Recommend’s December issue declared that “dark chocolate is the new black,” thanks to the trend of Caribbean hotels to offer more sophisticated chocolate desserts, chocolate-infused spa treatments, cacao plantation tours, and festivals. Leading the charge has been Saint Lucia, known for its scenic Pitons, beaches, and brides. But this island has other bragging rights, too: It’s been growing exceptional cacao for more than 300 years.
“We have always used chocolate in our diet…hot chocolate and hot bakes are staples,” says Lorine Charles-St. Jules, regional marketing manager for the Saint Lucia Tourist Board. “Travel agents have a lucrative opportunity to promote Saint Lucia chocolate for several reasons: It’s an excellent tie-in to the romance market, with its chocolate crawls, chocolate experiences, and meals enhanced with chocolate. Dark chocolate resonates with wellness tourism, too, and it’s an organic experience: farm-to-table, bean-to-bar.”
One of those organic experiences is touring a cacao plantation such as Morne Coubaril Estate, La Dauphine Estate, Fond Doux Plantation & Resort, or Rabot Estate. Island Routes offers a Chocolate Decadence Tour to Rabot Estate that includes making chocolate, a chocolate-themed lunch, and a dip in nearby Sulphur Springs’ mud bath (wrong taste, right color).
Guests at Fond Doux Plantation & Resort can savor Fond Doux Tian of chocolate cake, ice cream and organic chocolate sauce. Even more unique is the hotel’s location on a cacao plantation, so guests can take guided tours to see the pods on trees (raw cacao is pure white and tastes more like lemons than chocolate) and visit a facility where beans are dried and rolled into cocoa sticks.
Accommodations at this hillside eco-hotel are in gingerbread cottages with rooms featuring four-posters, rattan furniture, and doors that open onto decks with verdant views. There are two restaurants, an organic spa, swimming pools, flowers and hummingbirds. Rates from $175 per night.
The Boucan Hotel & Restaurant aka Hotel Chocolat sits within Rabot Estates, which markets artisanal chocolate in the U.K. The Boucan Restaurant menu uses cacao in savory dishes: cacao tortellini, cacao gazpacho, and confit of duck with a dark chocolate-orange sauce. The hotel’s Cocoa Juvenate Spa offers cacao massages, cacao facials, cacao body wraps…
Hotel Chocolat’s Tree-to-Bar experience features a tour of the plantation, guidance on picking ripe pods, and making a chocolate bar. The experience also includes tastings, of course. Accommodations are in “lodges” that have a contemporary vibe—furniture with clean lines, lots of white—and an open-sky shower, plus patios with views of Petit Piton. Hotel Chocolat’s Total Immersion Cacao package includes all of the activities above and more (from $3,847 plus 10 percent gratuities per couple for five nights). Note: Because of the steep terrain, children under age 12 are not allowed.
Jade Mountain schedules daily chocolate-related activities. For instance, the Emerald Estate Cocoa Tree to Chocolate Bar Tour includes visiting the estate and the Chocolate Lab, where beans are roasted, grounded, and conched. The Chocolate Sensory Tasting helps guests distinguish among chocolates, while Discover Chocolate covers techniques of making chocolate, creating fudge, and making a personalized chocolate bar. Jade offers chocolate-and-wine pairings, too.
Rates start at $1,080 EP, which is pricey, but its three-walled, mountaintop Sanctuaries (aka suites) are designer showcases that seem as large as a ballfield, and their open walls face the Pitons. The resort’s (celebrity) chef is Allen Susser, and at the bottom of the hill, Anse Chastanet Beach combines a peaceful aura with a beach bar and watersports.
Finally, Saint Lucia’s Chocolate Heritage Month (August) is unique because it encompasses a full month of activities involving a dozen or so top resorts. By the time you read this, details will be up on the Saint Lucia Tourist Board’s website. Meanwhile, some resorts have already posted their packages. For example, Windjammer Landing will offer a 4-night, all-inclusive package from $1,999.
Boucan Hotel & Restaurant /Hotel Chocolat: hotelchocolat.com/uk/boucan
Fond Doux Plantation & Resort: fonddouxestate.com
Island Routes St. Lucia:
Jade Mountain: jademountain.com
Saint Lucia Tourist Board: stlucianow.com
Windjammer Landing: windjammer-landing.com