Sugar Beach Resort, St. Lucia
Stunning vistas and uninterrupted serenity in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Pitons, located on the southwest coast of St. Lucia, are twin volcanic spires that rise abruptly from the sea to a height of more than 2500 ft (Gros Piton is 2,530 ft high while Petit Piton is 2,438 feet high). You may have seen them in pictures if you’ve done any research into visiting St. Lucia, but the pictures you’ve seen online do no justice whatsoever to seeing them firsthand in real life.
If you’ve been, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s unreal. There aren’t too many places on the planet where you can see mountains shoot from sea level to 2500 feet in one shot. No foothills. Just 2500 feet, nearly straight up.
This part of St. Lucia is unique. It’s mountains and hills are cloaked in rainforests, where you’ll find a variety of tropical fruits, fragrant trees, and an abundance of spices. It’s also still geologically active–there are several active volcanic vents and hot springs in the vicinity. Combine these attributes with the spectacular Pitons, and you have a recipe for UNESCO World Heritage designation.
One thing you won’t find here are any mega resorts. It’s far too remote and rugged. The port and beach cities to the north are where most visitors end up, many only passing through this area on the way from the airport to the north, or perhaps on a day trip from a cruise ship. The resorts that do call this area home are special, several of them among the very finest resorts on earth, and all of them share a special bond with the Pitons. At Jade Mountain, guests can gaze upon the Pitons from a distance, with incredible views from across the bay. Ladera Resort is perched inland, high on a ridge that straddles the twin peaks, with panoramic 180-degree views of the Pitons.
Then we have Sugar Beach resort, the only resort that sits quite literally between the Pitons, its white sands stretching along the spectacular coastline between Petit Piton in the north down to Gros Piton, just a bit farther south.
You have arrived.
Getting to Sugar Beach takes a bit of effort and an immunity to motion sickness—this part of the island has some of the curviest roads we’ve ever driven on, and we’ve been on our fair share. “I feel sick!! I’m going to throw up!! I want to go home!!” cried our oldest, not more than 20 minutes into the drive from the airport. Not a great start.
Once you’ve arrived, however, all is forgotten.
Guests are greeted at the gates with warm smiles, lush tropical landscaping, and dazzling views of the Pitons. You’re directed to the parking area and descend through the property, passing flowers and trees of every shape and size. We were there in June, which happened to coincide with mango season, so the warm, humid air was thick with the smell of ripe mangoes. It smelled delicious.
A golf cart met us at the parking lot and took us and our gear the rest of the way, winding it’s way through the property. We instructed the driver to drop us off at the beach, and he obliged.
Spending a day at the beach. Wow. What a beach.
Stepping foot on the beach for the first time is something we’ll never forget. It was here, just a few hundred yards from the base of Petit Piton, that the sheer scale of these mountains really sank in. We craned our necks back as far as we could so we were looking nearly a half-mile, straight up. Birds would come and go from high in the cliffs, providing the only scale of reference for their immense size.
Thatched umbrellas provided shade for luxurious lounge chairs, their occupants content with reading, napping, and sunning in complete serenity. It was the low season, so at times, there were only a handful of other guests around. It was surreal. The water was incredibly still, the Pitons serving as a sort of wave break from the strong currents just offshore. The hills were covered in every shade of green, the vegetation fresh from the start of the rainy season. Villas clung to the hillside, and we could only imagine what the views must have been like from their terraces. Coconut palms were scattered throughout the white sand beach, lending the finishing touch to the masterfully groomed paradise in which we found ourselves.
Tapas, hammocks, and almond trees.
We gathered our bearings and explored for a bit. We found the water activities hut, and our oldest immediately begged us, “Can we go on the banana boat? Can we go on the banana boat? Please? Please?!” We put that idea on hold when we stumbled upon a beach bar underneath a grove of almond trees. We pulled up a couch, ordered some tapas and drinks, and soaked in our surroundings. The girls drank their virgin drinks while swinging in the hammocks, the shade from the almond trees providing much needed respite from the intense summer sun.
The food was delicious (and surprisingly, not that expensive). The girls were anxious to go into the water, but we just wanted to take a nap in the hammocks. Luckily, an adorable little cat wandered over to our seating area, buying us another 20 minutes of relaxation. The girls, immediately smitten, decided fawning over a cute little kitten was now more important than hitting the water. We learned the kitten was appropriately named “Lucia”, and the girls were in love. They loved teasing Lucia with sticks and strings, and she was captivated by anything that moved.
