When we went to Kauai last year, a sense of almost unrecognizable calm washed over me slowly throughout the week, even though I was on assignment. As a travel writer/blogger/consultant, technically I’m always working. But working with my sweetheart in tow and not having to cook or clean counts as a vacation in my book.
I was relieved when that same sense of calm from Hawaii met us in Saint Lucia, aided in part by the fact that we put our phones in airplane mode immediately upon arrival. Our time at Ladera Resort was just what we needed to decompress from a couple of rough months. Some of the world’s most beautiful scenery helped quite a bit, but I also attribute this wave of relaxation to Ladera’s pronounced lack of programming.
If you’ve been following my travel journey for any length of time, you have seen how my earnest desire to do nothing on trips often goes out the window when I arrive to a destination with much to see and do.
It’s just how I’m wired.
At Ladera Resort, there’s no daily menu of activities to get into. You’re welcome to book tours at the concierge desk, or pop into the spa for a treatment or take the free shuttle down to the beach, but that was the extent of it. The unspoken expectation at Ladera was that people come there to relax and unwind in their gorgeous suites with their spouses, to enjoy the stunning view of the lush Pitons and presumably do married things all day.
Whatever that means is up to interpretation, but I’m not talking about paying bills.
No one gets in your way with overzealous schedules for pottery class and rock climbing, in fact, the staff seem to have a keen understanding of when to show up with more Piton and when to make themselves scarce.
In the absence of a schedule, we felt free to swim in our private pool and read and nap with abandon.
So we did just about as much relaxing as I could physically and mentally handle, and then we took the free shuttle down the valley to the beach, which consists of the Viceroy Sugar Beach and a small public beach area at the base of Petit Piton. We rented snorkel gear from some local guys ($10/each for 1 hour) and kicked around the roped off area next to the mountain. Ever since I became a diver, I confess snorkeling has held little interest for me, but this was pretty good for a shore snork.
The next day we signed up for the Soufrière Experience tour through the concierge. It was well worth getting off property to check out the world’s only drive-in volcano, stinky though it was. Ladera Resort is perched on a ridge in between the Pitons, and just behind it is the smoking, sulfurous caldera that exploded thousands of years ago.
Now, visitors can drive to the edge of the hot springs that gurgle from the earth, soak in mineral tubs and cover each other in smelly, hot mud. Ooh la la!
Rick asked if I’d like to climb Gros Piton with him, and when I finished laughing like a hyena, and realized he was serious, I sat him down and said, “Babe, I know who I am as a person. And I’m not the kind of person who’s going to climb one of those huge mountains with you.”
My hiking days are behind me. So, while my strong and handsome love made his way up and down Gros Piton, I had a deep-tissue massage in our suite, facing the mountain he was tackling. Imagine my surprise when mid-massage, Rick showed up – WAY too early.
“What happened?” I said when he walked through the door, thinking he’d given up or gotten hurt on the way. Round-trip from top-to-bottom should’ve taken him anywhere from 4-6 hours, and yet, Rick did the whole thing in 2.5 hours! He’s a tough cookie, that husband of mine.
Until the next day rolled around… while he suffered the consequences of his victory for the next few days, I felt (quietly) justified in getting a massage instead.
As for dining, we were very pleased with Ladera’s restaurant, Dasheene. It has to be in the top 10 best views of any restaurant anywhere in the world. Has to be.
Rick and I were on the all-inclusive plan, something I highly recommend for a couple of reasons. First, all-inclusive at Ladera Resort is not the same as all-inclusive at a huge mega-hotel. It’s not crowded buffets and mediocre food, which is mostly what I expect when I hear the term “all-inclusive.” With less than 40 suites, the crowd is never, ever a crowd. It’s a lovely sit-down restaurant with views of both Pitons, the sunset, the valley, Sugar Beach and a host of fireflies that show up at dusk.
Being on the plan means you never have to think about the budget. You’ve already paid to eat and drink whatever you want, so you can do it without ever having to consider if one more Piton is going to break the bank.
At Ladera Resort, Dasheene is the only restaurant. You can either dine there for three meals a day, or have meals served in your suite. We went to the restaurant for almost every meal, mostly because it was fun to see the Pitons from the multi-level bar & lounge, breakfast area and dinner platforms, and because the staff always remembered our names and asked about our day. It became part of our vacation routine to chat with everyone and cut up with everyone, and to meet other couples on vacation.
It’s also interesting to note we never felt the need to leave property for a change of scenery or menu. I imagined with only one restaurant that we’d spend some of our time in taxis to try other restaurants at other properties. In reality, Dasheene was all we needed. The dinner menu changes every two days, so with four nights we ended up with three different menus, including the best Caesar salad I ever had, the best shrimp pasta I ever had, a fantastic steak, a ton of fresh grilled octopus, mahi and kingfish, and plates overflowing with local passion fruit, mango and dragon fruit.
We made the silly choice to have lunch one day at the Viceroy down at the beach, and while it was ok, the $150 price tag for a few tapas dishes and two drinks had us strongly regretting not just eating at Dasheene. Lesson learned!
Ladera staff treated us, and all guests, as if we were on the most special and romantic trip of our lives. We said over and over, “We should’ve gotten married / honeymooned here!” (And not just because our destination wedding was the worst!)
The staff greeted us so warmly at every chance, and took care of little details without even being asked. We met other couples on their honeymoons, and others who were celebrating anniversaries after honeymooning there years ago, and everyone just seemed to be wandering around in a state of romantic vacation bliss.
In all my travels, I don’t see this level of service very often. Ladera is definitely doing something right.
Wanna book a trip to Ladera Resort? Check it out!
Have you ever felt like traveling, even just for a week, was the only way to stay sane? And what do you think about Ladera’s missing 4th wall?
Thank you to Ladera Resort in Saint Lucia for hosting our visit. Opinions, observations and general musings are my own, as always.