The perfect antidote to the post-holiday blues.
A piña colada, a pristine beach and the gentle surf of an azure sea—the perfect antidote to the January chill. Banish the post-holiday blahs with a holiday on a sunny island.
St. Lucia: Remote, Underdeveloped and
By Esther Davidowitz
St. Lucians will proudly tell you that their island is beautiful—green, lush and mountainous. They will tell you that their island is romantic—“the honeymoon capital” of the Caribbean. St. Lucians will also boast that their island has magnificent rainforests, spectacular waterfalls, first-rate botanical gardens and one of the world’s few drive-in volcanoes.
With considerably less pride, St. Lucians will tell you that their 238-square-mile island isn’t as developed as most other Caribbean islands. Many homes are dilapidated and the roads, they’ll note, are “bad.” Those that are paved are steep and winding. (Numerous road signs warn of “Hairpin Bends,” so tourists with deep pockets helicopter their way around the island.) St. Lucians, especially those in the tourist industry, may also complain that there are too few flights from the United States to the island—and only one that is, alas, direct (U.S. Airways flies nonstop from Philadelphia). Which can make travel to the island more difficult. Therefore there are fewer tourists on St. Lucia than on many of the other Caribbean islands.
St. Lucians may lament this fact; after all, tourism is the island’s second biggest moneymaker (bananas are number one). But if you ask me, it is one heck of a good reason to visit St. Lucia—one of a bunch I discovered on a recent visit.
It took a full day to get to TiKaye Village, a stunning and fairly new beach resort situated on the West Coast of the island, the Caribbean side, the side that offers the calmest surf and finest beaches, the side on which, not coincidentally, nearly all of the island’s resorts are located. I admit to arriving a bit grumpy (okay, a whole lot grumpy). I admit to wondering why in the world I chose to go to such a remote resort on such a remote island. If only I had gone to San Juan or St. John’s…
But as soon as I stepped into TiKaye’s open-air lobby with its giant ceramic urns, gorgeous terracotta floors and flowing white cotton drapes, I found my irritability begin to fade away. And once I unlocked the door to my cottage—one of 33 secluded and well-appointed cottages—to find a darling veranda overlooking the water, a four-poster bed strewn with fresh flower petals, and my own private indoor/outoor shower lined with tropical plants (including a flowering banana tree)—I found myself wondering if there was any way one actually could pat oneself on the back. Okay, the rum punch I was served at TiKaye’s cliffside bar helped lift my spirits, too. In fact, there’s quite a bit to boost spirits here…
For starters, there are the island’s famous twin peaks, the Piton Mountains, which majestically jut out of the ocean and which, if you have the time and inclination, you can climb. The 2,619-foot-high Gros Piton, the taller peak, is actually easier to hike (it takes about five hours and you need permission from the Forest and Lands Department and the company of a knowledgeable guide). And many tourists do scale the Pitons, but if you’re like me, you might appreciate their beauty just as well sipping a piña colada from a nearby beach. (I’d recommend the beach at Anse Chanstanet—see accompanying box.)
There’s also that rare drive-in (in reality drive-to) volcano, where you can see and hear gurgling sulfur-seething and steam-hissing craters. Just don’t imagine yourself walking on the volcano. The last man who did was a tour guide who, to demonstrate the safety of the crater to a group of German tourists, jumped up and down, causing the earth beneath him to cave in. He received second-degree burns. (Today he makes his living as a fisherman.) You walk around the craters.
Nearby, there’s Diamond Botanical Gardens, a wonderful mood-lifter for garden-lovers (count me in), where you can treat your eyes—and your nose—to some of the most exotic flowers, many of whose names aptly describe what they resemble—red-hot cattail, lobster claw, elephant ear, bird of paradise. The Gardens are adjacent to another mood-lifter—the spectacular Diamond Waterfall where the famous waterfall scene with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in the film Romancing the Stone was shot.