Volcanic Rock & Coral Reefs
Lucia eventually wandered off, so we finally headed down to the beach. The water was perfect. Cool. Refreshing. Crystal clear… and teeming with fish. We grabbed our snorkeling gear and set off to explore the underwater world. We were informed that the snorkeling was excellent on the other side of the pier, around the base of Petit Piton. That information proved correct.
The snorkeling was far better than we expected. Maybe it was because we weren’t expecting much. The water, while clear, isn’t the typical aquamarine blue that is common in many of the leeward islands in the northern Caribbean. It takes on more of a darker blue-green, likely due to the presence of the darker, volcanic rock and sand that is common throughout this part of St. Lucia. This in effect hid the reefs from view in nearly every photo I viewed while researching Sugar Beach. What a pleasant surprise!
We saw a variety of tropical fish and an abundance of several species of coral. But what made this snorkeling unique was the dark, volcanic rock–essentially an extension of Petit Piton–under the water. It was a completely different experience than snorkeling elsewhere in the Caribbean. We ducked in and out of the numerous underwater coves and crevasses, formed less than 1 million years ago during a period of intense volcanic activity on the island.
The girls chased the schools of fish, intent on disrupting their formation. The fish didn’t seem to mind. I was more obsessed with the spectacular coral. Everything was so vibrant and healthy. We were definitely not expecting this.
Fine. We can go on the banana boat.
The girls had been begging us all day to go on the banana boat ride. We caved. Yes, go ahead and judge us. In reality, though, I was probably more excited than they were. My wife had no interest in going, so she stayed behind and snapped some photos. It was quite the ride, but I honestly enjoyed the screams of delight from the girls as we sped across the bay, crisscrossing our waves and nearly getting tossed. It was a blast!
My wife, feeling a bit out of the loop, decided she wanted to explore the water, too.
Enter the paddle boat. It seemed like such a great idea–a leisurely ride, powered by the legs of four individuals, gliding peacefully around the water, magnificent views of Sugar Beach and the Pitons. And it was… for the first few minutes. “My legs are so tired!!”, followed by “so are mine!”… followed by “Um, yeah, so are mine. Sorry.” Five minutes into a one hour rental, and we’re down to a one dad-power boat. All of my years of cycling did absolutely nothing for me. It was pure agony. The only motivation I had were the smiles on their faces and the views of Sugar Beach through the sweat dripping from my brows.
Back on shore… The rainbow of all rainbows.
All of that swimming and banana boating and paddling worked up quite the thirst. It was late afternoon, we were parched, and we had been baking in the sun for several hours. We retreated back to our perch on the deck of the beach bar, ordered some water, Caribs, and virgin pina coladas, and found our new friend Lucia, just waking up from an afternoon catnap. Our oldest couldn’t sit still, so she wandered back into the water. Our youngest, completely wiped out, dozed off in a hammock. I laid down in an adjacent hammock, not far behind. My wife pulled out her book, intent on making a serious dent.
I’m not sure how much time had passed, but I was woken from a semi-nap–you know, one of those I think I dozed off, but maybe not type midday slumbers. “Mom, dad, come here! Check it out, hurry! Look!” our oldest daughter yelled from the beach, her voice tinged with excitement. I knew something was up… a few minutes earlier, I had heard it starting to rain, but it was still sunny, the late afternoon light sneaking onto the beach from behind Petit Piton. I was hoping this could only mean on thing. I grabbed my camera and ran out from under the almond trees. It wasn’t really raining too much on the beach, but you could hear the rain. Somewhere, it was raining hard. I ran out to the beach.
There it was. One of the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen. The wind was blowing in the rain from a massive deluge in the rainforest above Sugar Beach. The low angle from the sun provided the perfect light. It was sublime. Magical. The best part? The showers had sent the few remaining guests running for cover, so we were alone. Just our family, on this stunning beach, gazing in awe at this beautiful sight… What a way to end the day.
Getting here & additional information
Visit the website for Sugar Beach Resort for additional information on getting here, rates, events, news, activities, and more.
Sugar Beach can be accessed via, well, I have no idea what the name of the road is… It’s off the main road from Vieux Fort to Soufriere. You actually pass the Pitons, then backtrack. Look for the sign and take a left and head around Petit Piton. There’s also a pier that can handle charters, smaller ferries and water taxis, so arriving by water is an option, as well.