Debreuil, St Lucia
Authentic tropical R and R, plus history lessons and an outdoor bathtubFor anyone visiting St. Lucia who may have an aversion to run-of-the-mill hotels and an inclination toward the adventurous, consider a stay at Balenbouche Estate. Located on the southern end of the island near Laborie, the guest houses and heritage site reside on 70 lush tropical acres, formerly a sugar plantation and farm. I was in need of a few days of seclusion and “something different,” so I splurged on a memorable stay in their Banyan Cottage, where I caught up on reading and lounging on the beautiful flower-covered porch, and enjoyed soaking in the outdoor bathtub (open air but private). During the day, their small family of rescued dogs accepted me into their “pack” and led me on hikes to isolated black sand beaches. I toured the ruins of the 18th Century sugar mill and viewed the family’s extensive collection of historical artifacts. In the evening, I enjoyed home cooked meals (vegetarian at my request), searched for bats and read by flashlight, and marveled at the variety of critters outside the mosquito nets. The guest houses are gorgeous interpretations of true tropical design – open air living, no screens. Be prepared to share your space with lizards and frogs (and mosquitoes abound -but citronella is provided). And one caveat: due to local credit card fees, only cash and Paypal are accepted. Activities around the island include hiking to the top of the iconic Pitons, or maybe a visit to Sulphur Springs Park, billed as the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano.