Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
It's one of the world's most romantic (and most expensive) hotels, but it's not for everyone.
On March 1, 2010, the series finale of ABC's The Bachelor took place on the Celestial Terrace of Jade Mountain. For weeks prior, fans of the show heard such on-air gushing as "There is no better place to fall in love than St. Lucia. ..." Which begs the question: What's so great about St. Lucia? The remote, lush, mountainous beachfront terrain is stunning, no doubt, but this can be found elsewhere in the Caribbean -- Frenchman's Cove in Jamaica is just one example. So what about this particular locale made all the staged romance feel so spectacular? The answer is simple: Jade Mountain.
The hotel is an architectural marvel. In an effort to respect but not submit to environmental confines, owner-architect Nick Troubetzkoy built the entire resort like a tabletop, braced it against a mountain about 75 to 100 feet above the shore, and pointed it at St. Lucia's iconic Pitons, poking through the Caribbean Sea. Each of the 29 guest rooms shares the stunning view beyond its missing "fourth wall". In order to fit a whirlpool tub with an underwater light show ("chromatherapy"), a sundeck, and, in most rooms, a private infinity pool, Troubetzkoy simply quintupled the size of a typical guest room. And yet the luxury is in the details -- a constant water filtration process that keeps the pools from stinking up the rooms; a network of ceiling fans keeps the rooms from being too warm (there's no AC); and the suites are spaced far enough apart for honeymooners to join Jade in calling them "sanctuaries." As for the design's beauty, the photos speak for themselves.
But Jade Mountain is not for everyone. First: No kids are allowed. Second: The system of catwalks and hundreds of stairs (there are no elevators) makes it an impossible choice for anyone with mobility challenges. And the intimate, scenic serenity does have its trade-offs. Just getting to the resort can take well over an hour (and over $100) on winding, nerve-racking roads. The closest beach is at Jade's sister resort, Anse Chastanet, about a five-minute shuttle or 300 or so stairs away. Nothing divides the bathroom from the rest of the room -- couples better broaden their sense of intimacy. In the rooms, there's no TV, Internet, or even a radio, so you'll have to get by on good company and a good book.
Taken together, it's hard to compare Jade Mountain to anywhere else on earth. But while its quiet, intimate, indisputably romantic atmosphere is unique, you can find a similar setting without sacrificing luxurious comforts at other boutique hotels like the Caves or the Geejam in Jamaica, or the Sivory in Punta Cana -- for as little as one-fifth the price. The suites at Tortuga Bay in the Dominican Republic might lack a private pool, but they're similarly sized and much closer to gorgeous beaches, private lagoons, golf courses, and the airport. And if you're looking to explore the Caribbean's natural beauty, you can stay in a room that walks right out onto the beach at Caneel Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a resort surrounded by 7,000 acres of National Park.
Whatever you need, it's yours, so long as it's before 11 p.m.
As one might expect from a hotel in this price range, the service standards with Jade Mountain are extraordinary -- in-room surprises; free bottles of wine offered at the slightest inconvenience; two dedicated staffers assigned to each guest room whose sole duty is to ensure that you have a flawless experience. That said, once you're outside Jade Mountain -- to visit the beach, for example -- the service standards begin to wane, and you might have to wait a short while for someone to deliver a cocktail.
Isolated on a mountaintop, a long, bumpy drive from the airport
Built into a mountain, nearly 300 steps up from the beach, Jade Mountain is largely cut off from the mainstream resorts in St. Lucia. This has its advantages, to be sure, but it also means that you've got a long, nauseating, and at times terrifying drive from the main airport in Vieux Fort. While St. Lucia is a small island, the two-lane road that circles it can be incredibly slow -- you'll be lucky if you get past 20 miles per hour -- and the last 10 minutes of your journey take you up a steep, one-lane dirt road.
