I’d like to welcome Katie Baird as a new author at Tips for Family Trips! Katie and I have been friends for a long time, and we share a love of travel. Katie is the mother of five children, from teens to toddlers, and if anyone has tips for traveling families, she does. I was delighted when she agreed to share some of her recommendations.
My husband’s dream vacation involves oceans, beaches, and scuba diving, and since the Caribbean is relatively close to our home in Washington D.C., we have been on the quest for the perfect Caribbean island. We are searching for an island as beautiful as Hawaii with scuba diving as good as the Cayman Islands.
St. Lucia was our island of choice for our anniversary trip this year. It is one of the most lush, beautiful islands in the Caribbean and certainly met our expectations for beauty. It is a volcanic, mountainous island, covered in rain forests The most unique landforms are Gros Piton and Petit Piton, two steep mountains that appear to shoot straight out of the ocean. The scuba diving was great but still didn’t compare with Grand Cayman.
St. Lucia is an island frequented by the rich and famous, with price tags to match. Many villas cost over $1000 per night. Since that was definitely not in our budget, we did as much research as possible to find the perfect place to stay at a price we could afford. We ended up in Hermitage Terrace, a villa that comfortably accommodates eight people, which was ample room for our party of four.
We considered other bargain options, including the more affordable Downtown Hotel in Soufriere. After driving through Soufriere, we were relieved not to be staying at the Downtown Hotel. It is in the center of town and appeared noisy and very run down.
Hermitage Terrace is different than anywhere I’ve ever stayed. It is an open-air villa, meaning that it is built into the mountainside on one side, but the entire back of the house opens to the most incredible view of Petit Piton. Last week when I was getting a filling done at the dentist, this amazing view popped into my mind as an escape from the discomfort I was feeling.
Before you book this villa, you need to understand that you are choosing a different vacation experience. There is no air conditioning, but the ceiling fans in the bedroom helped us sleep comfortably, and the mosquito netting around the beds reassured us that we were sleeping bug-free, although I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of bugs in the home.
There is free Wi-Fi in the home, but it is slow and only worked on the two lower levels of the house. There is only one small TV. If your goal is to watch March Madness on vacation, this is not the house for you. We also bought bottled water to drink for our entire stay.
We thoroughly enjoyed our own private pool, the maids came daily and kept the house very clean, and they were also willing to cook dinner for us for the very affordable price of $15 per night if we would buy the ingredients. Dinner was provided the night we arrived, and it was very good. We shopped in Soufriere for groceries and saved a lot of money by eating breakfast and sometimes lunch in our villa.
Myrna gave us a cell phone that worked on the island to use during our stay, and she and her housekeepers were very responsive to any needs we had. There are several good restaurants nearby if you’d rather eat out. We recommend the dinner at Hotel Chocolat Boucan just down the street.
This villa is also centrally located to many great tourist activities in St. Lucia, including the hike up Gros Piton, which is worth every sweaty minute. If your goal is to enjoy an amazing view and a good drink poolside, the Hermitage Terrace is for you!
Good to Know
Where: Just outside of Soufriere, St. Lucia.
When: Visitors go year-round, but in an open-air villa you might be more comfortable in the winter/spring months. March was perfect for us.
How Much: In the high season (December 15-April 15), $2875 per week for up to four people. If you choose to visit this villa, make sure you book directly through Myrna, the owner, since the property management company will try to charge you about 30 percent more to cover their costs.
How Long: Four nights was not long enough for us. I would recommend a full week.
Amenities: Swimming pool, full kitchen, free Wi-Fi, local cell phone, free papaya and coconut if available, free welcome dinner on day you arrive.
If you plan to stay here, your best option is to rent a car. Be prepared to drive on the left-hand side of the road on winding mountain roads, and you may choose to be home before sunset to avoid dangerous driving situations.
I think this home would work great for older children who can swim comfortably. The swimming pool is in the middle of the home and could be a nightmare if you have a toddler.
Must-do Activities on the Island: Hike Gros Piton; visit Treetop Adventure Park in Dennery for a world-class zip line tour. Don’t miss their Rainforest Cycling Adventure to taste exotic fruits and spices native to St. Lucia and enjoy a beautiful waterfall at the end. Many great scuba sites for the dive enthusiasts.
Katie Baird is a travel addict. She grew up road tripping across America, camping in KOA campgrounds, and cooking dinners over a Coleman stove. Today she is a busy mom to five children ages 2-13, and plans vacations to save her sanity. She lives in Northern Virginia near Washington D.C. and has found it to be the perfect launching pad for endless family fun.
This post appeared on Friday Daydreamin’ at RWeThereYetMom.com on May 24, 2013.