The Caribbean is quite deservedly an all year round destination and is brilliant for families who love nothing better than pristine, white sandy beaches, warm, azure blue seas and a vibrant, friendly culture that quickly makes you feel totally at home. St Lucia, in particular, is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful islands, with its lush rainforest interior, glorious coastline and the famous Pitons, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed volcanic mountains that have become a symbol of the island. Nestled directly between these two towering spires is Sugar Beach, a former sugar plantation (and once the residence of the late Lord Glenconner) and now a recently renovated 5-star resort, which prides itself on being super family friendly. Indeed, earlier in the year Gwyneth Paltrow stayed here with husband Chris Martin and children, Apple and Moses – even posting photos on her website, Goop. So if it’s good enough for Gwynnie then it’s good enough for me, my husband and ten-year-old twins…
One of the great things about St Lucia is that despite it being an eight-hour flight from London, most flights leave early in the morning, so if you take into account the six-hour time difference, you are at your destination by lunchtime, so you really hit the ground running. We flew with BA and were delighted to be upgraded at the gate (a first for us, and very much appreciated). We’d previously arranged a transfer to the resort, and sure enough our driver was there ready and waiting. The air-conditioned car was certainly a blessing in the searing Caribbean heat, while the stunning coastal views made our 40-minute journey to Sugar Beach pass in next to no time.
To say that Sugar Beach has the “wow” factor would almost be an understatement. From the moment we entered the resort we were struck by the gorgeous, pastel-coloured colonial-style villas nestling discreetly in the lush, tropical hillside, while the main house is an elegant evocation of a bygone era, complete with sweeping stairways and charming lily pond, a testament to its plantation past. Having recently undergone a multi million pound refurbishment, everything is sparkling new and in pristine condition, from the lovingly tended gardens to the shimmering pool around which were located the most sumptuous sun loungers we have ever seen. We were shown to our villa by our butler, Fabien (yes, all guests have their own personal concierge) and our jaws dropped in unison at the sheer luxuriousness of it all. A beautiful white, wood-clad building complete with plantation styling, it was elegant yet unpretentious and perfectly simpatico with the environment. The children quickly discovered the vast patio upon which was a large plunge pool, while we marvelled at the spacious, breezy rooms, all white and bright with dark wooden floors. Our villa boasted a stylishly decorated living room (which doubled as the children’s bedroom at night) complete with an over-stuffed sofa and chairs and flat-screen TV, two marble-clad bathrooms, the larger of which had a roll top bath, and the master bedroom with its muslin draped four-poster bed. There was even a walk-in closet/dressing room where Fabien kindly set our luggage. We were soon admiring the views from our villa which were beyond stunning, taking in the incredible sight of the Pitons between which lay the sea.
Few locations can be as impressive as that occupied by Sugar Beach. Situated slap, bang between the Pitons, the resort sweeps dramatically down to a wonderful white, sandy beach, gently lapped by the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. In the spirit of fairness, all of St Lucia’s beaches are open to the public, not that you’d have known as there were never more than a dozen people on ours. The nearest town to Sugar Beach is Soufriére, a ten-minute taxi drive away. Full of tightly packed, brightly coloured clapboard houses, the town’s name is French for sulphur in acknowledgement of the many hot springs and mineral baths dotted around the area.
What we ate
There are three restaurants at Sugar Beach and suffice to say that they all offered such mouth-watering cuisine it was impossible not to clean our plates. The children were particularly big fans of breakfasts, served up on the terrace of the main house. Pancakes, waffles, eggs in every conceivable guise – you name it, they had it over our week-long stay and all accompanied by the inevitable declaration of: “yum, yum”. Lunch we tended to take by the pool (each sun lounger has a red flag beside it, which you raise when you want service). The stone-baked pizzettas quickly became our luncheon of choice, washed down with banana milkshakes (the children) and the locally brewed Piton beer (us). Of an evening we would alternate between the wonderfully relaxed Bayside Restaurant and the slightly more formal Great Room. The food was impeccable at both, with locally caught seafood just marginally trumping the meat dishes because it was so irresistibly fresh and tasty. Even my children became converts, sampling the delights of squid, prawns and scallops, as well as all manner of fish. On our last day we decided to venture beyond the resort to try the local Creole cuisine served at Martha’s Table, a local restaurant that Fabien had recommended to us. A roadside shack complete with corrugated steel roof, what Martha’s lacked in looks it more than made up for in taste with the curry chicken and spicy jerk pork getting a resounding thumbs up.
Things to do
For the children there’s an amazing kids’ club set over two floors in the main house. Not that the children remained inside for long, with treasure hunts and fish feeding on the beach, cricket and croquet on the lawn and snuba diving (a hybrid of snorkelling and scuba diving using a floating central tank and hoses) in the pool. The kids’ club staff were wonderful with my children, quickly building a rapport and engaging them in the activities. It was Michael, however, who became their firm favourite, thanks in no small part to being so effortlessly cool, with his fabulous dreadlocks and winning smile. My husband, meanwhile, rediscovered his inner Jacques Cousteau, going on several scuba dives with the resort’s dive master, while I happily holed up by the pool reading and occasionally dipping in for a cool down. We did manage a couple of excursions, and well worth the effort they were too, with a visit to what’s billed as “The Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano”, the Soufriére Sulphur Springs Park, which was awfully smelly (prompting the children to hold their noses), but also terribly interesting, with the on-site museum giving an insight into the area’s rich colonial history. We also visited the nearby Diamond Falls Botanical Garden where we wandered through the grounds admiring the diverse flora and fauna that thrives in St Lucia’s tropical climate.
Everything about the Sugar Beach resort is totally luxurious, but it’s all done with such style and grace, it never feels false or effected. The staff are discreet and charming, happy to accommodate your every need while responding to each “thank you” with an endearing “you’re most welcome”. Wander around the resort and you’re instantly struck by its wonderfully, sociable ambience with honeymooners, babymooners and families all delighting in what, for many, is a holiday of a lifetime. During our stay the resort’s charming general manager, Andre, turned congenial host, organising a welcoming drinks party on arrival and a black and white ball towards the end of the week. There’s also regular movie nights when everyone gathers on the beach to watch a film al fresco.
Why we’ll go back
A week at Sugar Beach leaves you so rested and relaxed, it feels like the equivalent of spending three weeks anywhere else. Also, it’s truly a holiday the whole family will enjoy and you’re almost guaranteed not to hear those oft used words: “I’m bored”.
Caribtours offers seven nights from £6,785 based on two adults and two children under 12 years sharing a Superior Luxury Villa on a half board basis. Price includes returned schedule flights, private transfers and use of the lounge at Gatwick. Call 020 7751 0660, or visit caribtours.co.uk