Coconut Bay sits on a gorgeous mile of private, slightly curved beach
Don’t ponder the future, design it. Saint Lucia is the world’s only country named after a woman—Saint Lucy of Syracuse (AD 283-304)—and thus likely a great place for them to flourish. Although this sand-fringed Caribbean island is only 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, it’s a grand palate of Amerindian, African, French, and English history and enduring influences. Chaperoning my 16-year-old daughter and her pal was simplified by two ultra-secure all-inclusive resorts that let freedom reign for all three of us. Off-season summertime travel here means a breezy low-80s escape from an otherwise baking North America. Barefoot, good.
Local shelling fire-roasted cashews (photo: Bruce Northam)
En route to our first lodgings, our driver detoured onto a curvy, hilly backroad where we met a woman shelling fire-roasted cashews. Bella and her pal Emme swung from a rushed JFK-airport snack to calmly munching organic Saint Lucian nuts. We’d surely arrived, as the mood elevated and continued rising. This mountainous West Indies island-garden bursts with fruit, veggies, nuts, coconuts, cocoa beans, and avocados, which all make their way to your plate. Saint Lucia respects its food’s journey because small countries have big outlooks.
Guests at cozy Bay Gardens have free access to a bouncy water park
Our first stop was the mid-range, homey Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa. Its 78 rooms include two-bedroom suites and many on-pool and sunset-facing rooms, all near two ultra-casual locally sourced waterfront restaurants where the surf competes with reggae and classic-pop love songs. Saltfish (dried, shredded, and salted cod) is a Caribbean breakfast-scrapple staple on the Hi Tide Restaurant’s menu along with fantastic fresh-fish options and fancy cocktails. The resort did a nice job of keeping the native vegetation intact. With sea-grape trees decorating the landscape, the divine SeaGrapes Restaurant’s authentic Saint Lucian dishes includes 5 Spice Fillet Snapper marinated in local spices and cooked in a lemongrass and garlic beurre blanc served on a bed of spinach, onion, and pepper stew with spicy Creole rice. While feasting on the open-air deck, we enjoyed a view of the offshore Splash Island Water Park, where, earlier in the day, we romped across the massive floating, bouncy obstacle course. The laughter-inducing water park is included for guests.
Bella and Emme’s Hi Tide pitstop after bouncing across water park (photo: Bruce Northam)
The all-inclusive choice on the island’s north side overlooks a calm Caribbean Sea. It’s the star of Rodney Bay’s half mile of fine-sand beach where casual family life is always on display and presents child rearing as easy. We didn’t hear one kid being yelled at all week. Well, except mine, but just once (sit up straight!). All Saint Lucian beaches are public, with resort beaches constantly patrolled to ensure safety. We were amused by the live poolside singers, kooky karaoke, and bingo. The young ladies bypassed the spa’s five treatment rooms in favor of outdoor morning yoga. Free hourly shuttles connect to four other smaller property options. Bay Gardens felt like a homecoming, as intimate connections with the friendly staff became a way of life.
Teens can safely roam Coconut Bay’s 85-acres
Our finale required an hour-long drive to the Atlantic Ocean side of the island where Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa sits on a gorgeous mile of private, slightly curved beach. These 85 acres of guaranteed getaway feature over-ocean hammocks, rotating sun-tracker beds, nine superb restaurants, seven bars, five pools, a lazy river, silent wireless-headphone parties, kitesurfing, waterslides, a petting zoo, ace karaoke, horseback galloping in the surf, and way more. The complimentary 50,000-sq-ft Kidz Club has a nursery nap room and a petting zoo starring donkeys, goats, and bunnies. Preservation-minded sea-turtle scouts and ultra-alert security guards roam the beach ensuring the absolute safety of guests and animals, some of them tranquil party animals. You’re gonna dig this place.
Coconut Bay’s over-ocean hammocks (photo: Bruce Northam)
I encouraged the young ladies to wander far and wide, which I did as well, mostly solo. Roaming on my own, several freelance beach vendors asked me if I was a pilot, which makes sense, as these digs are the international pilot’s choice. A quarter-mile from the main resort sits Paradise Beach Bar, the kind of elevated tiki party hut you’d find near a local village. It’s a world away from the main campus where locally chosen tunes and on-beach or over-ocean hammocks swerve the mood. Breezy Saint Lucia is a world-class kitesurfing destination and this foreign t-shirt and license plate adorned hut is the place to behold them. While I took in the surroundings, my counterparts enjoyed frozen virgin cocktails at the swim-up pool bar where they discussed their complimentary, introductory kitesurfing “taster,” which included flying a trainer kite on the beach with a certified instructor.
The nine dining options include Calabash Restaurant, which serves farm-to-table Saint Lucian flavors like curry fish cakes and chimichurri grilled pork chops. World-class desserts like white chocolate cheesecake sent the well-dressed pals into a frenzy. Grilled and pan-seared fresh fish is always on every menu here. The restaurant has a dress code and a code of honor that fuses the best of the island’s French, English, and Indian cuisine. Neighboring restaurant, Silk, celebrates Asian dishes including exotic sushi, Thai, Indian, and Chinese favorites. And there’s no escaping the chocolate fudge adorned by lemon sorbet, cardamom glaze, and passion jelly. The resort’s on-site greenhouse provides many menu items. The central three-meals-a-day restaurant combines buffets with active grills, cooking stations, and a smoothie bar. Don’t peek at your belly. The daily soups and savory mahi mahi were exquisite.
Bound for a gallop in the Atlantic Ocean surf (photo: Bruce Northam)
We were at this 250-room hangout when Hurricane Elsa blew through as a Category 1. The property got a bit banged up, but within hours the hustling staff and management had the place up and running again. The hurricane knocked out a day of off-site activities that were replaced by jerk chicken binging after a reggae dance class. When we did roam off campus, we rode horses over undulating hills that led to a gallop in the Atlantic Ocean surf (booked independently). Bonus—who doesn’t love open-air ping pong and free DYI laundry? FYI, if you’re having trouble connecting with your kid, check out a silent wireless-headphone/listening party, as Coconut Bay’s indoor/outdoor version had us chuckling, once again. Vacationing in Saint Lucia makes laughter the shortest distance between strangers, too. A well-attended and festive karaoke bash motivated Bella and Emme to sing Adele’s When We Were Young in duo mode, which didn’t just make my night, it received a standing ovation. These were mere fractions of the daily and nightly entertainment options.
Our phones all took lengthy breaks, too. Touring Saint Lucia with my daughter and her pal reminded me to not worry about who is teacher and who is student. Teens are our higher power’s take on hope. This wonderful island made putting an ear to the ground to sense the life force only teens feel a cinch.
Wander over to Saint Lucia, where Covid protocols are strictly respected and enforced.