Of course, you can also go snorkeling and diving, sea kayaking, jungle biking and deep-sea fishing. Or you can sit by the pool, have a mai tai, and feel so smug that you chose to come to St. Lucia for your winter escape.
“Shipwrecked” in the Bahamas
By Mitchell Stephens
“It’s an adventure,” another guest tells us on the ferry from Andros Island in the Bahamas to this small resort on the private island Kamalame Cay.
“Adventure” is not a word normally applied to hotels that cost, in season, $740 to $1,250 per couple a night (the price includes gourmet meals and an open bar). Lying on a plush, wide bed, in a high-ceilinged, octagonal room—an oversized, raised bathtub behind you, white sands, turquoise surf and wind-tousled palm trees in front of you—certainly does not fit most definitions of “roughing it.” The smiling staffers at Kamalame Cay are always looking to bring by some extra towels, oranges or cookies; the cosmopolitan hosts, owners Brian and Jennifer Hew, are always looking to pour another drink. Spartan this is not.
Nevertheless, after only a couple days on this narrow island, with its three miles of private beach, I begin to understand our fellow guest’s point. This is not Nassau, where resorts often seem to bump up against each other. On Andros—by far the largest of the
islands that make up the Bahamas and undoubtedly among the least developed—the wetlands mostly bump up against the forests. Once you get off the ferry (the staff calls it “the barge”), you share Kamalame Cay’s 96 acres with only a handful of other guests, the friendly staff and some conch shells and beached coral. Opportunities to shop or people-watch are limited. Opportunities to shed stress are plentiful.
This being the Bahamas, not the Caribbean, the weather can sometimes be imperfect. The wind is blowing a bit strong off the water for two of the three days we are there
(in November). To lie outside, you have to make sure you’re leeward. Tennis balls—yes, there is a court—would follow, it is clear, weird-angled parabolas, not firm arcs. It seems a bit brisk for the pool.
So, you splash around tentatively in the lagoon (sheltered by one of the world’s longest reefs). You try to paddle a sit-on-top kayak, against the wind, out to an even smaller, entirely uninhabited nearby island but, after an hour, turn back. You read—outside for a while, then inside. You walk almost to the end of the long, empty beach. You feel that your day has been something, in a kind of bourgeois way, of an adventure. (You are less inclined to apply this designation to your traveling companion’s day, given the prodigious number and duration of her naps.)
Our one-bedroom villa is a good walk from the Great House, where the bulk of the eating and drinking is accomplished. (Each couple is given a golf cart to get around, which, for those of us who don’t often frustrate ourselves with five irons, is almost as much fun on these sandy paths as a go-cart.) Our villa is also dozens of yards from and well out of sight of its neighbors. It is possible, between meals (at which the small number of guests sit together), never to see another couple. Opportunities to show off your bathing suit or your abs are limited. Opportunities to imagine that the two of you are characters in some romantic shipwreck movie, such as Swept Away (not the Madonna version), are plentiful—at least during those rare moments when your fellow shipwreckee is awake.
Outside of those sociable meals, there are no organized activities. However, the staff will organize for you, should you desire, some scuba diving, snorkeling (weather permitting) or fishing. A significant percentage of the guests come for the latter. Offshore sports-fishing charters are available, but the great attraction here is the translucent bonefish—which is caught, with flies, while poling through the transparent flats and which puts up, we’re told, a spirited, even thrilling, fight. Expert guides are available. That fellow we met on the ferry had managed to reel in eight bonefish that day—all of which he dutifully tossed back. (The thrill engendered by bonefish, apparently, in no way emanates from their taste.) Our new acquaintance’s wife seemed to find her sub-tropical adventure merely by sitting near her husband in the quiet skiff, as it glided over the shallow waters, reading.
