More than 10 million years ago, the rumblings, shakings, and violent explosions over several periods of volcanic activity created an island that is now, ironically, one of the most peaceful places on Earth. Out of the lava and fire and ashes has risen, phoenix-like, a veritable Garden of Eden surrounded by glittering topaz-blue water.
Belying its violent birth, St. Lucia is the crown jewel of the Caribbean; in addition to the lush, tropically colorful flora blanketing the landscape, the dramatic two peaks known as the Gros and Petit Piton plunge from heights of 2,500 feet straight into the ocean. They are two of the world’s largest and most photogenic volcanic plugs, created when the magma cooled and hardened within vents of the now-dormant volcanoes. Now a tropical rainforest with extensive biodiversity, they are home to about 150 different plant species and dozens of different types of birds. Below their blue skirt, vibrant coral reefs carpet most of the surrounding marine area, teeming with nearly 170 different species of fish.
Early inhabitants of St. Lucia worshipped the Petit Piton as their goddess of fertility and food and the Gros Piton as the god of war, fire, thunder, and rain. Today, nestled right between these two ancient gods is Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, the appropriate progeny of two divine parents.
As we drove through the front gate, I was amazed at the vastness of the resort’s property. After several minutes following the winding road through the rainforest, we were taken straight to our villa overlooking the ocean, where we were welcomed by our butlers, Macrina and Nagee. Macrina explained that for anything we needed during our stay — a shuttle down to the beach, a dinner or spa reservation — she was only a speed dial button away on our resort cellphone.
A celebratory welcome basket with champagne, rum, and local fruit juice greeted us, with “Welcome” spelled out in leaves on the sitting room coffee table. The decor throughout had a central and solitary theme — white. Everything from the bed to the chairs to the vaulted ceiling was a clean, breezy alabaster that at times made us feel as if we might actually be in Greece. The expansive bathroom boasted a soaking tub as well as double showers, from which we could walk out to an outdoor shower area. At the foot of the king bed was an unimposing, lovely white chest that, at the click of a button, issued forth a flat screen TV. French doors opened onto our private marble terrace, complete with lounge chairs, an umbrella, and a plunge pool. The villa was constructed so that guests may choose whether to open the expansive doors and windows and rely on the cool ocean breezes or to enjoy the air conditioning.
Sand and Water Therapy
After getting settled and unpacked, we lost no time in making our way down to the beach. The cove between the two pitons, though flat along the coastline, rises up quickly to the ridge that runs between the two peaks, giving the resort a mountainous feel. While a shuttle is available at a moment’s notice, we always chose to walk and take in the impressive views and variegated, colorful landscaping. Upon reaching the shore, we found two beaches — the main beach and a smaller, more private beach. The latter is situated at the end of a beautiful pier going out over the water and furnished with beanbag seats, perfect for a sundowner cocktail or a morning cup of coffee. Both it and the main beach have floating mesh rings in the water, ideal for sunbathing, chatting, or enjoying a beer. The main beach also has a picturesque hammock set up several yards out in the ocean. Tiki huts and lounge chairs along the shore are equipped with flags to signal when another frozen piña colada, or perhaps lunch, is in order.
When we were ready to switch from saltwater to fresh, an expansive, elegant pool area awaited. The sleek, streamlined design of the pool is flush with the surrounding paved tiles, and several private cabanas are available for daily rental. Depending on the position of my lounge chair, I alternately enjoyed views of the pitons, the beach, and of the resort’s beautiful landscape built up the mountain.
Sugar Beach boasts four sit-down restaurants, in addition to the option of ordering from the tiki huts, room service, or grabbing a bite at Boopa’s — a snack shop named for the elephant that Lord Glenconner brought to the island in the ’80s that lived between the Pitons.
The Terrace is open for breakfast each day and offers stunning views from the main resort building out over the koi pond, lawns, and down the hill to the ocean. In addition to a sumptuous buffet, the menu includes an impressive array of traditional western breakfast offerings as well as traditional St. Lucian morning dishes. My favorites were the French toast and the waffles, finished with a chocolate and avocado smoothie.
Jalousie Grill is a relaxed, open-air beachside venue with all-day dining. We enjoyed dinner out on the beach with a whole section of the menu devoted to lobster dishes, reminiscent of Bubba’s shrimp recitation from Forrest Gump: lobster burger, lobster nachos, lobster ceviche, lobster brioche roll, grilled spiny lobster … I was in lobster heaven! I also enjoyed a fresh mango and pineapple salad topped with cucumber and a honey-mango dressing.
Adjacent to Jalousie Grill is Bonté Restaurant & Bar, similarly beachfront and open-air. With a name that means “good times” in Creole, Bonté offers dishes with ingredients from local fishermen and farmers, such as shrimp tacos, tuna poke bowls, coconut red curry, and wood-fired pizzas, as well as delicious cocktails like my favorite, a grapefruit and hibiscus martini, or the Sugar Beach rum punch, also my favorite! Like every restaurant on the property, they also provide a list of fancy mocktails for those who prefer not to imbibe.
