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We chose the Caribbean for our honeymoon because we wanted to go somewhere we could have both relaxation and adventure. We had a destination wedding so we knew we'd want a few days of "doing nothing", but to be honest, we're really bad at doing nothing so it was important that we'd have plenty to do when we got bored of relaxing. We found some gorgeous shots of Saint Lucia's pitons online and just like that, we were in!
We quickly found that Saint Lucia has it all! Whether you're a beach-loving all-inclusive vacation type or an adventure-craving outdoorsy traveler, there are experiences for you in Saint Lucia. This made it especially great for us because we'd be able to have both experiences.
Accommodations & Island Map:
Our first task was to book a true "honeymoon experience," which obviously means booking a beautiful all-inclusive resort that requires a huge chunk of your honeymoon fund. Isn't that what you're supposed to do? Saint Lucia is the land of all-inclusives and our options included the well-known resorts (Sandals), a luxury resort featured on the Bachelor (Jade Mountain), and a few others thrown in for good measure. While all of them were truly beautiful, we were quickly priced out of a lot of the options and decided that maybe the all-inclusive life wasn't the best choice for our adventurous souls (or our wallets). Long story short: we hated the idea of paying for the resort and wanting to leave it to explore, which we knew we'd end up doing. We ultimately decided two nights was enough at a resort and we'd spend the rest of our week in a regular room exploring the island. We ended up with the following itinerary:
2 nights at Ladera Resort (all inclusive, south end)
5 nights at Bay Garden Beach Resort (all inclusive optional, north end)
This whole post will make a lot more sense if you know that Saint Lucia is not easy to get around. The north & south ends are drastically different (which is why we wanted both experiences), but unfortunately they're also very difficult to navigate between. The map below will give you a general idea of our trek.
Southern Saint Lucia & Ladera
We wanted to have our all-inclusive relaxation days first, so we started our time off at Ladera Resort in the south. This worked well for us because you definitely need a car or hired transportation to get out of the airport area, and the resort arranged for that. Ladera was about a 45 minute drive from the airport and we got a lot of stares in our blacked-out towncar they sent. I'm not sure what the other resorts do and I definitely wasn't unhappy with the car, but it was a little awkward to be so visually cued as the tourists that are dishing out on their resort stay.
The car was only the tip of the luxury iceberg and we were totally spoiled during our time at Ladera. You can probably get the sense that we don't mind a little bit of gritty travel, so this level of luxury was a whole new world for us. The resort offered plenty of organized trips to take, but we wanted to truly experience the magic of the resort and the only time we left was to go to the local beach. We ate all our meals on site and didn't leave the suite much so we could truly experience our three-walled room.
Yep, you read that right. Every room at Ladera is a 3 wall set up meaning that you have a full view of the pitons from wherever you are in your room. The resort upgraded us for our honeymoon (for which I'll be eternally grateful) and we had a 2-story bungalow style room with private pool and this gorgeous view...
FROM OUR ROOM. Are ya'll seeing this?
Ladera truly defined luxury. They had the friendliest staff willing to help you with whatever you need. The breakfast servers knew our names before we ever arrived and remembered how we liked our coffee each morning. I was a different type of spoiled.
I can't in good conscience move on without showing you more photos of this view so here's a quick photo journey of our time spent at the Ladera Resort.
In addition to the dreamy pitons, we explored the grounds of the resort on a Garden Tour led by the head gardener, Ray. Exceeding our expectations was a common theme for the resort and the garden tour was no different. Ray was so sweet and knowledgeable and he even climbed a few trees to pick us fresh fruits! 48 very quick hours after we arrived, we packed up our fruits and suitcases and started to head up north.
Our favorite story from our trip to Saint Lucia is how we ended up getting from our first location in the southern part of the island to our second location in the northern most part. Options for getting around Saint Lucia include:
Helicopter (not kidding, there are airport charters)
Driving through the mountainous jungle on extremely curvy roads
Taking a mini jet boat around the perimeter via sea
A helicopter, while super cool, seemed a bit extreme (although I tried with all my might to convince Eric that it was totally logical for our trek back to the airport...we'll touch on that later) and we weren't really keen on a drive that no one really seemed to know how long it took. PS: Even the locals didn't recommend taking a car. The price would have been fairly high and truly no one could give us an answer on how long it would take. I have a hunch it would have been about 2 hours from Ladera in the South to our next stop in the North.
Armed with this information, we decided to take a boat. But not just any boat! We had met a really jolly man named Angel on the beach who said he'd take us on a full day tour, stopping off at some main attractions, all on our way up to Rodney Beach in the north. So the next day we brought all our suitcases to the beach, threw them into a little dinghy boat, and rode off into the sea with a few strangers.
Looking back, it probably wasn't the safest idea we had, but thankfully we were in good hands.
Our goal in traveling is to see each place we visit as it truly is. This means experiencing the locals, the food, and even some traditions if we're lucky. We were incredibly lucky on this trip because we happened to be visiting during the island's celebration of Jounen Kwéyòl - Creole Day! We were told it was a day of celebration island wide and that we'd get to experience it first hand in the city of Soufriere.
