If location is everything… Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, might just take the crown as the Caribbean’s most spectacularly situated island hideaway. Occupying a silky beach right between Saint Lucia’s UNESCO-protected Pitons, this five-starred flagship property sits in the tight embrace of a lush rainforest cascading down a hill at its back, while on the other end, a jaw-dropping reef tempts guests to dive into the sapphire sea.
In a world where anything seems possible, we’d argue one thing is not: remaining wholly unimpressed in the back of a taxi, as your driver turns a corner behind Petit Piton and descends into a verdant valley at whose end you’ll find Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, nestled peacefully into the shade of the adjacent volcanic plug. The setting of its 100-acre grounds is sensational – that’s for sure – but the property itself also brims with charm: there’s the main complex, a tastefully restored and imaginatively decorated relict from the estate’s previous life as an 18th-century sugar plantation. All around it, and in fact stretching from the jungle down to the main beach, large-scale artworks by Andy Warhol, Banksy, Daniel Arsham, Julian Opie and others lend the property a ‘MoMA on the Beach’ character that’s further enhanced by its very own, QR-facilitated audio art tour (now there’s something to pull you away from the pool!).
Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, immediately feels like one of those rare paradises, where, as a result of geological activity, an environment that would fill the eyes of any luxury hotel developer with pure joy, just so happens to have sprung up from the ground. There’s no lack of pretty hotels and still prettier islands in the Caribbean, but this place was clearly destined to be iconic honeymoon territory. That said, its scale isn’t small or intimate. A total of 130 accommodations, including 80 cottages, as well as 25 standalone residences, mean visitor numbers can be high during peak season, lending the resort a lively vibe that would appeal to everyone from families to groups of friends on a tropical getaway. Meanwhile, those in search of privacy, rest and romance will want for nothing in the generously sized private villas.
Our 51 sqm/550 sqft Luxury Cottage with dark floors and high, wood-beamed ceilings was elegantly appointed and catalogue-ready: a comfy sitting room opened up into a spacious bedroom where a kingsized four-poster bed stole the show, while through the adjoining storage and wardrobe area, we could enter a bathroom all set with a freestanding roll-top bathtub, a walk-in shower featuring twin shower heads and full-sized, rosemary and white tea-scented amenities by Natura Bissé and ROIL. We also loved our terrace, where we spent hours lounging by our private, circular pool skirted on both sides by gently swaying shrubs and trees that perfectly framed Petit Piton straight ahead – during sunset, the honey-tinged, Saint Lucian views were so magical, we could hardly tear ourselves away and arrived late for dinner on more than one occasion.
If there was one thing that seemed at odds with otherwise flawless accommodation, it was the abundant usage of plastic bottles, which we found both in our minibar, as well as on our bedside after turndown. Not only did they feel cheap, as all plastic does, but they made us wonder why Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, hasn’t committed to switching to the eco-friendlier solutions discerning travellers are increasingly coming to expect from five-star hotels. We helped ourselves to glass-bottled water instead, which a clearly attentive housekeeping team and our wonderful butler frequently replenished. In general, our butler was never more than a quick call away (and like all guests, we were conveniently provided with a sturdy mobile for the duration of our stay). Seeing as most accommodations are built upon the hill overlooking the hotel’s communal areas and main beach in the bay below, and the extensive grounds can be daunting to navigate at first, it pays to take your phone with you, as complimentary pick-ups and drop-offs can be arranged in no time… unless, of course, you’re not one to skip leg day on vacation!
Right on time
While you’re Out There
The nearby town of Soufrière is not without its charms, and the natural wonders of the Pitons are on your doorstep during a stay at Sugar Beach. But the one thing we insist you do is grab a snorkel (or better yet, a scuba tank!) from the hotel’s water sports centre and immerse yourself in the colourful reef just off its shore. The underwater world all along Petit Piton is stunningly beautiful, with massive rocks and boulders sitting beneath the surface, looking almost as though they were about to tumble down into the depths below. In between them, we swam with shawls of fish and explored abundant coral formations.
