St. Lucia: Adventures and Relaxation on Coconut Bay
By Kent E. St. John
Senior Travel Editor
Less than ten minutes after leaving the airport on St. Lucia, I was pulling up to the Coconut Bay Resort. Within fifteen I headed to the beach, cocktail in hand.
St. Lucia was a destination I longed to see but knew little about. I found out a lot after a few days of exploring one of the Caribbean’s best eco-destinations. In fact, Natural History Magazine picks it for one of the top fifty eco-tourism destinations in the world.
From volcanic peaks to working fishing villages, St. Lucia has an abundance of activities, but it’s also a great place to relax — your choice. Even a hard-working travel editor needs some down time between adventures. St. Lucia and Coconut Bay fit the bill.
De Fish, Mon
Near Coconut Bay is one of the quaintest villages to be found anywhere in the Caribbean, Soufriere. This gem is the second largest settlement on the island and still a fishing village; its island decay is charming.
One can almost feel as if Pirates of the Caribbean is still taking place. To top it off St. Lucia’s landmarks, the primeval Pitons twin peaks, pop up nearby. The sheer steep peaks of Petit Piton and Gros Piton are as glorious a vision as any traveler could want. Seeing as they top over 2000 feet, they have long been a beacon to pirates and those that pull an existence from the rich fishing grounds nearby.
In the harbor small crafts paced and circled and large vessels become a high diving board for the local kids. On the streets proud roosters prowled and French Creole could be heard around the stands selling local produce. Small shops served the locals and luxuries are not to be found.
If you are doing the shopping tourist gig head to Castries the capital, Soufriere is for those who want to immerse.
As we headed out via small boat to Marigot Bay the magnificent Pitons rose far above the villages and waves crashed at their base. As our captain noticed my fascination with them he tells me that climbing them is possible with permission from the Forest and Lands Department. I filed the info because I had other fish to fry.
The stunning Marigot Bay with its glazed white beaches and swaying palm trees could be another pretentious beauty mark of the Caribbean, fortunately, it isn’t. It’s true that there are classic yachts docked and luxurious lodgings to be found there but the feeling is pure St. Lucia.
In St. Lucia history has a hold and it is in fact in this bay that British Admiral George Brydges Rodney chose to camouflage his ships with palms for an attack on French frigates.
That feeling is amped up at the Restaurant de Paletuvier where I attacked fresh fish served with spicy Creole sauces. Deep fried balls of crab made me declare amnesty to a wee bit high cholesterol intake. Sugar birds land at empty nearby tables to serenade those lingering over a cappuccino, gathering strength for a snorkel stop on the return to Soufriere.
Under the Sea
My wife once described snorkeling as laying on the world’s best water bed. Anse Chastenet makes for one great bedroom! This reserve located on the left of the bay provides visual delight, schools of fish pass effortlessly. Coral in a wide range of colors completes the picture. If snorkeling isn’t your thing the sandy beach will be and it is stunning.
As if I was in a Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) daze I heard the sounds of a string quartet penetrate beneath the surface. On the cliff above the quartet was playing for a wedding. St Lucia is a great place to wed and this couple picked a premier spot. All too soon it was time to head back to Soufriere for a cold Caribe beer.
Heaven and Hell
On an island filled with diversity, I decided to pick two extremes both located near Soufriere. Stop number one was the Diamond Botanical Gardens located on what was once an old estate. The estate was called the Soufriere Estate and was built by the French in 1713. The estate was used for cultivating cocoa and sugar until 1785 when the mineral waters were commissioned for French troops and baths were built.
Even today the baths are available for soaking. Old paths meander through the gardens and take you through lush vegetation with thousands of plant species. Especially grand is the Diamond Waterfalls that glimmer in multiple colors due to the mineral deposits that the flowing waters leave.
The falls have starred in several movies such as Romancing the Stone. It is no wonder that the gardens have been named as one of the top 25 nature experiences in the Caribbean.
On the flip side of lush is the burning bubbling sulfur water of Sulfur Springs Park, a drive-in volcano. While the last major volcanic eruption on St Lucia occurred about 40,000 years ago, in 1780 the island spit up and continues today to vent sulfur, and the heated pools are above boiling temps.
Today the seven-acre depression is called a caldera; the surface crust is soft and over a soft substrate. Since a guide fell into the scalding water a few years ago, the observation is from solid overlooks. He survived and went on to father several children.
The colors around the 24 boiling pots are multiple due to the deposits of iron, copper oxide, magnesium and many other minerals. Further below the caldera are springs with therapeutic water values comparative to the springs of Onzendaki in Japan and Prezzuoli in Italy.
It’s a Bird; it’s a Plane it’s…
From my perch about 40 feet from the rainforest floor everything seemed small except for the platform that lay downhill that looked tiny. As soon as I pushed off, Sani’s instructions ran through my head, “One gloved hand behind the pulley and one on the harness.”
By the second zip line run I felt like Indiana Jones. By the third I could actually concentrate on fluorescent butterflies, multi-colored birds and thick foliage found only in the rainforest. The sound of water flowing in the stream below mixed with rushing wind and beating heart.
The course has nine platforms and six zip lines running through 9000 acres. This is one cool adventure and it is set in the spectacular interior of St. Lucia.
After a few days of looking out to sea, I discovered that not all islands begin and end at the water’s edge; St Lucia is a prime example of that. Kayaking, mountain biking and nature hiking all have their place on the island. Get a lunch packed at the Coconut Bay and head out for multiple adventures.
Put the Wallet Away
After my daily dose of adventure, I returned nightly to the Coconut Bay Resort for a few ultra cold Piton beers and a dip in the freeform pool. Nightly a festive atmosphere took hold and happy smiley faces joined together for great food and lively entertainment. Yet solitude and privacy could easily be found on the property.
The long beach curved the length of Savannes Bay and a quiet pool near the spa gave me room to chill. The 85 acres of lush grounds were a delight to explore and amenities plentiful. Perhaps the best reason besides value for the dollar was the resort’s location on the south side of the island, relatively undeveloped and peaceful.
From my balcony, the sound of the ocean swirled with the sounds of a local band playing at the jump up or local feast. The moon shone bright and the breeze was heavenly as I planned my next day’s adventure. I never thought relaxing could be so active.
Intimate yet encompassing best describes my base for my stay; life at the Coconut Bay Resort and Spa is easy and the grounds are spacious. No neighboring megaresorts sitting side by side as is often found in the Caribbean, this place stands alone. Its location on 85 lush coconut fringed beaches has space and privacy for all. The all inclusive price provided great food, drinks and plenty of activities. For more accommodation options, find other unique St. Lucia hotels and tours of the island.
Day adventures can be arranged at the concierge desk at Coconut Bay or by contacting St. Lucia Palms Services (758) 458-0908. The zip line Canopy Tour is priced at about $75 and well worth the cost.
Information on the Volcanic pools can be found at Planetware.com.
And for the Diamond Botanical Gardens at Spas.About.com.
Kent St John
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