Holidaying solo on the honeymooner’s island of St Lucia
I’m not by nature a terribly relaxed person, but the vibe is downright infectious
St Lucia is spectacular – sun-soaked, small but ruggedly mountainous and thickly covered in exotic, lush plant life, with clear, warm-water beaches. Photograph: Getty
Before I visited St Lucia, I’m ashamed to say the extent of my knowledge of the island was what I had read in Heat magazine many moons ago, when Amy Winehouse jetted off to its tropical climes. Her reason for visiting – as if anyone really needs an excuse to decamp to a beautiful Caribbean idyll – was to seek tranquility, far from the London media circus. She chose well.
When I arrived to the wall of heat at tiny Hewanorra Airport, minus a beehive and paparazzi entourage, I was a complete Caribbean dilettante. My global gallivanting up to that point had been limited to Europe and North America. The height of my exposure to the Caribbean lifestyle has been ads on telly for Oasis and Malibu. In truth, nothing will really prepare you for the beauty of the region, or its very distinctive groove. St Lucia is a different kettle of (tropical) fish altogether.
There’s good reason why these islands are used as shorthand imagery for paradise. St Lucia is spectacular – sun-soaked, small but ruggedly mountainous and thickly covered in exotic, lush plantlife, with clear, warm-water beaches.
More cynical readers may put this down to the free flowing rum cocktails, but there’s a relaxing atmosphere in St Lucia that is totally unique: it’s fun, infectious and makes you feel happy. We all know the well-worn Caribbean stereotypes about good vibes, laid-back beach shacks, jerk spice, and Calypso; as it turns out, they’re all pretty much on the nose.
This was also my first time holidaying alone, something I had never worked up the nerve to do before. My digs for the week in St Lucia was the newly-opened Serenity at Coconut Bay, a secluded luxury spot favoured by couples celebrating anniversaries, weddings and engagements. So, not only was I solo, but I was spending the week in a honeymooners’ paradise.
Team of dedicated butlers
Just like nothing can ready you for the first time you touch down in the Caribbean, nothing can prepare you for being handed a cold towel off a silver tray by your own personal butler named Angus. The selling points of these premium resorts is not just the all-inclusive hooch, but also the service, which includes a team of dedicated butlers available any time of the day or night via a personal telephone.
Every St Lucian I meet during my stay is an absolute treasure, and inside the tranquil suites of Serenity is no different – the locals seem genuinely pleased to see you, and enthusiastic about you enjoying your time on the island as much as possible. I’m not sure Irish people are cut out for this kind of pampering and attention, but if any nation was going to sell it to you, it would be St Lucia.
Passing staff ask how your day is going, or offer to bring you one of the coconuts they’re carrying to your room. Their hospitality doesn’t ring false; everyone seems, with no pretence, to just be really sound. It helped me get over that distinctly Irish feeling that I’ve trespassed somewhere far above my station.
Between the butler, stocked bar, four poster bed, in-room tub and gorgeous pool, you’d be forgiven for spending all your time sunning yourself in the resort, but it’s well worth getting out of the walled garden to explore what this stunning gem of an island has to offer.
I decided to book a (non-inclusive, unlike the food and booze) tour to see the sights, and Mr Shabee Darling King arrives to show me around. He is full of chat, ending every second sentence with the mantra: “Love, love, love, one perfect love.” He even shouts it to passing cars we overtake. He is a brilliant guide, offering a great insight into St Lucia life and the island’s chequered colonial history as we drive.
We pass winding mountain roads to hot, bubbling (and smelly) sulphur springs. A woman meets us and shows us the way, pointing out mango and cashew trees on the route up. She explains in a very Caribbean way, in that inimitable accent, how dangerous the springs can be. “If you fall in there,” she says, “it’s no more problems for life! You’ve got no more bills to pay!”
After that, it’s on to the Botanical Gardens. Shabee seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the beautiful flowers, naming them with ease, before we sniff our way around the adjoining herb plant garden, stopping on the way out for some local coconut cake sold by the roadside.
Snorkelling in open water
On the way back to Serenity, Shabee takes a detour to bring me to the sea at Laborie, where a beachside hut selling cheap Piton beer is blaring Drake. He tells me they drink Guinness hot on the island, as it’s meant to increase your prowess with the ladies.
Another tour option is to head out onto the open water to snorkel. The Caribbean side of the island has smoother seas than the Atlantic, making it easier to spot the beautiful tropical fish in all their bright, electric colours, vivid and shockingly close. If snorkelling isn’t for you, just the sight of the lush, verdant Grand Piton jutting out from the vantage point on a boat is not to be missed, even for the lure of cocktails by the pool.
A short taxi ride from Serenity is the town of Vieux Fort. It’s small, with one main drag, bustling street vendors and storefronts, pastel buildings and chickens roaming the path. I stick out but I’m left alone, barring what is perhaps the most polite street harassment I’ve ever come across: “Excuse me, I would like to marry you please, if it is possible.”
By the end of the week, I come to the conclusion that St Lucia is the best place in the world. The carefree, sunny Caribbean ethos has leaked into my blood. I’m not by nature a terribly relaxed person, but the vibe is downright infectious. This is no doubt helped by the fact that as a solo traveller in paradise, the plans are entirely on your own terms. St Lucia is definitely not just for cruises and honeymoons.
St Lucia is located in the Eastern Caribbean, above St Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago. It uses the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (ECD). Seasoned resort travellers recommend bringing along American dollars in small bills for tipping.
British Airways flies daily year round from Gatwick. Virgin flies five times a week in winter and three times a week in summer, also from Gatwick. Thomas Cook flies from Manchester in winter. Flights from €700 per person.
Where to stay
There are luxury honeymoon resorts, family-friendly hotels and then (as Shabee reliably informed me) local-run guesthouses. For a premium all-inclusive spot such as Serenity, prices start from €4,300 a week for two in a plunge pool butler suite. serenityatcoconutbay.com