After my unforgettable trip to St. Lucia a few weeks ago, I can’t help but think of the place as the isle of love. Not only did we stay at one of the most couples-oriented resorts out there, but the fact that I got ENGAGED while on the trip also makes it stick in my mind as a destination simply made for romance! They call it the “Hawaii of the Caribbean”. The lush rainforests and Piton Mountains evoke visions of Diamond Head on Waikiki Beach and the South Pacific.
It is a law in St. Lucia that all of the beaches are public, so you won’t get any of the fenced in private beaches belonging exclusively to the resorts that you get in some of the other Caribbean islands. The fact that the US Dollar is widely accepted makes travel there extremely easy and accessible. I don’t think in the entire week we were there I saw even one East Caribbean Dollar—although I’m sure if I were to have ventured out more into one of the local markets or street parties I would have come across some.
The locals in St. Lucia are some of the friendliest you’ll meet. I’ve traveled quite a bit and can say I’ve never been to another destination boasting people quite as open and hospitable as those found in St. Lucia. This fact alone made us feel comfortable venturing outside of the resort area on our own. Walking along the street or to a small village isn’t nerve wracking in the least and we never felt uneasy the way others have expressed feeling in other, more impoverished destinations.
Especially for a special vacation—a celebration, anniversary, honeymoon, or wedding, all of the Sandals Resorts are simply perfect. I can’t think of one real complaint about any of the three resorts on the island.
The problem is deciding which one! Before embarking on our island getaway, I remember feeling a bit boggled by the details, unable to make a decision about which resort would best fit our personalities and our ideal vacation. My purpose with this post is to help those in a similar situation. It’s difficult to feel certain when you haven’t been there yourself, so I—as someone who has visited all three properties, will attempt here to help distinguish between them so you can make an informed decision about which is right for you and have the memorable experience in paradise you deserve!
SANDALS HALCYON BEACH – about an hour and 15 minutes from the airport near the village of Castries.
- If you like quiet: Halcyon Beach is a large, spread out property, with meandering pathways, lots of shade, and private bungalows to doze in disbursed throughout the green, grassy expanse. The resort could be at full capacity and still not feel crowded at all. With two separate pool areas (a “beachfront” pool and a “quiet” pool), there is a location for you no matter the mood. This resort is right for those primarily interested in spending one-on-one quiet time with their significant other–if you’re looking to party throughout the night and meet fellow resort guests, you might be better served staying at one of the other Sandals properties.
- If you like casual: I got the feeling here that people weren’t interested in spending an hour getting ready for dinner. If you like to dress up and have a fancy night on the town, this isn’t the place for you. Don’t get me wrong, there is an upscale restaurant for fine dining called Kelly’s Dockside, but some of the other resorts have more in the department of extravagance than Halcyon Beach does. For those who’d rather hang out in their shorts and flip flops for the majority of the trip and not worry about a tux, Halcyon Beach is your perfect spot!
- If you like gardens: Sandals Halcyon Beach is a horticulturist’s paradise. Tropical flowers and foliage adorn the pathways and rooms at this resort. We even saw the most unique-looking (albeit somewhat disturbing) caterpillar while walking back from lunch one afternoon. The swaying palm trees and vibrant colored flowers abound here, which I didn’t notice quite as much at the other two resorts.
- If you’re on a budget: As compared to the other resorts, this property seems to be the least expensive of the three on most occasions, although not always. I will say that the “lead-in” room category here (Caribbean Deluxe) is very basic as compared to what I saw of the other two resorts. It could be perfect for those who don’t intend to spend much time in their room at all, but for those who’d like a luxurious place to lay their head, I’d suggest opting for one of the Concierge Level rooms at the Halcyon.
SANDALS REGENCY LA TOC – about an hour from the airport, sandwiched between a hillside and the ocean.
The décor and layout of Sandals Regency La Toc is reminiscent of the edge of a cliff in Cinque Terre, the Sorrento region, or anywhere along the coast of Italy or Greece. An outdoor restaurant called Neptune’s allows you to relax near the water’s edge and watch the waves roll in while enjoying Greek dips or sipping red wine. There is also a long row of chairs with umbrellas facing the ocean to lounge on and wile away the hours in peace, or if you’d rather play pool games and hang at the swim-up bar, that’s always an option too!
- If you like big waves: Some may find it boring wading in still, calm water. The ocean at the Regency La Toc is the opposite of that. Large waves roll in constantly, making it a haven for those who enjoy hopping over the waves or trying to out-swim them. Be careful of the undertow, as a very interactive swim awaits you at the Regency La Toc!
- If you’re pool people: The pool here is one of the best. The swim-up bar has a stage above it which allows you to enjoy entertainment right from the pool. There is pool volleyball as well as an almost “lazy river” type experience around a large boulder in the middle of the pool which has nooks you can hang out in with your friends or significant other. You can even walk right up into the dining area from the pool! There are literally steps into the seating area near the buffet breakfast. Eat, swim, repeat!