Kamalame Cay is probably best appreciated over vacations of at least five days. The problem with trying to use it, as we did, as a weekend getaway from the New York area is that—while the Bahamas are indeed closer than the Caribbean, just east of Florida—it took us three (relatively short) airplane rides and a taxi to get there (LaGuardia to Tampa, Tampa to Nassau, Nassau to Andros, the airport to the ferry). It is possible, with careful study of the air alternatives, to cut a leg out of this journey.
Or, if you have in mind a quick trip, consider staying at the other resort the Hews are managing: Compass Point, which is just a short taxi ride from the Nassau airport. It has, being on Nassau, none of Kamalame’s romantic isolation. Builds and bathing suits can effectively be shown off. But the rooms—“cabanas,” “huts” or “cottages”—have a rustic charm (as well as remarkably bright and cheery paint jobs). The restaurant is first-rate. And the view beyond the bathing suits and the builds—from pool, restaurant, hut or cottage—is island-paradise perfect.
No problem in Jamaica
By Ted Roberts
Just as the temperatures in Westchester were starting to dip, I headed off to the Caribbean sunshine. After a three-hour flight and a 20-minute shuttle bus ride through a starkly impoverished countryside dotted with shacks and shantys, I arrived in paradise—Jamaica’s Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay. Think a picture-postcard come to life: gently swaying palm trees, pure white sand beaches and clear azure skies. Heaven—tropical isle-style.
Broad smiles and charmingly distinctive Jamaican accents welcomed me and my companion to Half Moon, a destination in and of itself. Spanning 400 spectacularly manicured acres, the resort has it all—plantation-style architecture housing 418 unique accommodations, five restaurants, a luxury shopping village stocked with duty-free David Yurman jewelry, Patek Philippe watches and Swarovski crystal and practically limitless, top-notch recreational facilities. The facilities include a golf addict-worthy Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed 18-hole championship golf course, an exclusive dolphin lagoon for swimming with these friendly creatures, and a world-class spa and fitness center. Also offered: supervised children’s programs, tennis, horseback riding and a full range of such water sports as sailing, snorkeling, windsurfing and kayaking.
Accommodations at Half Moon blend an air of elegant informality (furnishings are Queen Anne and Chippendale reproductions made at the resort by
local craftsmen using Jamaican mahogany) with relaxed native island
style featuring colorful tropical-inspired prints. Guests choose from lavish private villas and elegant rooms and suites. We chose one of the 23 beachfront Royal Suites, a charming cottage with its own perfect-for-moonlight-dips private swimming pool.
If you’re up for super-deluxe, you’ll want to check out the 32 five-, six- and seven-bedroom private royal villas situated amid tropical lush gardens alongside Sunrise Beach. Guests looking for a little something to sip or nibble on while working on their tans are in good hands—each villa is staffed with its own chef, housekeeper and butler, just like home (if you’re a celebrity or a member of royalty, that is).
But even if your accommodations don’t come with your own personal chef, you won’t go hungry. There are various all-inclusive meal plans available that are well worth the money.
The Seagrape Terrace and Il Giordano are two good choices for dinner.
The Seagrape serves a buffet that offers something for everyone, including delicious soups as well as such seafood specials as fresh snapper, sea bass and shrimp. And do make a reservation at Il Giordino, a Romanesque style Italian restaurant offering fine dining (try the pasta with spicy marinara sauce).
Also do make a point of visiting Lester’s bar, featuring those stunning ocean views and more than 100 fabulous cocktails. (You can stay a week and not have the same drink twice.)
True, there is not a lot to do outside of Half Moon, but the resort’s facilities can keep you as busy—or not—as you’d like. We did venture into downtown Montego Bay one night to have dinner at Marguerite’s overlooking the ocean. We found the food there a step up from the hotel. And right next door is the famous Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, a popular spot for before- and after-dinner drinks.
As I write this, I’m back from my Jamaican vacation of wasting away in Margaritaville. Having just driven through the snow on 287, is it any wonder I wish I was still there?