Blanketed by rainforest, which tumbles down off the sheerest of peaks right down to the beach and turquoise sea, St Lucia is almost too beautiful for its own good, a beauty queen so film-set stunning that people tend only to gaze at her good looks. But look beyond the stunning beaches and staggering summits – not to mention the outrageously indulgent luxury resorts clinging to its cliffs and coast – and St Lucia has a personality every bit as enchanting as her beauty. From wildlife walks to Friday-night parties, from stunning coastal drives to colonial cathedrals and churches, St Lucia offers huge rewards away from the beaches and boutique hotels. Throw in direct flights with British Airways and Virgin, and it’s no wonder St Lucia is one of our favourite islands in the Caribbean.But where to start? Well, rearing up 2,500ft out of the sea like two giant, razor-sharp incisors, the Pitons are impossible to ignore, much less resist, with views out over the island as far as St Vincent and Martinique that are worth the airfare alone. Remnants of twin-peaked, lava-dome volcanoes that erupted more than 20,000 years ago, the Pitons – Gros and Petit – utterly dominate the skyline around Soufriere and the southwest beaches. A hike to either summit provides, for us, just about the best incentive to ditch your bikini in the Caribbean. Ironically, it is the taller of the two, Gros Piton (2,619ft), that is the easier, taking about four or five hours round-trip, sticking to an excellent footpath that goes right to the top. That said, we’d still recommend taking a guide – organised by any of our hotels on St Lucia – if only to learn about the spectacular, hanging-gardens-like rainforest you struggle up en route to the top.And don’t leave the southwest without visiting Soufriere. A pretty, historic town which recently enjoyed its 300th birthday, it has waterfront bars and restaurants – try the Creole specials at Waterfront De Belle View – as well as a famous botanic gardens and the world’s only drive-in volcano. Known locally as Sulphur Springs, it has a trail of multicoloured hot springs, fumeroles and mud baths. It’d also be a travesty to miss Anse Chastenet beach, a sliver of palm-fringed paradise widely considered one of the best beaches in the world.If Soufriere and the southwest are known for its natural wonders and luxury resorts, the north has a bustling, party vibe, with the town of Gros Islet notorious for its fabulous Friday-night ‘Jump-Up’. A throbbing, pulsing, joyous carnival of calypso bands and reggae beats, Jump Up is like Notting Hill Carnival without the rain, a fabulous, happy street party in the streets of the old fishing village, with locals and tourists dancing and feasting from the steamed fish stalls and barbecue chicken, jollied along with Red Stripe and Piton Beer.Here, Rodney Bay is a man-made lagoon and marina fair brimming with hip hotels, night clubs and waterfront cafes, while a few miles south, capital Castries is a riotous kaleidoscope of sounds and smells and every-colour shop-fronts and spectacular Saturday market stalls, with a wonderful 19th century cathedral you can escape to if it all gets too much! With Pigeon Island a beautiful daytrip closeby, a superb championship golf course nearby on Cap Estate, and The Bodyholiday Le Sport in our opinion is one of the best family resorts in the Caribbean, the north of St Lucia is a great all-round destination for beaches and nightlife, sightseeing and sport.
As for when to go? Traditionally, our winter is thought the best time to come: for one thing it’s a good time to get away from home, for another, it’s drier then in the Caribbean. However, increasingly we find ourselves sending more and more of you to St Lucia in summer. Frankly, we’re not surprised: OK, it might rain a bit more at night, but it’s a cheaper time for flights, hotels are offering discounts, and for our money, the odd fabulous tropical downpour only adds to St Lucia’s seductive, intoxicating charm. Our suggestions for luxury holidays to St Lucia in the summerOur roundup of distinctly different hotels and resorts in St Lucia for the summer. There are daily flights from London Gatwick to St Lucia with British Airways and three cabins on board: Club World, World Traveller Plus and Economy.Anse ChastanetIdeal for seclusion and off the beaten track, lush, natural surroundings and authentic local style and colour. Some open rooms, locally made furniture. Excellent dive site with PADI school. Spa, guided walks and hikes of nearby plantation, natural secluded beach. No children under 6 from July to September and none under 10 at other times. Original, relaxed and very special.The BodyHolidayPopular for couples and singles, sports and spa fans, gourmets and the diet conscious. Luxurious all-inclusive with an array of complimentary land and water sports, instruction and a daily 50-minute spa treatment. Fencing, archery and diving are available alongside yoga, pilates and volleyball. East WindsEast Winds Inn is a traditional, cosy resort, run on an all-inclusive basis and full of character. The open-air Club House is the hub of the resort and dining includes weekly lobster grills accompanied by low-key live entertainment: calypso, soft jazz and traditional St Lucian music. Relaxed and homely, secluded location in tropical gardens on a sandy beach. Windjammer LandingBright and breezy with its mix of Mediterranean exteriors and Caribbean interiors offering rooms, suites and villas with and without pool. Nestling into a hillside with abundant tropical gardens overlooking sandy Labrelotte Bay, Windjammer offers extraordinarily good value and is ideal for families. Choice of dining and extensive water sports.
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