Crab Ki Tikki appetizer is made with tangy spiced potatoes and Caribbean crab. For the main course, seafood lovers can try the Machli Chat, mahi mahi in a mango pickle marinade then cooked in a tandoor and served with fennel-seed crushed potatoes. More adventurous eaters might opt for the Caribbean Goat Vindaloo: St. Lucian pickled goat with extra-hot chilis and garlic.
At Jade Mountain Club, consulting chef and James Beard Award winner Allen Susser has developed a tropical-inspired cuisine he describes as “fresh, simple and succinct.”
For something a bit different, the culinary team at Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain offers “Eat Them to Beat Them” gourmet dinners featuring lionfish, a destructive species that has invaded the western Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The lionfish has no natural predators, and its growing population is negatively impacting the native marine life of St. Lucia. In an effort to reduce the population, divers and snorkelers remove the lionfish and deliver them to the chefs at Jade Mountain.
Lionfish meat is white, flaky and firm with a flavor similar to grouper or mahi mahi. At a private candlelit table on the beach, guests can enjoy six courses including lionfish sashimi and citrus ceviche, with wine pairings for each course.
St. Lucia is known as one of the world’s top diving destinations. In the heart of the island’s marine reserves you’ll find Scuba St. Lucia, a PADI Five Star Dive Resort founded in 1981.
Snorkelers can venture out to the Anse Chastanet Reef to look for peacock flounders, octopus, needlefish and turtles in the shallow areas. Divers can drop down deeper, past the dense coral growth, to see puffer fish, moray eels, parrot fish and seahorses.
For a boat dive, Superman’s Flight is a 10-minute boat ride from the dive center across Soufriere Bay at the base of the Petit Piton. The site was featured in the film Superman II. In the film, Superman flies down the face of the mountain toward the water — and divers can follow that same route, continuing beneath the surface of the ocean. The underwater slope is covered with corals, and the strong current offers excellent visibility of a bright array of tropical fish.
For a wreck dive, a 20-minute boat ride north of the dive center brings you to the Wreck of the Lesleen M, a 165-foot freighter sunk in 1986 as part of a project by the Department of Fisheries to provide artificial reefs. More than 30 years later, the wreck is now covered in soft corals and sponges, providing an ideal habitat for a variety of marine life including Nassau grouper and French angelfish.
If you’d prefer to explore the local flora and fauna on land, you can wander through 6 acres of lush tropical plants at the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens, where you’ll find exotic species ranging from hibiscus to ixora to balisier. Then marvel at the colorful Caribbean waters at the site’s Diamond Waterfall. A variety of minerals present in the water give the falls a rainbow-like appearance.
No visit to St. Lucia would be complete without a trip to Sulphur Springs, the world’s only known drive-in volcano. As its name implies, Sulphur Springs is home to hot springs and a waterfall, but the Soufriere site’s best-known attraction is its mud baths. The baths are said to detoxify the body and aid in the healing of sunburn, sore joints and more. Locals will tell you that a dip in the mud baths will leave you looking a decade younger.
And if looking and feeling younger is what you’re after, then a trip to St. Lucia could be just what you need. Soak up some sun on the beach, explore underwater worlds like you’ve never seen before, and enjoy uninterrupted serenity in some of the most luxurious accommodations the Caribbean has to offer. It’s all just a flight away. SP