The previous POSITIVE Halcyon hotel reviews are pretty accurate and I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of my holiday with Sandals Halcyon, had no problems, and found them excellent value for money. Some of the previous negative reviews were made by guests staying at the hotel at the same time as ourselves. All I can say is that we spent many nights socialising with fellow guests in the piano bar until the early hours and enjoyed a light snack at 3 am in the beach grill on the way back to our rooms serenaded by the tree frogs (not crickets). Perhaps some of the younger guests had retired too early and thus missed all the fun.
I found the watersports staff courteous and friendly with the guest safety of paramount importance. They were not willing to bend the safety rules even for a professional mariner like myself (Sandals Policy). We did encounter 2 days of high winds when the watersports were cancelled. Another problem is that when there is a big swell on the beach they cannot launch the rescue boat because of the danger of it being swamped (as has happened in the past). This occurred on 1 day after the previous 2 days of high winds and watersports were cancelled even thought the actual winds on the day were light.
The rest of this long report is basically for divers, as I found this information hard to find and not well covered by reviews before I went to Sandals. All diving and snorkelling trips leave from Castries harbour. Shuttle buses run from each Hotel at 0820, 1020 & 1320 approx each day. The shuttle trip takes approx 15 mins depending on traffic. The dive boats are scheduled to leave the dock at 0900, 1100 & 1400 each day except Sunday when only the 1100 trip runs. The 0900 trip is always the 2 tank dive and mainly caters for qualified divers only. The later trips are for single dives, dive training and snorkelling. If you are staying at the Grande a different Dive boat (but similar type) leaves earlier directly from this hotel. Regardless of what hotel you are staying at all diving and most snorkelling takes place at various sites between Anse La Raye and the Pitons about a 20-30 minute run by Dive boat from Castries Harbour (add an extra 15 mins if you leave from the Grande). The Dive boats are 46’ feet long with twin screws and can do about 22kts. They have a very basic toilet and open deck freshwater showers to rinse off after diving. As the dive boats can accommodate up to 20 divers when full, in practise you get a 30 second freshwater rinse in between dives. Light snacks and water are also provided for the surface interval between the 2 tank dives. The Dive boats carry a first aid kit with oxygen and a VHF radio. All equipment (except wetsuits) is included and is maintained to a good standard. As the water temperature is 27 degrees Celsius a lot of people choose to dive in shorts and t-shirt even bikinis. If you prefer a wet suit you can hire a 3mm shorty for 5-10$ a day or buy one outright for 45$. These wetsuit prices are approximate and may vary. I brought all my own gear except tanks & weights, which was probably not necessary as the regulators and BCD’s provided are of a good standard. If you just want to snorkel then you are required to wear a lifejacket (provided) when you are in the water.
All qualified divers regardless of qualification level (Sandals policy) are expected to do a single shallow 30-40 minute first dive to check everything before being allowed to sign up for the 2 tank dives. If you have not been diving during the previous 6-12 months you may be required to do a quick pool check. If you cannot tick all the medical boxes on the disclaimer form you will not be allowed to dive. If you have any medical conditions make sure you bring a note from your doctor saying you are OK to dive with no restrictions. All diving is restricted to 20 meters (65 feet) and the tanks are 12 litres in size and filled to 210 Ats. The dives will last around 40 minutes unless somebody blows all their air. There is one wreck dive twice a week to the “Lesleen M” a (55 meter) 165 foot freighter which was sunk in October 1986 by the Department of Fisheries as part of a project to provide artificial reefs. It is covered with hard and soft corals, sponges and hydroids, and provides an ideal habitat for many fish such as queen and french angel fish (hangs around the propeller). Turtles, morays, jack and barracudas also frequent this wreck. The sandy bottom fringing the wreck is home to numerous schools of sand eels and divers should look out for our resident frog fishes, sea horses and black bar soldier fish.
The wreck sits on an even keel on a sandy bottom and it is possible to penetrate the hold and look in the engine room (engine has been removed). The deepest point of the wreck is in 65 ft. of water whilst the highest point is in 40ft. depth.
All the rest of the dives are scenic drifts or wall dives around Anse Cochon (Bay of Pigs), or twice a week in the Pitons area with some with a gentle to moderate current in places. Expect to see the usual abundant tropical reef fish with lots of morays, barracuda spiny lobster, octopus, reef squid, eagle rays, puffer fish, stonefish, and friendly turtles. If you are lucky you might see stingrays and flying gurnard. Stingrays were the biggest fish I came across on the 11 dives I did in the 2 weeks. According to the divemaster you will not see sharks or manta ray in this area. On the boat trip to the dive sites keep an eye out for dolphins and flying fish.
The dive groups were usually split into 6-8 people plus a divemaster who led the way. You form a line around the divemaster and if anybody spots anything interesting you attract the divemaster's attention who then summons the rest of the group by banging on the bottom of his tank with a stone. With the usual visibility of 25 plus meters this system works well and means you can sweep a large area. Occasionally you might be accompanied on the dive by a professional resort photographer who will happily sell you his usually excellent photo’s at 10$ each when you get back to the hotel. There is no pressure to buy and you can browse at your leisure in the hotel. As they say in St.Lucia “No pressure no problem”. A private dive for a minimum of 4 divers at 80$ each extra will get you a night dive or a dive to the other wreck the “Daini Koyomaru”. This Japanese dredger was sunk in the south end of Anse Cochon (Bay of Pigs) in September 1996 by the Department of Fisheries.
If the Local Coastguard gives a small craft advisory warning and they did twice during my 2 weeks then all diving will be cancelled for that day. In practise this means winds in excess of 25-30 knots, this is not usually known until the morning of your dive. Usually they will call your room to tell you if a dive you are booked on has been cancelled. Wind forecasts for the days ahead are hard to find and the only place I have seen them displayed for 24hrs in advance was when I visited the Grande.
Finally I want to thank John, the Dive boat captain and his crew for making us all feel very welcome on board, providing me with some lovely diving and I particularly praise his attitude to safety for all on board.
Marine Pilot & Divemaster
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- •Friendly to the physically challenged with low rise architecture •Fully air-conditioned Caribbean cuisine restaurant on its own 150 ft pier over the •Caribbean Sea •Houses 169 Rooms with true personal service and intimate experience •English-style afternoon tea served at the Paradise pool •Tableside service at the Beach Bistro •“Stay at one, play at three” free shuttles to Sandals La Toc Golf Resort & Spa and Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort•Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row •Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand”, 18 years in a row ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Halcyon Beach St. Lucia Hotel Castries
- Sandals Halcyon Beach Castries
- Sandals St Lucia
- Sandals Halcyon Beach Resort St. Lucia/Castries