A Caribbean paradise
Saint Lucia (pronounced LOO-sha) is a Caribbean island gift-wrapped by nature. About one-fifth the size of Rhode Island, this cousin to the West Indies is located degrees only 13 degrees north of the equator and 21 miles south of Martinique, its nearest neighbor. Together with their valley, the twin Pitons not only anchor a World Heritage site, but they also form a dramatic backdrop for Anse Chastanet a world-class resort designed by architect owner Nick Troubetzkoy. “He is so passionate about nature,” says his wife and business partner Karolin, “he created a hotel that incorporates the foliage and flowers, perfumes and peaks, the sea and the bird songs of these 600 lush tropical acres.”
Ironically, Gros Piton is pitted with caves that once harbored runaway slaves who preferred the risk of recapture and punishment to voluntary bondage during the 1700s. After bitter struggles against the British, residents of Gros Piton agreed to work on a nearby plantation for six years without pay to obtain a parcel of land for their own – which today is known as Fond Gens Libres, “Valley of the Free People.”
Why go now: Through April, Saint Lucia welcomes hordes of mainlanders who happily exchange their snow shovels and tire irons for paddle boards and scuba gear. Temperatures average mid-70s to mid-80s and precipitation is minimal. Most visitors agree high-season rates are worth the price of admission to enjoy palm-fringed secluded beaches, crystal-clear bays teeming with tropical fish swimming among colorful coral reefs and miles of unspoiled rain forests accented with majestic waterfalls.
Spend your day: With the exception of Wi-Fi, the resort grounds are tech-free: no television, no telephone – which makes it even more inviting to immerse yourself in resort activities or nearby wonders like Sulphur Springs, Diamond Waterfall, Mineral Baths or the Rain Forest – unless, of course the sensuous seclusion of your room entices you to lollygag in private luxury. Otherwise, you can choose yoga, tennis, sea kayaking, jungle biking or bird-watching – an adventure in itself to spot any of 174 species on the island. Ride a zipline or Segway. Or choose from a full menu of walking tours led by trained resort guides who will introduce you to the wonders of the island while you enjoy some exercise – from an easy afternoon tour of the 18th-century colonial plantation to an energetic three-hour hike over the mountains into the town of Soufriere. On the water, you can go sailing, whale watching and fishing. Prefer to chill? Lie on the beach, lounge in the library or get pampered at Kai Belte, the resort’s spa – where you can request “Anpagal,” a synchronized four-hands massage choreographed by disciplined therapists who train for months to deliver this tension-relieving rebalancing treatment. Or sign up for a “Chocolate Sensory Tasting,” an awakening journey through the flavor palate of cocoa and chocolate grown on site. Later in the day, sip cocktails in a panoramic hillside lounge or listen to jazz while you drink champagne on a sunset cruise (which might turn into a whale- or dolphin-spotting adventure!).
Must do: One of the world’s top diving locations, Anse Chastanet’s National Geographic/PADI Five Star Dive Resort is situated in the heart of Saint Lucia’s Marine Reserves. The reef, which starts just 10 yards beyond the water’s edge, comprises a remarkable ecosystem offering a profusion of unusual tropical marine life in 20 to 140 feet of calm clear water, day or night. In shallow areas, you’ll likely see peacock flounders, octopus, needle fish and turtles. A little deeper: puffers, moray eels, parrot fish, lobsters and even sea horses. Scuba lessons are available for divers of all abilities, including first-timers; and snor- keling lessons are offered twice a day. Rinse tanks, lockers, changing rooms and all facilities are right on the beach, only a few steps away from the dive boats – which by the way, are always manned with certified instructors/dive masters.
Where to eat: Drop any idea of typical indoor restaurants serving a variety of styles that include simple grilled fare, kicked-up Creole or fine-dining tropical Caribbean. Choose from a casual beachside bar and restaurant or two open-air, art-filled treehouses overlooking lush tropical foliage and emerald waters. Award-winning tropical world cuisine – a blend of Caribbean with other tropical world cuisine experiences – makes up the Treehouse menu, which is served in a romantic candlelit ambiance each evening and filtered sunlight each morning. (Ask about Mon- day’s gourmet dinner and wine pairing.) Trou au Diable Restaurant celebrates East India fusion cuisine. Emerald’s serves an all-vegetarian menu in the Piti Piton lounge all the time, but vegetarian selections are also available in all restaurants. The beach bar and grill is open from 8 a.m.-11 p.m., with afternoon tea available from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
Where to stay: With a unique setting as his canvas, Nick Troubetzkoy tucked a dozen rooms behind the coconut palms that
line the beach; the remainder tiptoe up the flower-decked hillside. To make the most of the panoramic views and refreshing tradewinds, he designed octagonal whitewashed cottages with wraparound balconies and louvered windows.
Extra-large deluxe and premium suites feature visionary touches like having the fourth wall completely open to the vistas, while maintaining complete privacy. Impressive wooden sculptures
and places, earthy burlap compositions, painted “sky ceilings’ and vibrant acrylic paintings in the style of Matisse and Picasso accent
the rooms, which are furnished with tropical hardwood furniture designed by the owner. Some rooms have a for- mal separation between bedroom and living room; others are flowing open spaces.
Getting around: George Charles airport (GLU) is
75 minutes away; Hewanorra (UVF), 55 minutes. Most resorts advise against car rental, as left-hand driving and poor road signage can be disorienting to some drivers after a long journey. On site, the topography of Anse Chastanet includes steep hills and lots of steps, but there are frequent shuttle buses down to the beach. The resort offers taxi and limo service.
So you know: Children younger than 10 are not permitted at the resort from October to June; children 6 and over are permitted in July, August and September.
More information: Anse Chastanet (www.ansechasta- net.com); P.O. Box 7000; Soufriere, St. Lucia. Toll free 800- 223-1108.