Why St Lucia is the perfect place for a wellness retreat

For a healthy getaway in the Caribbean

St Lucia - home of smoochy honeymooners and the all-inclusive resort. But increasingly, destinations traditionally known for lounging, lazy, boozy getaways are now catering for a new type of holiday-maker: the wellness seeker. Naturally cocktails, SOCA dance nights and sunbathing are par for the course in the Caribbean but now you can combine that with fitness, yoga and eating well so you come back partied out, but not burnt out. So when HELLO! was offered the chance to visit the BodyHoliday resort in the St Lucian capital of Castries we squat jumped at the chance.

Favoured by fitness-conscious celebrities such as Emma Bunton and Charlotte Church, the BodyHoliday is a sprawling resort surrounded by rainforests and tropical gardens. The place is awash with serene, fit-looking guests gliding to their next treatment or HIIT class: it literally oozes zen and good health.

But the beauty of it is that you do as much or as little as you like. Their exercise program runs through the day and their beauty treatments start on the hour every hour from about 8am in their dedicated temple-inspired spa area.

We did spin and yoga overlooking the sea as the sun set and were massaged within an inch of our lives. But it’s not all Namaste smugness, on day four we had had quite enough wellness thank you so spent a glorious day sunbathing and drinking rum punch, before going on a terrifying but exhilarating tubing session in the sea. Sea-based activities can also be booked throughout the day if beach fitness is more your thing.

The food is exemplary. Big, healthy buffets for breakfast with every type of juice you can imagine, and for lunch there’s delicious to-order pizza from the Pavilion as an option. In the evenings there’s the Cariblue Windows tasting menus to try or for fine dining, their award-winning TAO restaurant.

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BodyHoliday also has its own sustainable organic garden so you know all your fare is as fresh as can be. After three nights in our calming, airy sea-view room with stand-alone bath, plenty of exercise and every spa treatment we could wish for we felt we could conquer the island’s biggest physical challenge: Gros Piton Mountain.

To do that we moved on to our next stop: the breathtaking Ladera resort. It’s located on the west side of the island and stands 1,000 feet above sea level on a volcanic ridge. Ladera is immensely private with only 37 rooms and the most extraordinary part…each room has only three walls. This means your view of the Piton mountains is panoramic and you’re nestled in open-air rainforest.

We stayed in a Paradise Ridge suite complete with a private heated plunge pool, a shower the size of a studio apartment, king-size four-poster bed, champagne mini bar, butler…and a little water gun to get them pesky geckos. You can see why the resort was pretty quiet – why on earth leave your room?

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The on-site Dasheene restaurant, under the direction of executive chef Nigel Mitchel, was sumptuous. Breakfasts are plentiful, with everything from pancakes to salt fish on offer and you’ll notice banana creeps into a lot of the dishes, from jam to ketchup. An excellent wine cellar will impress any plonk geeks and the evening vibe is sophisticated and relaxed. This isn’t a party resort but there is live music most nights if you fancy a dance before bed.

We were determined to conquer Gros Piton, the second highest peak on the island on our second last day – to see if all that training at BodyHoliday had been worth it. It’s a very tough 2,530 foot scramble in sticky heat so our advice is set off before 6am, bring at least two litres of water, bug spray, energy snacks and be prepared for jelly legs after. It took us almost four hours from base and back but the stunning views and enormous sense of achievement are worth every sweaty, back-breaking second – especially on the descent when you pass people who have given up! The climb costs about £40 plus tip for your guide and all the profit goes to maintaining the trails and to the workers who live in the village of Fond Gens Libre at the base.

Our three days at Ladera were wonderfully relaxing but if you get itchy feet like us you can go ziplining at nearby Morne Coubaril Adventure Park or take a dip at the Sulphur Springs and Mud Baths where they’ll paint you like a mud zombie.

As a goodbye treat we were lucky enough to experience dinner and dancing at Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort, about 20 minutes down the mountain from Ladera. This is one of the swankiest resorts on St Lucia – in fact Matt Damon renewed his wedding vow there a few years ago – and we were treated to supper in The Great Room restaurant. Overlooking their private beach, we had three delicious courses including lobster bisque, Kobe beef and vintage champagne. This place is the ultimate top spot to have your Caribbean send off before flying home.

We returned home tanned and armed with plenty of rum and banana-based foodstuffs. But most importantly, re-energised and re-balanced with not a hint of those holiday blues. Wellness by day and being a bit wild at night - it really does work.

Prices at BodyHoliday start at £378 per person per night, all inclusive. In low season (1 July – 30 October 2018), prices at Ladera start from $800 for the Gros Piton Suite. Rates are subject to 10% Service Charge and 10% Government Tax. Rates includes daily full breakfast and roundtrip airport transfers.

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