My eyes are shut and I’m starting to sweat as the van navigates a tight cliffside curve while passing a truck travelling in the opposite direction. This four-kilometre stretch of road leading to St. Lucia’s posh Jade Mountain resort feels anything but luxe. This is what keeps it so private, says our driver, Phillip, assuring me that the trip will be worth it.
I’m hoping it really will be worth it. I’ve had a cold for what feels like a year, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to catch my breath, so to speak. I’ve come prepared—I loaded up on medication after a pre-departure visit to my doctor—but, as it turns out, I find everything I need on the island.
Jade Mountain is on many seasoned travellers’ bucket lists. And after walking into one of its 29 rooms, or “sanctuaries” as they are called, I understand why. Mine has an open-air concept with a panoramic view of the twin Piton mountains, which are the de facto symbol of St. Lucia. My oasis also has a private infinity pool, Jacuzzi and water gun for scaring off any warblers or blackbirds that might fly inside. The view is epic, and, thankfully, the 616-square-kilometre island was largely untouched by the recent spate of hurricanes in the region. That night, my four-poster bed is carefully shrouded in netting, and the mountain breeze, crickets and ocean waves lull me to sleep—and into the St. Lucian way of life.
My five-day visit coincides with Health and Wellness Month in St. Lucia, so mornings start at 7 a.m. with a mix of Hatha and Ashtanga yoga on the resort’s Celestial Terrace with instructor Nelson Chako. I have strayed from my yoga practice over the past year in favour of spinning and Pilates, so Chako’s gentle corrections and stretches awaken my muscles. After class, it’s time for a sunshine dip in the Caribbean Sea before we head to Sulphur Springs, a drive-in volcano. Our driver suggested that we go later in the afternoon; it’s the quietest time to visit the popular site, and our group of five is rewarded with an almost private soak. Once we acclimatize to the smell of sulphur, we scrub mud into our skin and climb into the 45°C hot springs. After a half-hour session, I emerge feeling refreshed and shockingly smooth—as if I’ve been at the spa all day.
The menu throughout my visit consists of local ingredients, such as bananas, sweet potatoes and okra. Jade Mountain operates Emerald Estate Farm, located 15 minutes away, where cilantro, exotic fruits like soursop and cocoa trees are grown. And at nearby Stonefield Villa Resort, pumpkin patches are scattered among the accommodations.
Cocoa, however, is one of St. Lucia’s largest crops, and it’s used in beauty products, spa treatments and tea. I learn the bean-to-bar chocolate-making process with small-batch chocolatier Cacoa Sainte Lucie and am amazed when owner Lina Maria Jackson tells me that the chocolate contains only two ingredients: cocoa and sugar. Jade Mountain has been working with New Brunswick craft brewer Andrew Hashey to create the Antillia Imperial Chocolate Stout exclusively for the resort. And, luckily for me, the beer is ready for its debut on my final day.
To accommodate this auspicious occasion, our hosts have pushed our departure back by two hours so we can enjoy the beer with the island’s famous burgers on the beach at Anse Mamin—they’re served on buns that have been cooked directly on the grill. The chocolate beer tastes surprisingly soft and balanced, neither sweet nor hoppy. For the first time in what seems like months, my sinuses have cleared and I am actually breathing effortlessly again. I take another deep breath and vow to come back—this month, to be exact.
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