Coconut Couture

A visit to St. Lucia's newest all-inclusive

By: Kevin Brass

For veteran Caribbean travelers, there are obvious pros and cons to Coconut Bay Resort & Spa, the newest all-inclusive in St. Lucia. A major perk is the location on the southeast tip of the island, within a few minutes of the Hewanorra International Airport, which means clients can skip the 90-minute drive on windy roads necessary to reach the island’s northern resorts.

Unfortunately, my wife and I missed our connection in Miami, and we had to fly into the smaller airport in Castries in the north. The twist of fate meant we were still subject to the lengthy drive on a dark, rainy night after a long day of air travel. As we dozed, the friendly driver offered us an introduction to the island’s relaxed culture.

Stepping out of the van at Coconut Bay, we were greeted by a cool ocean wind, one of Coconut Bay’s mixed blessings. Opened in March, Coconut Bay is the first major attempt to develop the Atlantic coast of St. Lucia. There is no postcard Caribbean lagoon, but the steady Atlantic breeze helps make even the most sweltering of Caribbean nights bearable.

Covering 85 acres of palm tree-covered oceanfront, Coconut Bay’s location was first developed by Club Med. In 2003, the property was sold to a Jamaican group, which pumped $15 million into updating every facet of the property.

The new resort offers 254 rooms, all with balconies and oceanviews. There are three pools, pristine tennis courts and a well-equipped fitness center, in addition to three restaurants and a newly designed, open-air lobby where bands play in the cool evenings.

Throughout the property, there is a strong emphasis on family-friendly features, including a kids club, a small game room and a waterpark with a slide. And three full-time counselors are on staff to entertain the kids.

“No other hotel in San Lucia has the facilities to excite the kids like we do,” said general manager Newton Grey, who spent 19 years with Sandals, most recently as hotel manager of Dunn’s River.

Coconut Bay is positioned as an economic choice for increasingly pricey St. Lucia, which is still burdened by relatively expensive airfares. Coconut Bay’s posted rates are $410 a night for a premium oceanview room during the peak season (January-April), but it also works with most large packagers. Although golf and dive trips are readily available, they’re not included in the price.

“We’re offering a product that is priced right,” Grey said. “We’ve looked carefully at what the majority of guests are asking for.”

Coconut Bay very much follows the cruise-on-land approach to all-inclusive resort design. Early in the day, the poolside stereo blasted the song “Who Let the Dogs Out” the call to action for guests at swim-up bars around the world. Throughout the day, activity directors offered a steady flow of games and patter, making sure anyone interested was fully entertained with pool volleyball and an assortment of contests.

Fortunately, we found it easy to escape to a quiet oceanside grass lawn shaded by palm trees, near a small adults-only pool. Through some fluke of acoustics, we couldn’t hear a single drum beat as we lounged on hammocks stretched between the palm trees.

The beach in front of the resort is a fairly thin strip of sand often covered with seaweed, which may surprise some clients expecting the Caribbean of photo spreads. But on a cool morning we were able to take a long walk down the sand without seeing anyone except local fishermen wading through the water with their nets.

There is an uncluttered, native appeal to the resort’s location, far removed from the large resorts of the northwest. There are no glorious over-water sunsets, but it’s close to many of the island’s most stunning attractions, including the steamy sulfur beds of Mount Soufriere.

We were able to do three- and four-hour excursions with a friendly local driver and be back at the resort to relax by 3 p.m. We spent the warm afternoons floating on inner tubes in the waterpark and catching up on our reading.

Spa-junkies will be more than satisfied with the atmosphere in Coconut Bay’s new spa, Kai Mer, a small, eight-room oasis of quiet on the beach. A garden of aloe allows guests to pick their own stems for treatments. Four of the rooms have outdoor showers and there are special couple treatments available. One of the signature treatments is the Coconut Splendor, a massage and therapy session for couples.

Although there is clear emphasis on families, Coconut Bay hits many romantic notes, offering parents a chance to escape. The resort’s wedding facilities include a gazebo perched over the beach and a small reception hall.

We were scheduled for a romantic dinner on the gazebo, but as we sat down the wind kicked up off the Atlantic. The staff quickly moved us to the reception room, where we clinked glasses and sampled pumpkin bisque and spicy shrimp, just the two of us in the empty hall.


Coconut Bay Resort & Spa


St. Lucia’s towering peaks, mineral springs and steamy rainforests make it one of the best eco-tourism destinations in the Caribbean.

The star attraction is the volcano of Soufriere, billed as a “drive-in” volcano. Visitors can literally park their cars just a few feet from the gurgling, and extraordinarily smelly, sulfur springs, a rare peek at the inner workings of a volcano.

St. Lucia is also a great island for hikers. For the adventurous, trails lead up the twin peaks of the Pitons, the island’s picturesque lava rock mountains. Less adventurous travelers will enjoy more than 29 miles of trails snaking through the island’s 19,000 acres of rainforest.

Around the island, there are pockets of spectacular waterfalls and botanical displays. The Latille Waterfall located near the East Coast includes a changing room, allowing visitors to change into suits and slide into a pool at the foot of a 20-foot waterfall, set in a garden of orchids and other flowers.

Most of the sites are well-maintained and easily accessible and offer knowledgeable local guides.

St. Lucia Tourist Board