With its four restaurants, six bars, five pools and mile-long beachfront, it would be easy to spend your entire vacation at the Coconut Bay Resort and Spa on St. Lucia without leaving the grounds.
But St. Lucia itself, recently made more accessible with a significant increase in airlift, has so much to see and do that it would be a shame to miss out on all the island's charms.
Coconut Bay, a 250-room resort on the southeast end of the island, recently reopened after closing for the month of September for renovations. As a mid-range all-inclusive, the resort appeals to those who are looking for a Caribbean getaway without breaking the bank.
The hotel is divided into two sections: Harmony, the adults-only section, and Splash, the family-friendly side. On a recent trip there I was able to check out some of the renovations, most of which are focused on the Harmony side. I was treated to a visit at the recently refurbished Kai Mer Spa, where locally produced oils and views of the Caribbean enhance massage treatments. Lounging in the newly installed Harmony pool and hot tub, I took advantage of the poolside drink service.
In addition to the new upgrades, the hotel has a number of projects nearing completion, such as cabana-like rooms for private dining on the shoreline and a nearby gazebo for hosting wedding functions, bonfires and adult beach parties.
Out and about
While many of the guests I spoke to said they mostly enjoyed spending time at one of the resort's watering holes, particularly the swim-up bar, or lounging poolside, the hotel offers are a range of activities, including scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, snorkeling and a Jeep safari. Full- and half-day island tours are also a popular option.
Coconut Bay CEO Mark Adams said one of the things that makes the tours unique is guests are often given the option to stop at the driver's house for lunch — a chance to try the local cuisine, like the national dish of saltfish and green bananas — to experience the hospitality of the native St. Lucians.
The recently refurbished Kai Mer Spa at the Coconut Bay Resort and Spa on St. Lucia. Photo Credit: Bart Beeson
On my trip there, I was signed up for a land and sea tour, which included a three-hour catamaran trip along the coast of the island, with two stops for snorkeling. The view from the boat affords passengers incredible views of St. Lucia's most recognizable landmarks, the Pitons, two volcanic spires that rise 2,500 feet out of the ocean.
From the catamaran, our group transferred to a van and continued our tour on land. After a steep climb on winding roads, we stopped at a hilltop restaurant with spectacular views of the Pitons and the lush, hilly landscape. Our next stop was Sulfur Springs, billed as the world's only drive-in volcano, where a local guide provided a short tour of the crater, with its bubbling, steaming pools of black water. From the volcano it was a short trip back to the resort: One of the advantages of Coconut Bay's location on the southern part of the island is the proximity to attractions like the Pitons and Sulfur Springs.
Those looking for more of an adrenaline rush can find it without leaving the grounds of the resort, as the waters in front of Coconut Bay are an ideal spot for kite surfing. It's quite impressive to watch the surfers zigzagging across the water, occasionally hitting a wave and flying into the air before floating gently back down. During the windy season, December to April, there can be up to two dozen kite surfers racing around the bay. Those who want to learn to can take a nine-hour intro course, at the end of which most aspiring surfers are able to hit the waves on their own.
But for many, the point of staying at an all-inclusive resort is to enjoy the hotel itself, and Coconut Bay, set on 85 acres, has enough onsite activities to keep kids and adults occupied. The Splash side features a kids water park, with a splash garden and several water slides, as well as a small petting zoo, a paintball zone and a day care facility.
On the Harmony side, there's the recently reappointed spa offering a full range of treatments as well as numerous hammocks and lounge chairs, for which there is stiff competition among guests looking to stake out the best spots. There's a friendly, familial vibe at the resort, and it's not uncommon to see guests greeting staff members as if they were old friends.
According to Adams, "The reason why we've enjoyed the success we've enjoyed has a lot more to do with the staff that work here than the brick-and-mortar enhancements that we continue to do."
For more information, visit www.cbayresort.com.