ST LUCIA: Explore what's said to be the world's only drive-in volcano and Diamond Falls
Follow Gavin Henson's lead and fall head over heels with this Caribbean island says EMMA GUNAVARDHANA
The Caribbean island of St Lucia has always been a popular wedding and honeymoon destination, so no wonder it was chosen as the backdrop for the final episodes of Channel 5’s The Bachelor, starring muscle-bound hunk Gavin Henson.
WHY SHOULD I VISIT?
If you’re searching for that picture-perfect tropical beach, look no further than St Lucia. The mango-shaped island is home to tons of sandy beaches and a lot more besides. Dominating the island are the jungle-clad volcanic peaks The Pitons, while the island’s interior is criss-crossed with coconut, mango and banana plantations. You’ll also find plenty of history spanning the 150 years that the British and French ruled the roost. Many of the plush resorts are located around the harbour capital of Castries, while the former capital Soufrière on the south-west coast has a more colonial flavour.
WHAT STARS WILL I SEE?
Harrison Ford, Nicolas Cage, Denzel Washington and Oprah Winfrey are all fans, while Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez holidayed in St Lucia last New Year. The island recently enjoyed a starring role in Channel 5’s The Bachelor, starring rugby heart-throb Gavin Henson. During his stay he checked into the Jade Mountain Resort and Coconut Bay when his family joined him. The annual Jazz Festival always attracts high-profile names, with past performers including Chaka Khan.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY?
Sandals has three adults-only resorts on the island, so OK! decided to check out La Toc and the Grande St Lucian, both Luxury Included (all-inclusive) resorts. The 301-room Sandals Grande St Lucian has an idyllic location on the edge of the causeway that connects the isle’s north-western tip with the tiny Pigeon Island National Park. With lovely views across Rodney Bay, the St Lucian’s main draw is its mile-long sandy beach and lagoon-style pool. Featuring colonial plantation-style décor, OK! stayed in one of the Ultra Grand Luxe Beachfront Rondoval Suites. We loved to watch the sunrise from our hammock and think of ways to challenge our butler!
Over at the 210-acre Sandals La Toc Golf Resort & Spa, OK! felt like an A-lister as we drove along its mile-long palm-lined drive. With its majestic cliff-top position, many of the villas offer fantastic views of the crescent-shaped beach. The most lavish rooms are the Millionaire Suites – OK! was speechless when we opened our balcony door to find a split-level terrace featuring an infinity pool, hot tub and two double bed-sized sunloungers.
WHERE SHALL I EAT?
With Sandals all-inclusive holidays, you can dine at any of their gourmet restaurants or casual pizzerias without worrying about the cost. Plus you can eat at any of the Sandals resorts, giving you 21 restaurants to choose from! One of OK!’s favourites was Kimonos, a cliff-side Japanese restaurant at La Toc. Part-dinner, part-entertainment, the teppanyaki dishes are cooked in front of you with great flair and fanfare. If you’re looking for romance, dine at Gordon’s at the St Lucian. Not only is the food exquisite but the location’s unbeatable. Sitting at the end of a wooden pier, OK! watched the deep blue sky turn black and the pinpricks of tiny stars appear.
WHAT MUST I DO?
The island’s iconic landmarks are the twin volcanic peaks of Gros Piton and Petit Piton, a UNESCO heritage site near Soufrière. Make sure you visit what’s said to be the world’s only drive-in volcano, where you can immerse yourself in the sizzling hot springs and sulphuric muds (if you can stand the smell!) which are said to cure ailments. Close by is the Diamond Estate, home to the Diamond Falls. The cascading waters change colour several times during the day due to their mineral content.
Rodney Bay was a filming location for Pirates Of The Caribbean and it’s here you can see the Brig Unicorn, the ship that appeared in the Curse Of The Black Pearl. You can visit the ship and kids can dress up as pirates and have their faces painted.
For an adrenalin rush, take the zip line tour (www.adventuretouruslucia.com) from the fishing village of Dennery. Feel like Tarzan or Jane as you whizz through the rainforest canopy stopping off at various platforms on the way so you can catch your breath and take in the scenery. Or, for something more sedate, take a leisurely sunset cruise with Island Routes led by Captain Willie. We boarded the boat at the Sandals St Lucian pier and cruised along the coastline watching the sun set and taking in the stunning views of the Pitons.
Or pick up some duty free jewellery at the Pointe Seraphine or La Place Carenage shopping malls.
WHAT CAN I DO AT NIGHT?
Evenings at Sandals are never dull. Guests are offered a never-ending list of options including beach barbecues (OK! was impressed by the fire dancing), karaoke sessions, X Factor-style talent nights, dance lessons and music from live bands.
Every Friday night, the sleepy fishing village of Gros Islet hosts a bustling street party called the Jump Up. A sound system pumps out Caribbean rhythms while vendors sell seafood and jerk chicken from the barbecue stalls. Locals and tourists mingle and dance in the street sipping rum cocktails and there’s a real party atmosphere.
HOW DO I GET THERE?
A seven-night stay at Sandals La Toc Golf Resort & Spa in a Millionaire Suite costs from £3,131pp. Price includes Luxury Included accommodation, food, drinks, return flights and hotel transfers. A seven-night stay at Sandals Grande St Lucian Spa & Beach in a Rondoval Suite costs from £3,103pp. Price includes Luxury Included accommodation, food, drink, return flights and hotel transfers. Price subject to availability, for travel until December 8 2011. To book, call 0800 742 742 or visit www.sandals.co.uk.