There are islands and then there are islands - emerald green, floating specks of land so dreamily perfect in every way, they seem almost unreal. St. Lucia falls squarely into this category and is unsurprisingly one of the world's most popular honeymoon destinations, with Sugar Beach, formerly the Jalousie Plantation one of its most sought-after resorts.
Where in the world
St. Lucia is situated in the eastern Caribbean and is the largest of the Windward Islands. Mountainous, fertile and almost entirely covered by rainforest, the landscape has an air of the South Pacific about it, though fresh Creole flavours drifting out of doorways and reverberating sounds of soca and reggae keep it feeling unmistakably Caribbean.
Deep in the island's southwestern corner, twin volcanic conical peaks soar into the sky like some kind of giant tropical pyramids. These are the famous Pitons, a UNESCO World Heritage site and St. Lucia's most recognisable geological feature.
Down at the bottom of the undulating valley between these two peaks is a small bay of improbable beauty, backed by the cream-sand curve of Sugar Beach and the start of the rainforest just behind. This privileged spot is occupied by the Sugar Beach resort, in what has to be one of the most idyllic beachside settings on earth.
We arrive at night and are immediately whisked off to one of the brand new luxury beachfront bungalows by our own personal butler, Aquinas, who shows us around the capacious all-white room before leading us out to the beach, where a petal-strewn trail leads to a lantern-lit table set up for dinner. The velvety blue sky is scattered with stars, waves lap the shore and local tree frogs sing softly in the distance – it's hard to imagine a more romantic welcome.
Inside, the white-on-white interior is utterly calming and just what's needed when the entire surrounding landscape is a deep, relentless green. A large and supremely comfortable four-poster bed faces directly out to sea, offset only by the full-length drapes and a couple of striking lamps and tables.
Behind the dividing wall is a luxurious freestanding bathtub, walk-in shower and separate dressing room, where you may just find all your clothes have been miraculously and neatly hung. It's also home to your own proper coffee machine, perfect for early morning contemplation on your terrace.
All of the new bungalows feature a private inner courtyard with tropical planting, outdoor shower, and floodlit plunge pool, with a large picture blind that can be rolled up for a perfectly-framed view of the beach and Petit Piton's towering mass beyond.
What makes it special?
The hotel covers a large area – sometimes you'll need to take a golf buggy to get around – but the attention to detail and emphasis on personal service and privacy make it seem like a much smaller, boutique-style establishment. A real effort has been made to ensure that guests get a true sense of seclusion and intimacy. From the opposite shoreline, the whitewashed beachfront bungalows seem to dissolve into the sand, with the remaining rooms and villas widely spaced across the volcanic slopes and barely visible through the canopy.
On the other hand, the hotel's main house brings a touch of urban glamour to proceedings. The ex-plantation building may still look traditional from the outside but the contemporary art-filled Great Room restaurant and ultra-sleek Cane Bar have a distinct Miami vibe about them; a look that's really not that common in the Caribbean. It's a great excuse to get your gladrags on after a lazy day of sunbathing.
One of the real treats of Sugar Beach is the multi-million dollar Rainforest Spa, a gorgeous enclave in the heart of the forest reached via a winding candlelit tunnel. An assortment of seven treehouse-style treatment rooms on different levels are connected by raised wooden walkways, coupled with a wetroom and Amerindian steam dome.
Whatever kind of treatment you're after, it's likely to be available here, with bamboo massages and hot rock therapies a favourite with honeymooning couples who opt to be pampered side by side.
Beyond the hotel
Don't be fooled into thinking this is purely a honeymoon island with not much reason to explore beyond your room. St. Lucia offers some of the best snorkelling and diving in the Caribbean, excellent local cuisine, and a whole host of natural attractions and activities in its rainforest-clad interior.
Sugar Beach is perfectly placed for exploring St. Lucia's lush southwest corner and further afield. A short distance from the hotel is Sulphur Springs Park, home to the Caribbean's only drive-in volcano and one of the island's best known attractions. Take a walk through the crater past gurgling hot springs and bathe in warm sulphuric mud pools, renowned for their therapeutic properties.
A guided hike to the summit of Gros Piton is a challenge attempted by many visitors to St. Lucia. It's a steep, demanding climb and a fair proportion of walkers give up at the halfway point – this is definitely not an adventure to be taken lightly. But if you're physically fit and happy to sweat it out, you'll be rewarded with some staggering views. Leave as early as possible to avoid the hottest part of the day.
For a less strenuous excursion spend an afternoon at Rain Forest Adventures in the northeast of the island, admiring the tropical canopy from onboard the aerial tram.
Read more about these and other ideas in our Top Five Things to Do in St. Lucia article.
Be aware that distances in St. Lucia can sometimes be deceiving. While the island is just slightly longer than 24 miles from north to south, the roads are winding and slow. On the other hand, you will drive through some of the most beautiful scenery in the Caribbean; over rolling green hills and banana plantations, through deep-sided valleys where village life plays out at a leisurely pace.
Accommodation options at Sugar Beach include rooms, variously configured villas and the new luxury beachfront bungalows. All come with personal butler service. Sugar Mill Luxury Rooms are the best value, starting at $300 per night in low season, based on double occupancy. The Luxury Beachfront Bungalows start at $1,000.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.