Hunting for chocolate, banana cake and all the views.
To welcome the arrival of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and the wider return of international travel, we recently hopped on a short flight from New York to St Lucia in the Caribbean. One part Hawaii, another part South-East Asia, St Lucia is particularly beloved by American retirees and British honeymooners. For us, it was an unexpected surprise. From the airport, meandering roads twist around the coastline, snaking its way through bustling villages and thick rainforests alive with the chorus of wildlife. For our three-day visit, we based ourselves on the south-end of the island, just outside Soufriere, at a resort overlooking the country’s iconic mountain peaks, the Pitons.
Day 1 – Sugar Beach and Anse Chastanet
- Dessert adventure tip: Beacon Restaurant (see here).
- Non-dessert adventure highlight: That crazy water taxi ride followed by snorkelling at Sugar Beach.
If one is heading to the Caribbean, one is most definitely heading to the beach at some point. The UNESCO-heritage southern beaches of St Lucia are accessible by water taxi, a mode of transport which is no more or less a motorized fishing boat. For USD $90 pp, it was a whirlwind 15-minute ride from Soufriere’s Hummingbird Beach to the white sands of Sugar Beach, bumping up and down the crests of the waves in a rather nerve-wracking, yet thrilling way. For little over an hour, we snorkelled just off the shoreline of Sugar Beach, floating alongside schools of tiny opalescent fish, and stalking a startling neon-blue single fish as it wandered around the rocks for food. Whereas Sugar Beach is a great spot for beginner snorkellers, Anse Chastanet is a little more advanced with some occasional strong currents to be aware of. Access to the snorkel area at Anse Chastanet is granted by climbing down a pool ladder, and then straight into the shimmering turquoise depths of a dreamy underwater world.
After all that swimming and snorkelling, we were famished, and headed for a buffet lunch of St Lucian food at Beacon Restaurant (approx USD $40 for two persons). Painted in the signature bright colours of the Caribbean, Beacon is perched high on a mountain above Soufriere, offering uninterrupted 180 degrees views of the town, sea and of course, the majestic Pitons. Lunch featured a variety of local soups, salads and meats, and ended with a bowl of bi-coloured ice cream and cheesecake to chase away the humidity. St Lucia’s tropical weather displayed all its faces while we were dining here — from cerulean blue skies one minute, to rolling grey mists, and then a rain drizzle that sparkled silver and gold in the glistening sun the next.
Day 2 – Northern Day
- Dessert adventure tip: Banana Cake, at the hotel (see below for our hotel details).
- Non-dessert adventure highlight: Don’t miss Pigeon Island, and Over the Moon Bay.
There is no better way to start one’s day in St Lucia than with a rainbow-hued platter of the freshest tropical fruit… and a lot of banana cake. 😛 Banana is one of the country’s top exports, and it is found not only in sweet dishes, but also as part of national delicacies such as salted cod and green figs (aka green bananas). Gobble as much banana cake as you can as you will need it for a long day of daytripping.
On our second day, we embarked on a tour of the northern half of the island. The further one heads up north, the road slowly unravels from its vertigo-inducing twists and turns into gentler curves, passing through the quieter fishing villages of the Canaries and Anse La Raye until one reaches the main township of Castries. On the day of our visit, Castries was unusually hushed due to a public holiday, but our driver told us that the town would typically see thousands upon thousands of cruise passengers disembark here during the peak season. We stopped at Rodney Bay for a pepper pot lunch, an area that otherwise screamed “tourist central,” with many a human lobster strolling between colourful international restaurants and a wide array of glossy duty-free shops. The nearby fishing village of Gros Islet — with fishing nets draped on the fences of weather-beaten shacks — had a more local feel. The highlight of the northern trip was hiking to the top of Pigeon Island, bordered by a calm bay on one side and the Atlantic crushing against it on the other, and dotted with remnants of military forts, barracks and cannons.
Day 3 – Southern Day
- Dessert adventure tip: Hotel Chocolat — the Rabot restaurant and the chocolate-making tour (see here).
- Non-dessert adventure highlight: The drive-in volcano is most unusual, but having Diamond Waterfall all to ourselves made us feel like Indiana Jones for a moment.
When your Dessert Correspondents learned that St Lucia is the home to a cocoa plantation (aka chocolate heaven), we knew that this was the Caribbean island for us. 😛 On our third day in St Lucia, we started the morning by grafting a cocoa plant, learning about the harvesting process of cocoa pods, and touring the lush plantation owned by British chocolatier brand, Hotel Chocolat. The highlight of the morning was making chocolate by arduously grinding cocoa nibs with a stone mortar and pestle, sifting sugar and stirring cocoa butter into the thick paste, and allowing it to set in a small plastic mould to take home later. The tour cost almost USD $120pp, and came with lunch with an American slant — e.g., a choice of fish and chips, burgers, or wings with a side of mash, plantain chips or salad, and an epilogue of slightly bitter, cocoa soft serve ice cream.
After lunch, we traipsed around the main sights of Soufriere, including:
- Spending an hour hiking the Tet Paul Nature Trail for countless more panoramic views of the Pitons and munching a wild mango on the way down (USD $10pp, plus mandatory guide);
- Blocking our noses from the sulphur-tinged air while gazing at the pools of bubbling volanic mud at St Lucia’s drive-in volcanic (USD $10pp, plus mandatory guide);
- Enjoying the rare occasion of having the Diamond Waterfall Botanical Gardens all to ourselves, whilst glimpsing luminous hummingbirds fluttering between bromeliads and watching the waterfall cascade over colourful striated geological forms (USD $10pp); and
- Attempting to dance under the powerful jet spray of the La Toraille Waterfall (USD $3pp).
We ended the day at Hotel Chocolat, with a dinner infused entirely with chocolate, from its cocoa onion soup to a cocoa chicken curry, and of course to two magnificent desserts. The “Rabot Chocolate Lava” cake (USD $17) was a gloriously decadent tribute to chocolate in all its forms, whereas the “Magnificent Piton” (USD $13) was a lighter affair, featuring a meringue tower sitting in a moat of molten chocolate, crusted with scattered almonds, and drizzled with caramel.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: St Lucia. We based ourselves in the south, staying at Green Fig Resort, and highly recommend it as a convenient base with an excellent standard of hospitality, and a view of the Pitons from every room. Note that it is not an all-inclusive resort. If you have more days to spend, we suggest staying a few days up north as well.
- ☑ Budget: $-$$$. Note that the cost of food, tours and transport were oddly, comparable to New York prices. 😦
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Banana cake, and lots and lots of chocolate.
- ☑ Must-eat: As detailed above:
- Hotel Chocolat – the chocolate tour and the chocolate restaurant;
- Beacon Restaurant – for the views with a side of dessert;
- Banana cake anywhere.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Hunting for chocolate, banana cake and all the views.