Review: The Landings St. Lucia
You can check out any time you like, but… why on earth would you want to?
I have the best view in the house at this excellent hotel on the seductive north west coast of St Lucia. Lying in a hot tub outside my splendiferous two-bedroom suite just 10 metres from the sea, I am assailed by the winning combination of bubbles, beaches and beautiful vistas. Every time a ruby-throated hummingbird – distinguished from its green-throated counterpart by its, er, ruby throat – sips from a nearby bougainvillea flower, I sip from a nearby glass of rum punch. Each mouthful may knock you out more effectively than Tyson Fury's right hand, but it is still an undeniably dreamy experience. And very typical of The Landings.
The hotel deserves every one of its five stars – and probably several more as well. The food in its two seaside restaurants – Callaloo and The Beach Club – is very high-quality. I would recommend the barbecue spare ribs in a scrumptious sweet and sour sauce and the bread pudding, which is almost – but not quite – as good as the one my granny used to make.
The setting of The Landings is equally pleasing. To the north lies Pigeon Island, which is shaped not like a pigeon, but a sleeping giant. It was once the military base for St Lucia, which over the centuries was controlled seven times by the French and seven times by the British – a kind of military score draw. Now a National Park, Pigeon Island is far more peaceful these days and provides a gorgeous backdrop for the hotel. That noise you can hear in the background is the clink of cocktails, rather than the crash of cannon-fire.
The evening entertainments at The Landings are terrific, too. At the beach barbecue night, a dazzling steel band plays everything from “Jammin’” to the rather less Caribbean "Dancing Queen”, “Hotel California” and “Wonderful Tonight”.
This is followed by a death-defying team of fire eaters. Not only do they exhale plumes of fire like a particularly angry dragon in Game of Thrones, but they also perform an almost unwatchably dangerous limbo dance underneath a burning stick which appears to be placed about a foot above the ground. I didn't catch the name of this extraordinary troupe, but I’m assuming it’s something like, "Don't Try This at Home.
Although you could happily spend a week without leaving The Landings, the all-suite resort organises some tremendous excursions. I enjoy two memorable boat trips that could scarcely be more different. On an outing with Dive St Lucia, I cling on for dear life as our boat seems to aqua-plane from white horse to white horse on its hour-long journey south towards the prime snorkelling site on the island.
But it is worth the white-knuckle terror once we get to the gorgeous dive spot. It is hard by the Pitons, the breath-taking pair of mountains that erupted from the ocean eons ago off the south west coast of St Lucia and now enjoy the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you plunge into the water at the Anse Chastanet reef, you feel as though you are a privileged guest in another, otherworldly realm. Snorkelling here, you are treated to a marine display that would not seem out of place in a David Attenborough documentary.
There is no doubt who rules this domain. I look on as a school of clownfish which has been idling along suddenly takes flight and fright. I instantly see why they have scarpered at such breakneck speed. A monster, 4-ft long barracuda hoves into view. Casually cruising by, it doesn't need to break into a sweat or bare its teeth to trigger this undersea pandemonium. It is simply reminding the clownfish: “This is my world. You just live in it.”
The entire dive feels like being an extra in Finding Nemo, without the risk of being eaten by Barry Humphries’ grinning shark.
My other boat trip is not as adrenaline-fuelled, but it is no less fun. As the very friendly two-person crew – greetings, OB and Krishna – pilot their elegant boat, Jus’ Sail, gently out of the Rodney Bay Marina just south of The Landings, the first thing I notice is how quiet it is. On their tranquil sailboat, which is painted blue and yellow, the colours of the St Lucia flag, there are none of the throbbing engines and “bangin’” tunes familiar from most Caribbean party boats. The only sounds are the lapping of the waves and the occasional creaking of the mainsail.
The captain's expertise is impressive. At one stage, OB points out a shadow on the water five metres ahead of us. That helps him predict precisely the moment when the wind will hit his sails and we will have to brace ourselves. OB and Krishna teach me, a sailing debutant, how to steer Jus’ Sail. Of course, I'm still a clear and present danger to shipping, but lightly touching the tiller under their benevolent, confidence-boosting tutelage, all of a sudden, I'm convinced I could circumnavigate the globe, or at least Rodney Bay. I feel the complete salty sea dog – like Long John Silver, without the piracy.
After a few days at The Landings, I have the impression I have landed in a very calm place several planets away from the stresses and strains of daily life in the UK. St Lucia has that effect on people.
Just by chance, while I'm on the island, the line-up for this year's St Lucia Jazz Festival is announced. Topping the bill is none other than Sting. My verdict on St Lucia? Every little thing she does is magic.