OK, the Caribbean is gorgeous, but which island will be right up your street? And if you want somewhere full of island life rather than Americanisms, where should you head?
Saint Lucia has long been the choice of the honeymooner but with a new clutch of well-executed boutique hotels, it’s now rivalling Antigua and Barbados.
Gourmet Saint Lucia: Cap Maison
More rugged and tropical than neighbouring isles yet still offering crescent beaches of soft white sand and piercing blue waters, it offers an exciting and authentic taste of the Caribbean.
For foodie types, Cap Maison at the northern tip of the island is spearheading the island’s gourmet revolution.
Focusing on innovative dining and bespoke service, Cap Maison has one of the best (if not the best) restaurant on the island, a private cove, wine cellar, bar and 49 suites that cater for multi-generational holidays or romantic vacations.
Where other hotels serve up BBQ mahi mahi and tuna seven days a week (lovely but repetitive), Cap Maison makes good on its promise of being ‘into food’ (in a big way).
The main restaurant, Cliff at Cap, has stunning elevated views across to the island of Martinique and the intimate open-air dining space has private tables for two and larger decked jetties for private parties.
The food on any night is exquisite and the atmosphere is chic and fun with friendly chatter at the exclusive rum bar.
Cellar Maison, tucked away under the main house, is the island’s first open wine cellar offering wine tastings and houses over 2,000 bottles, including Grand crus, natural and biodynamic wines, old world classics and new world favourites.
Wine tastings are held every week and are informal, relaxed and bespoke, so can focus on your favourite regions or wines – ruddy brilliant.
The most romantic restaurant in Saint Lucia
Private dining is not new, but Cap Maison really go the extra mile. Tables can be set up on the beach, on the clifftops and just about anywhere.
The pinnacle of these private dining options is Rock Maison, a small raised wooden deck surrounded by the ocean on three sides.
One of the most romantic spots on the island, it has a champagne-bucket zip wire that runs from the Cap Maison restaurant down to the private Rock (of course it does) and guests are served by their own butler.
With amazing dining, private beaches, gin-clear water and tropical sunshine, it’s easy to see why more people are heading to the Caribbean for their summer hols rather than Europe, especially as you can get so much luxury for less.
With hotspots including Croatia and the Balearics become more expensive, and the dread of stepping foot on another budget airline, going further may pay dividends in rest and relaxation.
At Cap Maison, the first noise you hear on arrival is the cork popping from a bottle of champagne, no forms, no credit card swipes, no hassle. How very refreshing. For great dining, five-star luxury, but with a boutique guesthouse vibe, you can’t do better.
A garden view room at Cap Maison starts from £275 per night, B&B. The hotel runs summer deals at a 30 per cent discount. A villa with Jacuzzi is around £370 per night, B&B.
The Naked Fisherman: best beach restaurant
For those in search of relaxed dining on the island, The Naked Fisherman sits on the slither of beach in the north of the island is one of the beast beach restaurants we’ve come across.
This palm-thronged deck has a chilled-out vibe with excellent staff and sublime seafood (try the chilli crab claws. I’m still dreaming of them).
Better still, take a market tour and cookery lesson with the head chef. This half-day lesson takes you to the spice market in Castries and then back to cook your lunch in the Naked Fisherman’s open kitchen.
Not much on a holiday can be better than grilling your spiced tuna to perfection while looking out on the glittering Caribbean sea.
Top things to do in Saint Lucia
- Head down to the south of the island to beautiful Marigot Bay and take a tender across to the small beach. Rolling Stone Mick Jagger has his unusual Asian-inspired villa up on the exclusive hillside.
- Don’t miss the weekly Jump Up street party in Gros Islet in the north of the island. It’s rough and ready but full of fun, drinking, BBQs and dancing; things kick off around 7pm. Tourists are advised to head home around 10pm.
- Enjoy a day out on Cap Maison 1, the hotel’s motor boat. It’s the best way to see the island and a great day out.
- Hike up Pigeon Island and, if you’re brave enough, take to the Pitons in the south and get a guided hike (around three hours) to the top.
- Keep an eye out for the guest weeks at Cap Maison, where acclaimed chefs fly into the resort to take over the kitchen for one night and join forces with head chef Craig.
Saint Lucia deals
With discounts throughout the ‘low’ season (UK summer), where temperatures are still around 29ºC Saint Lucia may be the summer destination you’ve never thought of.
Flights are up to 50 per cent cheaper than winter and five-star hotels including Hotel Chocolat (rainforest boutique getaway; a real gem), Anse Chastanet (chilled luxury beach vibes near the south) and Cap Maison offer significant discounts of up to 30 per cent.
Chantal Borciani is travel editor at High50. She reports on destinations, foods, hotels and wellness, and specialises in over 50s travel trends. Twitter: @ChantalBorch