The green training kite is soaring above me in the bright blue sky, seemingly with a mind of its own. As I loosen my grip slightly, my instructor Linus slowly removes his guiding hands from the control bar and encouragingly tells me, “That’s it, now you’ve got it.”
I’m not so sure, but I do know flying a kite is just as much fun as I recall from my childhood. My feet are still firmly on the sand of the mile-long Anse de Sables beach at the Coconut Bay resort for this introductory lesson to kitesurfing.
Shortly afterwards, the sight of Linus rising up out of the water on his board, lifted by a gust of wind he expertly catches with his kite, is awesome – and feels some way off for my current abilities.
It takes an average of nine hours of lessons, so maybe two to three days of training, before a beginner is able to stand themselves up on the board in the water, we’re told.
And, with this four-star resort barely a five-minute car journey from Hewanorra International Airport – on the south of the island of St Lucia – guests need not waste any time, as they can be in the water within an hour of touching down.
A resort of two halves
Having accepted I likely won’t master kitesurfing anytime soon, I take advantage of the free kayaking available at the surf shack, enjoying a gentle bob-along in the turquoise sea, which is glistening in the golden sunshine.
The contrasting watersport activities available mirror the resort’s efforts to be all things to all people – two worlds in one, in their words.
As children whizz down the slides in CocoLand – the island’s largest waterpark – the adults can indulge in a rum milkshake cocktail at the swim-up bar, and even take it along for the ride in the 1500ft lazy river.
Splash, the family section of the hotel, features a fully supervised Kidz Club, complete with appearances by friendly coconut mascots Coco and Loco.
Made-to-order pizzas are available from the American diner-style Flip Flops restaurant right by the pool, or authentic Caribbean-style chicken, rice and beans from the nearby Jerk Treehouse – just two of nine eateries on the resort.
For adults who prefer some peace and quiet, the over-18s-only Harmony section is the perfect tranquil escape. Sun-tracker beds, hammocks, pools and an outdoor bar provide the ideal setting to lie back, read or just soak up the sun.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as relaxed in my life,” I tell spa therapist Gabina when she finishes my massage. The sea breeze and sound of the gentle waves is the most calming backdrop and I wonder if a massage that isn’t in an oceanfront spa cabana will ever quite match up to what I have just experienced.
The resort’s Sanctuary spa has three of these wooden cabanas that open out onto the water and feature two beds, meaning couples and friends can enjoy the soothing experience together.
My 80 minutes of utter tranquillity begins with a full body Swedish massage using Calabash – part of the island’s national tree – then a scalp massage and finally reflexology.
In such a deep state of relaxation, all I can manage afterwards is to take a few short steps to the ocean-view sun loungers just outside the spa, where I promptly fall asleep under the wooden parasol.
The spa offers other fragrant treatments, such as a honey and lemongrass scrub, aloe vera wrap or ginger green tea body polish, as well as facials, manicures and pedicures, to keep holidaymakers looking fresh.
“Coming to Saint Lucia and not seeing the Pitons is like travelling to Paris without checking out the Eiffel Tower,” I overhear someone say as we soak up the sun and sea breeze on our catamaran journey to see the majestic mountains from the water.
While it might be tempting not to leave a resort where every whim appears to be catered for, seeing the real St Lucia is a must.
As we travel on our tour bus through the winding streets to the marina at Laborie, we marvel at the multicoloured houses of pinks, light blues and greens, along the banana and mango tree-lined roads.
Our early start means we can savour a jam-packed day of boating and snorkelling, followed by an afternoon mud bath at the world’s only drive-in volcano, near the town of Soufriere.
Snorkel guide Janoi has been showing off the island’s underwater beauty to tourists for three years and smiles widely when we tell him he has the best job in the world.
After sitting in the hot sun, the water at the marine reserve by Sugar Beach feels chilly to start with, as I step off the boat. But I soon acclimatise and, with my life jacket strapped on and snorkel mask in place, I peer down into the majesty of the coral landscape below, spotting a variety of brightly coloured fish and even some small brown squid.
The imposing sight of the Pitons from the boat as we cruise back to land sparks a rush for cameras, as everyone does their best to capture the must-have Instagram shot holding a bottle of Piton lager – complete with mountains on the label – in the foreground, as the two domineering peaks stand tall behind.
From the warm waters of the Atlantic, to the hot Sulphur Springs, I’m about to take a mud bath that promises to take years off my appearance.
The drive-in volcano is a must-visit on the island, with four baths ranging from hot to really hot, which are said to help heal skin conditions, as well as arthritis and sore joints.
After a dip in the least hot of the four baths, I step out and plaster myself in light grey mud, before a fellow visitor helps me decorate myself with black mud. After standing in the sun to let the mud dry and, feeling braver, I get back into the third-hottest bath to wash it off.
While my skin undoubtedly feels smoother, I’m not sure I could pass for a decade younger.
Taste of the Caribbean
Sipping from my third shot of local rum – this one is Chairman’s Reserve and has quite the kick – in the heat of a Caribbean evening with coconut trees in my eyeline and the sound of samba drums across the way, I remark to the rest of the group that we’ve hit peak holiday.
The resort’s rum-tasting sessions on its aptly named Star Gazer’s Deck are due to resume for guests in early March, and are the perfect way to set us up for the Caribbean feast and entertainment the night ahead brings.
As I’m more accustomed to my rum with coke, drinking it neat is a bit overwhelming, so my top two picks of our nine-shot taster session are the refreshing Bounty lime and creamy coconut liqueurs, which work well over ice and are lighter on my taste buds. A bottle of both manage to make their way into my suitcase, so I can recreate the taste sensation at home – albeit without the samba soundtrack and mid-20s heat.
The poolside dinner that follows offers goat curry, jerk chicken and pork, barbecued corn and, of course, fried plantain, as part of the resort’s Caribbean night on Saturdays.
By dessert, we have stilt-walkers meandering through the tables and fire-breathers wowing us with a fireworks-esque display in the middle of the shallow pool.
As the rum flows, a dance-off follows, with some classic Shaggy featured among the reggae music on offer.
With the gentle night-time serenade of the tree frogs, I could get used to this idyllic island life.
– With PA
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