The drive from the airport at the south end of the island to the resorts on the north end takes roughly 90 minutes in a sturdy vehicle and much longer if the engine is starting to wheeze at the daunting, dizzying heights it has been asked to scale. Those who want to avoid this scary part of the trip can spend $300 for a 15-minute helicopter ride to their room. Friends Kevin O'Regan and his lovely new bride, Nikki, said the island overview was a great way to start their honeymoon on the island.
No matter how you arrive, once you actually reach any of the dozens of resorts ringing this island the paradise comes to life. We stayed at Sandals Regency La TOC, which has nine restaurants, three pools, two swim-up bars, spa, golf course and a breathtaking view of the bay it's nestled in off the Atlantic Ocean. The beach sand was darker than Florida sugar sands but just as fine. The ocean water was not as salty as the Gulf of Mexico.
My wife, Amy, and I mixed adventure with leisure on our trip. We alternated between days spent lounging in the pool sampling different tropical drinks (mango daiquiri was my favorite by far as the fruit was in season and sensational) or risking our lives going ziplining in the rain forest (Amy says never again; I'd do it every weekend), tramping up steep inclines to check out the volcano (whew, it stinks and pity the people who live in the aptly named nearby village of Sulphur), or simply traveling by car touring the island villages with wheels inches away from disaster at times on the roads.
For those unacquaintedd with the adventure ride of ziplining, in St. Lucia it involves driving high into the mountain and then walking even higher. A harness is strapped to your waist, which is then attached to the 12 different wire lines stretching across birds-eye views of rain forests, rivers and rocky crags. The speedy rides take less than a minute apiece but your adrenaline is jacked the entire time, including the hearty trudges up the mountainside, which can be daunting to the less fit.
Sandals offers one of those seemingly impossible values — all the food and drink you can handle with airfare, a luxury resort room and some activities for a set price of roughly $1,000 a day. No tipping allowed. Service was hospitable and ubiquitous but not overbearing.
The food borders on the daring at times — banana catsup or goat curry anyone? — but many tried and true American favorites are available for the more wary traveler. We had several spectacular meals (Oh, the fresh fish at Neptune's and Chateaubriand at famed French restaurant La TOC!) and, somewhat unbelievably, I wish I'd had more of the goat curry.
We worried about how the calories would pile up on such a trip but tropical heat and constantly scaling the hillside and walking all over the resort grounds helps prevent overeating despite the free food and drinks everywhere. You can drink the water at the resort but stay away from it elsewhere.
The oceanfront suites have engaging vistas no matter what your room looks out on: the Atlantic, the cliffs or the bathing beauties in the pool. It's all better than the TV, which is filled with cricket matches, soccer and other British-tinged island interests and newscasts.
Overall, it was well worth it despite the air conditioning's inability to wrestle the tropical heat under 76 degrees in our room on the top floor of the resort. The beds were luxuriant and the in-room spa tub came in handy for weary travelers or those sore from climbing the mountain to zipline.
St. Lucia is a luscious adventure and a great place to visit. But like its many natives who love their island but long to move away, Amy and I were happy to hop on the plane to return to our own slice of paradise.
The swim-up bar at Sandals Regency Resort on St. Lucia is always hopping.