On the last weekend of September I flew down to the West Indies island nation of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. I have always wanted to visit this island with the picturesque Piton mountains and the world famous Jade Mountain Resort, the internet famous resort where each open-air room has an infinity pool overlooking the bay and the two Pitons (which at minimum $1300/night, I’ll save for the honeymoon or family trip). Many have said its their favorite in the Caribbean. I would say there is that potential if one stayed more than a night, but for a short weekend getaway, you might need to consider another spot in the Caribbean for a variety of reasons. But for a longer getaway, St. Lucia has it all.
The island is stunning, mountainous and lush and surrounded by beautiful blue waters. There are plenty of beaches, plenty of land and sea activities and plenty of world-class resorts to relax in, or get an AirBnB with panoramic views. But everything comes at a price, and St. Lucia is no cheap destination for travelers. The roads here are a challenge, while you can rent a car, be warned that you should only do so if you are a very confident driver or are used to steep, windy, cliffside mountain roads that go from paved to gravel. Furthermore, everything is far from each other here, and definitely requires a car or some transport to get from point A to B. You can also hire drivers/ vehicles but be sure to either book in advance or be ready to negotiate rates at the airport and make it clear the deal you get into otherwise drivers have a tendency to charge at will the next day. I booked a roundtrip airport transfer in a private car for $125 roundtrip with Best of St. Lucia Tours through owner Janus Gyan, who also owns some of the top AirBnB properties in town. This was one of the most affordable transfer rates compared to other companies and hotels. They accept cash or card (with a service fee), exact change in cash in USD preferred (each way, $65 one way, $60 on the return for me).
USD is accepted here, but prepare to have exact change as change is hard to come by or be ok with local currency. English is the main language, though Creole is also spoken.
One of the toughest parts of doing a trip to St. Lucia is figuring out where to stay and what your accommodation budget is. It ranges from $100/night AirBnBs and plantation Bed and Breakfasts, to mid-tier $300/night resorts to the ultimate St. Lucia experience at Jade Mountain for minimum of $1300/night (tax inclusive). Location is also crucial. The first major town and area of resorts is a 45 minute drive from the main international airport, Soufriere. This is also home to both Gros and Petit Piton mountains. I decided to stay at Boucan by Hotel Chocolat, in a standard lodge for around $280/night with breakfast and because I booked through Mr. and Mrs. Smith hotels and price matched to booking.com, I received a complimentary one-hour massage (if traveling with 2 people, it is 30 minute massage per person). The hotel is a stunning minimalist designed property located on a Chocolate plantation and owned by the founders of a British Chocolate brand, Hotel Chocolat. The main feature is the infinity pool overlooking Petit Piton. It is also known for its chocolate making activities (not available on weekends) and chocolate inspired and infused cuisine at the restaurant.
Overall, I had a very relaxing and enjoyable stay in St. Lucia. But it is definitely a place to spend more time at. I needed a day for the hiking, a day for the scuba diving, and a day for relaxing on a beach and at the resort.
Since most of my time was spent at the hotel, my itinerary will really revolve around my review of it.
Boucan by Hotel Chocolat
I arrived in St. Lucia at around 2:40PM, and was met at arrivals by my driver holding a sign with my name. I hopped in and a nice cool bottle of water awaited me as we drove off towards the hotel along the water and then into the mountains.
After a winding 45 minute drive, we arrived at Boucan by Hotel Chocolat, which is right across the street from another famous and popular hotel, Ladera Resort (at minimum around $600/night), the one where some of the private pools have swings in them looking over the Pitons (you’ve definitely seen it on instagram). Once the car pulled up to the main lobby, a receptionist was there waiting to greet me. He walked me up to the lobby/ restaurant/ bar, and then there it was, the view of Petit Piton, just beautiful. I sat down to order my complimentary welcome cocktail of choice (yes, you can order any cocktail off the menu) as he processed my check-in. I ordered a cocoa bitter infused old-fashioned, a local twist on the classic and it was delicious. I also booked my one-hour deep tissue massage for the next morning at 11AM right before I was due to leave paradise. After checking-in we he proceeded to escort me to my lodge and walk me through hotel and room amenities.
