In April of 2021, we were looking for an escape from the dreary New England Spring. Covid vaccines were beginning to go into arms and countries were slowly relaxing travel restrictions. We planned a 3 resort, one week jaunt across the island of St Lucia, filled with lazy days on the beach, tropical drinks in our hands, and active adventures hiking and exploring the island's mountainous rainforests and crystal clear coves.
Expectations vs Reality
Landing at the St. Lucia’s Hewanorra International Airport, we descended past jungle mountains into the island. The massive twin peaks of the Pitons immediately draw your attention. The steeper, thinner Petit Piton plunges down almost vertically into the ocean. Slightly higher, but nearly twice as wide, is the Gros Piton. Soaring half a mile high each, the green jagged peaks looked like a pair of mossy canine teeth, jutting up from the ocean gumline.
After going through Covid protocols and having an individual squirt our hands with sanitizer (a gesture we encountered so frequently on this trip, it became customary) we walked out of the terminal into the muggy 80° island heat looking for the NÜ Rental Car Company, which I had booked a car with using Expedia. Foolishly thinking things were like the before-times, and this island hadn't just reopened after being closed for 4 months, we found an empty car rental shop window that looked like it had been abandoned a year ago.
We were undeterred.
In retrospect, it's kinda crazy that I thought I could rent and operate a vehicle, with a steering wheel on the wrong side (right side) whilst on the opposite side of the road (like in England), up and down St Lucia’s steep, narrow, cliff hugging thoroughfares. Luckily, the Universe gave us Fredrick.
We met Fredrick at the airport and for $60, he offered to drive us the 90 minute, 38 mile drive from the island’s southern tip of Vieux Fort, where the airport was located, to the northern town of Rodney Bay, the location of our first hotel. We loaded into his hooptie, a dusty white Mitsubishi minicab van which turned out to be the most common commercial vehicle we would see amongst the island traffic.
Arriving at the Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa, we quickly came to understand that our expectations for this stay would need to be “modified”. Our plans to go into town for the weekly Friday night Gros Islet Street Party, reveling with the local St Lucians while dancing to Reggae, would be replaced with twice daily temperature checks from the resident nurse who tracked us down across the resort.
We were undeterred.
Our activities at the Bay Gardens Beach Resort consisted of romantic all-inclusive dinners for two, creating lazy time lapse photos of one perfect sunset after another, and finally taking Babygirl off alone in a free sailboat rental offered by the hotel that I piloted myself.
Miguel and the Water Taxi
At the end of our stay at the Bay Gardens, we decided to commandeer a water taxi for the day, and commute to our next resort. OK, I have to be real, traveling on a water taxi from one hotel to another is pretty baller.
Mehgan the Stallion blasting and bottomless cups of “island punch” provided by our captain, Miguel, we wore our bathing suits for today’s itinerary which included mud baths, snorkeling, and an active volcano.
”Yes, that’s my giant checked bag in the pictures.”
We continued down the coast past the massive inlet leading to the capital city of Castries, and then on to the town of Soufrière, home to the island's active volcano and our next destination, the Sulphur Springs, and their mud baths.
The Sulphur Springs mud baths maintain 110° from the geothermal heat created by the active volcano. The revitalizing minerals in the baths have regenerative properties boasting to take years off your looks. The only downside was the smell of farts.
Pungent eau de rotten eggs gas seeped out of the oozing mud.
We applied the mud to our bodies but there was no way I was putting that stuff on my face. I looked over at Babygirl, she was already covered head to toe.
She grinned at me from behind her mud-caked cheeks. That wry smile and spontaneous energy disarmed my overthinking anxiety, and I decided to get dirty too.
Rejuivated and relaxed, we took a taxi back to the boat for the rest of the day's agenda.
Next stop was snorkeling! Nestled into the Anse Chastanet cove is one of the island's many known snorkeling locations. This one shared shoreline with the beach side bar of the Anse Chastanet resort.
Ti Kaye and the 166 Steps
Sun, rum, mud baths and ocean dives finally took their toll on our stamina and we decided we were done with our private charter and ready to checkin to the Ti Kaye resort.
Our water taxi pulled up to the lower dock of Ti Kaye. The actual resort sits over 6 stories above the Anse Cochon Beach below, and the two are connected via a cross back tower of 166 stairs. Beach side is the resort's lower restaurant (https://www.timanje.com), marine rentals and the water taxi dock.
Our arrival turned some heads.
Late afternoon patrons enjoying fresh baked pizza out of the beach side pizza oven with island cocktails, stared blankly at the new resort guests who did not arriva via land, but instead floated right up to the dock. We debarked still in our bathing suits, tipsey, and with a very large checked bag. THESE two clearly know how to adventure. Babygirl gave a cocky grin. Baller.
