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Friday, 02 May 2014 12:16

St. Lucia

Written by  Roquita Johnson

It’s common to feel like a stranger in a strange land sometimes when traveling. The local language, dress, conduct, and other customs can give you the feeling of not being part of the “in” crowd, like in high school. Fortunately, I did not feel like an outsider at all when I stayed in the beautiful island country of St. Lucia. Instead, I felt like a beloved family member returning home after a long journey abroad.

As soon as I landed at Hewanorra International Airport, an employee warmly greeted me with “Welcome back.” It was my first time in this neck of Caribbean paradise, but this simple greeting set the tone for the rest of my stay.

Fun in the Sun
St. Lucia is a small 27 miles-long sun-kissed jewel beset in the Eastern Caribbean Sea, located between St. Vincent and Martinique with Barbados just to the North. It is one of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles. The sheer diversity of its geography is notable: vibrant rainforests that house a variety of exotic fauna and flora, to soft sandy beaches that caress your feet as you stroll along, and mountainous terrain, with the twin peaks of Gros Piton and Petit Piton (the Pitons) being the island’s most famous landmark.

This variation in physical features means there is something for everyone, as far as outdoor activities. I embarked on a full-day all-inclusive land and sea excursion that kicked off with catamaran sailing in the village of Laborie, and into the town of Soufriere. About halfway through the sailing adventure, you have the opportunity to get better acquainted with marine life by snorkeling. The highly personable crew members were more than happy to give a first-timer like myself a thorough tutorial before making the leap off the boat. One member even swam out with me to point out a few “hidden” undersea gems, such as a camouflaged octopus clinging to a cluster of algae. The friendliness and helpfulness of the crew just underscored the natural warmth of this island’s people.

Next on our adventure was trekking through the Diamond Botanical Gardens, the oldest botanical garden on the island. This is a place that will appeal not only to the die-hard nature lover, but the trivia buff as well: scenes from both Romancing the Stone and Superman II were shot in this natural wonder. Striking greenery such as the “walking” plant - so named because the roots can change their place - and the crab claw plant are not to be missed. The highlight of the garden for me was the majestic Diamond Waterfall, with the mineral baths and spa also a big attraction.

A guided tour of the volcano and Sulphur Springs, said to be the only drive-in volcano in the world, topped off our excursion. Although it is long dormant, there are still signs of activity such as billowing steam and boiling mud. Walking down a series of steps, and then up another flight to the crater ensures you get your exercise for the day!

If you are not keen on exploring the great outdoors, there are many options for shopping in Castries, St. Lucia’s bustling capital.

Two Worlds in One
That feeling I had of being at home is largely due to where I rested my head each night: The Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa. Set on 85 lush acres and mile-long beach in Vieux Fort, it is St. Lucia’s only south coast resort. With a five-minute commute from the airport, it is also the
most convenient.

This 250-room retreat is two worlds in one: Harmony is the serene adults-only wing and Splash is the playful wing for families with children. Indulging in amenities such as the vanilla coco massage at the Kai Mer Spa is a must. Splash amenities such as CocoLand, St. Lucia’s biggest water park, and Kidz Klub will keep your children entertained for hours. Dining options and Surf Shack water activities are in abundance too. I highly recommend kitesurfing if you’re adventurous!

Recently, Coconut Bay completed major renovations to help enhance the guest experience even more. Many of the rooms, particularly Premium Ocean View and Junior suites, received contemporary updates. The Coconut Walk and Capri restaurants have also been redesigned with new menus.

The wonderful accommodating staff, in my opinion, makes all the difference. It truly is a home away from home.

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