Natural Wonders

Why there’s much to love about St Lucia’s natural wonders

St Lucia. Romance. The two have long been woven together. And that’s because the island has been so successful conjuring up its mercurial mix of welcome, charm and character-filled hotels – a unique variation on the seductiveness of all the Windward Islands.

So yes, as a couple, there’s plenty to lure you here. But part of that charm is St Lucia’s physical luxuriance, and – whether or not you’re visiting with a significant other – you’re reminded of this at every turn. Other Caribbean islands have a lush beauty about them, but nowhere else does this culminate in the crescendo of the Pitons, St Lucia’s iconic twin volcanic peaks, which in a moment of pure geographical drama soar 2,500ft from the sea like massive incisors. 

Mind-boggling fertility is everywhere. Trees drip with fruit, hotel gardens explode with colour and even roads seem under threat as growth encroaches from either side. Not long ago this was known simply as “bush”. But there is more to bush than you could ever imagine. To celebrate it, St Lucia has come up with the idea of a Botanical Trail that will tempt couples and singletons alike. Launched just before lockdown, this loose collection of sites of natural interest – parks, gardens and plantations – is now re-opening as the individual elements become Covid certified.

Tet Paul, a community project, claims to have the island’s finest view of the Pitons. From the village of Chateaubelair, I was led by guide Bertha up a ravine to the Tet, a plateau. She pointed out local crops and tropical trees – breadfruit, cashew and lime, sweet potato, ladies’ fingers and pineapple; the last grows in an impressive explosion of spikes. On the plateau itself the sounds of village life rose to meet us – music, a shrieking laugh and a dog bark. The culmination of it all is a viewing platform: the massive pointed Pitons really are magical.

Rabot Hotel by Hotel Chocolat is one of a number of luxurious options clustered around these extraordinary mountains. Its pool, dining room and most of its rooms gaze across greenery onto the Petit Piton, which hovers above like a pyramid. It’s easy to spend time gazing at something so majestic, particularly with a cup of local “cocoa tea” (unprocessed, unsweetened chocolate) to hand. Interestingly, chocolate, bitter or sweetened, is included in almost every dish on the menu at Hotel Chocolat. The hotel name itself hints at an important dimension of the island’s fertility: plantations. In the late 1700s the difficult terrain here was found suitable for cocoa forests, cultivated to satisfy a taste for the drink in European chocolate houses. 

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