Some time last summer, I received an email from a resort I had never heard of, offering a "special invitation." Normally, I delete email of this kind if it somehow gets through my spam filter. But the architecture of the resort portrayed in the email prompted me to visit the web site where I was intrigued even more -- Jade Mountain billed itself as a "resort within a resort." All the rooms -- which they called "sanctuaries" -- had an open wall to what appeared to be a fabulous view. Most of the rooms supposedly had "infinity pools" and came with "butler service."
I was skeptical but the offer was too good to dismiss summarily -- pay for an all-inclusive room at what appeared to be the second lowest of five levels and get a double-upgrade to the fourth highest. Plus, free transfers to and from the airport and a long list of free amenities (one-hour couple's Swedish massage, half-day sail, half-day jungle biking, off-resort excursions, etc.). We booked a room for February.
When we got to the hotel's welcoming pavilion, after an hour over rutted and dusty roads from the airport, we were greeted by a young woman with peppermint-scented cold towels and a welcome cocktail. She took us up a flight of stairs and down a winding path to the bridge to our sanctuary, where she introduced us to the two "major domos" who would be at our beck and call from 7 am to 11 pm during our stay.
Then our little entourage crossed the 50 foot bridge to our sanctuary itself. As she opened the massive wood door, our hostess casually mentioned that we had not received the double upgrade promised, but a triple upgrade to one of the hotel's two Galaxy Sanctuaries. The room behind that door was literally breathtaking -- about 2000 square feet, with the promised infinity pool, a separate patio for sunbathing, an enormous bathroom, and an unbelievable view of the ocean and the towering Piton mountain peaks. It's the kind of room they give rock stars and heads of state.
(I have no idea why I was offered the initial upgrade and why we were upgraded further. My wife and I are frequent travelers who tend to stay in high-end accommodations four or five times a year. Maybe there's a list of such people somewhere and we're on it.)
Later in our one-week stay we asked to see the other rooms that a mere mortal might actually be able to afford. We saw rooms in each of the three lower categories -- Sun, Moon, and Star. The smallest was 1400 square feet, and all had 15-foot ceilings and large infinity pools, only slightly smaller than the Galaxy's. The lowest level Sky sanctuaries have the same open layout, but jacuzzis rather than infinity pools.
To our surprise on checking out, all of our meals and drinks were fully covered in the all-inclusive package. There were no surprises. You pay only for bottled, as opposed to house wines, and for a few specialty drinks which are clearly marked on the menu. You can eat in all of the resort's four restaurants, including the excellent burger shack at the plantation beach next door. Even the drinks in the room refrigerator are included and you can order whatever you like in terms of beer and soft drinks. We never opened the French champagne or Pro Seco that were there when we arrived. Every afternoon, someone brings a bento box with snacks like fried plantain, salad, and mini sandwiches. You could easily spend your whole stay in your sanctuary since your major domo will be happy to bring full multi-course meals in. But you will want to explore the rest of the resort and St. Lucia itself.
For example, the Jade Mountain Club on the sixth level serves excellent meals with the same fabulous view as the sanctuaries. The young chef, Jonathan, has a masterful command of local ingredients from the nearby fish market and the resorts own organic farm. Angus beef and other meats are imported from the states.
The Tree House restaurant down the hill in the Anse Chastanet resort has excellent Caribbean food, as does the Trou du Diable restaurant on the beach. Jake's Shack at the nearby sugar plantation makes a terrific burger and is worth the short water taxi ride over. But the culinary star of the resort is the Indian restaurant on the beach. Its fusion of Caribbean-Indian dishes rivals any place we have tried in Manhattan. (And one of us doesn't particularly like Indian food.)
There's also plenty to do. We toured the sugar plantation, explored the drive-in volcano and mineral baths, hiked to the En Bas Saut waterfall in the rain forest, took a half-day sail up the coast, rode mountain bikes through the jungle, enjoyed a one-hour couples massage, and attended a cooking demonstration. Still there were more than a dozen excursions left in the activities guide, including snorkeling, evening sails, rain forest hikes, and shopping excursions.
Now for the practical information you will need.
1. Food is expensive. The all-inclusive and MAP plans are absolutely a value. We discovered that our all-inclusive plan covered all our drinks, not just we had at meals, but also what was in our room refrigerator and what we drank in the bars. Note though that the refrigerator is not automatically replenished -- you have to order what you want.
2. Jade Mountain is at the top of a steep rise. We counted 309 steps from our sanctuary on the fifth level to the beach at Anse Chastanet and that does not include some stretches of incline without steps. We considered the walk good exercise, but the major domos are happy to arrange transportation by car to and from the beach or the Anse Chastanet restaurants.
