Saint Lucia has been compared to Peter Pan’s Never Land, and it’s no wonder since the island almost seems like a real-life version of the fairy tale, with an abundance of natural beauty: from the bright-blue water to the lush rainforests and twin pitons looming in the distance.
This paradise in the Caribbean, nestled between the islands of St. Vincent and Martinique, is the ultimate playground for adventure-seekers. While it’s entirely possible (and encouraged) to lounge on one of the beaches for hours with a cocktail, there is a whole world to explore, from hiking the pitons—a UNESCO World Heritage site—to ziplining in the rainforest or scuba diving in one of the world’s top dive sites.
adventures at anse chastanet
It’s not hard to lose track of time in Saint Lucia. It is a Caribbean island, and everyone seems to be running on island time. Phones? Forget about it. WiFi? Spotty. Wake-up calls? Anse Chastanet’s guests are awakened with the sun’s natural light, which is invited into the guestrooms (no light-blocking window treatments here). Although, for those who do need help waking up for an early morning hike or bike ride, the resort can arrange for a wake-up knock.
We spent the first portion of our visit on the western coast of the island, at this 49-room resort on the beach in Soufriere, where technology seems a world away. Set on a 600-acre estate framed by two bays, the resort offers prime views of the pitons and the sea below. In fact, the owner and architect Nick Troubetzkoy designed the resort (and Jade Mountain, a resort within a resort at Anse Chastanet) around the island’s natural beauty.
“Jade Mountain has been designed to celebrate not only Saint Lucia’s scenic beauty but life, love and the universe at large. Jade Mountain’s open-walled sanctuaries make you feel like part of the landscape and give our guests time for pause,” says Karolin Troubetzkoy, the executive director of marketing and operations at the resorts, and president of the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association. “Don’t look at your BlackBerry, look at the view and breathe in and out.”
While Jade Mountain features the famed 3-walled rooms on the hillside, with the fourth wall open to frame the pitons with a private infinity pool extending over the edge, Anse Chastanet features 12 rooms on the beach in a tropical garden and 37 hillside accommodations, complete with original artwork on the walls and handmade furniture.
Since Jade Mountain is within Anse Chastanet, guests have access to all of its amenities, but it does not work the other way around for Anse Chastanet’s guests with Jade Mountain’s private amenities, such as its spa, Kai en Ciel; restaurant, Jade Mountain Club featuring James Beard Award-winning chef Allen Susser; and fitness studio.
“Anse Chastanet is in an equally scenic panorama [as Jade Mountain] and some of the rooms here, especially those high on the hillside, enjoy the same views as Jade Mountain,” Karolin Troubetzkoy says. “Here the experience is focused on authenticity—one of the last remaining ‘Classic Caribbean Beach Resort Hideaways.’ An amazing range of soft adventure facilities give our visitors the opportunity to not only be romantic, but also be very active and celebrate nature, whether they will be hiking, biking, birdwatching, scuba diving, snorkeling or paddle boarding.”
Walking down to the beach, guests can take part in complimentary watersports like snorkeling, windsurfing or kayaking, or take a guided hike around the estate learning about the history and botany. Or, guests can take a water taxi or shuttle boat over to the resort’s second beach, Anse Mamin, to go jogging or jungle biking. Mountain bikers of all levels will want to take advantage of Bike St. Lucia, which offers mountain bike rentals with 12 miles of trail, snaking through an old sugarcane plantation dating back to the 18th century. What’s great about the plantation is the wide range of trail options.
While we took some of the easier trails with just a few twists and dips, other trails, like the expert-level Tinker’s Trail, offer more of a challenge with steep inclines and back-to-back steep downhill rides. While on the trails, bikers can take in views of the ruins of the mill, as well as a variety of plants and birds on the trails. The old plantation even features cocoa trees that are used to make the estate’s chocolate (which is sold in the onsite boutique and is a must-try).
Divers, meanwhile, can set off on beach or boat dives with Scuba St. Lucia, located at the end of the resort’s beach. The reef starts 10 yards from the beach and ranks as a top diving spot, with an award-winning marine reserve.
For travelers interested in exploring the area beyond, Anse Chastanet can arrange an excursion with the resort, such as the Gros Piton Climb, which is available daily. Over dinner at Jade Mountain Club with owner Nick and his wife Karolin, Karolin mentioned that she often makes the hike up the Gros Piton, which can be somewhat challenging but offers sweeping views of the sea and neighboring islands. While we saw a variety of different hikers on our trek up the mountain, it was quite a feat—taking about 2.5 hours each way, and divided into four sections, with a landmark (such as a bench or tall mango tree) at each divide. After returning from the hike, we took part in the resort’s complimentary beach yoga before collapsing in one of those all-too-inviting beach chairs to watch the sunset.
June through October rates at Anse Chastanet start at $345 for a standard room and $750 for a premium room. Note that only deluxe beachside rooms are air-conditioned. The resort is not all-inclusive, but it does offer meal plans. Rates at Jade Mountain start at $1,350 from June through October.
Heading to the resort-laden northern part of the island, the views of the pitons disappear and the mood becomes livelier with markets like the one in Castries and festivals like the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival.
The area is also home to the rainforest canopy zipline, the Adrena Line. On the 2-hour tour ($69) with Rainforest Adventures St. Lucia, we went on a short hike through the forest before ziplining between the trees to 18 platforms, with a few fun obstacle course-style activities sprinkled throughout. Think Tarzan-style rope swinging to get to the next platform and rappelling down from a platform to hike to the next spot. The obstacles, or “surprises” as the guides called them, can seem intimidating, but they help break up the ziplining tour. Plus, you get over the slight sense of fear upon first seeing these surprises when you realize they are the only option of getting to the next platform. While it was our first time trying out this adrenaline-rush of a sport, the guides really made it a memorable experience, inspiring an adventurous spirit in even the most nervous participants.
where to stay
The beachside, all-inclusive resort Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort in Castries, the capital city, was modeled after a Mediterranean village with white villas and suites dotting the hillside overlooking Labrelotte Bay. The resort offers plenty of options for travelers, from suites to 4-bedroom villas. Villas, which range from 1- to 4-bedroom, also feature private plunge pools. For clients who want to step it up a notch at Windjammer, recommend the 3- or 4-bedroom Estate Villas, complete with full-size pools and terraces offering panoramic views. The Estate Villas also include the services of a private chef to prepare meals.
In addition, Windjammer Landing has launched a specialist program to help travel professionals learn more about the resort and receive incentives. Once agents complete the course, available on the course-dedicated website (windjammerspecialist.com), they can download a certificate and receive incentives, such as complimentary nights with bookings, VIP status arrival, a spa rejuvenation treatment and a $100 bonus.
All-inclusive rates at Windjammer Landing are $479 per night July 23 to Aug. 31.
Saint Lucia has two major airports—Hewanorra International Airport at Vieux Fort (UVF) and George F. L. Charles Airport (SLU) in Castries. Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, US Airways and WestJet offer direct flights from North American gateways, including Canada and Puerto Rico. Starting this month, United Airlines will offer nonstop flights from Newark.
Anse Chastanet: (800) 223-1108; ansechastanet.com
Jade Mountain: (800) 223-1108; jademountain.com
Rainforest Adventures St. Lucia: rainforestadventure.com/st_lucia_tours_excursions
Saint Lucia Tourist Board: stlucianow.com
Windjammer Landing: (877) 522-0722; windjammer-landing.com