Stunning St. Lucia
Though it’s an everlasting battle among Caribbean islands to claim the whitest sands and the most cerulean waters, St. Lucia holds claim to a splendor unmatched anywhere else in the Caribbean. The island’s massive mountains, Gros Piton and Petit Piton, tower 2,500 feet above the sea, creating a dramatic panorama that is more closely related to Polynesia than to its neighbors.
Defining the southwest coastline near the former French capital of Soufrière, the Pitons have long served as design inspiration for some of the world’s most spectacular resorts. Granting picture-perfect views of this World Heritage Site, these amenity-rich resorts consummate a deep love affair with nature and luxury and have rightfully popularized the country as an exceptional honeymoon destination.
Straddling a lush mountainside opposite the Pitons, Jade Mountain (jademountainstlucia.com) is a true one-of-a-kind. The three-walled resort, so called for its open-air, outward-facing, three-sided design, is the magnum opus of eclectic architect Nick Troubetzkoy. Immersed in the sights and sounds of nature, each of Jade’s stone-hewn sanctuaries doles out a million-dollar view of the Pitons and Caribbean Sea without compromising complete privacy.
Jade Mountain’s futuristic architectural design—crafted during the global Space Age obsession—is a feast for the senses. Rooms are tiered in Tetris-like formation, with individual horizontal bridges leading to each of 29 sanctuaries at varying elevations. Jagged stone columns support the floating bridges, jutting toward the heavens, capped with glass rectangles of alternating colors. Serpentine, tiled ponds, elaborate staircases, and air ferns complete the scene.
Based on Jade Mountain’s out-of-this-world design, rooms are dubbed as “Galaxy,” “Sun,” “Moon,” “Star,” or “Sky.” Each bears a unique color pattern that carries throughout its décor, from bespoke tiles to luxury linens. Some suites feature private pools, which measure up to 900 square feet and are outfitted with fiberoptic mood lighting. All guests are treated to complimentary butler service, with highly trained major domos serving any and all requests, from unpacking clothes to delivering evening aperitifs and organizing in-room candlelit dinners.
Jade’s view is one that keeps on giving. If you can’t get enough from your sanctuary or infinity pool, the rooftop Celestial Terrace adds more sky and stars to the picture. And below the terrace, the Jade Mountain Club Restaurant combines the world-famous cuisine of Chef Allen Susser and Executive Chef Jonathan Dearden.
From its mountainside perch, Jade Mountain presides over a 600-acre private estate, which it shares with its sister resort, Anse Chastanet. The estate is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, sun worshippers, and foodies. The first of the estate’s two beaches is lined with loungers, three restaurants, and a water sports and scuba center. Don’t miss the opportunity to snorkel the surrounding reefs—this is arguably the best snorkeling in the Caribbean. Jade’s second, quieter beach, Anse Mamin, is ideal for complete escapism. It’s also home to Jungle Beach Bar & Grill, serving fresh island delights like line-caught grilled fish and mango daiquiris.
At the foothills of the Pitons, another world-class resort is making major waves. Formerly known as the Jalousie Plantation and rebranded as Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort in November 2012, Jalousie underwent multiple facelifts to assume its new identity. The storied historical plantation now flaunts a modern vibe, successfully keeping history in style.
So what’s changed? In two words: almost everything. Gone are the small pastel cottages screaming classic Caribbean. Now, Sugar Beach’s hillside is stacked with modish gingerbread-style villas complete with whitewashed interiors, four-poster beds, freestanding Victorian-style bathtubs, and view-heavy infinity pools. Eight thatched-roof beachfront bungalows have been constructed directly on the glittering sands, from which Sugar Beach gets its name. Between the white adobe walls, each villa boasts an outdoor shower, an outdoor Jacuzzi, and an expansive white-on-white sleeping area exuding South Beach chic.
The resort’s new Rainforest Spa begins with an elongated domed catwalk, organically constructed from thousands of tree branches. The pathway follows the plantation’s original aqueduct and ends in a patch of stunning rainforest. In the heart of this rainforest, Sugar Beach’s treehouse treatment rooms recall an ambience of Bali’s top holistic wellness retreats. Closer to the shoreline, the principal swimming pool has been refitted as a negative-edge infinity pool and lined with private cabanas and swinging queen-size beds. Jalousie’s legendary Cane Bar has been converted into a world-class lounge.
