I am a lot of things; but an outdoorsman, I am not. Still, during a recent trip to the island nation of St. Lucia, I slept outdoors (sort of), ziplined through the rainforest, power snorkeled through majestic reefs, and bathed in sulphuric mud. And I loved every minute of it.
For the first half of my getaway, I stayed at Ladera Resort. Soaring above the Caribbean with stunning views of Saint Lucia’s Piton Mountains, the 37-room, eco-conscious luxury estate features open-air suites. Having no fourth wall puts guests directly in the midst of paradise; suites also feature a private plunge pool, locally sourced artwork, and furniture that’s hand-crafted by artisans onsite.
Despite its relatively small footprint, Ladera doesn’t lack in amenities. Offerings include a state-of-the-art gym, an award-winning farm-to-table restaurant (Dasheene), a bar with spectacular views, a new spa (opening later this year), fitness classes, and more.
Sourcing from local farmers, Executive Chef Nigel Mitchel’s cuisine takes a modern approach to classic St. Lucian dishes. From the grilled catch of the day to Caribbean lamb salad, meals at Dasheene are not to be missed. Selections from the restaurant’s extensive wine and cocktail list make the meals even more enjoyable.
Walk off your meals by taking advantage of the resort’s hiking trail, and ask Eustace, a 30-year Ladera veteran, to guide you along the path. The roughly 40-minute hike will present you with incredible views of the surrounding area and an assortment of plants and flowers to admire.
If you’re more adventurous and want to zipline through the rainforest, mountain bike to a remote waterfall, or lather up in the St. Lucian Sulphur Springs (the only drive-in volcano in the world), adventure company Island Routes has you covered. I opted for several excursions, including an exhilarating ride on a 17-foot speedboat named Miss Erin. I also took a cruise up the western coast of the island, capped by a power-snorkel in one of the many protected reefs. As we journeyed, first mate Cherry pointed out the various villages, bays, landmarks, and where the locals like to grab a bite to eat.
After a few days in the rainforest, I moved down the mountain to Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort. Formerly the Jalousie sugar plantation, it offers 96 guest rooms, three restaurants, three bars, a world-class spa, 25 private residences, and a plethora of onsite activities. Perfectly styled rooms come with a walk-in shower, claw foot tub, four-poster bed (with the most luxurious linens), and a private plunge pool. Or, splurge on a luxury beachfront bungalow, and French doors will open to the white sands of Sugar Beach and breathtaking views of the Caribbean. (It also makes it easy to take a quick dip, with the sea just a stone’s throw away.)
Restaurants at the resort offer a variety of experiences. If you’re looking for fine dining, check out the Great Room. The candlelit venue serves up many elevated dishes, from grilled octopus to the Wagyu filet in a port reduction. For a more casual setting, head to Bayside Restaurant. But don’t let the ambiance fool you; with options like burrata cheese with fire-roasted peppers, eggplant dip, and charred jerk half-chicken, the food rises above typical beach fare.
Before leaving the resort, be sure to book some time at Sugar Beach’s Rainforest Spa, which offers an array of services performed in private treehouse rooms. (Coconut bliss, for example, is a combination of a coconut body scrub and coconut milk healing body massage.) After your treatment, take time to relax in the open-air gazebo or a steam in the Temazcal. You are on vacation, after all.