But with outdated laws against homosexuality still in place, are we LGBT+ travellers really welcome to savour its delights?
We all have our own ‘deal breakers’ when it comes to picking our next holiday destination. But while the importance of five star service, volume of daiquiris and number of theme park rides will vary between us all, there’s one unifying decider – working out whether homosexuality is illegal in the country you’re visiting.
The Caribbean is an odd one. A quick Google shows that of the 15 countries making up the Caribbean Community bloc (a collective which includes St Lucia, Barbados, and Jamaica), only one – Suriname – has legalised same-sex sexual activity. It’s not the most encouraging of starts. But dig a little deeper, and there’s something culturally interesting to be found between the legal lines.
In 2015, St Lucia’s Tourism Minister Lorne Theophilus spoke out to actively encourage LGBT+ tourism; not surprising considering the importance of the ‘Pink Pound’ (or ‘Dorothy Dollar’, as it’s known in the US) to its economy. So while colonial-era “buggery” laws still stand, the island, its people and its tourism industries are as progressive as they are welcoming – as long as you’re not fondling each other on the streets. It was a cultural shift we wanted to experience for ourselves.
When it came to drawing up a Caribbean wander-list, St Lucia was always at the top. Not only did it win Conde Nast Traveller’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards for the ‘Best Honeymoon Island in the World’, but it’s home to ‘The Pitons’, dual verdant mountains that melt effortlessly into the sparkling azure waters of the Caribbean ocean, and which are the unofficial winners of ‘The Travel Porn Awards’ – an award we just created specifically for their retina-blinding beauty.
World-leading views and romance are all well and good, but the island is also home to one of the finest, most visually spectacular and breathtakingly audacious hotels in the world – introducing Jade Mountain, a resort so brain-bafflingly luxury that you’ll fully suspect you’ve entered a VIP version of The Truman Show. In short, you will never, ever want to leave.
Owner and architect Nick Troubetzkoy acquired the beachside Anse Chastanet resort back in 1974, and embarked on a mission to create a space in harmony with the spectacular scenery around it. The chunk of land he acquired is hundreds of acres large, and included gorgeous sandy beaches, a crystal clear bay, a disused plantation, miles of rainforest, a handful of bungalows and arguably the finest views of those infamous pitons on the whole island.
Over the years, he expanded Anse Chastanet to fulfil his dream of a telephone, TV, clock-free getaway paradise, and decided to turn his attentions sky-ward. Over three years, he embarked on a lunatic mission to built Anse Chastanet’s bigger, flashier and downright sexier sister – an eye-gasm worthy of a Bond villain that rises way above the resort beneath in a series of interconnecting walkways. Carved into the side of the mountain, it houses just 29 ‘sanctuaries’ (rooms) – 24 of which have their own infinity pool. But more on that ridiculousness later.
Whether you arrive by boat, helicopter – because of course it has its own private helipad – or car, you’ll enter Jade Mountain in the same way – by a vertiginous, seemingly never-ending shuttle up into the literal heavens. As you step out of the car and stroll out from under cover into the open air, the view slaps you upside the head, eyes and brain (or groin if you’re an objectophile). The pitons loom large, while stone walkways spider outwards, connecting the resort in interlaced bridges.
Then there’s the addition of your own personal Major-Domo – a private butler who is contactable by a mobile phone you’re given for the extent of your stay, and who excels in, well, everything – all of them are graduates of the Guild of Professional English Butlers. From unpacking your clothes for you, to arranging candlelit dinners on your balcony, to bringing your favourite book or magazine from your room to the beach when you’re just too lazy to walk up the hill, to just having a lovely chat about all things St Lucian, they’re your new VIP BFF.
Should you actually manage to leave your room – you could hunker down with nothing but the view, the infinity pool and endless room service and live out the rest of your days rather happily – then there’s a host of similarly five star activities to indulge in.
“As you stroll into the open air, the views slap you upside the head, eyes and brain.”
The Jade Mountain Club restaurant offers Michelin-level menus full of mouth-watering, tropical fusion foods (sample drool-worthy dish – Blackened Mahi Mahi, Curry Coconut Nage, Garlic Buttered Spinach, Braised White Eggplant), while chilling out on the Celestial Terrace (a terrace atop the restaurant) offers unparalleled views of the island and the 720,372,923 viewable stars at night.
Throw in an on-site spa and artisanal chocolate factory – which you can view as part of a ‘Bean to Bar’ tour where you trace the cocoa from the resort’s private farm in the tropical Soufriere Hills, all the way through to its packaging – the secluded beaches down at Anse Chastanet, genuinely fascinating tours of the old French colonial plantation (with the world’s most interesting local guide, Meno), hiking and biking trails (the latter designed by actual Olympian Tinker Juarez), scuba and snorkelling opportunities, yoga classes and *deep breath* more, and it really does live up to the mythological mountain paradise from which its name is derived.
All of the ridiculousness above would be for nothing if the mood was LGBT-averse. From first-hand experience, we were shown nothing but inclusive, hospitable and supremely friendly service throughout.
The law may say one thing, but the island – and Jade Mountain in particular – say something very different.
Nightly rates at Jade Mountain start from $1,080/£814 per sanctuary, based on double occupancy. Rates are subject to 10% service charge and 10% VAT, jademountain.com. Nightly rates at Anse Chastanet start from $375/£283 per room, based on double occupancy. Rates are subject to 10% service charge and 10% VAT, ansechastanet.com.