WHY WE LOVE IT
- Very special hotels that offer priceless views of UNESCO World Heritage site the Pitons, the biggest draw in the West Indies
- The underwater sights are equally scenic: Dive sites such as Coral Gardens, Piton Wall, and Superman's Flight are world-class.
- The Friday night "jump-ups" at Gros Islet and Soufrière
- Good buys: baskets woven from Aralie, jewelry of dé défouden seeds, and other rain-forest crafts. Spiced rum with bois bande—a kind of bark they call "St. Lucia Viagra."
WHEN TO GO
High season is the Caribbean norm: mid-December to March. June to November can be wet, but look out for bargains.
Take in the twinkling lights from a tropical garden table perched high above Castries. The Green Parrot is a must-visit if you're staying in the north. Note that during high season, reservations and a jacket are required.
THE PITI PITON AND TREEHOUSE RESTAURANT
Tel: 758-459-7000 or 800-223-1108
The aptly named Treehouse is the place to dine if you're stationed on the southern part of the island. Candlelight, lush greenery, and chirruping tree frogs set the stage for the restaurant's tropical world cuisine, made with produce from Anse Chastenet's estate.
The island's best restaurant may also be its most romantic. Set high on a hillside facing the Pitons, Dasheene glows like a firefly once the sun sets. Candlelight and ambient live music complement the fresh, inventive dishes. Menu standouts include the fried green tomato-and-plantain tart.
THE COAL POT
This adorable family-owned restaurant serves excellent French and French-Creole food. The semi-open interior is fine, but we recommend scoring one of the prize tables out on the Vigie dock.
The setting is picturesque, the food simple and good, and the atmosphere gemütlich—especially on special nights like Creole Crab Wednesdays and the popular Friday "jump-up." The catch: Marigot Bay is hard to reach, except by boat.
Tel: 758-459-7000 or 800-223-1108
This treetop beachside fantasy is perfect for couples who prefer their luxury on the rustic side. Splurge on a three-walled star room (ending in "7")—they're huge, with unobstructed Piton views. This 600-acre resort is decidedly low-tech, but has tons of soul. The on-site spa, dive shop, and beach cover all important vacation bases.
P.O. Box 225
You might notice that a few things are missing upon checking in: a fourth wall, a telephone, and a TV. Instead, Ladera asks guests to make do with a private terrace, plunge pool, and priceless Piton views. Other perks include a stellar spa, four-star restaurant, and a free shuttle to the Anse Chastenet beach next door. The best part? No kids allowed. No wonder there are honeymooners in every room…
THE JALOUSIE PLANTATION
Tel: 758-456-8000 or 800-544-2883
At the Jalousie Plantation, you can have the Pitons without traveling back in time: TV, A/C, and Internet access are all yours. The 125 rooms, strewn prettily over a tropical hillside between the Pitons, lack the elevation of their neighbors, but the beach is right there—as are a spa and three restaurants. New owners are in the process of updating the rooms.
Tel: 800-263 4202
The lush horseshoe of Marigot Bay is a sailors' stop distinctive for its folksy nightlife, and this small collection of cute villas and cottages is perfectly attuned to its environment. Sailors can combine a stay with a boat charter.
TI KAYE VILLAGE RESORT
Ti Kaye is personable, natural, and low-key. Its simple virtues include gingerbread cottages spilling down a fairly remote hillside, a sweet beach with great diving, a hammock-for-two over a wooden veranda, and excellent beachside candlelit dinners. Not for couples who place a high premium on anonymity or plasma screens.
A locals' joint as much as a tourist stop, this casual restaurant-bar-general hangout has been around forever, providing cold Piton beer, jerk chicken, and prime liming (the art of doing nothing) for all. Don't miss Karaoke Wednesdays.
Pronounced "grows-eeLAY," this quiet fishing village undergoes a radical metamorphosis every Friday for Gros Islet Night—a "jump-up" that half the island attends, tourists and resident alike. What's a "jump-up," you ask? It's a party where you just can't help but jump up to dance.
Looking to explore the island beyond the confines of your resort? Visit the buzzy Saturday market at the capital, then stroll through the square named after St. Lucia's Nobel laureate, Derek Walcott, to the old town. For shopping of the international variety, try Pointe Seraphine tax-free Shopping Centre in the harbor.
DIAMOND BOTANICAL GARDENS
Tel: 758-459-7565 or 452-4759
Founded in 1784 on the orders of the French king, who wanted a place to bathe in the mineral-rich sulfur springs, this heavenly garden is off the beaten path—which makes it all the more romantic.
SULPHUR SPRINGS PARK (drive-in volcano)
Billed as "the world's only drive-in volcano," these funky, steaming springs are all that remain of the volcano that collapsed 40,000 years ago—with the notable exception of the two plugs that are the Pitons. FYI: You don't drive in, you walk.
ST. LUCIA JAZZ FESTIVAL
May 5–14, 2006
A fun event that's gaining in popularity and star power. (The 2006 lineup includes Al Green, Nancy Wilson, Kenny Garrett, and Seal.) The big events take place on Pigeon Island, smaller ones all over.
International Riding Stables
Tel: 758-452-8139 or 450-8665
Surrender to this romantic cliché—canter together along a deserted beach at sunset. This stable offers trail rides for those with various degrees of expertise. Some imaginative couples choose to combine a ride with a swim and a beach picnic.