Hannah Faulder discovers the art of stolen time at Rendezvous Resort, St Lucia.
As a child I read a book about a girl from the Caribbean island of St Lucia; the crystal blue waters and green mountains were etched in my brain from a young age, but nothing could prepare me for the beauty of it in real life. While the island boasts picture-perfect beaches, its other natural assets are just as spectacular; the volcanic Piton mountains, magnificent natural harbours and thick blanket of lush rainforest make for some awe-inspiring viewpoints. Match this with some of the friendliest and most fun-loving people I've met and it's easy to see why St Lucia is such a honeymoon hotspot.
After a nine-hour flight we touched down at Hewanorra International Airport where a resort representative greeted us and showed us to our transfer – a helicopter! To say I was a little anxious would be an understatement, but once we were up in the air the stunning views that greeted us were so worth it. Our pilot for the 10-minute journey pointed out the incredible beaches, forests and towns below us and I was soon glad I hadn't opted for the long road transfer – what a way to arrive! Upon arrival, it's impossible not to be struck by the seven acres of vibrant tropical gardens and two-mile stretch of white sandy beach on its doorstep, but this is just the beginning of what this boutique, all-inclusive resort has to offer. The 100-bedroom haven started life as a home for the Barnard family who still own and operate it to this day and this family connection was evident in every aspect of my stay. It promotes 'stolen time,' the idea of carving out moments as a couple, away from the stresses of the daily grind and creating memories to draw upon throughout your life.
I stayed in one of the luxury Beachfront Rooms; newly refurbished in a traditional Caribbean style it was made for comfort with its huge four-poster mahogany bed and chaise longue. Stepping out on to my balcony I could feel the weight lifting from my shoulders as the warm ocean breeze swept up and I took in the scene of Malabar beach with its swaying palm trees and clear waters. Other accommodation options include contemporary two-storey suites and luxury beachside cottages where you're just a few steps from feeling the soft sand under your feet.
As a couples-only destination (some exceptions are made for wedding guests) it's calm and relaxed – no crowded beaches or fighting for sun loungers here. Days can easily be whiled away, book in hand, on the beach divans or by the pool. You can also enjoy the waiter service or the odd trip to the swim-up bar followed by a cooldown in the lazy river that meanders through the grounds.
I made the most of the seemingly endless choice of activities on offer, lots with an authentic St Lucian feel including an art class, steel pan drum lesson, wine tasting and creole lesson. An early-morning Pilates class on the beach-side rotund left me wondering if there's a better way to start the day. Being a couple's resort all the activities are certainly meant for two, but I loved that none of them felt like forced romance and were designed more for spending quality time in each other's company. For the slightly more adventurous there's a whole host of watersports such as water skiing, wind surfing, cycle tours and archery. Even full PADI courses and certification is available.
As if I wasn't feeling laid-back enough I was treated to a Balinese massage at The Spa in the Water Garden. Tailored to my needs, it was an hour of pure indulgence and a welcome treat after the morning's Pilates. Staff at the spa are trained at Rendezvous' sister hotel, The BodyHoliday (www.thebodyholiday.com
), which is regularly voted as the best spa in the Caribbean and therefore offers a plethora of luxurious and pampering treatments, from scrubs and body wraps to deep tissue massage and aromatherapy stone massage. Couples can even learn how to massage each other, a skill that may prove useful in married life!
In the evening, the place becomes even more tranquil. The ancient saman tree that acts as a centrepiece to the gardens is lit with festoon lights and chandeliers, creating an enchanting atmosphere; one evening was spent underneath its boughs enjoying cocktails accompanied by the sound of a live steel pan. Bubbly Hour was one of the highlights of each day for me. Held in The Champagne Bar, I soon got used to dressing up in my finery and sipping Marilyn Monroe's favourite champagne with a pianist tinkling in the background before dinner!
After champagne tasting it was time to head to one of the three on-site restaurants. The Terrace is a delicious buffet-style restaurant at the heart of the resort; I loved the Caribbean-themed night here, which included an array of authentic local delicacies such as fresh lobster, fried plantain and callaloo soup followed by rum tasting. I enjoyed the local tipple a little too much and was soon up dancing with the band alongside a happy couple who'd tied the knot on the beach that day! Malabar Beach Club is an absolute must; opened in 2015 it's the newest on-site restaurant and offers an intimate dining experience at the water's edge. Shoes are left at the door while you enjoy a toes-in-the-sand experience with fresh regional produce and fantastic wines. The Trysting Place offers fine cuisine, perfect for special occasions. The best French and Caribbean dishes and wines are on offer, paired by its fabulously enthusiastic sommelier, Libby.
The lovely Sandra and Tamara are on-hand to book completely tailor-made experiences to make your stay unforgettable. Nothing is too much trouble. Fancy a secluded candlelit dinner on the beach? How about a tour of a local rum distillery or learning how to samba on your honeymoon? All of this can be arranged for you, either while you're there or through the resort's new online chat service, which allows you to create a bespoke holiday before you even start packing.
For more information on Rendezvous Resort, St Lucia head to the website, www.theromanticholiday.com
or call 0203 096 1606
The foodie's choice
The Farm to Table experience saw me accompany the resort's chef to the local market in the capital city of Castries. While there, he talked me through all the produce on offer and we picked out ingredients for my dinner that night. I loved the hustle and bustle of the market, so far removed from my normal supermarket shop. I even enjoyed a fresh coconut – although I was quite alarmed when the vendor pulled out a machete to chop the top off! Back at the resort, I headed to the Malabar Beach Club kitchen, where the expert team showed me how to prepare the items I'd chosen and they designed a menu based on my requirements – as a vegetarian I'm not the easiest dinner guest. That evening I had the most delicious meal cooked right in front of me by the chef with the sound of the waves crashing behind me.
The adventurer's choice
A group of us took the opportunity to hop into an open-top adventure truck and weave our way through the lush rainforest across the island to the Piton Nature Trail. Our guide and his dog walked us through the leafy canopy up to one of the most stunning vistas I've ever witnessed. The bright, lush green of the Piton Mountains soaring up from the crystal-blue waters below was awe-inspiring and it was almost hard to believe it was real. We then drove to a natural sulphuric spring; the detoxifying properties of the mud here is said to remove years of damage from your skin. Even Oprah has covered herself in the unpleasant-smelling gunk here! Once the mud had set we jumped into a 38-degree celsius spring-water pool, which was a very bizarre sensation in such a hot climate! To cool down, we headed to a secluded part of the forest where I realised a lifelong dream to swim under the ice-cold flow of a waterfall set in a tropical oasis. Next stop was a short trek through the rainforest to New Jerusalem Mineral Spa. As the only people there, it was a completely relaxing experience. There were three natural pools of mineral-rich waters of varying temperatures set deep in the forest surrounded by banana trees and an abundance of vibrant plants, with hummingbirds and the croak of tree frogs to keep us company. While sitting there, I knew it'd feel like a distant dream when sat back at my desk a couple of days later.
The romantic's choice
I couldn't recommend the private dining options at Rendezvous enough. We were led down a little path to a private area in the river garden and the setting was magical. Lit by torches and candles and surrounded by tropical vegetation, it didn't feel as though you were within a holiday destination. There were two waiting staff and a personal sommelier who paired our wines to perfection while also being full of expert knowledge and funny stories. The Caribbean heat was getting a little much after our first two courses, so we had a little paddle in the lazy river – a truly memorable experience.