Leave all technology behind and embrace the ease and tranquility of St Lucia's mountain paradise
“We make everything happen here,” says Allen Susser, head consultant chef at one of St Lucia’s top luxury hotels. Dining on the terrace at the top of the resort, I can see Mars as clearly as the glistening full moon and in the darkness, I can make out the shadow of St Lucia’s World Heritage Site, the Pitons – twin volcanic spires that seemingly burst from the sea – watching over us.
The setting is more magical than anything my mind could conjure up and Susser doesn’t need to convince me; for the past five days, everything I have wanted – and more – has effortlessly happened here.
A nine-hour flight from London is more than worth it when St Lucia is your destination. Unlike its island neighbours, this Caribbean gem is unusually mountainous and covered in lush greenery. When I step off the plane into a dense wall of heat, I can only assume I’ve arrived in the middle of Jurassic Park. Even at sea level, the landscape is dramatic, rugged and pleading to be explored.
While driving to the resort, we circle around the Sulphur Springs (the world’s only drive-through volcano), travel through the colourful, vibrant town of Soufrière, and tackle a treacherous drive up the mountain, always inches away from a sheer drop. If what was at the end of this road wasn’t so spectacular, I’d wonder if the journey was really worth it. But knowing what you’ll find there, I’d walk the road barefoot just to see it again.
For lying in wait is the 600-acre St Lucian beachfront estate, where you’ll find two hotels: Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain. Both are designed by Russian-Canadian architect Nick Troubetzkoy, and both have unrivalled views of the Pitons. Troubetzkoy’s love of large, open spaces and St Lucia’s stunning scenery has resulted in nothing short of a masterpiece. This is not a high-rise concrete creation atop a mountain: this is a lovingly designed and sustainable living experience carved into the natural world.
According to Troubetzkoy’s wife Karolin (Executive Director Marketing & Operations of both resorts), he is locked away, tirelessly working on a new idea for the estate, so I never catch sight of the elusive man, but his name and work are everywhere. Everything the couple do is with the local community and environment in mind. Nearly all of the staff live in Soufrière at the foot of the mountain, and with its dependency on tourism, the resort is a lifeline to a town that has faced a challenging past, not least due to the erratic nearby volcano.
During my time in St Lucia, I get the chance to try out both of the resort’s hotels. I start in Anse Chastanet; a series of whitewashed cottages decorated with traditional St Lucian tartan, dark wooden furniture and not a window in sight – there is absolutely no barrier between my room and the rainforest and the Pitons. From the moment I see the view, I put down my iPhone and hide my tablet, laptop and headphones, because this place deserves my full attention. There is Wi-Fi available but, in my opninion, a stay on this island should be technology-free. No amount of emails, texts or Instagram likes should be the reason you miss a moment in paradise.
When the sun sets, the sounds of tropical wildlife fill the darkness. I feel scarily vulnerable but when a storm hits in the middle of the night, I’m thankful that I don’t have curtains to shut out the sight. Wind blows straight through my room, rain cascades off the roof, lightning illuminates the Pitons and it’s liberating to not be confined by something so simple as a window. It’s like camping, but with a luxury twist.
It’s liberating to not be confined by something so simple as a window
Creeping higher up the mountain, you’ll find the newer hotel, Jade Mountain, a jungle playground that stands high above the coconut palms. This second concept devised by Troubetzkoy features 24 sanctuaries, each with its own infinity pool and private walkway. I thought I’d fallen for Anse Chastanet, but then I set eyes upon my own private pool sweeping along the edge of the room, tumbling over the side of the mountain into a front-row view of the Pitons. As before, there is no fourth wall. I’m sold.
Each sanctuary is ranked in size from the smallest Star rooms to the Galaxy suites, the highest and largest rooms that have dual aspect of the rainforest and the seafront. The design is bold: think stone columns, tiled walkways and colourful recycled glass statues, giving it an ancient Aztec vibe. It is also a shrine to the natural environment and it fits seamlessly into the landscape. Each of the rooms is open-plan, from the four-poster bed to the whirlpool bath, but as with Anse Chastanet, the finishes are classic and simple. It’s a honeymooner’s haven and I’m starting to love this unconfined jungle kingdom.
Walking into my new palace, I’m met by one of three personal butlers, or ‘major domos’, as they’re called here. After talking me through what’s on offer at Jade Mountain, including the Mountain Club with a menu created by chef Susser himself, I am equipped with a mobile phone that will connect me directly with the butler’s team whenever I want or need anything, 24 hours a day.
I wouldn’t blame anyone for spending their entire trip in their personal sanctuary – apparently it’s quite common here – but with such beautiful surroundings, it seems a waste not to explore and make the most of the resort’s activities. You can make your own Jade Mountain chocolate using cocoa beans grown on the estate, go snorkelling in the crystal clear Caribbean sea, go jungle biking, whale watching, or climb the Gros Piton. Alternatively, you could do as I did and stand awestruck on the beach, panicking about fitting it all in.
You can make your own Jade Mountain chocolate using cocoa beans grown on the estate, go snorkelling in the crystal clear Caribbean sea, go jungle biking, whale watching, or climb the Gros Piton
Our guide Mano takes us through the thick rainforest, telling us about the island’s rich history. It seems everyone on this island has a story to tell, and it is truly the St Lucian people that make this place what it is. And just as chef Susser summed up, all those people really do make everything happen here. While aboard a sunset cruise, I fancied a glass of bubbles, and there it appeared. I wondered when I would have time to enjoy my whirlpool and when I returned from dinner, it was all laid out for me, complete with towels folded into swans and dotted with tealights.
What the Troubetzkoy’s are offering is extremely special. The only way I can really do it justice is to implore you to experience it for yourself.