The Caribbean Island of St. Lucia has long been associated as a luxurious honeymoon destination, thanks to its exclusive hotels, gourmet cuisine, amazing beaches and celebrity guests. Plenty of people have heard of St. Lucia yet relatively few have been to visit. Too bad for them because this former British territory has a variety of landscapes, from rich jungle peaks and black sand beaches to educational cocoa plantations. Snorkeling, hiking, sailing, and ziplining are all top notch on the island. In the Piton Mountain region on the south end of the island, sits St Lucia’s first capital, Soufriere, literally translating from the French as “sulfur in the air”. While the Pitons are the inspiration for the name of St Lucia’s most popular local beer, Soufriere takes its name from the nearby seven-acre volcanic springs. La Soufriere, aka the only Caribbean drive-in volcano, boasts bubbling hot springs with sulfur fumes and a hot mud bath which we are told can take years off your skin.
After much research, it was clear that while visiting St. Lucia if you want to experience the best of the best and a truly unique luxurious resort experience you have to stay at Jade Mountain Resort. We have stayed at many hotels over the years and currently Jade is the best hotel we have ever visited.
Located at the highest point of the island, Jade Mountain is built into the hillside looking down over its sister property Anse Chastanet Resort—a longtime St. Lucian fixture on practically every Best of the Caribbean list. Jade is comprised of 24 hillside sanctuaries with a lot more than just a killer view. Inside, each one of the sanctuaries is unique, but they all share impressive features such as an infinity pool or Jacuzzi, 15-foot ceilings, and a raised open-air bathroom. Walk into your living room and you will see the most dramatic jaw-dropping views of the Pitons. As you look out at the breathtaking sight of twin volcanic peaks soaring up from the shore you can’t help but feel at peace. The sanctuaries whole outward-facing wall has been removed leaving it completely open air. The exhilarating experience of sleeping in the open air, behind a mosquito net of course, while viewing St. Lucia’s majestic twin peaks, Gros Piton and Petit Piton is truly incredible. The open-air continues throughout the resort with an open-air restaurant and bar. Even the walkway to your sanctuary is a 100-foot-long sky bridge. Each sanctuary has one of their own. The sanctuaries are deliberately technology free; there are no telephones, radio or television. Internet access is available for those who simply cannot let go of the outside world as the resort encourages you to.
Designed and owned by Russian-Canadian architect Nick Troubetzkoy, the adult’s only resort has bold and colorful architecture that celebrates the natural beauty of St. Lucia. Troubetzkoy came to St. Lucia from his home in British Columbia in the early 70’s to design vacation villas. He went on to buy an old beach resort near the Pitons called Anse Chastanet, which he redesigned and turned into one of the Caribbean’s top getaways. The 600-acre resort now has 49 rooms ranging from beachside units to hillside suites.
These days a winding road links Anse Chastanet to the Jade Mountain resort uphill. Shuttles run back and forth, roughly a five-minute ride. Jade Mountain guests have access to all Anse Chastanet’s facilities, which include two restaurants, two bars, a spa, a fitness center, a tennis court, an excursion and car rental desk, water sport facilities, and a beautiful beach. Every beach on the island of St. Lucia, including those that are part of Anse Chastanet, is open to the public. It’s no surprise, the British and French fought over this tropical paradise for centuries.
One of our favorite things about staying at Jade Mountain is that each sanctuary is assigned a major-domo to take care of your every need. They were not only there every time we needed something but they were proactive; always a step ahead of us to guarantee we had an amazing experience. They made reservations for all of our meals, brought us lunch when we just wanted to stay in and enjoy our infinity pool, set us up with transportation when we wanted to venture out to the volcano and even booked us a couple’s massage. Kai en Ciel, the resorts spa is heavenly and offers a wide range of services which can also be enjoyed in the privacy of your sanctuary.
Dining at Jade Mountain is a fresh and organic experience. Your choices are based on ingredients locally farmed, harvested and fished. Taking all the best the island has to offer and presenting it on a plate. The Jade Mountain Club is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner featuring modern fusion cuisine. Guests can also dine at any of the Anse Chastanet restaurants. Another dining choice is the option to dine in your sanctuary for a more personal and private experience. Besides room service, which is available 24 hours a day you can request to have the Executive Chef drop in to whip up a six-course gourmet dinner. “Jade Cuisine” created by James Beard award winner, Chef Allen Susser, is a brave new world of tropical flavors. His cuisine is exotic and delicious, so much so that we enjoyed all but one meal at the resort. When the food at a resort is this good you have no reason to leave. Jade also offers gourmet weekends throughout the year, which includes a full culinary agenda of tours, classes and exquisite meals.
The one night we did venture out was to experience Boucan; a restaurant which pays homage to one of my favorite things, chocolate! Upon arrival, we started with the Tree-to-Bar Experience which led us through the estate groves to pick the perfect cocoa pod to create our very own chocolate bar. The tour includes all the stages of creating chocolate from visiting the seedling nursery, fermenting room and sun-drying station to grinding, mixing and lots of tasting! We had an amazing time learning how to pick cacao and transform it into our own chocolate bars. I gained a newfound appreciation for chocolate. Midway through the tour, we grafted a tree and put our names on a tag attached. When we come back to St. Lucia, we can see our tree all grown and can even get a chocolate bar when it begins producing cacao. The second half of the tour is when you get to make your own chocolate bar. We started with a mortar and pestle that had been heated in an oven and began grinding the cacao beans while learning the art of chocolate making. We added in cocoa butter to smooth the texture of our chocolate and sugar to help with the bitterness of the straight cacao and after some serious hard work, we had chocolate!
After the tour was over we made our way over to Boucan for dinner. The restaurant incorporates cocoa into most of the menu items and the entire dining experience, from putting cocoa grinders next to salt and pepper shakers to creating menu items like Lightly Curried Coconut & Cacao Chicken, Tomato, Chilli & Cacao Ravioli. For our meal, we went with the Crisp Cacao Goat’s Cheese and Aberdeen Angus Prime Beef with Dark Chocolate Port Wine Sauce. We also had to try the Cacao Bellini and the Cacao Martini, both were fabulous. Boucan’s union of food and agricultural development, specifically its devotion to all things cocoa, is part of a budding movement across the Caribbean.
We had a very hard time leaving the island of St. Lucia. Living the dream in paradise never felt more real. When we arrived back at LAX our driver was waiting for us. As we loaded the luggage we immediately felt the 75-degree heat and it hit us; we were home and our vacation was just a memory away. We both decided then and there that we would need to visit St. Lucia again soon, to check on our tree of course! Hey, at least we have an excuse to return now.