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Chocolate-making, ziplining, thermal mudbaths and walk-in volcanoes. ‘What’s not to love about St Lucia?’ says Tracey Davies
Even in the radiant sunshine, I felt the shadowy presence of twin peaks. I was standing on the terrace of our pretty villa, one of dozens staggered into the jungly hillside, breathing in the fragrant scent of papaya and banana trees, and a rampant bushel of honeysuckle, which had a blurry hummingbird hooning into it like a student at a free bar.
If I craned my neck up to full stretch, I could just about see the green peak of Gros Piton to my left, and the granite tip of Petit Piton to my right. Behind me, I heard pitter-patter-splash in stereo as my 11-year-old twins, Nancy and Lola, ran and jumped into our private pool, oblivious to our breathtaking proximity to St Lucia’s most famous natural features. We were spending half-term at Sugar Beach, Viceroy’s heavenly resort nestled between the Pitons, the defining, UNESCO-protected landmarks of the island.
Built on the site of an 18th-century sugar plantation, the resort’s colonial-style whitewashed villas tumble down to a crescent of sugary white sand lined with obedient palms and bookended by the Pitons. ‘It’s as close to heaven as we’re gonna get, girls,’ I grinned, swishing a goblet of requisite rum punch. Although widely considered a honeymoon hotspot, St Lucia is actually a great place to bring the kids.
A herd of brightly coloured vintage tuk-tuks buzz guests around the winding roads of the hilly resort. ‘Good morning, Lola and Nancy, and how are you this fine sunny day?’ grinned Michael, their favourite driver, as we hopped into Papillon, our azure-and-scarlet chariot, to whizz down the hill to breakfast. The girls gave him an easy
high-five and quizzed him on the best type of pancakes (chocolate, naturally).
While the twins would happily spend the week ensconced in Sugar Beach – with beach games, sports days, chocolate-making workshops, watersports, not to mention the activity-packed kids’ club, I doubt there would be even a whimper of boredom – but it seemed a shame to come all this way and not explore the island.
A 15-minute drive from the resort is the Morne Coubaril Estate, an old French Creole plantation which once produced sugar cane, cocoa and coconuts. It still cultivates cocoa, coffee and copra, but now also offers horseriding and ziplining tours under the steely gaze of the Pitons. We saddled up for a gentle pony ride around the lush estate, the Pitons peeking through the trees as if to check on us. After an hour’s trot, the girls dragged me onto the zipline. The eight-line treetop course had me whimpering with vertigo-induced fear, while my fearless twins squealed with delight as they flew through the rainforest.
After a Creole lunch, we stopped off at the nearby Sulphur Springs. The girls’ eyes glazed over as I tried to explain some of the island’s Anglo-French history, only to snap back to attention when I mentioned a volcano. However, Sulphur Springs is not your typical cone-shaped rupture – as one of the few drive-in volcanos, it’s more a collapsed crater with bubbling mud pools and a steamy, sulphurous scent. ‘Bleugh, it stinks like rotten eggs,’ exclaimed Lola, screwing up her nose. For a couple of dollars, we chased eternal youth by slathering mineral-rich mud over us and bathing in the thermal-heated waters, and my fresh-faced girls, mud streaked across their chops, squealed with glee.
In an effort to roll back the years even further, back at Sugar Beach we headed to the Rainforest Spa. Looking like something out of Lord of the Rings, it’s a series of wood bridges connecting treehouse treatment rooms built from bamboo and palm fronds. The girls are delighted by the children’s spa menu, and as I’m whisked off for a peaceful massage, they indulge in a kids’ Sweet Chocolate wrap-treatment. From the breakfast pancakes to the kids’ chocolate workshop, I’d noticed a distinct cocoa theme rippling through our holiday.
A mash-up of snorkelling and scuba diving, snuba divers still use a mask and fins, but instead of manhandling a hefty tank of air they are joined by a long tube to a special flotation raft fitted with compressed air cylinders. After a brief induction, we waddled down the beach in our fins and into the warm, translucent waters, the Pitons casting an afternoon shadow over the bay. Macgyver, our patient instructor, attached the raft’s 20ft-long rubber pipes to each of us and, within seconds, we sunk below the surface to spot parrot fish and sergeant majors.
Lola pointed out a snake-eyed moray eel rippling under a rock, while Nancy made the hand sign for a puffer fish she’d spotted 6ft below to her twin, who glided over like Ariel the mermaid to see. After the 30-minute dive, two pairs of sparkling brown eyes rose from the clear waters followed by toothy, shark-like grins, thrilled with their underwater adventure. And I decided as great family holidays away go, it seemed my twins had peaked.
How to book
Kuoni offers seven nights in a Superior Luxury Villa (room only) at Sugar Beach, including flights and transfers in resort, from £9,108 for a family of four (two adults and two children 11 and under) for a 2 July 2018 departure. To book, quote tour ref: KU0633.
Snuba is £65pp, including guided instruction and a certificate. Morne Coubaril: horse-riding £55 per hour; ziplining £55 per hour.
For more information visit the Kuoni website