Despite all the changes, the resort still nestles St. Lucia’s superlative sands and rests in the shadows of the awe-inspiring Pitons. Thankfully, the cuisine of chef Cupertino Ortiz also remains. Since 2008, Ortiz has helmed the kitchens of Jalousie’s Great Room and Bayside Restaurant, adding haute Mexican flair to St. Lucia’s renowned farm-to-table cuisine. This could very well be the best food you’ll sample in the entire Caribbean.
Since few visitors leave St. Lucia’s beauty-rich south, it’s fortunate that several top sites lie in close proximity to Jade Mountain and Sugar Beach, including the island’s beautiful Botanical Gardens, waterfalls, and Sulphur Springs, where you’re bound to Tweet a few pictures after a hot mud bath.
Island visitors can also discover St.Lucia’s living history in the wonderful world of chocolate at Boucan by Hotel Chocolat (thehotelchocolat.com). Boucan is a working cocoa plantation offering an incredible “Tree to Bar Experience,” which allows guests to partake in every part of the chocolate-making process, from harvesting their own cocoa pods to drying the beans and crafting their own chocolate bars with pestle and mortar.
Chocolate lovers should consider visiting Boucan for more than a day trip. The working estate houses a luxury boutique hotel, where pampering and chocolate are both high on the agenda. Boucan’s restaurant pays homage to everything chocolate with a menu that includes chocolate-infused pasta, tuna with cocoa nib pesto, and cocktails and sorbets crafted from the fruit surrounding the raw cocoa beans. The spa features Boucan’s exclusive range of wellness therapies, all crafted from cocoa and its derivatives.
Nevis: Simple Divinity
In the heart of the Lesser Antilles archipelago, Nevis grants a rare opportunity for escape. The slow pace of this 99-square- mile volcanic island recalls a delicious simplicity of a bygone era. And there’s no better place to indulge in Nevisian ease than the island’s premier coastal and mountain resorts.
The island’s original Carib name is Oualie, or “Land of Beautiful Waters,” which is demonstrated by the placid coastline, namely on the island’s western reaches, home to the Caribbean’s sole Four Seasons resort. Gracing the crystalline waters of Pinney Beach and framed by the natural grandeur of towering Mount Nevis, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis (fourseasons.com/nevis) exemplifies postcard-perfect island bliss. Tucked behind the palm tree-lined beach, the resort surfaces as a series of picturesque, low- rise British Colonial plantation cottages. In the adjacent palm grove, the resort’s estate area flaunts gorgeous villas for both rent and sale.
The pampered Four Seasons Nevis experience begins upon arrival at the international airport on neighboring St. Kitts. A hotel representative whisks visitors away to the nearby marina to board the resort’s private boat for a scenic 35-minute ride to Nevis. A bottomless glass of house rum punch is served, and the fun begins.
Once on land, days at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis center on unapologetic rest and relaxation. Sun-worshippers are spoiled with expansive lounger-lined swathes of beach and stylish swimming pools, while the resort’s adorable cabana-style beach houses add an extra element of privacy and luxury to the beachfront experience. Non-motorized water sports are readily available, while golf enthusiasts can take to the Robert Trent Jones II-designed course.
Like all Four Seasons resorts, food is a key theme at this Nevis outpost, where four dining outlets offer a mix of international and West Indian cuisine. During the day, most patrons choose to dine poolside or beachside, with excellent bites from the beachfront Cabana Restaurant. In the evenings, it’s time to hit Coral Grill, the resort’s fabulous seafood and steakhouse, or Mango, the resort’s sensational West Indian eatery. While spicy and flavorful island recipes headline Mango’s menu, its location on an isolated patch of beach makes for an exceptionally romantic setting.