Live entertainment on the beach every night ensures a peppy, Caribbean vibe at both Bonté and Jalousie. On two evenings, Bonté and Jalousie combined for special themed buffets. One night we enjoyed Mediterranean stations that included about 20 entree offerings with the likes of lamb kofta, chicken shawarma, braised ribs, lobster, and octopus, in addition to the pizza station, hummus station, salad station, cheese station, and, last but certainly not least, the dessert station with 18 choices! I may have covered my plate from one of these stations particularly well.
The other evening was barbeque night — in the European sense of grilling — and we chose not only from grilled meats and seafoods but also from an Asian grill station with chicken yakitori and beef skewers, a sushi and raw bar station, a pizza station, and an elaborate salad station including watermelon, cucumber, mint, and feta salad as well as lobster and mango salad. Again, a table full of desserts, ranging from caramel flan to hazelnut cream cake topped the evening. No going hungry here!
On the floor above the Terrace, Sugar Beach has two upscale restaurants that offer a different vibe from the beachside. The Cane Bar made us feel that we had somehow stepped straight from St. Lucia into New York City. With a dress code of “resort chic” and its modern Asian decor and menu, this option allowed us to shake off the sand fully and have an evening that felt “in-town” without leaving the resort. As I sipped my specially paired gin and tonic, I perused their extensive wine list that even included a 1982 Chateau Petrus Pomerol. The dishes are sharable, so we ordered the wasabi prawns, chicken and mushroom spring rolls, thai green chicken curry, and seafood pad thai, which was my favorite.
Saltwood Restaurant is the resort’s signature dining option, located just across an open-air bar and lounge area from the Cane Bar. While both indoor and outdoor seating are offered, we chose to sit out on the balcony with incredible views overlooking the resort, the beach, and the pitons. Live bluesy singers added to the enchantment as we enjoyed Dungeness crab cakes to start with lemongrass, ginger, citrus, saffron, and coriander, followed by Japanese wagyu with red wine sauce. Berlinda was our attentive server, and we decided to dine here a second time on our last night. As a testament to the impressive thoughtfulness and care the staff has for the resort guests, Berlinda remembered all of our preferences from four evenings prior, including which of the complimentary dessert bites we had liked best … and was sure to give us extras of those!
Never before have I seen a place so well-suited for such diverse kinds of travelers. Sugar Beach is just as well suited for honeymooners as for young families, adult families and/or friend groups, or even corporate retreats. The resort even offers a babysitting service for those who don’t want to leave their youngest family members behind but still want to relax and enjoy the vacation. We had fun watching babysitters trot after active toddlers running through the sand.
While I love reading on the beach, I also like to have that pastime punctuated with other activities, and Sugar Beach certainly has no dearth of options from which to choose.
The Rainforest Spa — At the bottom of the Petit Piton, a stream winds through the ground below the treehouse spa, which is built on stilts and perched high above ground. Harnessing the nourishing ingredients of nearby volcanic springs and fertile cocoa plantations, the spa offers a range of signature treatments including bamboo massage, pink salt stone therapies, body wraps, and scrubs. I enjoyed a luxurious massage while listening to the natural sounds of the rainforest around me and running water beneath.
Scuba Diving — Scuba diving is one of my favorite activities in the world, and St. Lucia is the diver’s Mecca of the Atlantic. With a boutique dive shop right on the beach and small dive groups, I have never been to a place where diving was so convenient. We dove with Rick for each of our seven dives and marveled at the dramatic beauty of the pitons that continued below the surface — mountainous walls continuing to plunge ever downward but covered with vibrant coral and teaming with colorful fish.
Watersports — Back at the resort, activities await the water enthusiast! For those who prefer to observe marine life from the water’s surface, fantastic snorkeling is offered over the reef right off the beach at the base of the Petit Piton. We enjoyed sailing in the cove in Hobie Cats as well as paddleboarding and kayaking. They even offer waterskiing and wakeboarding!
Land Sports — Multiple grassy lawns perfect for the land sport enthusiast are equipped with bocce ball, soccer, and cornhole. Pingpong on the terrace, tennis courts, and beach volleyball continue the fun for the competitive, and a state-of-the-art expansive fitness center offers the more disciplined traveler the chance to exercise in beautiful surroundings as well as to attend scheduled classes.
Art Tour — One striking feature about the resort is the vast array of diverse artwork, each piece equipped with a plaque containing a QR code that takes viewers to a video explanation of the piece. Sugar Beach is the first hotel in the world to offer what has before been a museum-only amenity. My favorite is a sculpture of reflective balls strategically placed between the two beaches to reflect the water, beach, pitons, and the viewer soaking it all in.
Excursions — While we chose to spend every possible moment in or by the water, those who prefer to diversify their activities can choose from plenty of amazing options, from hiking the pitons to exploring the waterfalls and mud baths. The world’s only drive-in volcanic Sulphur Springs is only minutes away, a gray river of 113 degrees Fahrenheit, colored by high concentrations of sulfur, iron, and copper.
All too soon it was time to pull our suitcases back out and say goodbye to our new friends … and new favorite place on Earth. The sadness of leaving was tempered though by the joy of discovering a place to anticipate eagerly returning again and again.