As you’d expect from the kind of resort that’s a destination in its own right, with many guests never leaving its grounds, there’s a cluster of varied dining options available at Sugar Beach, too. Saltwood is arguably the hotel’s signature bar and restaurant, while Jalousie Grill dishes up beachside lunches and Boopa’s is where you’ll head for a coffee to go. Being vegans, we had a hard time during dinner at Bonté, a Creole-named eatery that ironically translates to ‘good times’. The ‘one-vegan-friendly-option-per-course’ or ‘you-can-combine-a-few-sides’ approach just doesn’t cut it in this day and age, and dishes that turn out to be wrongly labelled aren’t helpful, either.
Lunch was even harder, with a menu we were handed containing not a single plant-based main course. We were recommended an off-menu Impossible Burger in a ‘that’s-all-we-can-do’ kind of tone, but because we really didn’t feel like fast food, we asked whether the kitchen might be able to prepare something special for us, a request that was swiftly turned down – by our waitress, mind you, as we were told the chef themselves couldn’t come out to speak to us. ‘No’ is a word we’re allergic to at this level of luxury (and the price tag it comes at), and though we’ve had our fair share of uninspired vegan meals at properties where dietary requirements were clearly an afterthought, this was our very first time not being able to have anything at all, because we didn’t want a burger – who would, especially if that were the only option every day of their stay?
Thankfully, the Cane Bar, which serves Southeast and East Asian cuisine in a chic, art-filled ambience accessible via a statement doorway that looks not unlike the entrance to a vault, had prepared a preference-inclusive tasting menu for us. Hungry as we were, we savoured every last bite of what chef Epri prepared for us, from stir-fried rice vermicelli and mapo tofu to vegetable tempura with chirashi and crunchy enoki sushi topped off by a sublimely smooth chocolate mousse. We also thoroughly enjoyed getting to be the first guests to try the latest concoction mixed into sparkling existence by bartender Dwayne, a sake-based drink with hints of cauliflower and yuzu that was both genuinely unique while being utterly delicious. In fact, we still reminisced about dinner the following morning, when (very tasty) special options were again arranged for us, as the plant-based breakfast options at The Terrace restaurant were few and far between.
To relax, nothing beats a trip to the hotel’s Rainforest Spa, which, as the name suggests, sits among tropical trees, with eight of its ten treatment gazebos having been constructed as jungle treehouses. This kind of spa, engulfed entirely by nature, is our personal favourite for the immersive quality it adds to a visit. The plunge into world-class R&R territory arguably begins with the entrance to the spa, however: a long, winding walkway created from wood and stone, and decked in flickering candles on both sides, it’s a real show-stopper, creating somewhat of a mental barrier between the outside world and the sanctuary ahead. Our massage was expectedly wonderful, and we felt that our therapist treated us with intuition, knowing well that we weren’t simply after ‘muscle tension relief’, but an overall calm state of mind. We also spent some time in the jungle temazcal, which made an original and downright funky addition to what’s already a superb spa. Should you prefer a workout to a zone-out, Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort is also conveniently home to two tennis courts as well as one of the most beautifully designed island gyms we’ve seen in about forever.
It goes without saying, perhaps, that this is a property that warrants not only a quick flight over from the USA but also the longer journey made by visitors from Europe and other parts of the world. There’s clearly work to do when it comes to catering to dietaries in a more inclusive way (and they’ve proven that they can… in principle, anyway). But challenges aside, the resort delivers on the premise of a tropical island getaway with such tremendous style – boasting gorgeous villas, eye-catching artworks, a statement spa and a setting so special it’s almost fit for a Bond villain’s lair – that it’s not only become a ‘Caribbean classic’, but also the flagship of the Viceroy brand. One day, with our feet dangling off the edge of an inflatable ring anchored in the sea right off the beach, we looked out over Sugar Beach as ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ oozed from speakers hidden between palm trees and guests sipped on drinks in the shade of thatched parasols in the sand. What a marvellous scene it was.
At OutThere, we believe in boundless travel. But we understand that some destinations can pose challenges to travellers that complicate visiting them. We advise all visitors to inform themselves about local legislation and customs, and to work with a trusted travel provider in order to ensure a safe and pleasant holiday.
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