Saint Lucia ticks lots of boxes for a post-lockdown winter break: warm, balmy beaches, guaranteed sunshine and a laid back atmosphere that makes the pandemic feel a world away. The island’s high season stretches from mid December to mid April making it ideal for a last minute getaway.
Thanks to low cases of Covid-19 in the country, tourism has been quick to pick up again, and it shows in the amount of British and American holidaymakers at resorts and hotels. St Lucia is on the British travel corridor list but all visitors must take a Covid test within seven days of arrival.
The island is one of two countries in the world named after a woman, Saint Lucy of Syracuse (The other is St Helena if you’re wondering). And with the feast day of St Lucy approaching on the 13th December, there’s arguably no better time to visit her namesake island.
Although the pristine beaches are the primary draw, it can be much more than a drop and flop holiday. Eighty per cent of St Lucia is covered by rainforest, containing a myriad of walking trails. Driving along the winding roads from the airport gave breathtaking views of green-topped mountains and valleys that stretch for miles. It’s heaven for hikers and beach lovers alike.
What to see and do
On my first day, I arranged to an early morning climb up Gros Piton. Saint Lucia’s two pitons are the island’s most iconic feature – two steep-sided mountains that rise up from the coast like a child’s drawing. Gros Piton is a manageable two-mile hike, culminating in a summit where you can sit atop the clouds and survey the whole island below. (Admission £35)
If that’s too big a mountain to climb, Pigeon Island trail is a gentler alternative. The area is a 44-acre island once cut off from the mainland of Saint Lucia but was artificially joined together in 1972 to enable the British to spy on French Ships from neighbouring Martinique. Nowadays, Pigeon Island is the home of the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival.
Sulphur Springs calls itself the world’s only drive-through volcano. It hasn’t erupted for nearly 300 years. Come for the natural mud baths and springs at the base of the volcano, where temperatures can reach up to 38c.
Where to stay
The Saint Lucian authorities have listed 30 Covid-friendly hotels where overseas visitors can stay, with one of them being Sugar Beach, a Viceroy resort. World-renowned for its luxury villas and celebrity clientele; Nicole Scherzinger and Matt Damon have been rumoured to have been guests. It’s situated in the town of Soufriere to the west of the island. Soufriere is a small fishing town founded by the French and famed for its colourful buildings. One of Sugar Beach’s USPs is that’s in between two of Saint Lucia’s most famous landmarks, the Gros Piton and Petit Piton mountains. I stayed at a plush one-bedroom, white villa towards the top of the residence, overlooking the beach and the Caribbean Sea, with stunning sunset views over both mountains.
For those that are more active, an hour and a half’s drive away situated at the northernmost tip of Saint Lucia is The Bodyholiday (sailing, massages, wellness). It’s popular with British holidaymakers and Americans during the Thanksgiving period. And just as the name of the hotel suggests, this resort’s focal point is on relaxation and exercise. You name it; they’ve got it – yoga, watersports, archery. On a clear day at the beach, you can also see Martinique, a good 22 miles away.
Where to eat
Hotel Chocolat’s plantation, restaurant and hotel, Rabot Place is worth a visit for the chocolate making lessons alone. After being shown the grounds with a tour of how to grow cocoa, you can make dark chocolate using nibs, cocoa butter and icing sugar using a pestle and mortar, the old fashioned way. As for the restaurant, all their menu items are based around cacao infusions of restaurant staple items, and even the fish roti has elements of cacao in its ingredients.