These St. Lucia Hotels Have ‘Open Walls,' Private Plunge Pools, Pitons Views — and a Champagne Zip Line

The "Peak to Beach" package takes honeymooners, foodies, and adventurers to the volcanic island’s exclusive and unique Ladera and Cap Maison resorts.

Beach with sailboat at Cap Maison

Courtesy of Cap Maison

Watching dawn break from a four-poster bed at Ladera, St. Lucia is surreal. In the middle distance is the Caribbean Sea glittering between Gros Piton and Petit Piton, two enormous cone-shaped, forest-covered peaks that even dominate St. Lucia’s flag. They feature on every postcard from this lush Caribbean island — and dominate every view from the enormous suites on Ladera’s Paradise Ridge. 

Up here I can see everything, but no one can see me. My room — which I share with my wife Gill — has only three walls, the fourth replaced by cable car views of the Pitons and Sugar Beach far below. If that’s not sweet enough, there’s a heated plunge pool and, above it, a swing seat whose grenadine syrup-filled bird feeder attracts streams of yellow-bellied bananaquits and hovering hummingbirds. 

Best described as a boutique concept resort, Ladera is the first stop on the "Peak to Beach" package aimed at honeymooners, foodies, and anyone who loves contrasting experiences. It also includes nights at Cap Maison on the island’s northwest coast where the vibe is rum cocktails and cool ocean breezes. 

High vantage point of the buildings and pool at sunset at Cap Maison

Courtesy of Cap Maison

However, Ladera suggests adventure. Living partly outdoors isn’t for everyone, but its 37 rooms — all of which are left open to the elements on the south side — are vast, spacious, and beautifully appointed. A clever design keeps both sunshine and tropical showers away from all but the plunge pool and deck, while a plush bed is sheilded from insects by huge nets. As twilight faded we switched off the lights to stargaze, finding fireflies as well as the firmament. 

While at Ladera you’d be forgiven for staying in your own spectacular space, but this linear resort on a volcanic ridge has plenty to explore. A path from Paradise Ridge leads up to a viewpoint that overlooks the Pitons. There’s a platform for sunrise yoga and meditation, which is scheduled for 6 a.m. most mornings. Spa treatments are available in-room — using coconut oil, of course — while the all-new Kilibwi Spa readies for opening later this year. Behind it is a jaw-dropping six-level tree house and outdoor gym, both built by staff during the property’s six-month closure in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. On the path back to the resort’s entrance are a pilates/yoga studio, an astronomy deck complete with telescopes, a games room, a wellness garden, and more vividly colored plunge pools. 

Aside from its dramatic location, Ladera has its own look. It’s primarily made from wood, with intricate carvings and carved signage — all the work of local artist Boniface Modeste — creating a unique atmosphere. The ridge is awash with red caterpillar-like cattails, elephant ears, yellow cornflowers, and white teardrop-shaped bleeding hearts. Tropical birds flit between them and the carefully positioned (and daily replenished) bird feeders. I gradually realize that Ladera is less a resort and more a community of talented people working together to create a somewhere that’s so much more than its spectacular location. 

View of St. Lucia from pool at Ladera

Courtesy of Ladera

The ultimate proof of that comes at Ladera’s farm-to-table restaurant. If the Pitons are St. Lucia’s signature sight, Dasheene is their viewing platform. Open on all sides, you can drink in the panorama of both peaks while sipping a Dark ’n Stormy rum cocktail. You can even have a couples mixology class at the super-friendly Tcholit Bar with the Pitons as a backdrop. The restaurant is named after the root vegetable that takes the place of potato on the menu of the affable Nigel Mitchel, one of the only local executive chefs on St. Lucia, an island dominated by imported talent and investment. He serves up St. Lucian delicacies such as dasheen soup, curried banana balls, goat sliders, and old-fashioned pepper pot (a delicious broth of local snapper, dasheen, and leafy green callaloo) alongside classics like the catch of the day, ceviche, and steaks. Guests can enjoy a private dinner in Ladera’s air-conditioned wine room complete with complex wine pairings. 

Nearby to the narrow ridge where Ladera perches — and offered as a day trip from the resort — is Soufriere and its geothermal field, which is touted as the world’s own drive-in volcano. A $10 ticket gains you access to Sulphur Springs, a mud bath that’s naturally 110ºF. It’s fun, but get the timing wrong and it can be saturated with visitors from cruise ships. Back at Ladera, tranquility is re-established, but only until dusk. The setting sun initiates a rhythm of squeaks and croaks, apparently from tiny tree frogs, who deliver them with metronomic regularity. 

That strangely soothing soundtrack comes with us to Cap Maison, an elegant hotel and private villas on a promontory in the north of St. Lucia. Best reached via local boat from Soufriere via a series of secluded bays on St. Lucia’s dramatic west coast, Cap Maison has the feel of a Spanish hacienda-style village in paradise. Its lawns, sea views, and the sound of the surf all around its expansive villas make it the perfect place to slip into a state of mind where it’s all about R’n’R’n’R – rest, recuperation, and rum. 

Go for the “Cap-It-All” all-inclusive deal and the villas come with full kitchens complete with fresh milk, chilled beer, and local Chairman’s Reserve rum miniatures as well as a bottle of Cap Mason’s own delicious rum punch. A classic “one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak,” it gets to become a familiar taste. St. Lucia is famous for its molasses-based white rums, which are never far away at Cap Maison (the resort even has its own cask rum, Solera, aged for a decade in port barrels). Make time for a rum tasting, a journey through the history and flavors of the Caribbean – from St. Lucia to Guyana and Antigua, conducted by Cliff at Cap’s friendly staff. 

Away from the bar, the resort is a foodie’s heaven. Cliff at Cap’s executive chef, Craig Jones — a Welshman and a recent Caribbean Chef of the Year — has created a menu that, like the lodging, is tinged with a Spanish-Mediterranean influence. We devour tapas of delicate spider crab, buttery seafood chowder, and spicy jerk chicken before an entrée of roast seafood with herb quinoa. The next evening it’s down to the cellar for a private dinner, complete with wine pairings. It’s the coolest place in the resort in more ways than one. 

Even closer to the ocean is Cap Maison’s offshoot The Naked Fisherman on the small beach at Smuggler’s Cove, where head chef Shanna prepares everything from Island Conch Fritters to local favorite fish roti, a Creole fish stew featuring red snapper, potatoes, lime juice, and the obligatory splash of Baron West Indian Hot Sauce — a St. Lucian staple — rolled up in a round flatbread and served with a delicious lime slaw. By morning it’s time for a local breakfast favorite – creole salt fish with garlic bakes and avocado. 

But Cap Maison is at its best at sunset. Below Cliff at Cap is the iconic Rock Maison, a small island reached by stairs down the cliff to the beach. Linked to the resort only by a Champagne zip line, it’s set up for dinner as we reach it at dusk, its tiki torches already flickering. With rum punch in one hand and smartphone in the other, we try to capture images of the herons crisscrossing the sun as it sets in Gros Islet bay. We glimpse Martinique in the distance and stay to listen to the sounds of the swirling Caribbean Sea, which is soon added to by the whistles of the tree frogs. As much about the sights and sounds of nature as it is about St. Lucia’s luxurious hospitality, "Peak to Beach" is outdoor living at its best.

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