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St. Lucia: The Land Of Sea, Jungle And Surprise

St. Lucia: The Land Of Sea, Jungle And Surprise

The intoxicating island offers the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation, writes Sara Hamdan.

We are driving through an endless corridor of green banana trees, bouncing along an uneven dirt road with reggae music blasting through open windows, when the driver turns to us and asks: “Was your wonderful flight nice and sweet?”

He then looks up at the sky and begins to roll up the windows. A second later, a tantrum of rain falls over the lush jungle around us. Then, it is over as suddenly as it began. Conversation hasn’t skipped a beat, because here, the country’s unofficial slogan is “no pressure… no problem.”

Welcome to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Like a beautiful woman, the island is confident that she can seduce you no matter what state she is in.

Whether the sun is shining or gray clouds are gathering overhead carrying the threat of a tropical rainstorm, there is dramatic beauty in every mood.

The island, located about 100 kilometres away from popular Barbados, is accessible by direct flight from London, new York and Miami, making it a good choice for travelers interested in the wilder side of the Caribbean.

Lounging at the beach and fine dining are options that you can find readily in neighboring islands such as St. Barts; but in St. Lucia, tourists like a little adventure. here, a tourist will hike to waterfalls, drive into volcanoes, and go shark diving… Just for starters.

Our first stop is at inn on the Bay, a five-room hotel run by a Canadian couple who fell so in love with the island’s charms 25 years ago that they decided to make it their home. Located on top of a hill overlooking a green and blue bay, the scene would not be out of place in a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

As evening falls, a man in a rickety wooden boat takes us across the small bay to a restaurant – the only way to get to it is by boat – and the sound of his oars hitting the water mixes with the sound of insects all around us in a symphony of nature. Close to the shore, another man is leaning back in his chair, playing a tune on a banjo. Once we dock, lanterns amid the greenery guide the way to a restaurant marked by a flashy neon sign of a lizard.

Here we get our first taste of Caribbean cuisine: pumpkin and coconut soup, fish with mango sauce and coffee cake with rum. In the background, a local singer’s jazzy voice rises above the cicadas and the weather is a fresh, welcome change from the Dubai heat.

The next day, we venture to Sandals Regency La Toc Golf Resort & Spa, part of a well-known chain of Sandals hotels in the Caribbean that sets itself apart
by offering all-inclusive stays to guests. You can leave your wallet and worries in your room and eat in any of the hotel’s restaurants – including a fancy- pants French gourmet eatery – as part of the package.

The rooms, nearly all of which have sweeping views of hills, greenery and of the sun melting into the ocean every evening, are hard enough to leave. Millionaire Suites are situated high up on hills, with spectacular 180-degree views, private pools, and a dedicated butler service – a perfect escape.

The all-inclusive nature of the resort means that you won’t want to venture outside of Sandals walls. The La Toc resort, one of three Sandals hotels in St. Lucia, is spread over 220 acres and has a mile-long entrance lined with palm trees. The only decisions to be made at Sandals are whether to book the massage after a seaside lunch at Neptune, where the water laps at your feet, or after a dinner on the terrace of Armando’s, which has candlelit tables and sweeping vistas. Sigh.

Sandals La Toc and Inn on the Bay are located in the north of the island, near the capital of Castries. Castries is a busy little harbour town, with an entire separate economy of souvenir shops that pop up to welcome visitors from cruise liners.

The adventures begin in the south of the island, near the main city of Soufriere. Taxis are the only way to get around and are quite pricey at XCD150 a ride, but the drive is scenic. You will pass by jungles, waterfalls, and men carrying massive boa constrictors.

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