Beyond this self-contained resort paradise, a history-steeped island awaits, strewn with breathtaking ruins, sugar mill plantations, and other historic landmarks dating back to the 16th century. High in the mountains, numerous centuries-old sugar mills have been readapted as rustic inns, none more spectacular than the 18th century Montpelier Plantation Inn (montpeliernevis.com). Cast over 64 acres, this Relais & Chateaux hotel doubles as a historic relic. Plantation cottages have been reinvented into guest suites, while the sugar mill itself now serves as a private dining restaurant. The original rock-and-stone-hewn buildings house the hotel’s common spaces, with the Montpelier bar in the former boiler room. Random pieces of the sugar mill’s mechanics dot the property, serving as both avante garde decoration and a reminder of the plantation’s past.
The majority of the hotel’s 16 understated cottages command sea views. The cottage porch is an idyllic spot for good reads, deep thoughts, or entertainment, courtesy of the island’s mischievous monkeys. The renovated pool and pool bar area exude modern luxury, and for quieter splash time, the Montpelier Plantation Inn has its own beach club, a short ride down the mountain. A bar attendant serves drinks and provides fresh towels for the house cabanas on a quiet stretch of western coastline.
The Inn’s staggering 80 percent repeat guest rate is a testament to the quality of this haven of serenity. Even the late Princess Diana singled out Nevis and the Montpelier Plantation Inn as her favored destination for escaping reality. Between the indulgences of the Four Seasons Resort Nevis and the ambience of the Montpelier Plantation Inn, Nevis is the perfect recipe for mental respite.
Grenada: Sharing the Spice of Life
The southernmost of the Grenadine islands, the independent nation of Grenada heralds global recognition for the stunning beaches of its southwest reaches, adjacent to the charming capital city of St. George’s. The 133-square-mile “Spice Island,” so named for its major production of nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon, has long been a favorite of British vacationers. Only recently has the island hit America’s radar, encouraging worldly jetsetters to explore new island paradises.
Grenada’s most prized resorts lie on the island’s white sand beaches in the southwest. Often cited on lists of the world’s top beaches, the two-mile Grand Anse Bay Beach is a true Caribbean dream. The blazing blues of sea and sky, bountiful silky sands, and surrounding fairy tale architecture of St. George’s melt together in a breathtaking panorama. In the heart of Grand Anse, Grenada’s exclusive and storied Spice Island Beach Resort (spiceislandbeachresort.com) champions the barefoot luxury phenomenon, much like it has for over 50 years. Recently renovated and expanded, Spice Island has thoroughly upgraded the traditional Caribbean villa experience. Wicker furnishings and floral patterns were swapped for four-poster beds, heart-shaped Jacuzzis and soaking tubs, stylish chaise lounges, and extra-large hammocks for an overall ambiance of fresh West Indian luxury. Oversized plunge pools were retouched and reaccessorized in the pool suites, and 32 new beachfront suites were constructed, including the opulent 1400-square- foot Cinnamon and Saffron Suites. Rooms and suites were rechristened with names reflecting the island’s myriad spices and flowers.
Like many of Grenada’s top resorts, Spice Island Beach Resort is all-inclusive, which means endless indulgence of the resort’s farm-to-table cuisine, “Spice Classic” cocktails, and more. For those occupying the higher room categories, the all-inclusive experience is elevated with a full-size in-room bar, replenished daily. While the resort generally attracts gregarious patrons, Tuesday’s weekly cocktail reception and Friday’s local buffet dinner party (including the best breadfruit “oil down” in Grenada) are two can’t-miss evenings of island fun.
Between Pink Gin Beach and Grand Anse Beach, along the picturesque coastline of Morne Rouge, LaLuna (laluna.com) is a celebrity-studded boutique hideaway of 16 dreamy one- and two-bedroom cottages. Tiered over 25 hillside acres, LaLuna’s 650-square-foot cottages ooze understated luxury, with hardwood Balinese furnishings, alfresco bathrooms, and spacious terraces, each with a private plunge pool. Days at LaLuna often begin in the beachfront yoga pavilion or at the Asian spa and end in the plunge pool, watching the spectacular sunset, cocktail in hand.
