Set on the south-western shores of this velvety and voluptuous Caribbean island, Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, occupies one of the most spectacular locations not only in St. Lucia, but the world. Not many resorts can lay claim to being within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Think swish, unobtrusive A-lister-style seclusion. Matt Damon hired out the whole resort when he renewed his marriage vows with his wife Luciana while Gwyneth Paltrow has spent New Year here with her family.
Set the scene
The late British Aristocrat Lord Glenconner, first spotted the potential of the Jalousie Plantation forty years ago after growing tired of the Mustique playground he’d turned into the hedonistic Caribbean home of the jet set. The Lord’s grandiose abode still stands proudly on the resort’s grounds, an extraordinary Indian palatial structure topped by a Taj Mahal-like cupola which is best appreciated from the bay while out on a boat trip.
Sugar Beach is widely considered the most idyllic spot on the island, with its crescent-shaped, flawless white-sand beach extending into the crystalline Caribbean Sea, betwixt the two towering and green-carpeted Gros and Petit Pitons. You arrive at the top of the mountain and, helicopter aside, the steep descent to resort level brings to mind the awe-inspiring opening scene of Jurassic Park. Art lovers will be impressed by the resort owners’ rich collection of Warhols, Hirsts, Koons and Banskys which are colourfully (and rather casually) dotted around the estate.
The property seamlessly combines the contemporary alongside elegant, Old World living in the original plantation house with wonderfully manicured gardens, croquet lawns and water features. The Resort Pool & Cabanas (the latter of which can be rented out for a daily fee) are impossibly photogenic and thus deserving of their extraordinary setting – dwarfed by the mighty Gros Piton.
Whatever your accommodation desires, Sugar Beach can facilitate them. From entry-level Sugar Mill Luxury cottages; to new top-of-the-range Beachfront Collection four-bedroom properties – modernist edifices brushing up against powder white sand, with infinity pools, outdoor kitchen and dining areas; as well as 1-4 bed Private Residences which the management summarises as ’embracing what it means to truly live while you’re on holiday.’ I stayed in one of its recently refurbished Butler-serviced, uber-chic cluster of ocean-facing villas which dot the hillside. These Old World style, four-poster bed laden symphonies of white with clapboard walls and contrasting mahogany floors, all have plunge pools and separate sitting rooms, as well as secluded gardens, terraces or courtyard areas.
Views as you can imagine, are breathtaking. Bathrooms are cavernous affairs with spacious walk-in showers and deep claw-footed standalone baths. Rooms are replete with Butler service – guests are issued with mobile phones with direct lines so anything from minibar replenishments (chilled bottles of local Piton Beer being one) to mini-bus pick-ups are just a phone call away. It’s interesting to note on the topic of staff retention that the majority of drivers I spoke to had been, what they described as, ‘working in paradise’ for 15 years or more, (many from the resort’s former incarnation as Jalousie). Such is the pull of this surreal corner of the earth, and in particular, the ethos and upbeat spirit of the hotel.
Food and drink
Breakfast, where protein shakes, Creole-style poached eggs and sweet pancakes are the order of the day, is taken in the Old World surrounds of the ocean-facing plantation house where off-white rattan chairs and kentia palms lend a gentle nod to the golden age.
The culinary scene at Sugar Beach has undergone a recent rebranding: Signature restaurant Saltwood (formerly The Great Room), located in the main house has been refreshed to fully capitalise on its privileged position overlooking the bay and Pitons. As part of the new initiative, which invites guests to connect with the lush natural surroundings of St. Lucia, resort chefs have partnered with local farms and food producers to showcase locally-grown, sustainable and organic ingredients alongside imported standouts like Dungeness crab cakes; Dover Sole; incredibly marbled and exuberantly flavoured Japanese Wagyu steaks, and even old-school puddings like Baked Alaska.
