Hour-long taxi from Hewanorra International Airport (UVF)
Off the beach in Marigot Bay, adjacent to upscale shops and a popular marina, this quaint boutique hotel tops the competition in many ways. It's a fine choice for families (warm service; large one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites with modern kitchens and washer-dryers), couples (romantic locale, excellent spa, fresh cuisine), and yachties gone ashore.
Quaint, 122-room boutique hotel not entirely detached from the rest of St. Lucia
From the day it opened in November 2006, the Capella Marigot Bay Resort & Marina has stood out as one of the leading luxury hotels in St. Lucia, surpassed by only a few others (Jade Mountain, arguably). But while Jade Mountain dazzles with its innovative design and more exclusive isolation, the Capella is anchored by its renowned marina, the go-to place for yachtsmen looking to stock up on gourmet goodies, duty-free booze, and fresh designer swimwear.
Of course, the marina is merely one of the many things that pull this small-scale boutique up into "world's best" fame. Its spa, its big immaculate suites, its cuisine, and its service all best what you can find at the many mega resorts wedged gated-barrier to gated-barrier along the island's northern coastline. (The spa and the food are also a bit better here than they are at Jade Mountain.) And the hotel does prove to be a bit more conscionable choice than the more exploitive all-inclusives -- it donates time and money to a variety of community-development and environmental projects.
But while the location does bring with it a fair diversity of dining outside the hotel proper -- more so here than just about anywhere else in St. Lucia -- there is one distinct trade-off: the beach, a less-than-inspiring patch of volcanic sand, is a two-minute water taxi ride across the bay.
The Capella Marigot Bay Resort & Marina is located on a calm, clear-water inlet on St. Lucia's west cost (Marigot Bay). The hotel's marina is the go-to place for yachtsmen, and as a result there are more shops and tourist-friendly restaurants here than in other parts of St. Lucia. While the area doesn't have nearly the same level of mega resort development as the north coast, it's not quite as remote-feeling as the area around Jade Mountain, and the juxtaposition of the haves (tourists) and have-nots (locals) might feel a bit jarring. And while there are advantages to the location -- its lush natural beauty, for one -- there are also trade-offs. There's no beach, for starters. On top of that, getting to the resort from the international airport along slow, narrow, winding roads can take over an hour.
Next door to The Marina Village, an upscale shopping center with a bank, a few boutiques, a high-quality (but expensive) supermarket, some duty-free outlets, an art gallery, a bakery, and an ice cream parlor.
The resort offers free water taxi rides to several restaurants in the area, notably the Rainforest restaurant (fancy) and Doolittle's (more casual).
Short boat ride to superb diving and snorkeling at St Lucia's marine parks
Excellent sailing options from the on-site marina, including a notable sunset cruise, and charters available to the Grenadine islands.
Close proximity to various outdoors activities, including bird watching, mountain climbing, and hiking through the rainforest -- just ask the concierge for help planning an excursion.
Stronger winds and bigger waves for kite surfing are on the Atlantic coast, on the other side of the island.
30- to 45-minute boat trip to Volcano Park and hot springs (closer to Soufriere)
Getting around St. Lucia is much easier to do by boat than by car; no need for a rental car. Traveling by small motorboat taxis over choppy seas, however, can be a bit unnerving (and nauseating).
About an hour-long, $170 taxi ride from Hewanorra International Airport at Vieux Fort (UVF); about 30 minutes from George F. L. Charles Airport, near Castries (SLU)
Catering to yachties resting their sea legs, many of the guest rooms at the Capella are more like small, luxury apartments than conventional hotel rooms. There are still standard guest rooms, but the one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites -- each with a full kitchen, living room, and dining room -- make up about half of the resort's 122 guest rooms.
All of the guest rooms (including the suites) are divided into three basic categories: Resort View, Bay View, and Penthouse Suites. The Penthouse Suites, though similar to the other suites in terms of space and amenities, are bi-level units with a loft-style bedroom that overlooks the living room. Perched on the hillside, above the rest of the resort, the Penthouse Suites also have doors and wood-planked louvered windows that open to create a fantastic view as well as a cooling breeze (a meaningful perk, as the air conditioning unit above the bed usually only keeps the bedroom area cool). Popular among honeymooners, the Penthouse Suites also include private outdoor Jacuzzis and four-poster beds with mosquito netting (more for style than necessity).
Large furnished patio (ground floor) or a balcony (higher floors)
Bose surround-sound system with an MP3 input (rather than just the conventional clock radio)
Dishwasher tablets, paper towels, coffee supplies, bottled water, trash bags, and all the other essentials restocked for free, daily
Tip: For about an extra $50 a night, you can also book a Suite with a small plunge pool. However, these rooms are only on the lower floors, meaning you're sacrificing the quality of the view, and all of the pools are in clear view of other guest rooms (not ideal for an intimate, romantic soak).
Small but beautiful Lapli Spa: Clean, modern design; international E'spa rituals as well as all-natural, locally-inspired treatments (bananas to smooth away wrinkles, for example); Vichy showers; indoor treatment rooms with private, outdoor decks and open-air showers; Zen garden with ofuro wooden soaking tubs and massage cabanas