St Lucia: your new go-to destination for winter sun

With year round sunshine, lush rainforests, movie-worthy waterfalls and sandy beaches, you’d be hard-pushed to find a better winter holiday spot than this Caribbean island.

Why go? St Lucia has got the natural beauty plus the social life. As well as long stretches of unspoilt coastland, rainforests and breathtaking mountains to explore during the day, the bars, restaurants and ‘jump ups’ (street parties) offer loads to get stuck into after sunset. Being a combination of English, French, native and African influences, the food, music and festivals are a wonderful cultural mash-up that give you a great insight to the Caribbean in general. St Lucia has a slightly cooler, more hipster vibe than many of the larger islands in the Caribbean and is blessed with seriously hospitable, laid-back locals.

When: Most people opt for peak season between December and April when the weather is reliably sunny and warm but comfortable (26 degrees celsius). But May, when the island holds its annual jazz festival, is also a great time to visit, although it may be slightly hotter and wetter. If you’re after a bargain, there are great deals to be had from June through till August when prices drop but avoid September to early November, which is traditionally ‘hurricane season’, and there is a higher chance of storms.

 

St Lucia

Stay at: The Marigot Bay Resort and Marina, by Capella.

Perched overlooking the most beautiful palm tree-fringed bay in the Caribbean, the hotel rooms have among the best views on the island. The location is a perfect place to base yourself for exploring the St Lucia’s main sights, which are mostly in the South West from the famous Pitons and old town of Soufrière to the famous sulphur springs, waterfalls and chocolate plantations. Because the hotel sits right on the marina, it offers unbeatable boating facilities if you want to explore the beautiful coastline by water rather than road. The hotel arranges regular trips to Rodney Bay and Pigeon Island in the North.

The facilities here are everything you’d expect from a luxury five star resort with two beautiful infinity pools, lush tropical surroundings, a swim-up bar, and a Rum Cave, where you can do tastings overlooking the fabulous bay with its array of luxury yachts and sail boats.  Other facilities include three restaurants, and a beautiful spa (think expert treatments using local natural ingredients in tiny huts in the middle of the rainforest – bliss!). Then there’s the quaint shopping village with a Heidi Klein outlet, grocery store and café for post-lunch strolls. The gorgeous rooms, some with hot tubs, are elegant and colonial in style with dark wooden floors and white upholstery complimented by St Lucian art. Once you’ve unpacked you just don’t want to leave.

There is a small volcanic (dark sand) beach just moments away (free to get to by water taxi), which has a great ratio of locals to tourists and gives you a more authentic experience of island life than many of the more touristy spots in the North of the island. But if long stretches of white beach are more your thing, boats can be booked to whizz you there from the hotel.

St Lucia

The main reason most people choose Marigot Bay is for the informal, laid-back vibe. The service is excellent, attentive and polite but not suffocating or snooty. Yes its five star, but its not the sort of buttoned-up place where you’ll get looks if you show up for breakfast in your beach flip flops, or have kids that get lively at the dinner table. Staff are just 100% accommodating, friendly and real.

The food: The three hotel restaurants range from the signature offering – The Grill which specialises in exquisitely cooked local fish (look out for local fisherman, Captain Warren, who docks outside each afternoon to deliver his catch of the day for dinner) to the more informal Hurricane Hole (which whips up mean pizzas and local snacks). But the main draw is the fabulous sushi bar right by the pool where we spent most lunchtimes marvelling over the sheer range and quality of beautifully presented plates on offer as the chef prepared the fish for lunch. Well worth a visit for the sashimi alone, even if you’re not staying here.

Don’t miss: Treating yourself to the ever-popular ‘Tree House Dinner’ experience. Enjoy a magical meal in a little house on stilts in the treetops of a forest in the grounds of the hotel as you enjoy the balmy evening surrounded by the sound of crickets and distant sound of the sea.

St Lucia

Also make sure you spend your Friday evening at the Gros Islet weekly ‘jump up’ in Rodney Bay. This is a St Lucia style street party that sees locals and tourists party till dawn. You’ve never seen anything like it in your life!

While you’re there… Go on a chocolate tour with Boucan Hotel Chocolat. 1000 feet above sea level with stunning views of the ocean, the estate offers a range of incredible tours which involve a visit to the plantations where this famous and much respected chocolate brand is produced. You can even help harvest cocoa and try making your very own bar of chocolate in a day.  A truly once in a lifetime experience for chocolate lovers.

Flights to St Lucia from London­­­ Gatwick cost from £448 return with Thompson Airways. Stay seven nights at Marigot Bay Resort and Marina by Capella and pay for three from £242 a night until 19 December 2017, subject to availability.

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