You may have heard that St. Lucia is a family-friendly destination. But take it from a mama who's been there: If you haul your entire brood down to this rugged, mountainous island, you'll miss out on the very best this Caribbean destination has to offer.
Moms of young children, take note: St. Lucia, a lush, mountainous island situated southeast of the U.S. Virgin Islands, between Martinique and St. Vincent, is NOT a family destination. If your clan needs a dose of family bonding and group relaxation, there are so many more suitable vacations that beckon: the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas, to name but a few. Not only are these other trips custom-made for little ones (kids' meals, club activities, kid-friendly hotel rooms, you get the drift), but adults don't have to feel like they're missing out on the good stuff because, well, there's really not all that much to those places beyond the pretty beaches and family attractions.
As we all know, a Caribbean vacation is all about where you unpack your bags. Nice resort, happy travelers. Junky no-tell motel, grumbling tribe. The fact of the matter is that St. Lucia, known for its high-end, exclusive, romantic boutique hotels, caters primarily to the wealthy and the childless. So if you bring your kids to St. Lucia, you'll end up in either (a) a bland, homogenized, all-inclusive resort or (b) a hotel that either frowns upon children or is lacking every necessity that a child needs, both of which are dreary options. If you're content with an ordinary Sandals or Beaches vacation, do yourself a favor: Save on both flight time and cost (St. Lucia is neither close nor cheap!) and find yourself an island that prides itself on family-style vacations.
Beyond substandard accommodations, having a bunch of kids in your charge on a glorious island like St. Lucia means you're sure to miss out on so much of what makes it such a treasure. I'm not sure which is worse: schlepping kids around this Windward Island's pedestrian-unfriendly, mountainous terrain, trying to keep them quiet at the island's notoriously romantic restaurants or skipping the rugged outdoor experiences that just aren't available to kids younger than, say 15 or so, like top-notch rainforest trails, world-famous scuba diving sites and biking tours that weave through the jungle. A word of advice from a mom who's been there: Avoid resentment and grudges toward your kids by leaving them with Grandma and packing a bag for just you and your husband – or consider booking a getaway with a bunch of pals – and revel in an adults-only trip to this tropical playground.
Sexy St. Lucia
Want to reignite that passion you felt for your husband when you first met? You have dozens of uber-chic, private-villa resorts that will set the mood the minute you walk through the door. Many offer private villas or open-ended suites with no fourth wall, jumbo jacuzzis, plunge pools and ultra-large showers that beg for an afternoon romp. My favorite is Ladera, the island's most chic and sexy spot, perched on the mountainside between the island's two trademark mountain peaks, Gros Piton and Petit Piton, which rise 2,460 feet and 2,619 feet out of the sea. Oprah referred to this spot as one of the five best places to visit in your lifetime and word is this is where Matt Dillon found refuge – with an unidentified female friend – following last year's Oscar nomination. Next time I travel to St. Lucia, this is where I'm heading. With nothing but a husband in tow.
For me, a gal with a fitness fiend for a husband, there are plenty of bonding opportunities outside the private villa, which are also amazing locales to share with friends, siblings, whomever. St. Lucia boasts spectacular coral, sponge and marine life and its clear, blue sea spills over with chances to get up close and personal. Staying at Anse Chastanet, an upscale hideaway resort, brings you within inches of what Islands magazine referred to as one of the world's best snorkeling spots. And because the roads on this hilly island are ultra-twisty and often treacherous, the resort's close proximity to the rainforest and other top-notch outdoorsy destinations, like the Pitons, is an added bonus.
Staying at a posh resort like Anse Chastanet or Ladera may make you think twice about leaving, but you absolutely must leave the premises! Even if you prefer rum punch over rambling mountains, St. Lucia's rainforest is not to be missed. Panoramic views, cascading waterfalls and aromatic indigenous plants are just a few of the treasures to be tasted in this misty mountaintop forest. Just imagine yourself brushing up against the fresh mangoes and limes that hang over the woods, smelling the cinnamon and nutmeg on their branches and taking a break on the a fallen mahogany tree that lines the trail. Envision floating in the Enbas Saut Falls and taking in the sites and sounds of the jungle with neither a whine nor a whimper within a 10-mile radius. Hear that? It's the sound of sanity.
Pleasure for your palate
No stay on this Windward Island would be complete without sampling its gourmet food. We're not talking about buffets for the masses here. In St. Lucia, it's all about world-acclaimed chefs and ultra-fresh ingredients. Because spices, fruits and vegetables (not to mention fish) grow so abundantly, there's no excuse for a bland meal. Chefs spend their mornings creating fresh menus based on what local farmers and fishermen bring to their door and the concoctions are a delightfully delectable. The dishes you'll love best – like fresh kingfish with mango-lime salsa, pomegranate sorbet and root vegetables drenched in coconut sauce – would no doubt go over like a ton of bricks if you were dining with a high-chair at your side. But if it's just you and your husband, your taste buds will be so titillated that you may consider – if only for a moment or two – trading in life as you know it to move to the islands and live like the natives.
Still not convinced that you should leave the kids at home? Don't get me wrong – if you insist on corralling the kids and herding them down to St. Lucia, you will find family-friendly accommodations. There's Almond Morgan Bay, an airy resort with children's activities and snack shacks filled with fake fruit punch and nitrate-dense hot dogs, as well as a handful of others that will accept your American dollars to host your family. Just consider yourself warned that a St. Lucian vacation at a family resort will satisfy your wanderlust, rekindle your romance and reinvigorate your spirit about as much as a trip to Orlando.
For What to Do and Where to Stay recommendations, click here.