St Lucia and Community-Based Tourism

After an early morning start I was soon on my eight hour British Airways flight to St Lucia’s Hewanorra airport thanks to Holiday Extras’ efficient meet & greet parking service at Gatwick airport.

St Lucia has had a chequered past. The only country named after a woman, it was fought over by the English and French and changed hands fourteen times. As a result the official language is English but French-based Creole is spoken by everyone; cars drive on the left as in the UK but the town names are in French.

Allegedly there no straight roads in St Lucia, let alone level ones. The island’s mountainous landscape, created by erupting volcanoes, includes the famous twin Pitons, rising nearly 3,000ft. Climbing them has become a major activity for visitors and locals alike and is amongst the many activities available on the island.

After an absence due to covid, the internationally-renowned St Lucia Jazz Festival is back on the calendar. Another big attraction is the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the largest trans-ocean sailing event in the world which regularly attracts over 200 yachts. Starting in the Canary Islands it ends in Rodney Bay in the north of St Lucia, as it has done for the last twenty years.

Wildlife abounds and some of the birds are indigenous to the island. Many plants are used both for culinary and medicinal purposes and St Lucia produces some of the best cocoa beans. The resultant chocolate is rightly admired and a popular tourist attraction is making your own chocolate bar.

I tried this at Cacao St Lucie. Warm liquid chocolate was poured onto a cool marble table and I then stirred it and re-spread it until it reached the required temperature. Having poured in into a mould I added my chosen ingredients and then it was popped into a fridge to set. Twenty minutes later my now solid bar was wrapped and sealed for me to take away, and it tasted really good!

These types of activities are part of a wider effort by the Tourism Authority to get visitors and their spending into the local community.  One initiative is the Kabawe Krawl, a tour visiting a number of specially selected bars to sample local culture, food and drink; Kabawe is the Creole word for a rum shop.

Another local initiative is the Collection de Pepites, a tourist authority website listing locally owned small hotels and villas. The word Pepites is French for Nuggets and the idea is that visitors can discover golden nuggets of accommodation. To get ATOL protection, use an ATOL travel agent to book the accommodation along with the flights and any other requirements such as car hire.

However, all-inclusive hotels are still very popular, especially with the need to fix costs in these times of financial uncertainty, and home for my visit was Stolen Time by Rendezvous.

My poolside room housed a huge bed, comfortable chairs, a desk, two wardrobes and a chest of drawers. It led directly to the bathroom which contained a large tub, ‘his and hers’ wash basins and a shower with both a ‘rain forest’ and smaller shower head that were controlled separately. There was also a comprehensive range of toiletries and a shower hat.

Electricity in St Lucia is the standard 240v and UK square-pin plugs, so I didn’t need my adaptor. There were also a couple of USB sockets by the desk. The wardrobes contained a hair dryer, iron and ironing board as well as an umbrella. Well, there is the occasional tropical storm! There was also a fridge with water topped up daily and a hospitality tray with tea and filter coffee. Outside the room my terrace had patio-style sofas, cushions and a huge sunshade.

The hotel’s main restaurant faces the beach. Alternatives are the a la carte Malabar Beach Club for lunch and dinner right on the beach, whilst the Trysting Place, the hotel’s only indoor restaurant, is ideal for an intimate dinner for two. All three are included in the price. For pre-dinner drinks the Champagne Bar was always popular and, after dinner, it stayed open until the last guest left.

The hotel is one of the most relaxing and peaceful places I have stayed in, helped by the genuinely happy staff and the fact that there are no TVs in the bedrooms or public rooms. The only TV is in the gym.

However, relaxed doesn’t mean bored. In addition to the main island experiences, the hotel offers a vast range of activities, from cookery demonstrations to archery lessons, and loads of water sports that include diving, hobie cats and kayaks. There is also a spa, gym and tennis courts which are floodlit. Again, all are included in the price. You can sit and read a book in complete peace and quiet or fill every minute of the day with activities. 

The hotel describes itself as private, peaceful and unspoilt. They forgot to mention the excellent food that awaits you.

Fact Box:

To book Stolen Time, call our Silver Travel Advisors on 0800 412 5678, who also have other St Lucia options.

Holiday Extras is the market leader in UK airport parking, hotels, lounges, and transfers. Call 0800 316 5678 or visit www.holidayextras.com

St Lucia: For more about St Lucia and its experiences, go to stlucia.org/en_UK

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Mike Pickup

Award-winning travel writer & photographer

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