Matt Damon chose its white sand beach to renew his wedding vows. Gwyneth raved about the gluten-free quinoa breakfast porridge, and its grounds have provided the backdrop for many a fashion photoshoot. But does St Lucia’s Sugar Beach live up to the hype?
Formerly the Jalousie Plantation – a traditional beach resort in the undeveloped south of Saint Lucia – the hotel underwent a three-year multi-million dollar transformation and reopened last year as Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort. Delivering Caribbean luxe with just a little daring, the luxury resort’s electric metamorphosis set tongues wagging from New York to Notting Hill. And it’s easy to see why.
Sixty villas are scattered across 100 acres of dense jungle rising steeply from a tropical white sand beach. Preserving its original plantation style, rooms come with generous wooden verandahs, tree-strewn gardens and wicker four-poster beds. My villa was located at the highest point in the resort, and while I might have had a good 15-minute hike to the breakfast buffet, I had unrivalled privacy and an incredible view. Besides, getting around the resort is half the fun: staff in safari hats chauffeur guests round in mini 4x4s (golf buggies simply wouldn’t cut it on the hilly terrain).
Thanks to an impressive collection of modern art (much of it snaffled from owner Roger Myers’ private collection), the communal areas of Sugar Beach really sing. Standout pieces include Lindsay Moran’s ‘Woman with a Red Cloak’ and Climbing Men – a life-size cast-iron sculpture of workmen climbing up a whitewashed wall. But nothing man-made can possibly compete with the natural beauty outside.
Emerald mountains converging in the distance behind the hotel and towering ficus trees, red cedars and flowering heliconias scattered among the grounds. To cap things off, two volcanic peaks rise out of the sea like giant mythological creatures bookending the resort’s spectacular beach. These of course, are St Lucia’s world-famous pitons. Floating on my back in the hotel’s oval pool in the shadow of Petit Piton, I felt connected to nature in a way I have never felt before in a five-star hotel. Truly exhilarating.
Sugar Beach’s spa offers nothing less than the extraordinary too: thatched treehouses are strung together with rope bridges, where treatments are carried out amidst towering tree trunks festooned with vines and orchids. It’s like something from a scene in Romancing the Stone (which incidentally was filmed in these parts). Opt for a bamboo massage and you’ll be smothered in coconut oil and rolled out to new levels of zen.
Dining at the St Lucia resort is similarly rewarding. In the Great Room – a grand colonial dining room in the main house – tasting menus and a hushed atmosphere reign. Down at the beach, in the more casual-style Bayside restaurant, there’s a relaxed vibe, with bowls of mussels, jerk chicken and pizza featuring on the menu.
If I had to find one, my only real quibble with Sugar Beach is the beach itself, which happens to be man-made. White sand of the softest variety is freighted in from Trinidad and combed across the shoreline, which in its natural state would be a glittering bronze-tinted volcanic beach. If you never knew, you wouldn’t care. But somehow in a place that is so defined by its natural environment, a fake beach feels incongruous. My advice? Pretend I didn’t tell you and enjoy every single moment.
In the Area…
Natural attractions abound. You can hike to the top of the pitons, visit the world’s only drive-in volcano, bathe in mud or check out the local steaming mineral waterfalls. For a fun day out, sign up for a chocolate-making masterclass at Hotel Chocolat’s Boucan Hotel, just up the road, or take a wander around St Lucia’s second largest town, Soufriere, which is just three miles away. Every Friday, the local town Anse Le Raye comes to life for the weekly ‘fish fry’ (read: rum-fuelled street party), which is a great way to experience St Lucia’s warm Caribbean hospitality.
Elegant Resorts offers seven nights for the price of six from £1,645 per person, B&B in a Sugar Mill Luxury Room including flights from London Gatwick with British Airways and transfers. Offer is valid from 16 April – 20 May 2015, 1 Jun – 1 July 2015, 7 July – 22 November 2015 and 30 Nov – 19 December 2015 inclusive – must be booked by 30 April 2015.