St Lucia is one of my favourite islands - a blanket of lush forest, emerald mountains and beautiful palm-fringed beaches crowned by the magnificent Pitons.
It is rightly feted as the Caribbean’s most romantic island, a firm favourite for honeymooners but it can additionally boast a host of high-octane pursuits and watersports, making it also a great destination for the more adventurous traveller.
I chose to visit for my own holiday and stayed at the magnificent Rendezvous hotel, an all-inclusive luxury resort for couples who proudly claim to provide a “holiday of stolen time, where the only clock-watchers are the sun and the stars. No schedules. No interruptions. Nothing but time.” I had to check this out for myself.
Located on the northwest coast, the elegant resort enjoys a stunning location, surrounded by two miles of the powdery Malabar Beach and nestled in seven acres of exotic tropical gardens.
You can simply stop and listen to the ebb and flow of the Caribbean Sea and the sounds of the birds as they swoop and dive.
At the centre of the resort is the 150-year-old giant Samaan tree, whose huge branches are lined with tiny lights that cast a romantic night-time glow and you can hear the tree frogs trill a lullaby while you sip a drink on the deck by the sea.
The site was once a vast coconut estate where St Lucian planter, Dennis Barnard, built his family home. The house was later extended to include twenty bedrooms catering to the transient commercial traveller and was named the Malabar Beach Hotel.
Over the years, the hotel grew, and in 1983 it became the franchised Couples St Lucia, an all-inclusive resort. Ten years later the resort reverted to the direct leadership of Craig Barnard and Rendezvous was introduced.
The hotel has a boutique style, offering one hundred rooms and suites boasting wonderful views from either a terrace or balcony, that vary from garden view to luxury beach front cottages and suites. Rooms are fully air-conditioned with king-sized four-poster solid maple or mahogany and rattan beds.
As well as the stunning beach to relax on, the hotel’s main pool is situated close to the beach. There is also a spa pool, but my favourite is unquestionably the Secret Water Garden.
This is where you will find beautiful private garden river pools and riverside beds to relax on, with water-waiter service adding a wonderful element of romance.
The Spa in the Water Garden is the jewel in the hotel's crown. When the resort was recently refurbished, it wanted to guarantee the best treatments and therapies available and created this sanctuary for guests.
The team was trained at sister hotel, The BodyHoliday, which has been voted as the best spa in the Caribbean many times and has a world class Wellness Centre and training facility.
The spa offers everything from simple manicures and pedicures through to Swedish massage, deep remedial tissue therapy, aroma stone massage and Hawaiian Lomilomi.
You will not go hungry here. The Terrace restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Meals are served buffet style in this lovely open-air restaurant overlooking the Caribbean Sea. To get closer to the water you can even dine on the boardwalk.
Evening dining is characterised by a nightly theme, including the ever-popular Beach Barbeque and Caribbean theme nights.
The Trysting Place is a fine dining restaurant, perfect for those special nights and providing an elegant alternative with a classic French à la carte menu.
Malabar Beach Club offers a unique, intimate dining experience with sea views and options to enjoy dinner under an open sail, with furniture made from the local Samaan tree and driftwood. The à la carte restaurant offers light cuisine, using local island ingredients and fresh local produce.
There are three excellent choices of bars.
The Terrace Bar overlooks the beautiful turquoise sea and is the place to watch the sun go down. The Terrace Bar is also the home for live entertainment, whether dancing to the live band, listening to a steel band or watching one of the cultural floorshows.
The Pool Bar, with its swim-up bar, serves a full range of cocktails to those around the pool, with service extending to the beach, your lounge chair and even the secret garden.
The Champagne Bar has a resident pianist entertaining guests every night.
As the resort literally sits on the beach, good use of the sea is available for those wanting to keep active with equipment and tuition available for various complimentary watersports, such as water-skiing, paddle boarding, wakeboarding, windsurfing, sailing, and kayaking. Scuba diving is also included for PADI certified divers.
On land. I thoroughly enjoyed getting involved in tennis, with archery, table tennis, beach volleyball, cricket and cycling tours also available, along with calypso dance classes, pilates, and even a mixology class. There is also an in-house state-of-the-art gym.
The hotel rolls out the red carpet for guests celebrating their weddingmoon or honeymoon, and makes their stay perfect, including candlelit romantic dinners on the beach, sunset cruises and couple's massages.
For guests wishing to marry at Rendezvous, weddings are complimentary with minimum stays of seven nights. They have a dedicated wedding planner that will personally arrange any wedding, whether on the beach, in the tropical gardens or the cathedral in Castries. For the couple simply wishing to have their vows renewed, this is also offered at no extra cost.
I loved it here and can highly recommend a stay, whether you are celebrating something special or simply want some downtime as a couple.