LOVE ACTIVELY: Swimming in the Caribbean Sea
Iit’s not every day that I get to start the morning with an energetic swim in open water, but for guests at St Lucia’s Cap Maison hotel, it is positively encouraged. As I gently plied the calm, warm Caribbean sea, a guide paddling a kayak alongside kept a watchful eye on my every stroke. As the sunbeds on the hotel’s beach grew smaller in the distance, Pigeon Island, a small rocky peninsular just over a mile away, was getting ever closer.
Historically, it’s an important monument.
This 44-acre national park is a living museum with ruins of military buildings constructed during the battles between the French and British, so after a refreshing coconut water, I set off to explore.
Being active is all part of a holiday in St Lucia.
It’s an adventure playground with jungle biking, mountain trekking, zip-lining and paddle-boarding to name just a few of the activities to try here.
Cap Maison, a 49-suite boutique hotel, is set on a cliff on the north west coast, overlooking the ocean.
BAG A BARGAIN: A market stall-holder fashions bags out of string to sell
It’s practically hidden from view thanks to its lush garden setting dotted with frangipani, hibiscus and jasmine.
This hacienda-style property with white walls and terracotta tile terraces feels far more like a private home than a hotel.
The restaurant, The Cliff at Cap, is renowned in the Caribbean, has a million-dollar view and is where diners enjoy contemporary French Caribbean fare such as seared scallops, lobster ravioli and cinnamon-loaded beef mignon.
The hotel’s other restaurant, The Naked Fisherman, sits right on the beach so you can wiggle your toes in the sand while you savour spicy red snapper, fresh lobster and plantain chips.
Highlight of Hannah’s holiday: Climbing the Piton mountains
Each morning, a bustling food market takes place in Castries, St Lucia’s colourful capital, which spills out of the central hall and into the neighbouring streets where vendors set up rickety stalls under umbrellas.
I picked up some rolled cocoa sticks, made nearby, with instructions to swirl them in milk and sugar to make hot chocolate when I returned home.
That afternoon we headed off on mountain bikes along the steep coast road to Gros Islet.
A pretty fishing village with two-storey pastel-coloured wooden properties with wrought-iron balconies, it’s a sleepy kind of place but on Friday nights it turns into St Lucia’s biggest street party.
Cap Maison hotel’s pool
A little further on and infinitely more subdued, we travelled through Rodney Bay – home to upmarket eateries and bars.
We stopped for a well-earned Piton, the local beer, at one of the bars lining the horseshoe-shaped inlet and watched the sun set.
It was ime to nurture tired muscles the next day so we drove to the south of Saint Lucia to visit the volcanic Sulphur Springs and warm mud baths.
The springs are not only great fun, they are therapeutic, too, and have hosted many a famous face such as Richard Branson and Oprah.
The mud helps detoxify the body and helps heal sunburn, eczema, arthritis, sore joints and more.
The mud baths enjoyed by Hannah
Submerging ourselves like a pair of contented hippos, we painted each other’s faces with the gloop – we could almost feel it doing us good.
It was then time to tackle what is probably Saint Lucia’s greatest physical challenge: climbing Gros Piton.
Rising from the ground in two near-perfect pyramid shapes, the Pitons (Gros Piton and Petit Piton) look like a nursery school drawing of a mountain range.
But climbing them is anything but child’s play.
The dining area at Cap Maison
It takes about four hours to climb the 2,530ft Gros Piton, two up, two down, and it’s a sweaty affair negotiating the rocky paths that weave through the dense jungle.
But as the trees cleared and we reached the summit we were rewarded with the best view in the Caribbean.
Below us was Vieux Fort’s harbour.
We moved to explore another part of the island, the south west where we based ourselves at the Anse Chastanet resort, which undoubtedly commands the island’s best views of the Pitons.
All of the 49 rooms are in some part open to the elements (some missing walls altogether) so guests can feel as if they’re sleeping among nature.
The beach at Anse Chastanet
There are no televisions or phones, and each morning we were woken by a chorus of tiny finches that came into our suite to say hello.
That’s what I call convening with nature.
British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0120/ ba.com/stlucia) offers seven nights at Cap Maison from £1,479pp (two sharing), B&B.
Price includes return flights from Gatwick to St Lucia. Return shuttle transfers start from £101 (for two people).
Anse Chastanet (ansechastanet.com) offers doubles from £326.
St Lucia tourism: stlucia.org