Beauty from the Beach to the Mountains
By Kathleen Beckett
Every resort in the Caribbean promises palm trees, rum punch and turquoise seas. But Anse Chastanet and its ultra-luxe extension Jade Mountain in St. Lucia offer all that and less.
They are among the few places renowned for what they don’t provide: there is no air conditioning, no TV, no phones, no windowpanes, and no fourth wall in the guest rooms, leaving them wide open to Mother Nature’s beauty and balmy breezes.
There are no swimming pools either, unless you’re well-heeled enough to score a room with its own private pool.
What you do get instead is a secluded, one-of-a-kind design marvel that ascends from a volcanic beach up the side of mountain in the lush tropical forests of St. Lucia, with jaw-dropping views of the Pitons, and many, many steps.
Little wonder it’s often called the most romantic resort in the Caribbean. Children under 10 are not permitted at Anse Chastanet and those under 16 are restricted from Jade Mountain.
Guest Rooms at Anse Chastanet are Delightfully Different
When owner Nick Troubetskoy first laid eyes on Anse (meaning “bay”) Chastanet in 1974, it had 12 rooms. He bought it and has spent a lifetime adding to it, all with the desire to build something unique, creative, and respectful of the environment.
There are now 49 rooms at Anse, and 29 at Jade Mountain. And each one is different.
Many of the guest and public rooms at Anse Chastanet were decorated by artist friends of Troubetskoy and his wife Karolin, starting with the name plate outside the door. Rooms are named after local flora, and so Passion Flower, for instance has a hand-painted sign with its name and flower. Inside, beams might be hand-painted as well, and canvasses by the artists hang on the wood or stone walls.
Each room is delightfully different: some have trees growing up through them, others have showers open to a Piton view, yet another its own private plunge pool, the only one at Anse Chastanet.
There are several different categories of rooms and rates according to size and view. What they all share is a profusion of island madras cushions and pillows, hanging basket lights with yellow bulbs which don’t attract mosquitoes, netted king-sized beds with ceiling fans inside the netted cocoon, louvered wood doors and window, wood floors in the living areas and stone floors in the bathrooms, and that missing fourth wall.
Troubetskoy cleverly designed all rooms so that guests can feel they are one with nature, yet no one can peek in and see you communing.
Guest Rooms at Jade Mountain Get You Higher
In 2007, Troubetskoy opened Jade Mountain just up the hill from Anse Chastanet and looking a bit like a space ship when lit up at night. It functions like the “club” level of Anse Chastanet; guests at Jade Mountain receive their own butler and mobile phones programmed to call him or her at a moment’s notice, whenever, wherever.
Being higher up the mountain, the views from the guest rooms at Jade Mountain are that more spectacular. And those with their own infinity pool built right into the living room and spilling out over that non-existing fourth wall are simply spellbinding.
You can almost reach out and grab a Piton. Each pool suite has its own identifying color—green, red, purple, blue, or orange.
The pool tiles and accent tiles in the bathroom are made out of recycled glass in the designated color. There are walkways to the suites; they are marked with glass sculpture and lighting in the same color.
At both resorts, as mentioned, there are no TVs or phones, but in a concession to the times, there is free wi-fi in all rooms.
Note: There are plenty of steps. Troubetskoy designed the resorts’ entire footprint with passageways to accommodate vans to take guests everywhere—to their room, to dinner, to the beach. Even so there may be additional steps to take you between van and bed.
Anyone with a handicap or difficulty navigating steps should discuss booking a suitable room with management.
Dining in View of the Piton Mountains
Dining is another unique feature. Troubetskoy owns organic Emerald Farm, which provides as much of the fresh produce in season as possible. And his Chocolate Laboratory, using beans from his cocoa trees, provides its ingredients as well.
Jade Mountain guests have their own Jade Mountain Club for dining, and they can also dine at the various restaurants down the hill at Anse Chastanet, where the various dining options are all covered but open air.
From bottom to top, smack on the beach is the beach bar, a perfect setting for banana daiquiris, icy Piton beers, sandwiches and afternoon tea, complete with scones and a sea view. It’s possible to have tea or lunch served right on the beach as well; just raise the yellow flag next to your lounge chair.