- If you golf: Regency La Toc boasts many golf carts with which to whisk guests from the main resort area to their golf club where you can swing a game of golf for the day. There are no green fees and golf is included! I’m not a golfer nor an enthusiast, and I don’t even pretend to know a thing about it, but I thought that might be pertinent for those who may like to indulge in the sport, especially while on vacation.
- If you get carsick easily: Although not by much, this resort is the closest of the three to the airport. All of the roads in St. Lucia are curvy and there is a lot of slowing down and speeding up throughout the drive from the airport to the resort. I will admit that, in comparison to any other Caribbean island I’ve visited, St. Lucia’s drivers are very courteous of each other. They don’t drive extremely close to the bumper of the person in front of them and they beep their horns to signal to oncoming traffic of their proximity rather than as an impatient warning sign.
I myself am very prone to motion sickness, and would recommend to anyone with the same problem to come prepared with Dramamine or ginger lozenges regardless of which resort you’ll be staying at.
SANDALS GRANDE ST. LUCIAN – about an hour and 45 minutes from the airport near Gros Islet.
- If you’re beach people: We were told by one of the locals that the beach at Sandals Grande St. Lucian was man made, which probably explains why it’s so absolutely perfect in every way. White, powdery sand, crystal clear turquoise electric blue water, and calm as can be due to the fact that it’s a bay, away from the pounding strength of the sea. Plenty of sun for sunbathing but also lots of chairs with palm frond shade for those who are a bit more prone to burning. You can swim a few feet out into the water and lounge on a large floating doughnut with your drink while enjoying the Caribbean breeze, or relax on an over-the-water hammock. You can even get your photo taken at sunset on swing in the ocean there.
- If you like being pampered: The attention to detail here is simply amazing. Once, I was having trouble deciding on a drink at the beach bar, so the bar tender threw out a few suggestions for me. When none of them struck my fancy, he decided to put together something “from his mind” for me, and I went for it. The drink he handed to me was one of the best I’ve had—like an orange creamsicle, the glass sweating in the sun—I’d wished I could find him again later during the trip to ask him to make it for me again!
On first arrival to the resort and our room, there was a swan crafted from a towel, rose petals, and a bottle of champagne in ice. If you want ultimate luxury, the Grande St. Lucian is the way to go. The rooms and bathrooms are sparkling and immaculate and the service wherever you go is personalized and attentive. It’s the perfect place to feel like a king or queen!
- If you like nightlife: This resort seemed to have the most going on after dark of the three. With a piano bar in the Italian restaurant (Toscanini’s, which also had an amazing a la carte breakfast, too, by the way), an English style pub, reggae nights, jazz, and tons of bars and lounges open until the wee hours of the morn, the Grande is the right choice for those who like to dance the night away. At the Halcyon, it always seemed like there was only one bar at a time that you could grab a drink from on the whole property, but at the Grande, a drink was never more than a few feet away.
- If you like Indian food: The new Bombay Club offers fine Indian cuisine. Reservations are required and it makes for a great night out if you and your companion(s) are into saffron, curry, and spice. With tons of small plates, appetizers, and options to choose from, you can try almost everything on the menu in one meal. Believe it or not, St. Lucia has a long history of trade with India and with the Indian culture, so you can find some really out-of-this-world Caribbean-Indian fusion on the island.
- If you like to hike: Just a two minute walk from the resort either by road or by beach is Pigeon Island National Park, a short hike and a wonderful (and very cheap) excursion with a breathtaking view of the island waiting at the end of it. The hike is very mild, until the end where it gets a bit rocky for only a minute or so. Those with fear of heights may have second thoughts at that point, but I’d say the entire trek took us about an hour total there and back—and even if you don’t think you’d want to do the last rocky bit, there are lookout points about halfway and three quarters of the way up that are just as stunning.
With my acute fear of heights, the only thing that motivated me to the top was the man appearing to be in his sixties who urged me to suck it up and climb the last bit—so I reluctantly clung to the boulders and scooted my way up, but made it up nonetheless! The entrance into the park is only $7 USD, if I remember correctly, and it allowed for some unforgettable views and awesome photographs. I’ve even heard of some really beautiful bohemian weddings taking place in the ruins of Fort Rodney and the other structures there.
I hope this comparison will help to make your decision a lot clearer, as I know there doesn’t seem to be much literature out there comparing the resorts. Most importantly, be sure to get out of the resort for a day or two and experience the local life and the rugged scenery that abounds on this beautiful island, as our hike in Pigeon Island National Park as well as our hike up Gros Piton were by far the highlights of our trip.
Also keep in mind that no matter which resort you choose, you have complimentary shuttle service between all three of them and can check whichever one out for the day if you’d like, so you get three for the price of one! If you have any more specific questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’d be happy to share what insight I can, as I’m sure if given the chance I’d talk about this gorgeous place forever.
Until Next Time,
CAITLYN WITHOUT A COMPASS