Encouraged by the tremendous success of the hotel, the owners have been busy working on the property’s second phase: private villas. Currently under construction, LaLuna will soon house seven four- and five-bedroom villas, each of bespoke design, giving would-be visitors to this island gem even more to look forward to when they finally arrive.
The Treasures of Trinidad
Sometimes regarded only as the Caribbean’s industrial center, Trinidad is a wonderful surprise. Throughout its diverse landscapes, the bigger half of the dual island nation of Trinidad & Tobago boasts colorful festivals, seductive beaches, diverse ecosystems, sensational cultural offerings, and a big-city pulse in its capital, Port of Spain.
Recognized globally for its annual Carnival, the party never truly ends in the Port of Spain. While the lavish costumes are stored come Ash Wednesday, the song, dance, and excitement of Carnival emanate year round. This uninterrupted joie de vivre is infectious and evidenced in the innate hospitality of islanders and the wildly popular Calypso, soca, and steelpan music scene.
Trinidad’s varied history has produced an exotic cultural melting pot, mingling the likes of European, Indian, African, Latin American, and Arawak and Carib Indian descendants. Disparate influences explode in island cuisine, making it a food lover’s dream to vacation here. Long before food trucks and stalls became trendy elsewhere, street food was a defining factor of Trinidadian culture. For generations, locals have dined and “limed” (hung out) at street stalls serving various recipes of callaloo (creamed taro leaves jazzed up with other vegetables), doubles (flat fried bread with curried chick peas and topped with chutneys), and seafood creoles, to name a few. It’s likely that you’ve never heard of the fruits and vegetables you’ll try here, so expect an ambush of senses with every meal.
Hundreds of restaurants across Port of Spain—from no-frills to fancy—also dole out innovative incarnations of local cuisine. Lunchtime seats are hard to come by at Sweet Lime on Port of Spain’s main thoroughfare, “The Ave,” with a daily changing menu of local delights. Come nightfall, The Ave lights up with dozens of restaurants, bars, and lounges for enjoying Shandy Carib ginger beers and some of Trinidad’s world-famous Angostura Bitters. Farther west in a renovated historic home, Chaud Creole (chaudcreole.com) champions the essence of Trinidad’s rising haute cuisine movement. Enjoying the sounds of steel drums, you’ll feast on dishes like “Trin-Bago Style” Burnt Sugar Stews made from a variety of meats, as well as Shrimp Creoles, Guava BBQ Kingfish, and dozens of sides crafted from root vegetables.
Along the waterfront, Port of Spain’s growing urban sophistication stems from the arrival of the grandiose Hyatt Regency Trinidad (trinidad.hyatt.com), whose 2008 naissance forever changed the port’s landscape. The beautiful high-rise glass towers brought a much-needed modern look to Trinidad’s waterfront. The mammoth infinity pool, oversized designer loungers, and sexy sunbathers rival the pool scene of trendsetting South Beach hotels. The rooms scream chic, with glass-partitioned bathrooms, bamboo floors, elegant furnishings, and oversized windows, some with uninterrupted views of the Gulf of Paria. The high-ceilinged lobby, sumptuous spa, and uber-popular lounge are everything you’d expect from a world-class hotel.
A number of the city’s top sights are within easy walking distance from the hotel. There’s the impressive Royal Botanical Gardens and Queen’s Park Savannah; the National Academy for Performing Arts, whose silver-dome appearance resembles a hybrid of the Sydney Opera House and Chicago’s Millennium Park; and the city’s “Magnificent Seven,” a septet of architecturally diverse historical mansions, such as the century-old Scottish-inspired Killarney Castle. While most island visitors hop on the 20-minute, $29 flight to Tobago for great beaches, Trinidad’s north coast is blessed with its fair share of downy sands and sun-worshipping hideaways. The closest to Port of Spain is Maracas Bay Beach, a calm bay surrounded by lush mountains. While popular for its fun- in-the-sun vibe, the drive to Maracas also serves as a foodie pilgrimage. The beach is lined with eclectic fried bread and seafood sandwich eateries, and the beach’s mountaintop Maracas Lookout point is home to several pickled fruits stands, perfect for grabbing a quick snack and contemplating this little-known island nation’s appeal.