Unlike in more developed Caribbean islands, such as St. Barts, St. Martin, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aruba, or the Bahamas, sparsely populated St. Lucia -- and this part of the island in particular -- doesn't offer much in the way of dining, shopping, or nightlife for its tourists. Once you're at Jade Mountain, you're pretty much going to stay there unless you opt for a guided tour of some kind. Though crime is minimal, poverty is apparent; and the closest town to Jade Mountain, Soufriere, looks to be largely made up of haphazard shacks. Panhandling is common, though the juxtaposition of the haves and have-nots is not as striking at Jade Mountain as it is elsewhere, such as Marigot Bay; Jade Mountain is cut off from virtually everything and everyone. About the only connection it has to the outside world comes from a rooster crowing at the break of dawn.
Located a few hundred steps down from Jade Mountain, the two pleasant (but not extraordinary) beaches are not the resorts' main selling points.
Technically, Jade Mountain is not on the beach. In fact, it's not absurd for a guest to visit the resort without stepping foot onto the sand. But if the sea calls, you can either call for a quick shuttle or descend about 300 steps to the beach at Jade Mountain's older, comparatively cheaper (about $500 per night), sister resort, Anse Chastanet.
The large beach itself is unconventionally beautiful -- the water is a deep emerald; the sand slate grey -- and a brief hike over rocks or a five-minute water taxi can take you around the bend to the more commonly clear, albeit rockier, white sand beach of Anse Mamin.
At the main beach:
At the more isolated Anse Mamin beach:
As for watersports, the scuba shop lends guests snorkeling gear for free. As for the diving itself, this part of the Caribbean doesn't quite compare to elsewhere in the world -- some sea turtles, some tropical fish, and some less-than-thriving coral is about as nice as it gets. It's reasonable; just don't expect anything on the level of what you might find in Thailand or the Maldives. For more rip-roaring water sports, Rodney Bay (about a 35- to 40-minute water taxi away) offers parasailing and Jet Skis.
Called "sanctuaries," and aptly so
No other guest rooms, anywhere in the world, compare to those at Jade Mountain. While a select few architects have attempted to mimic the missing fourth-wall design, opening the rooms to the elements (and bugs), the seamless integration of the infinity pools (in all but the five Sky jacuzzi suites) and stunning views of the iconic Pitons and the Caribbean Sea give Jade's suites a considerable edge over the rooms at other leading Caribbean hotels, such as those at Caneel Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands or the Caves and Round Hill resorts in Jamaica. Like these competitors, the guest rooms are intentionally tech-free -- no TVs, Internet, or radios to disturb the peace. You better love your company (or at least your book); there's little else to entertain.
Not much outside the rooms -- just a gym, an average spa, and two computers
Local, organic produce used to prepare international cuisine on-site; ample other options nearby at Anse Chastanet
Exclusive to Jade Mountain's guests, the casual Jade Mountain Club serves an eclectic mix of cuisines and local flavors initially designed by Chef Allen Susser, a winner of the James Beard Award, and executed by Jade's in-house executive chef, Jonathan Dearden. Much of the produce is organically grown on the resort's Emerald Estate plantation -- the hotel offers tours of the gardens -- and the seafood is always fresh (beef is imported from the U.S.). The food is good, no doubt, but like anywhere in the Caribbean it's not quite up to the standards of a top-tier restaurant in, say, New York City. The setting will often be more memorable than your food.
Apart from this one restaurant, there are several other high-quality restaurants a five-minute shuttle ride down the "hill" at the Anse Chastanet resort, such as the Tree House restaurant (Caribbean fare and great breakfasts), Emerald's (vegetarian cuisine), Trou du Diable (Caribbean and Creole by the beach), and an incredible beachfront vegetarian Indian restaurant, Apsara (a crowd favorite). In addition, the Jungle Grill on the Anse Mamin beach serves some amazing burgers.
Romantic? Undoubtedly. Unique? Absolutely. Expensive? For sure. Through an innovative, open fourth wall, each of Jade's 29 enormous suites overlooks the sea from its chromatherapy-lit whirlpool tub, canopied bed, and private infinity pool. Getting to Jade Mountain can be tedious, even nauseating, but its organic cuisine, doting service, unwavering silence (no TVs, radios, or children), and extraordinary design make the long journey worthwhile.