There are two types of minimalist rooms that all blend into its natural surroundings, Lodges and Luxe Lodges. Each come with complimentary snacks (cookies, chocolate truffles, fried plantain, a bottle of house rum punch, and coffee/tea/water), semi-outdoor showers, well enclosed mosquito net beds, safe, and living room area. The Luxe Lodges feature a large enclosed outdoor deck with loungers and views of the Pitons, the lodges are enclosed but the windows open up and my lodge #3 had views of the Pitons. There are no TVs here and no ACs, though there is a ceiling fan and at night it gets cool enough that you can leave windows open, the mosquito net is huge so dont worry. There is a central hangout area in the courtyard of the regular lodges with loungers and classic games. Below the restaurant/bar/lobby is Club Boucan, the pool and honor-self-service-bar area exclusively for hotel guests. After settling in, I changed into my swim suit and proceeded to the pool.
It was late afternoon so I was all alone in Club Boucan and it was excellent, while the club technically closes at around 5:30PM, guests are welcome to stay and use the pool at any time. I popped open a bottle of Piton beer and had some chocolate brownie and fried plantains as I swam in the 50 foot infinity pool and soaked in the views of St. Lucia as the sun set behind Petit Piton.
After my afternoon of relaxation and swimming, I headed back to my lodge to freshen up for my 7pm dinner reservation, though it turned out since it was shoulder season that I didnt need a reservation. The restaurant features an a-la-carte menu with items ranging from $8-$40. All dishes are made with local ingredients and most contain some element of the cocoa bean, whether it be chocolate or cocoa nib. Let me just say that everything was delicious, flavorful and the added touch of cocoa gave it a subtle, balanced yet complex touch. I ordered St. Lucian Bois Bande rum marinated chicken with white chocolate mashed potato, sweet potato mash, and cocoa nib; Cocoa nib eggplant, and the Chocolate Genesis dessert (variety of peanut butter/caramel/ regular/ milk/ dark chocolate truffles, 72% drinking chocolate, 100% dark chocolate, 72% dark chocolate, cocoa bean covered chocolate, chocolate caramel and chocolate truffle); paired with a Cocoa gin Breakfast Martini, delicious. After dinner, I returned to my lodge for some Netflix and headed to bed.
The next morning I woke up just after sunrise and made myself some in-room french press, it was delicious. I then proceeded to go a for quick morning swim and dip before breakfast. Breakfast is included with all rates here and it is a-la-carte. I ordered an omelette and the special of the day: Cocoa nib pancakes with bacon, paired with Cocoa tea and coffee. Everything was delicious and fresh.
Following breakfast I decided to go for a hike and walk. There are quite a few trails nearby to the hotel but all require a decent amount of time to complete, something I did not have. So instead, I just wandered on the paved roads to the Sulphur Springs located behind the resort and next to the famous drive-in volcano. The walk took me around 20 minutes up and down a hill into the valley. The sulphur springs are a small area of mud and sulphur baths. There is an area where you can pay USD $5.50 to bathe in the mud baths, unfortunately exact change is required, something I also didnt have and I did not exchange any local currency so I did not go for a dip. But I felt I was not missing out as the mud bath here is tiny and man-made, though it was great to see that locals comes here to bathe as well. There is a viewing point at the top of the private property of Boucan’s owners but this is only open on weekdays is are many things in St. Lucia. From the sulphur springs I continued down a path to where google maps indicated was a waterfall, but as luck would have it, the entryway had a big sign that said closed for business. And so back on to the main road in St. Lucia and back towards Boucan.
Before returning to the hotel, I decided to see if outside guests were permitted inside Ladera Resort across the street. Sure enough one can visit the restaurant/bar and boutique. NOTE: unless you order or stay, photos are not allowed. I thought about having lunch there but decided instead to enjoy a Ladera Surprise cocktail made of aged rum, spiced rum and juices and soaking in the unbeatable views of the two Pitons, Sugary Beach and the ocean. The views from Ladera are second to none and truly spectacular, I stayed for an hour just sipping on my drink and really taking in the beauty of the island and realized why so many people love it.
After my post-hike morning cocktail at Ladera, I returned to Boucan for another quick dip in their stunning infinity pool and enjoyed a homemade chocolate banana muffin before heading for my massage session. I got to choose from a selection of four Cocoa based coconut oils, I went for the peppermint infused one. My hour-long deep tissue massage was excellent and relaxing. A perfect way to end my little weekend R&R getaway. After my spa, I rinsed off, packed, and checked-out before jumping in my car at 12:40PM to head to the airport for my 3:30PM flight.
Over all I enjoyed my stay at Boucan by Hotel Chocolat and thought it offered great value for the location, service and amenities it provided. The staff here are all friendly and engaging and attentive. The food is really great. Breakfast is delicious and you must have dinner here, very creative infused dishes of local traditions with the natural ingredients on the property, primarily Cocoa.