Also on the beach is Trou au Diablo bistro, where the lunch menu specializes in a mix of Creole and East Indian fare.
Here you’ll find a zesty fish chowder, fresh salad of Emerald Farms greens, and a selection of sandwiches and rotis, or flatbread wraps from India, seasoned with curry.
At night the venue turns into the restaurant Apsara for Indian fare served with the sound of waves.
During the day guests can walk or take a boat shuttle to the next bay to former plantation Anse Mamin and the Jungle Grill. It claims it serves the best burgers on the island, and they come in a great variety; whether fish or chicken or spicy beef, they sit on a fresh Johnnycake. Instead of the usual lettuce and tomato, try a slice of grilled pineapple and bright yellow banana ketchup.
Up the hill near Anse Chastanet’s reception area is the Treehouse. Breakfast features a buffet with the usual breads, muffins, pastries, cereal, cheeses, cold meats, and yogurt. There is also a hot menu.
At dinner the Treehouse offers a la carte and a 3-course specials, with such selections as chicken spring rolls and pan-seared wahoo and coconut lemon pie. As soon as you’re seated, a selection of breads (sundried tomato, walnut and raisin) and flavored butters (basil, Dijon) is presented.
Seating-wise, there is a second, lower level to the Treehouse, accessed through a separate staircase and providing a quieter, more private and more romantic setting. You may not automatically be shown it as an option, so be sure to ask — and you’ll feel like you’re dining in a treehouse.
Across a terrace is Emeralds, which serves an extensive all vegetarian menu, thanks in large part to Emerald Farms. Also, there’s the Piton Bar with drinks and nightly live music entertainment.
Dining at Jade Mountain
Up the hill at Jade Mountain Club, tables wrap around the perimeter of the broad semi-circular restaurant to take advantage of the breathtaking view of the Pitons.
The food here also features Emerald Farm and Chocolate Lab produce, starting, for instance, with a pink grapefruit and basil martini and finishing with homemade chocolate ice cream, luscious as a mousse. And in between: lobster, grilled Caribbean prawns, juicy lamb chops. The wine list is extensive, and the prices expensive.
Tables are equipped with water pistols, as are the guest rooms at Jade Mountain—no, not in case the service is slow, but to chase away any yellow-bellied bananaquit birds that might want to steal a meal.
Because it is very difficult to leave the hotels to dine elsewhere (more on that later) it makes sense to purchase a European meal plan or all-inclusive plan, which include a vast selection every night, at all venues, with several choices for each course, and a good selection of wines, beers and cocktails.
There’s even a sprightly prosecco for toasting. Menus change daily on a 2-week cycle, so no one should get bored with the choices.
The dress code? What dress code? Couples in t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops were dining on three-figures worth of lobster and Champagne, no problem. Although at other tables women were wearing pretty dresses and men, collared shirts and khakis.
Destination Weddings on Site
There are a number of beautiful settings for destination weddings, from a gazebo on a cliff overlooking the sea to a tent set up on the secluded beach of Anse Mamin.
There is also a wedding planner who can arrange anything and everything, from flowers to music, all on approval. The bride and groom do need to be on the island 3 days prior to the ceremony.
Spa and Activities on and off the Property
The hotels contain 3 small but beautifully equipped spas and beauty salons. There’s Kei Belte (House of Beauty), Kai Mer (an open-air cabana overlooking the sea), and Kai en Ciel (house in Heaven, high up in the hills), each offering the usual range of treatments—facials, hot stone massages, etc.
The selection is made a little different here by an offering of chocolate options, cocoa being high in anti-oxidants and perfect to fight the aging of skin.
Every treatment with a chocolate product—the chocolate citrus body scrub, the mocha massage, the chocolate aloe facial toner—ends with a plate of chocolate hearts to nibble on, made at the Chocolate Lab. The spas also have salons that provide beauty services—hair, makeup, manicures and pedicures.
Water sports are ubiquitous, with many included in the all-inclusive plan. Try snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, sunfish sailing, and paddleboarding.
