Don’t get us wrong: There are beautiful beaches in St. Lucia. The imported white sand at Sugar Beach is popular, as is the native gray beach, Anse Chastanet, with shallow reefs for snorkeling. But St. Lucia is also mountainous. The Pitons, a pair of UNESCO World Heritage-recognized volcanic peaks, rise up from the island, framing jade-green valleys, before sloping down to the sea. Roads wind precipitously through the rainforests, splitting off toward resorts and bars serving the local Pitons lager.
As readily as you could spend your vacation lounging on the beach, you could also hike 2,600 feet to the summit of Gros Piton, zipline through the island’s flora, bathe in therapeutic volcanic mud at the Sulphur Springs, plunge into the icy pool at the base of Toraille Waterfall (it’s rocky; bring shoes), drink rum cocktails and dine on cacao-based dishes like cocoa-butter duck confit and tangy cacao-pulp sorbet at Rabot Estate’s Hotel Chocolat, and discover vanilla orchids, cinnamon trees, and purple mangoes at the botanical gardens.
Stay at Ladera for St. Lucia’s best views. Located on the southern end of the island, perched between the Pitons but far from visiting cruise ships, it’s an adults-only, open-concept resort — suites have only three walls with the would-be fourth wall left open to the surrounding forest. (Truth talk: There will be the occasional bug, lizard, or bird.) Despite the open wall, rooms are private and paneled in tropical hardwood with terra-cotta floors, hammocks, plush beds draped in mosquito netting, and small plunge pools (pay the premium for a heated pool) with pinch-me views. From rainbows after a quick spurt of rainfall to waking to the Pitons draped in mist, you’ll never even want to board Ladera’s free shuttle to the beach.
Winter rates from $1,000/night; www.ladera.com