3. Because the Jade Mountain sanctuaries are open to the elements, the room lighting at night is quite low. If you like to read at night, bring a small book light. Heat is not a problem even though there is no air conditioning. There are about half a dozen ceiling fans and the trade winds provide a constant gentle breeze in the rooms.
4. We carried several bottles of insect repellent, but it was really not necessary. We saw no mosquitoes, even in the rain forest. The four poster bed has netting. Bugs were not a problem. However, there are lots of birds hanging around waiting for you to drop a few crumbs. Surprisingly, we saw little evidence of bird droppings. And each room is provided with a small squirt gun to discourage them from perching on the edge of the infinity pool.
5. Dress is very casual. Most men wear long pants and collared shirts to dinner. Women wear sun dresses or elegant pants. We didn't see anybody in what "fancy dress."
6. The roads are dusty, rutted, narrow and for the most part run along mountain switchbacks. Plus, they drive on the left as in the United Kingdom. Don't even consider renting a car unless you have driven competitively.
7. There are no TVs or radios in the rooms. We brought some small speakers and ran our iTune library through them. The resort has two computers in the reception area for access to the Internet. But if you ask, they will put a wireless access node in your sanctuary. Our iPhone worked perfectly both over wifi and over the local GSM cellular network. Keep in mind though that the roaming charges are quite high -- from $1.29 to $1.99 a minute, depending on your home rate plan. We made all our calls home using Skype.
8. Attend the brief orientation session on the morning after your arrival. It's a good opportunity to learn more about the resort and get questions answered. Plus it will get you oriented to the resort's layout, which can be a bit confusing at first. We had been there a day before we discovered that our room number was subtly printed on one of the bannisters of the bridge leading to our sanctuary.
9. If you want to bring some culinary souvenirs home -- like the banana ketchup served in the Tree House restaurant -- ask your driver to stop at the local supermarket on the way back to the airport or on any excursion outside the resort. The price is a fraction of the gift shop's.
10. There's a safe in the room and you really don't need to carry ant cash with you while in the resort. Incidental expenses -- such as purchases in the gift boutique or art gallery --- can be billed to your room. A 10 percent service charge is included in your room rate, but if you are on an all-inclusive plan, you will still be asked to sign a check at the end of a meal. Consider it an opportunity to add a gratuity to the bill for special service.
In sum, Jade Resort is one of the best -- perhaps the best -- resorts we have ever visited. It's expensive, but we thought it was worth it.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Rising majestically above its 49 room sister resort Anse Chastanet, a 600 acre beach front property, Jade Mountain is a cornucopia of organic architecture celebrating St Lucia’s stunning scenic beauty. The 29 luxury suites are called sanctuaries, sweeping spaces where bedroom, living area and an extravagant private infinity pool glide into one another to form extraordinary platforms floating out into nature. With the fourth wall entirely absent, Jade Mountain’s sanctuaries are stage-like settings from which to embrace the full glory of St Lucia’s Pitons World Heritage Site and the Caribbean Sea. Jade Mountain has set a new standard in the Caribbean whether it is for modern design, luxury living or unique resort and guest service experiences.Wrapped around an infinity pool with a dazzling kaleidoscope of colors, the Jade Mountain Club restaurant caters exclusively to resident guests, celebrating James Beard Award winner Chef Allen Susser’s “Jade Cuisine.” Hovering in space above the Jade Mountain Club is the Celestial Terrace, perfect for sunset cocktails or star-gazing.A wide range of spa services can be enjoyed in the privacy of the Jade Mountain sanctuaries or at Kai en Ciel, Jade Mountain’s boutique spa and fitness studio. The resort major domos and a dedicated resort team ensure outstanding service around the clock.Guests may enjoy the exclusivity and privacy of Jade Mountain plus access to all of Anse Chastanet’s facilities and services: Nestled amidst a lush tropical 600 acre tropical estate with two soft sand beaches bordering pristine coral reefs, Anse Chastanet is right in the heart of the island’s marine reserves with St. Lucia’s legendary twin peaks, the Pitons, as the dramatic backdrop.The active will enjoy the resort’s amazing range of adventure facilities. Facilities include 4 restaurants & 3 bars, professional spa, PADi 5* scuba centre, water sports with kayaking centre, 12 miles of private biking and hiking trails with mountain bike rental, sailing yacht, 3 boutiques, library and art gallery. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Jade Mountain Hotel
- Hotel Jade Mountain
- Jade Mountain St Lucia
- Jade Mountain Resort St. Lucia/Soufriere