St Lucia is the ideal destination to escape London during the winter months to get some sunshine. This stunning island in the West Indies not only offers beautiful beaches but, with its two famous pitons, dormant volcano and rain-forests, also an incredibly interesting landscape to discover. Admittedly, St Lucia has also been on my Hot-list for Hotel Boucan by Hotel Chocolat – as a little chocoholic – heaven on earth!
The south-east of the Island has long and almost untouched beaches, facing the rough Atlantic Ocean. This is where we stayed for the first couple of days to acclimatise and to enjoy the close proximity to the sea.
I loved our morning walks along the seemingly endless beach and the breeze coming in from the Sea.
The more popular hotels are on the west side of St Lucia with the calmer and warmer Caribbean Sea. However, the unspoiled beach with the Maria Major Islands in the background and the locals that came to the beach, like the rider above, made this location special.
Boucan by Hotel Chocolat is located amidst the rainforest on the Rabot Estate which dates back to 1745. The estate was bought in 2006 by the owners of Hotel Chocolat to grow the cocoa for their delicious chocolates that are sold in beautiful little boutique shops all over London.
The modern and tranquil Boucan is surrounded by nature with spectacular views of the Petit Piton which is beautifully reflected in their infinity pool. The pool area is nicely arranged with wooden sun loungers and a small bar. A shuttle bus runs to the nearby Jalousie Beach for hotel guests that like to swim in the sea and relax on the beach.
We stayed in a Luxe Lodge which was open to its surroundings – at night tree frogs and birds created a natural soundtrack and during the day cute little birds came to say hello. The room service was exceptional with daily complimentary cookies and chocolates that I had to reluctantly share with my husband.
The restaurant serves cacao inspired dishes such as cacao tortellini, confit of duck in bitter dark chocolate sauce and of course sweet chocolate desserts such as the chocolate sponge dome with molten chocolate that melts you away! An interesting fact that I have learned during my stay was that cocoa was used for thousands of years in savoury dishes but only ‘recently’ (for about 500 years) as an ingredient in sweet dishes.
Part of our big nature package was the Tree to Bar chocolate experience which was a hands-on approach to understanding the art of chocolate making.
The first part of the experience was all about cocoa growing, where we were allowed to pick our own pod from one of the cocoa trees on the plantation. We also grafted (with help) two of the cocoa plants that were labelled with our names and will be planted on the plantation. We were told that if we visit again in the future, we can see into what big trees they have grown into. A very tempting prospect!Rabot’s nursery supervisor, Cuthbert Monroque, told us with enthusiasm everything we wanted to know about cocoa. What impressed me most was Rabot estate’s attitude to sustainability and eco-friendliness – no pesticides are used on the estate.
Cuthbert opened one of the pods for us with his machete. Inside the pods were the cocoa beans, covered in a sweet white pulp which we were given to taste. The raw beans undergo a lengthy process of fermenting, drying and roasting before they are ready to be processed into delicious little chocolates. The second part of the experience was lead by Boucan’s chef Ron, where we had to grind cocoa nibs by hand until we eventually ended up with liquid chocolate. It sounds a lot easier than it is. Ron taught us the many factors that are at play to create good chocolate. Having seen the love and devotion of making chocolate I am happy to pay a little bit extra to make sure that the chocolate we eat is grown in environmentally friendly and ethical way. I also prefer to eat chocolate that is made with real cocoa butter rather than cheap substitutes. The end result of our labour were these two beautiful chocolate bars that still had some little crunchy cacao nib pieces in them, however, we were proud of them never the less!
The many rainforest trails surrounding the estate offered some exciting hikes that kept us busy during the day.
St Lucia has a dormant volcano that we visited at one of our hikes around the hotel – the area is geothermally active, emitting steam and sulfur. From the observation platforms, visitors can view the many pools with bubbling mud and water. On our way there we met a smiling goat – pictured above.
The toughest hike/climb that we have embarked on during our holiday was up the grand piton. The first part consisted of steps that made it easy-ish, the last part, however, was a bit more arduous. Once up on the top, the smaller piton sat in the distance and it was all worth it!
The hotel is not far from the colourful fishing village, Soufriere, the former capital of St. Lucia, founded by the French in the 18th century.
The people of Soufriere were very friendly and outgoing like the school children above. Many of them work in the cocoa or tourist industry.
had incredible views of small little islands and the ocean,
saw different birds like the little hummingbird (right picture above) and flowers in different shapes and colours.
We also had the opportunity to look at some of the other hotels on the west coast while we had the car and found The Body Holiday Resort. We did get a small tour and were very impressed by what was on offer -healthy meals, sports activities, nutritional advice – all that is needed for the health-conscious traveller. Definitely my pick for next time to combine a beach holiday with chocolate indulgence. Probably some indulgence first and then we can work it off at The Body Holiday.
We definitely feel obliged to come back to St. Lucia one day to see how our two cocoa plants are doing on the plantation – life can be so cruel …