Our boat dropped us off in Soufriere, a bustling town unlike anything we had seen in the dense forests of the south. It felt so authentic and we had an amazing time walking around and hearing all about the island's history from our local tour guide. We tried some street food and spent time enjoying the energy of the festival. Before long we jumped back on the boat and made our way back up north.
Fun times in Soufriere! Top Row: views of town. Middle Row: We left a few Polaroids in town that day, taking them of families & giving them out as souvenirs for having us! Bottom Row: Some incredible authentic street food! Saltfish, bread fruit, and a heavy serving of hot sauce.
In case you're considering a boat ride along the coast of the island, I do want to mention that it wasn't totally smooth sailing. The boat was definitely smaller than I would have liked in comparison to some of the waves we encountered, but we made it alright in the end. Let's just say I was really happy to see land when we got to Rodney Bay and if you have any back or joint problems, you might want to opt for the taxi (or helicopter).
Rodney Bay & Bay Gardens Beach Resort
Once we got to Rodney Bay in the north, we hauled our suitcases up the beach (hilariously looking like we escaped a near island) and walked the rest of the way to Bay Gardens Beach resort. We chose this resort largely because of their all-inclusive tier system. We opted for the "breakfast only" tier, which got us free breakfast every day (best ever!) and chose an apartment-style room with a kitchen so we could cook other meals.
We had almost a full week at this resort and while we definitely weren't at Ladera anymore, it was a welcome change of pace for us. I'd officially like to mention that 3 walled rooms don't have AC, and while it was never a big problem for us at Ladera, now having the option to turn the AC unit on after being in the sun all day was really glorious. We also really enjoyed going to the local grocery store and trying all the restaurants in the area, something you don't have the chance to do at an all-inclusive.
TRAVEL HACK: I'd always recommend doing this on vacation, when possible! Going to a local grocery store allows you to shop and interact with locals and it's always a great time! It's a great bonus that it also helps cut costs of eating at restaurants!
By this point in our trip, we were so ready to get out and get exploring! Here's some of our favorite activities (in no particular order) that you shouldn't miss!
Snorkling: Saint Lucia has some amazing snorkling and we saw so many creatures that I've never seen before! Like a squad of squid!! Watch our vlog for footage of this amazing moment :)
Waterfalls & Volcano Sulfur Springs: We hired a local tour group for the day that took us to these two attractions (plus we ate lunch at their family's home). We saw Toraille Waterfall and did the mud baths at the sulfur springs. Definitely a fun and unique day!
Catamaran Cruise: You might not expect this recommendation coming from us, but truth is we love a good catamaran cruise!! These are probably one of the most touristy things you can do in the Caribbean, and you absolutely should. We booked one through Sandals and got to meet so many other honeymooners. Plus the boats usually come with a free bar and turn into a pretty wild party by the end so we got to meet some cool people, watch a beautiful sunset, and boogie woogie ;)
Pigeon Island: Take a day trip to Pigeon Island and explore the history! Saint Lucia is so rich in history and it was cool learning about the 14(?!) civil wars they had. Pigeon Island also has some amazing hiking trails and views. You can hike to the top of a fort (easy hike, stairs) or go to the top of the mountain (moderate hike, some climbing). We did both and the views were amazing! PS: If you're feeling super adventurous you can also hike the pitons!
Catch a Sunset: While we love adventure, sometimes it's nice to have a quiet moment with the earth. The sunsets are beautiful and I'd recommend making sure you get at least one chance to watch the sun fall behind the horizon.
Unplanned Excursion, Part II
I've mentioned a few times that getting around the island isn't easy. I'm a little hesitant to outline our exact experience because I feel like we were just really unlucky. However, this is about transparency, so here's what we experienced and I hope it helps you make better decisions on your visit...
We had an early morning flight home and somehow had to get from the northern most tip to the southernmost tip of the island. Our hotel did not offer shuttles since the drive was so far and boating back wasn't a logical option. We ultimately hired a driver via a company that we had taken as part of a tour earlier that week, deciding that we had trusted him. (Another issue we heard was of taxis taking advantage of tourists and charging insane costs for the 2 hour drive).
Unfortunately, our driver sent someone in his place and we somehow ended up in an unmarked car with a stranger, who talked to us at length about his arrest record and kept asking us how much money we spent to stay on the island. To be real, that all would have been fine but he also took us "the back way," got lost multiple times, and made a few stops to talk to people I'm assuming were his friends? Between that and going way too fast on the windy back roads over cliffs, my nerves were shot by the time we got to the airport.
That being said, I truly feel like that experience is not common and I'd still 100% recommend you visit. The experiences we had with locals all around the island was incredible and we look back on our entire trip with full hearts. If I had one piece of advice, it would be to remember that travel is always risky and you should always follow your gut. Okay, and maybe to book the helicopter back to the airport ;)
Thanks for traveling with us!