Oenophiles will relish the property’s impressive 400+-bottle-strong wine list, including 20 available by the glass. Not only does it list all the Bordeaux first growths you would expect a hotel of this calibre to have in-cellar, but an equally impressive array of regional Old World and New World wines, including those from lesser-spotted wineries like Quinta Do Pessegueiro from Portugal’s Douro Valley and unctuous Sauternes from Domaine Gonet-Médeville. It would be rude not to try at least one rum punch at the open-air Saltwood Bar, scene of the weekly Social Sundowners gathering, organised by Sugar Beach, which encourages guests to meet and mingle.
Bonté Restaurant & Bar is the resort’s new barefoot culinary experience on the beach. Bonté meaning good feeling pays homage to the Caribbean, where guests have the option of either dining on deck or barefoot in the sand. St. Lucian-inspired plates predominate with an emphasis on fresh ingredients sourced from local fishermen and farmers to create the most divine wood-fired pizzas, shrimp tacos, tuna poke bowls and fiery jerk chicken wings. Live music, weekly Creole-themed nights as well as rum and chocolate pairing masterclasses add further provenance to the Caribbean’s rich bounty of produce.
Sugar Beach occupies the site of an original 18th-century working sugar plantation named Jalousie (meaning ‘jealousy’ in Creole) in the sublimely beautiful Val des Pitons. The palm-fringed 100-acre property became a resort in the late 1990s under Lord Glenconner’s stewardship – famously known for his friendship with Princess Margaret, and one-time proprietor of the St. Lucian restaurant Bang – which once stood, literally, bang in between the Pitons. The property then passed to the Hilton Group for almost twenty years before current owners, the Green family, who have considerable experience in the leisure industry as former shareholders of the Maybourne Group, owners of The Connaught, The Berkeley and Claridges in London, moved in. Viceroy, the full-service lifestyle luxury hotel brand, took over the reins in 2008, and embarked upon a three-year, $100 million-plus renovation of the property. Lord Falconer may not have lived to see it but I’m sure he would have approved of the property’s glamorous makeover.
The Hillside Villas in particular, with their separate lounge areas, are an attractive proposition for families. Parents would be hard-pushed to find another kids club as well-equipped and spacious – one that even has Banksy on its walls – and will rejoice as the word ‘complimentary’ is listed beside all family activities. Resort policy stipulates that children under four must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times, while babysitting services are available at an additional charge. For children aged 4-12, there’s a programme of supervised daytime activities, some in the children’s club room, others out on the estate (nature walks and sandcastle building, for example). A multitude of sporting activities are on offer for all ages, from watersports and football to badminton on the lawn behind the beach and tennis.
The aptly-named Rainforest Spa, a set of treehouses woven into the pristine forest, is accessed by a shaded tunnel canopy suspended above the ground. The couple’s treehouse treatment room, perched vertiginously on stilts above the lush tropical forest is the perfect Honeymoon tonic. The Himalayan Salt stone massage is a particular favourite: 50-minutes of sheer bliss and invigoration. The spa is also home to an unusual Mexican-style Temazcal, a traditional stone steam room warmed by volcanic spring water.
Situated in the Eastern Caribbean, St. Lucia is one of the Windward Islands – due to its location on the path of Northeastern trade winds – and is one of the southern, generally larger islands of the Lesser Antilles. The hotel sits at an exquisite convergence of dense jungle, powder-white sand and glassy shallows, with theatrical sunset views across the Caribbean Sea.
In the vicinity
You could be forgiven for not ever wanting to leave the resort once you’ve arrived, but if the idea of smothering yourself in warm volcanic mud appeals then the island’s Sulphur Hot Springs are close by, (the only drive-in Volcano in the world in fact). Classed as dormant these days, The Soufrière (meaning sulphur) Volcano last erupted in the 1700s, emanating from a weak spot in the crust of a volcanic crater which had collapsed. The sulphur spring’s healing properties help detoxify the body and can even alleviate symptoms of sunburn, eczema, arthritis, and sore joints – locals even claim its effects can take 12 years off you. Combine the Hot Springs with a visit to Diamond Botanical Gardens located in the small coastal town of Soufrière.
Sugar Beach is a 45-minute drive from Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) near Vieux Fort Quarter, via British Airways from London.
From £414/$500 per night based on two people sharing a double room on a B&B basis.
Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort
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