600 acres of gorgeous terrain and the restaurant's organic produce
90-minute, $75 plus drive from St. Lucia Hewanorra International Airport (UVF)
Closest beach is 300 stairs away.
No TV or radio (a good thing, to some)
Minor mosquito issues -- no wall keeps them out
Uncomfortable, worn-out beach chairs
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.
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.
Upon arrival, the staff greets you at the gate with peppermint-scented cold towels and a welcome cocktail. Check-in takes place inside the rooms.
Evening turndown service, which can include a note from the manager, a surprise bubble bath, and some beautiful towel art with some flower petals strewn on the bed.
Two "major domos" for every room -- you can call these staffers any time from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and they'll do just about anything -- arranging for a taxi; plan an excursion around the island; whatever you want.
Each day, the minibar is stocked with a special "bento box" of snacks, such as coconut cake, taro chips, and a salad.
Beachside drinks service comes from Jade Mountain's sister resort, Anse Chastanet. You need only raise a flag and a server is at your side, but the vigor in these staffers' step doesn't quite match up to the prompt, above-and-beyond standards at Jade Mountain.
You can have any meal delivered to your guest room, but only from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (after 11, everyone's asleep).
Tip: Periodically, the hotel hosts short orientation sessions. This short investment really can help you make the most of your visit, even if all you pick up is a little guidance on how to better navigate the grounds.
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.
From Hewanorra International Airport (UVF), the island's largest airport to the south, a 90-minute taxi to the resort costs about $75. Most guests find scheduling a helicopter transfer well worth it; for about $400 to $500, you'll be at the resort in about 15 minutes and you can take some beautiful photos along the way.
Sulphur Springs Volcano Park consists of a 15-minute, $5 drive alongside a pungent, steam-spewing rock. While not extraordinary, the natural anomaly could be worth checking out, if merely to see something beyond the resort for an afternoon or to sit in the small, square mineral tubs at the Diamond Mineral Baths (nearby). To get there, you can take a 10-minute water taxi from the resort to Soufriere, and then take another 10-minute taxi from there.
There's a cruise ship port at Castries, about a 30-minute water taxi north of Jade Mountain. Despite attractive brochures, there's little to see here aside from the standard smattering of duty free goods and some local handicrafts.
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:
Thatch huts to offer a bit of shade
Older, not-especially comfortable lounge chairs; some guests prefer just taking their towel to the sand.
Beachside drink service; though service can, at times, run a little slow (upwards of half an hour to get a cocktail)
With water taxis and other boats consistently coming and going (as is true at Anse Mamin beach as well), it is not quite as serene as the rest of Jade Mountain.
At the more isolated Anse Mamin beach:
Natural shade from nearby palms
A snack shack that serves grilled chicken, fish, and superb steak burgers
No real bathroom
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.
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.
All but the least-expensive Sky Suites have an in-room infinity pool, meaning a pool whose water cascades over the edge, seemingly blending into the view of the sea. Each pool has fibre optic cables to illuminate it at night -- you can either allow the system to cycle through a series of colors or set the mood with a single shade. Also, since the pool water is filtered and sterilized about six times each day, you don't get any algae buildup, gunk on the floor, or chlorine stink in the rooms.
Elevated about 100 feet above the base of the mountain, and absent a fourth wall, all guest rooms offer incredible views of the Pitons and the Caribbean Sea.
Unique, supposedly environmentally sustainable design -- concrete, coral tile, and plaster quarried locally and throughout the Caribbean, for example. For the gorgeous woodwork, the designers supposedly visited the rain forests of Guyana to choose each of the actual trees: kabukali, snakewood, bloodwood, etikburabali, and futukbali, among the 20 species.
The whirlpool tub (for one or two people) in all room types is elevated so that you can still take in the view. More striking, however, is the tub's use of different colored underwater LED lights to induce "chromatherapy." You can adjust the colors to suit your needs, whether it's blue for calmness or red to energize and "activate blood flow."
All guest rooms are exceptionally large. The smallest Sky Suites (the only rooms without a built-in infinity pool) are 1,650 square feet -- three or four times the size of a standard guest room in a luxury hotel in the United States.
The Star (1,400 to 1,800 square feet), Moon (1,600 to 1,950 square feet), Sun (2,000 square feet), and Galaxy Suites (a bit larger than 2,000 square feet) each have a private, built-in infinity pool. As you upgrade from room to room, the pools get bigger (450 to 900 square feet).
Although there's no air-conditioning, the 15-foot-high ceiling, abundant ceiling fans, the louvred wooden windows, and sea breeze keeps the room cool throughout the year.
Each bathroom is uniquely designed and uses fixtures from Hans Grohe and Duravit, though all have an "open" layout. Basically, this means that you can see, smell, and hear your partner from anywhere in the room.
The four-poster bed has mosquito netting -- it's both romantic and necessary. As there's no fourth wall, mosquitoes and other bugs can certainly build up in the guest rooms, especially in the summer months. In addition to the netting, the resort also regularly fumigates the more likely nesting grounds around Anse Chastanet and provides ample insect-repellant candles and plug-in devices in the room. In general, this is enough to keep the bugs at bay, but you might also want to bring some of your own repellant spray or lotion.
In the winter, the pool might be a bit too cold to use at night. It's worth noting, however, that you shouldn't hesitate to tell a staffer if you're the least bit unhappy with your room.
Tip: The lighting at night can be a bit poor -- a couple of small book lights can be valuable additions to the packing list.
Tip: As there's no radio in the room, an iPod and some portable speakers can help set the mood. For the sake of your other guests, however, just be sure to keep the music down.
Not much outside the rooms -- just a gym, an average spa, and two computers
To access the Internet, there are two computers in the small reception area.
The spa, Kai en Ciel, is fairly basic for a hotel in this price range -- no sauna, steam room, or any of the elaborate facilities you might find in a larger spa resort. Treatment rooms aren't too far from the reception area, and you might hear the chatter of staffers and other guests as they make their way around the grounds; an in-room treatment might be a better bet.
The fitness room's machines are a bit old, but the view is incredible and the hotel hosts free yoga (three times a day, for all skill levels, every day but Saturday), fitness classes, and guided hikes around the 600 acre estate. Plus, you can arrange for a personal trainer as needed.
PADI-certified scuba centre on-site, with a full diving program
Jungle biking center on-site, with Cannondale mountain bikes to rent
Tip: If Internet is a must, you can request a wireless router for your guest room (there are no guarantees, but the staff has been willing to do this in the past).
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.
Any meal can be delivered to your guest room, at any time.
You can prebook a private dinner on the Anse Chastanet beach.
Tip: As there's very little to eat outside the resort, an all-inclusive package can be well worth it -- especially once you take all the little fees into account, like bottles of water in the room (included in some plans) and the fact that the average dinner for two can run about $85. There's a variety of plans available at different price points; just be sure to get a full rundown on what's included in your plan before you start ordering lobster and champagne.
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