Whether you're traveling solo or craving a couples-only escape, St. Lucia is the perfect place to feel utterly off the map.
A five-hour flight from New York takes you to the southern edge of the Caribbean -- just 300 miles from South America's coastline. From the second you land at Hewanorra International Airport, you will feel you’re in another world -- after hundreds of miles of ocean sliding by below you, suddenly the 238-square-mile island of rainforest-cloaked cliffs appears out of royal-blue waters. Here, even rain is called “liquid sunshine” – so embrace the optimistic attitude and watch the sun dip closer to the water as tree frogs chirp and palm trees rustle.
Rendezvous for two
Have you ever been on vacation, ready to sidle up to your plus-one in the pool, tropical drink in hand, only to duck when a kid cannonballs over you?
That sort of romantic mood spoiling is nonexistent at Rendezvous, a couples-only resort in St. Lucia.
The phrase “couples-only” may conjure images of awkward double dinner dates with strangers, but at Rendezvous, it simply means rose petals scattered underneath massage tables and employees scuttling around the 7-acre grounds clutching champagne glasses and chocolates.
There’s one catch though: All beaches are public in St. Lucia, allowing locals to enjoy at their leisure. Although you need a room to eat at Rendezvous, prepare to share the sand with local families trickling through. Their laid-back attitudes may add to your vacation, like an encouraging “no worries” as you fumble to steer your kayak through the surf.
If swinging in a private hammock overlooking the ocean with a St. Lucian rum drink sounds like the way to render your romance, then read on.
Rendezvous encourages those recovering from city stress to focus on nothing but emerald water and waves — whether dining seaside or sitting in a hot tub and sneaking a glance at the sunset through palm leaves. Extras to enhance the mood include ordering flowers to the room or arranging a candlelit dinner on the beach with a personal waiter. And let the hotel know of any special dates — they’re quick to make your orange juice into a mimosa by adding champagne at breakfast for occasions like birthdays or anniversaries. St. Lucia is a favorite for Brits, whose country fought for ownership with the French — and that history is evident in baked beans and stewed tomatoes readily available at breakfast next to local favorites like cocoa tea, stringy-but-sweet sour sop fruit and wax apple juice.
Get to know your partner better as you bond over your ability to stretch into yoga positions or channel your inner Katniss and Peeta from “The Hunger Games” at the archery range. Yoga instructor Pauline Biscette will talk you through stretches in a gazebo by the waves, telling you to let your stresses recede with the tide, where the fishes can take care of them. Plenty of water sports are available to learn, from kayaking to parasailing, and a scuba dive is included with every stay -- so grab your plus-one’s hand and experience something new underwater. If the things you’d prefer to schedule are relaxing appointments, visit The Spa in the Water Garden, which creates homemade concoctions, like a natural coconut and ginger scrub, and therapists will even help you figure out how to mimic it at home.
Solo isn’t short for ‘so lonely’
For an invigorating individual getaway, consider The Body Holiday, which has rooms for couples but also caters heavily to singles needing a life overhaul or just a simple trip to recharge. The entire month of September is even devoted to singles – in honor of National Singles Month, the resort is offering September Solos from Sept. 2 to Sept. 30, starting at $450 per person per night. Maybe you’ll even make some new friends – the resort offers group sunset cruises and concerts, and at every dining venue are communal tables where you can pull up a chair for conversation. The resort purposely has an open-air Miami feel to allow the ocean breeze to touch every part of the resort, whether you’re having breakfast or relaxing in the infinity pool.
The hotel’s promise to guests? “Give us your body for a week, and we’ll give you back your mind.” Hotel staff will work with you ahead of time to plot out plans, or you can pluck activities out of the daily schedule.
The most spectacular part of the BodyHoliday, and where many guests spend a lot of time, is the 30,000-square-foot Wellness Centre, with 32 treatment rooms and 50 massage and beauty therapists. Getting up there is exercise itself – it’s on a hill – but it provides majestic views of the sea. The all-inclusive price includes one spa treatment every day, so sign up for a 50-minute Lucian Lime and ginger scrub treatment or a heated seaweed mask. Water sports here are also included, so learn to paddleboard, or take a golf instruction or even combat fighting class.
Beach barbecues are a favorite pastime in St. Lucia, and the BodyHoliday hosts a regular fish fry featuring mahi mahi, ribs and seaside music – many guests also opt to add in a sunset cruise before. The resort also is home to acclaimed restaurant TAO, known for an East-West fusion and upscale, stylish atmosphere.
Explore the island
If you like an off-resort adventure, consider a visit to En Bas Saut. This is not for the faint of heart, nor the impatient. It’s a two-hour drive from Rendezvous, up twisty curves (bring the Dramamine), past houses nestled into cliffs and over a dirt, rock-studded road. Smith Philip, a friendly local guide who greets you with a walking stick, will distract you from the 1,000 feet down into the rainforest by telling you the history of St. Lucia. Once you’re all the way down, relax and take a dip in the waterfall before heading back up — because you do have to climb back up. Allow Philip to tell you his story: His guiding business is part of an inspiring building-back-up story.
Every trip needs the moment you’ll tell friends about once you’re home. In St. Lucia, make that moment a snorkeling trip to Soufriere Bay, known for views of the island’s two volcanic peaks, the Pitons. Underwater allows glimpses of a collection of coral on the ocean floor and neon fish swimming alongside you. Above the surface, the view is just as enchanting, as you can take in both the Gros Piton and the Petit Piton – you’re swimming between the World Heritage Sites. Back on the boat, cap the trip with a cold Piton - the national beer - between the Pitons.
Follow New York local reporter Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison.