A scenic view of St. Lucia // © 2011 Sophy Farnad
When the phrases "lush Caribbean island" and "honeymooner's paradise" are spoken in tandem, it is a pretty safe bet that the subject is St. Lucia. I had experienced the island years ago on a solo trip. So, when opportunity knocked to return with a companion, I jumped at the chance.
I decided to book my St. Lucia trip through Delta Vacations. First, I did some research on the Delta Vacations website and got an idea of which resorts Delta Vacations offered as part of its Luxury Lifestyle Collection. I narrowed down my first choices to Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort and Anse Chastanet. Since the two resorts were on opposite ends St. Lucia, I'd be positioned to see a major portion of the island. The two resorts are also completely different, as well. Sandals is a high-end, all-inclusive resort, and Anse Chastanet is an la carte luxury resort in a mind-blowing natural setting.
I then called Delta Vacations' specialty sales department and talked with Jolene, one of their Luxury Lifestyle Collection reps. With Jolene's help, I managed to bob and weave to get the best rooms in my budget. When I was tempted to shift my Sandals booking to a cheaper resort company, Jolene found a way to keep me at Sandals in an Ultra Luxury Rondoval Suite, while at the same time booking the catamaran tour I was requesting. Flexibility on my part with my travel dates helped, since I was booking on a short window. When it came to my car rental, Jolene also let me know in advance that the taxes weren't included, which headed off any unwelcome surprises at the rental desk. She then gave me some alternatives on my flights that managed to squeeze an extra day into my on-island itinerary. All-in-all, Jolene was helpful, knowledgeable and personable.
On arrival at St. Lucia's Hewanorra International Airport, I quickly picked up my car and temporary driver's permit, which cost $22. Next, I headed north on St. Lucia's winding roads, on the approximate 1Ω-hour drive to Sandals. Visitors should know that St. Lucians drive on the left side of the road. Since the speed limit is a leisurely 30 mph, it didn't take very long for a first-time driver like me to get the hang of it. There were, however, some challenges along the way, especially a series of acute hairpin turns coming into the capital of Castries and navigating my first roundabout, which shot me out in the wrong direction.
Sandals Grande St. Lucian has a superb location on its own peninsula. It's only a five-minute walk from the resort to Pigeon Island, ideal for a morning hike affording nice views of the sea.
Our Rondoval Suite came with a private plunge pool and Jacuzzi, and the patio area was perfect for a breakfast delivered by room service. The room's circular layout, 20-foot conical roof and decor of dark tropical woods and earth tones, lent the suite an island ambiance. The butler service was unobtrusive, but easily accessed when needed.
The resort's quiet pool was usually deserted; the signature Sandal's pool with a tower was the place for socializing couples. It was easy to get to know other guests; there was even a nightly conga line that led guests into the resort's Palladium nightclub.
Sandals also offers several restaurants to choose from. The most popular venue for dinner was the Bayside Restaurant, perhaps because of the al fresco areas with pool and beach views. A nice touch at the breakfast buffet was the presentation of local produce such as star fruit and passion fruit.
A taxi from Sandals into Castries will cost travelers about $12 each way. The main attraction in town is the Castries Market, which will give visitors a crash course in local color. If clients are staying in the north end of the island on a Friday, they should consider attending the Gros Islet fish fry -- a lively, weekly event mixing street food and music.
After four nights at Sandals, we headed south to Soufriere for three nights at Anse Chastanet. The ability to plan your own itinerary is one of the pleasures of having a rental car. Along the way, we stopped for coffee at Marigot Bay, took a look at the small fishing village of Anse La Raye and had a terrible lunch at a roadside restaurant nearby.
Anse Chastanet is a favorite of mine and unlike any resort I've ever stayed in. The villas hug the mountainside, with many of them affording glorious views of St. Lucia's iconic Gros Piton and Petit Piton, two volcanic islands jutting up into the sky. The villas have one wall totally open to the elements. Utilizing a certain technology with orange lights, the resort somehow keeps insects from straying into guestrooms, although guests may be visited by a small bird or two while eating breakfast.
The villa decor is simple and rustic, with nice accents of madras cloth and bold artwork from world-class painters who were former guests at the resort. The focus at Anse Chastanet is on wellness and nature, as well as diving.
If a client's budget falters near the top end, have them book a Piton View Deluxe Villa, a nice compromise that still affords the essential Anse Chastanet experience.