When you think about St Lucia, you might imagine tall Pitons and a dramatic coastline, lush greenery and, most certainly, a romantic (and pricey) getaway. Having just returned from this beautiful Caribbean island, I can tell you that all of these characterizations are correct. However, with that being said, we were able to experience some of the best resorts on the island without paying the $1000 USD + per night fees that some resorts typically charge. Think Jade Mountain, Sugar Beach at the Viceroy, Ladera and more….but for a fraction of the cost.
Yes, most things about St. Lucia are expensive, including the airfare. In most cases, you have to also travel through Miami or another major East Coast hub (New York, Atlanta, Charlotte, etc.). Tickets from Chicago typically run $600-800 USD per person. Even from Miami, direct flights less than $500 USD roundtrip are almost non-existent. In our case we were able to redeem 30,000 American Airlines miles (+$22 USD for fees) for our outbound leg and 35,000 Alaska Airlines miles (+$200 USD for fees) in exchange for two American Airlines return tickets. Total cost for two round-trip tickets was just over $200. Not a bad start.
First, the island itself is larger than you might expect. A car is an absolute must, unless you plan to stay at your hotel/resort for you the entirety of your stay. We rented a car and confirmed our rate in advance, however, when we went to the desk the rental agent tried to give us a different daily rate. After several arguments back and forth (we had a printed confirmation with our rate directly on it), he finally gave us the rate that was quoted. In addition, we did have to pay $20 USD for a St Lucian Driver’s License, which was basically a slip of paper the rental company gave us. At first, we thought it was a ploy, but no, this is required.
Second the roads are windy, the terrain is mountainous and traffic moves fairly slow. It can certainly take a while to get from one destination to the next, so plan your trip carefully. We started in the Central Part of the island, on the West Coast near Marigot Bay and worked our way down south. The main airport, UVF, is located in the far South. There is a second airport, SLU, on the northern side of the island, but it doesn’t allow for commercial jet service.
Our first stop in St Lucia was at 4-star Ti Kaye Resort, which sits high up on the cliffs above beautiful Anse Cochon cove. A number of sailboats and catamarans stop in this cove and it’s no wonder, it really is beautiful.
We stayed in a lovely plantation style cottage with a great balcony and partial ocean views. The room was large, very clean and comfy. Certainly a great spot for couples or honeymooners.
However, despite the views and lovely room, we probably would not stay at the resort if given a chance again. Although still not what I would consider budget accommodations, starting at $350 USD per night, it’s definitely on the budget end for St Lucian hotels and gets great reviews on TripAdvisor, especially for the value. Unfortunately, we just weren’t all that impressed. First, the road leading into the hotel is terrible. You literally have to crawl at an extremely slow pace just to avoid the terrible conditions and what would take 3-5 minutes on a paved road takes closer to 20-25 minutes just to get to the welcome area. Translation: it takes a lot of effort to go anywhere and typically just isn’t worth leaving.
Second, the pool is OK at best. There are a handful of loungers poolside, but the pool is nothing to write home about. I’m a pool person, so I’m biased here.
Last, the restaurants onsite are just OK as well. The main restaurant, Kai Manje, has amazing views of the cove and closer to the beach, there’s a smaller, unimpressive restaurant that serves basic seafood and fried food. However, the service we had at the Kai Manje was pretty poor. Our first night at dinner we waited no less than 45 minutes just to get a drink. We had ordered champagne to start and then wanted wine with our meal. Everything came together, about an hour after our initial order. It just made a romantic setting fairly frustrating.
Our next spot, was by far much more suited for us. Tet Rouge is a little further south on the other side of Gros Piton, but the location was perfect for exploring the south, Sugar Beach, the Pitons, and lastly, being closer to the airport towards the end of our trip. Tet Rouge is a boutique hotel with only 6 studios. If you’re looking for a chill vibe, this is the place to be.
We really loved our little bungalows, with huge ceilings, a kitchenette, a great little balcony with chairs and a hammock. There’s an amazing outdoor shower attached to the bathroom. Not to mention, we had expansive views of the ocean that were absolutely stunning.
As far as amenities go, there a really nice infinity pool, with plenty of chairs. There’s a swim up bar and a great little cafe/restaurant attached. It’s not overly fancy, but certainly perfect for breakfast or drinks by the pool. The staff was kind and always readily available.
The place was easily accessible and we could certainly explore the island easily from the location. At $299/night, it was a great value for St. Lucia as well.
Luxury on a Budget
One of the things that we discovered quickly while visiting St. Lucia was that just because we weren’t staying at some of the world’s most famous resorts (i.e. see ensuite infinity pools at Jade Mountain), didn’t mean we couldn’t make reservations for lunch or dinner and enjoy the views, amenities and service that these hotels were known for.
Josh took us to an amazing dinner at The Cliff at Cap Maison one evening. Walking through the property, you can automatically see why this place is so popular. We ate oceanside overlooking the water and enjoyed an absolutely beautiful sunset. This is one place that I would certainly love to stay at if we ever return.
On our way down to Tet Rouge, we made lunch reservations at Jade Mountain. This hotel is definitely on my bucket list, but with a starting rate of $1200 USD a night, it’s a little too rich for my blood at the moment. It’s one of the best hotels in St. Lucia and the service is certainly five star at every turn. We were picked up at the bottom of this hill and taken up the windy, narrow road to the resort by private car. Upon arrival, we were greeted and shown the restaurant. Apparently, we had arrived just at the start of lunch, so we had the place mostly to ourselves. We spent the next several hours hanging at the hotel, enjoying our lunch and drinks, exceptional service and some of the best views of the Pitons in St. Lucia. We were able to explore several areas of the hotel unattended and everyone we greeted was welcoming and warm.
If our trip wasn’t getting bougie enough, the following day we made lunch reservations at Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Hotel, sandwiched at the base of Petit Piton and Gros Piton. Bayside Restaurant feels like a restaurant straight out of Miami, with lots of chic patrons, white everything, and amazing food and drinks. We had met a friend and former coworker now living in St Lucia and, after lunch, we walked around and enjoyed the property and beautiful bay it sat on.
Following lunch, we made our way up to Ladera Resort to enjoy some sundowners and the views. Again, we found the most amazing spot and enjoyed drinks for less than a typical night out in Chicago. The resort, at minimum starts at $600 USD a night and you can certainly understand WHY. It truly is picture perfect. Ladera’s views make you feel as if you can almost reach out and touch the Pitons. We certainly enjoyed our evening there, but without the hefty ‘per night’ pricetag.
We also enjoyed a wonderful meal at Boucan Restaurant at Hotel Chocolat. Again, the views are really impressive as well, so be sure to get there before sunset. Even in the evening glow, we could see the outline of one of the Pitons.
See and Do
We didn’t spend any time doing tours or activities in St. Lucia as we simply didn’t have time. We also really wanted to enjoy the sun and the island’s landscape and views. We did drive on the eastern part of the island as we left the airport and, although I’m sure there are lovely areas, we simply didn’t see anything overly impressive. On the western side, there are beautiful coves and colorful towns throughout. Check out Marigot Bay, Castries and Soufriere, even if only briefly from some of the amazing viewpoints along the main route.
Overall, we had a great trip to St. Lucia. The terrain is stunning and the resorts are some of the most unique and most beautiful we have seen. However, it’s not necessarily a place we would return to. The accommodations are fairly costly for what they are and getting around the island can be challenging at times. If you want rest and relaxation, a lot of luxury and don’t mind staying put at a resort for several days, St. Lucia could certainly be the place for you.