St. Lucia is a small island by landmass (you could drive a circle around it in a bit over three hours), but it’s incredibly diverse. To maximize your time here, you’ll be best off splitting your stay between two St. Lucia resorts: one on the beach in the north, and one in the south’s rainforest.
The Best St. Lucia Resorts: East Winds, Gros Islet
I prefer intimate properties to mega high-rise hotels, so it’s easy to see why I instantly fell in love with East Winds. To get to my beachfront suite, I strolled through lush gardens while hummingbirds flitted around me. There are just 30 cottage-style rooms tucked among the grounds, giving you a sense of privacy versus blending in with a sea of guests typical at most resorts. By the end of the first day, it seemed as though every staff member knew my name, offering up a smile and a personalized greeting.
The rooms are a refuge from the hot St. Lucia sun, with powerful air-conditioning, a mini-fridge stocked with chilled drinks, and a luxurious king bed. When you’re ready to head back into the elements, open up the doors to a private patio and watch the waves crash onto the beach. In just a few steps, you can reach the sand or be in the water.
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If you’re looking to do something a little more active than lounge, check out one of the many water activities offered free of charge, like Hobie Cat sailing, snorkeling, paddle-boarding, and kayaking. Even if you’re not a sailor, taking a Hobie Cat (a small catamaran-type sailboat) lesson is a fun way to get out on the water. I also recommend taking one of the beginner SUP boards out on the water, which offers an easy introduction to paddle-boarding.
Having never stayed at an all-inclusive before, I was a little wary of not getting to try the local food, but East Winds made me a convert. Nothing makes you feel like you’re on vacation more than having a gourmet meal cooked-to-order for you, sipping Champagne, and then simply walking away from the table when you’re done—no need to wait for the check or sign a bill. One of things that makes East Winds one of the best St. Lucia resorts is that it’s truly an all-inclusive—all of the guests are on the same plan, so there’s never a charge for any food or beverage.
Some extra activities incur a charge but are completely worth it—like treating yourself to a massage in the breezy outdoor spa that’s tucked away in the gardens.
The food varies from day to day, with buffets filled with local specialties for breakfast and lunch, and a three-course dinner menu that changes every day but always includes three different choices for each course (including a vegetarian option for each). You can even request to have an ultra-romantic, private dinner set up for you in a candlelit dinner in a gazebo on the sand.
The intimate atmosphere of East Winds makes it easy to meet other guests if you’re looking to make friends. Everyone begins to recognize each other after a day or two, and the resort sets up fun and free activities, like a St. Lucian rum tasting, in the bar before dinner each night.
When you want to get off-site and explore the island, East Wind runs plenty of excursions for guests. I opted to take the sunset cruise that takes place on a luxury yacht and sails out of Rodney Bay. Watching the sunset over the water, with the St. Lucian shoreline in the distance and a glass of rum punch in my hand, was a magical experience.
The Best St. Lucia Resorts: Ladera, Soufriere
The Pitons, two volcanic spires towering over the Caribbean Sea, are the iconic natural feature of St. Lucia, and you’ll find them in the southern part of the island. Trust me, you won’t tire of looking at this scenery when you’re here, and you’ll want to stay somewhere that highlights the Pitons. Nowhere incorporates the Pitons into their property better than Ladera, the only resort in St. Lucia that’s located on a UNESCO World Heritage site. Perched on a volcanic ridgeline 1,000 feet above the deep blue sea, Ladera will steal your heart and cement your vacation as one of the best ever.
Ladera has just 37 rooms and suites, each one with an open-wall design—meaning that instead of a window at the front of your room, you have nothing between yourself and the epic views.
I was speechless when I walked into my suite. After a long drive, you’re greeted at Ladera with a cold drink and cool towel before driving in a golf cart down a quiet walkway to the end of the resort. Your personal butler opens the door, and you ascend the stairs to the sound of a bubbling waterfall. The waterfall flows into your heated personal pool, which falls away into a bed of tropical flowers and greenery that tumble down to the Pitons and Caribbean Sea sprawled before you.
The room has all the amenities of a luxury hotel. The humongous bathroom with its oversized rain shower and double sinks has four walls and a door, so you won’t have to worry about privacy. Ceiling fans keep the room cool, although the high location means breezes naturally regulate the room temperature.
The heated pool is large enough to fit a raft if you wanted to lazily float about while admiring the views. And, if you’re tired of swimming, there’s a built-in swing for two that hangs over the pool (also perfect for stargazing).
Falling asleep in the cool nighttime air and waking up to the sunrise over the Pitons and gentle sound of birds is how every day should begin and end. In case you’re distracted by the elements, every room comes with an amenity basket stocked with eye masks, earplugs, and a squirt gun—for any rogue birds that try to come in and steal the freshly baked treats that are left during turndown service.
Although it was hard to drag myself away from Ladera, I couldn’t stare at the Pitons all day and not climb one of them, and the resort’s location is a quick drive away from the trailhead for Gros Piton. I recommend a couple’s massage back in your room after the hike, where you can stare up at the mountain you just conquered.
Ladera also runs free daily shuttles to Sugar Beach (another one of the more famous St. Lucia resorts) if you’re in need of some more beach time.
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I was tempted to order room service to my incredible suite every night, but it would have been a shame to skip Ladera’s famous Dasheene restaurant, which draws diners from all over the island. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served in this open-air restaurant and lounge, and nightly entertainment (from local musicians) gave it a lively atmosphere. Guests usually arrive in the lounge in time to watch the sunset over Gros Piton and Petit Piton with a cocktail in hand before moving into the main dining area for a gourmet dinner.
When it was time to check out on my last day here, I had tears in my eyes as I was leaving. Whenever I need to conjure up a happy place in my mind, I’m going to think of my suite at Ladera.
More from SmarterTravel:
- The 12 Best All-Inclusive Resorts in the United States
- St. Lucia Travel Advice: 6 Things to Know Before You Go
- What You Need to Pack in Your Beach Bag This Summer
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated with the latest information.