35% of the guests at AC come for the scuba dividing. The dive shop, one of the best in the Caribbean, has PADI Gold Star and SSI Platinum status.
There is one tennis court.
Anse Mamin offers a guided nature hike, with information on the medicinal qualities of the plants in a tropical forest as well as the history of the area’s days as a sugar plantation with slaves. Jungle biking is also available.
At night there is live music and dancing in the Piton Bar.
For shoppers, there are two boutiques that offer a nice selection of gifts. One specializes in island-appropriate clothing (lacy beach cover-ups, colorful sundresses) and accessories (jeweled sandals, woven handbags.)
The other offers goods made on the island, like coconut soaps and pottery painted with hibiscus blossoms. There is also a sports shop for all imaginable water gear. Another source for gifts: the spas sell a selection of their products, including the chocolate lotions and oils.
Tours are given of the organic farming at Emerald Farms. And the Chocolate Lab opens its doors and lets guests try their hand at making their own chocolates with toppings such as red sea salt, dried mango, and shaved coconut.
Once a week the resorts’ double-decker catamaran takes off in time for sunset with rum punches and wines and beers, and a saxophonist playing jazz. As the sky turns dark a DJ takes over and everyone starts dancing.
And if that’s not enough, the hotel can arrange for guests to participate in 22 different activities outside its 600 acres. Especially popular are visits to the island’s still-bubbling volcano, ziplining, and the mineral mud baths.
The town of Soufriere lies on the bay at the foot of Anse Chastanet. It’s a sleepy little place, equally directed towards the water and its fishing boats and the town square with its Anglican church. Shops tend towards locally run bodegas. The main store on the square burnt down recently, leaving a big hole in more ways than one.
Pros and Cons of a Visit
The downside for some might often be the plus side for others.
Those looking for a technology detox will be pleased that there are no TVs, radios, phones, etc.—just the sound of waves and swishing palm fronds at night and only louvered doors and windows, with no glass, to block their breeze. Unless you like it super chill, those breezes and the ceiling fans provide sufficient cooling without need for a/c.
Having no fourth wall delivers a unique and liberating feeling. And bug coils lit at night, yellow light bulbs that don’t attract mosquitos, ubiquitous ceiling fans and mosquito netting surrounding the bed keeps insects at bay.
The missing fourth wall is positioned so that nothing and no one is going to waltz in. Safety is not an issue, though some might instinctively feel uncomfortable with the missing wall.
Something else that might make a couple uncomfortable is the lack of privacy in the bathroom. At most, a louvered wall is all that separates the bathroom from the bedroom.
There are tons of steps. To get to the beach, to dinner, to your room, can require hundreds of steps, which some night consider good exercise.
There are vans running up and down the hill at all hours to get guests where they want to be. Even so, once out of the van there might be steps to get to your destination that a van can’t help with.
Last pro/con, depending how you look at it: the hotel is located at the end of a “road,” if you can call it that. Winding and steep, It’s only 1.5 miles from the hotel to Soufriere, but that can take 25 minutes. So some might feel isolated, while others blissfully private.
Find Out More
These are primarily resorts for couples. The setting is so romantic the resorts are favorites with honeymooners and anniversary celebrants, so all ages are represented.
The resorts are also popular with sports enthusiasts, especially scuba divers. Recently there was a group of birdwatchers from England, looking for species viewable only in the Caribbean. While American accents predominate, English accents are strongly represented thanks to direct flights from London.
If you want to drive the hour from UVF Hewanorra International Airport, or 75 minutes from SLU George Charles Airport, good luck. First there is the hour’s worth of a roadway that hugs the edge of hills and mountains as it follows the outline of the sea in an unending series of hairpin turns.
Then getting to the hotel itself involves going off this “main” road to the one-lane, pitted, slow-slog of an adventure through the jungle. Thankfully, awaiting you when you arrive at the hotel is a cold towel dipped in lime water and a cold drink of lime juice and grenadine with a chunk of sugar cane. Or avoid the ride altogether and take a helicopter; Jade Mountain has a pad.