A PLACE OF YOUR OWN
Another way to give your clients a more personalised touch is staying in a villa. Originally developed as luxury homes, Water’s Edge Villas by Bay Gardens Resorts are the company’s newest properties and sit among the yachts and sailing boats of Rodney Bay Marina.
At 4,000-sq ft per property and usually housing eight adults across four bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, a well-equipped modern kitchen, pool and private waterfront terrace, it’s hard not to feel like Will Smith’s Fresh Prince strolling in to his new Bel-Air mansion as we arrive.
Jason Beaubrun, site manager and Bay Gardens’ business development manager, describes the potential for Brits to try villa stays in Saint Lucia, especially as tourism recovers from the pandemic.
“This is perfect for British visitors – they like to really get out and explore, and especially during the current environment, having your own space is important,” he says.
Guests can request groceries ready for when they arrive and supermarkets are a short walk away. The villa also has keyless entry, Ring doorbell security cameras, a Netflix-enabled TV plus a smartphone for contacting staff.
We find switching from the typical restaurant service makes for a refreshing and relaxed change, and the freedom it offers will no doubt appeal to families, as well as couples looking for more privacy.
CHOC-FULL OF FUN
Sweat drips from my forehead as Queen’s We Will Rock You plays from a nearby speaker and our guide Xystus sings his adapted version of the rock anthem: “Pound your, pound your, chocolate! Nothing will ever taste as good as this – you made it yourself.”
It’s a great ending to our morning at Hotel Chocolat’s Project Chocolat experience, set in the hills above Soufriere. Opened earlier this year within the 140-acre Rabot Estate – a Unesco World Heritage Site and Saint Lucia’s oldest working cacao farm – Project Chocolat promises visitors will “never think about chocolate in the same way again”.
Having explored the seedling nursery and walked the estate gardens where purple lychee-like cacao pods hang in abundance, we’ve done our “tree-to bean” chocolate theory and it’s now time for the “bean-to-bar” practical test. We set to work grinding our cacao into a paste with a pestle and mortar, melting in butter and sugar.
After pouring the mixture into a mould and leaving to set (we’ll be taking it home with us), we explore more of Project Chocolat with its artisanal street food and snacks, including must-try cacao-infused ice cream.
Tours at Project Chocolat are complimentary for guests like us staying at the neighbouring Rabot Hotel from Hotel Chocolat.
Originally opened as the Boucan in 2014, the property was rebranded in 2019 and now features 14 wooden eco-lodges including our Luxe Lodge.
Sitting atop stilts in the rainforest overlooking Gros Piton, the view is as sumptuous as the chocolate.
As you’d expect, food is where the hotel excels. The cacao bean is a part of each dish, and there are some quirky menu choices, such as white chocolate mash, while another highlight is the “Chocolate Genesis” dessert, a seven-part tasting dessert featuring incredibly rich 100% chocolate, 70% truffles and a melted chocolate drink.
More visitors will soon be able to get a taste of the hotel’s unique take on food as it is currently adding 11 more lodges, with hopes to finish in November, in time for the winter sun season.
“When Boucan opened, we had six rooms. We’ve grown and now we’re growing again,” hotel manager Chrys Allcee tells me. He adds that the hotel’s ethos will appeal to laid-back travellers with an adventurous streak.
“Here it’s all about recharging and reconnecting with nature. Yes, you might meet a late-night lizard in your room but it’s all part of the experience,” he smiles.
Until quite recently, a lizard visit might not have been to everyone’s liking, but after lockdowns have denied our wanderlust, it’s something clients seeking an adventurous yet indulgent return to long-haul travel will likely jump at.
That mindset – to try something different – has played a big part in our time in Saint Lucia, and with our chocolate now in our fridge at home, the memories of our time on the island will seem that bit sweeter for a while yet.
Book it: Caribtours offers seven nights at Rabot Hotel from Hotel Chocolat starting from £2,599pp sharing an all-inclusive lodge. The Villa Collection’s Water’s Edge Villas package (departures in July 2022 for eight adults, including British Airways economy flights from Gatwick) costs £8,232 total. caribtours.co.uk; thevillacollection.com