The flight from Miami to St. Lucia is approximately 3.5 hours over nothing but ocean and the occasional blip of an island. Flying into St. Lucia you get an excellent view of the most prominent feature on the island, the Pitons. These are two mountains on the south western coast of St. Lucia right next to each other. They are called the Gros Piton (pronounced "grow pee-ton") and the Petit Piton (pronounced "pah-tee pee-ton"). The plane comes in very low over the coast giving everyone on the left side of the plane an excellent vantage point. Luckily, we had a window seat.
[ View of the Pitons from the water. ]
We landed at Hewanorra airport on the southern tip of the island in the town of Vieux Fort. When you approach you can see both the Caribbean and Atlantic seas, the Caribbean being quite calm while the Atlantic was very choppy. The airport has a "Red Cap Service". This service involves locals that carry your bags about 15ft for a $1 US per bag. The "Red Cap Service" dropped our bags near a taxi and a few minutes later, we were off.
The roads in St. Lucia are very windy and small. In most places they are barely more than a single lane and have no center divider line. We learned that when there is a center divider line, its merely a suggestion. Drivers here don't drive very fast however, so for the most part, it was no big deal. Due to the windy roads however, getting anywhere on the island takes at least 30 minutes. Our ride from the airport to our hotel (which are about 12 miles apart as the crow flies) took about 1 hour. The road took us along the coast and through small fishing villages and past "Rum Shops" about every mile or so. The "Rum Shops" are local bars that are little more than a makeshift roof and a board for a bar that serve... you guessed it, rum.
We finally arrived at Ladera near Soufriere (pronounced soo-fray) where our taxi driver dropped us off in front of reception. The reception area was unlike anything we had seen before. It's completely open, having only a roof and back wall. All the wood is mahogany and there are coy ponds scattered around. Here we got the first impression that this wasn't a "normal" hotel. We were shown to our room where Andre explained how everything worked and where we could find things.
Ladera is about half the reason Wendy and I choose St. Lucia for our honeymoon. It's a unique resort in that, like reception, all the rooms are completely open to the outside. Each has a roof and three walls. The missing fourth wall looks out over a 1000 foot drop through jungle to the beach below. It's as if each room had a balcony but there was nothing to seperate the balcony from the rest of the room. Ladera is located between the two Pitons of St. Lucia. In the photo below, you can see the Gros Piton in the distance. The vegetation of the jungle grows all the way up to the room as you can see below. There are no televisions, telephones, computers or air conditioners in any of the rooms. Coming here, you truly get to "disconnect".
[ View from our room. ]
Our room had a "plunge pool" (for cooling off when it's hot) with a small waterfall feeding it and a large four poster bed with a mosquito net. The entire room is outfitted with tile, stone and hand carved wood.
[ Our plunge pool ]
[ Our honeymoon bed ]
The rest of the day we took a stroll around the resort to see what else the resort had to offer. All the rooms are lined up along the ridge overlooking the ocean. At one end is the bar and Dasheene restaurant. This pdf map (rather large at 5MB) shows the layout of the entire resort. The sun sets in St. Lucia at 6:30pm local time. After our long flight and day we were ready to retire. Little did we know that a certain little critter comes alive right aroung the time everyone else goes to bed....
We found out once the sun had set why they supply everyone with ear plugs. There is a certain species of tree frog that lives in the jungle on St. Lucia that is about the size of your thumbnail and makes a loud chirping sound worthy of a medium size dog. They all start making this noise when it gets dark and continue until it gets light. Luckily, with the earplugs it really wasn't a big problem.