A bellhop greeted us and took our bags. We piled into another tiny Mitsubishi minivan and headed up the sheer steep driveway to the main resort. The vehicle's wheels slipped and skidded all the way.
Up the cliff at the resort, we arrived at our private cabin, and fell in love immediately. The beautiful view over the breathtaking Anse Cochon bay, would be our home for the next 4 nights.
Ti Kaye resort sits on the west coast of the island about ½ way between the northern and southern tips.
Red roofed private cabins that lined the cliff sides of the bay. Wind blown white walls opened into porches with hammocks and pictuous views of the Caribbean sea. Leading in from the porch, double doors open up to the main room and its netted four poster bed.
The showers may have been the best part. Completely enclosed by tall wooden fences, you felt like you had your own little private piece of mother nature. With temperatures consistently around 80, hot showers in the cool night with the stars above were surreal.
Dinner was in the main dining room. The space, although roofed, had many large openings to the evening ocean breeze, and from some of the tables one felt like you were actually outside. Tropical plants and flowers were woven between tree trunk like wooden pillars. Live Jazz saxophone filled the air. (https://tikaye.com/dining)
Although I enjoyed various pre-planned, protein centric dishes, babygirl found the ad-hoc vegetarian dishes whipped up specially for her, lacking imagination and more importantly, seasoning.
We spent the next four nights, the bulk of our vacation at the all-inclusive resort.
Tuesday we slept in and woke to the view of the bright blue sky reaching down to that deeper blue ocean.
After breakfast we descended the 166 stairs down to Anse Cochon Beach. You could easily lose a day lounging by the ocean on the secluded shore. Sunk deep into the cover of jungle palm trees only a few dozen feet from the water, the beach felt like marooned paradise.
… minus the waiters with the umbrella drinks, and the $2M yacht buoyed about 50 yards away.
Large tour boats would frequent our “cast a way cove” and unload tourists into its depths as it was another prime snorkeling location.
Speaking of which, we explored the far corners of the cove ourselves. Majestic underwater mini-canyons of reefs populated with tropical fish filled the pale blue of the ocean.
Other amenities at our disposal from the hotel included floating sea beds just big enough for 2, kayaks, and more beautiful sunsets.
During our stay at Ti Kaye, we spent a day hiking the Pitons. The hotel provided a private cab, our driver would be our chaperone for the day, as leaving the resort meant we were outside the tourist designated covid restricted zone.
During the hike we befriended our guide who invited us to his mother’s restaurant. We excitedly accepted the opportunity to FINALLY get authentic cuisine.
When we arrived, it was apparent we were the first and last customers of the day. And of course, that meal was amazing. Home cooked beans, rice, chicken, and plantains, the meal brought me back to an alternate reality childhood where my grandmother’s kitchen was right here in this building.
On our 2nd to last day on St Lucia, we left Ti Kaye to head to our final resort, but first, we needed to experience chocolate nirvana at Rabot Hotel Chocolate.
Part agricultural tour/ part culinary adventure, 100% chocolate, this vine to table experience is a must stop! We visited greenhouses and nurseries, and then mashed our own dark chocolate bars from cocoa beans we shucked ourselves. Chocolate themed lunch, cocktales, and of course, deserts sent us into near food comas. Our favorites from the store were the Salted Caramel Cacao Vodka Liqueur and the Salted Caramel Velvetised Chocolate Cream.
Our final night in St Lucia, we stayed on the Pitons Bay at the Ladera Resort. Our cottage provided stunning views between the Pitons from our private pool and patio, the superlative view of the trip.
That night we finally were able to have an official, hotel sanctioned, dinner out in town. Our cab drove us through the narrow streets of Soufriere. Our destination, Orlando's Restaurant & Bar, was one of a handful of covid approved establishments, and certainly the one with the most interesting menu. As we were one of only two parties to dine there that night (Covid devastated tourism here) we had personalized attention from the owner/ chef, Orlando himself. He personally presented and described each of the 5 courses he prepared for us while recounting his entire culinary resume. Babygirl found her conversation, in Spanish, with Orlando’s sole employee (a local middle aged Guatemalan mother who told her own story) far more fascinating.
The food was magnificent, but honestly, the home cooked meal at Marie's Local Cusine was better.
On the chaperoned cab ride back to the hotel, hailed for us by the restaurant (a covid requirement) we longingly passed a dancehall filled with locals, spilling over with music, the loud “ping” of pool balls, and laughter carried through the quiet night air.
The Next morning we hopped in our final Mitsubishi minicab van back to the airport, the trip exceeded all expectations.
Our Dope LIfe Adventure continues…
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