Rendezvous, Saint Lucia

Location: On the smart north side of the island, two miles from Castries, Rendezvous feels tucked away without being solitary. Its 100 rooms are scattered amidst seven acres of wonderfully tended tropical gardens while its ocean front cottages are clustered into a section of pristine beach. Clients who are feeling flashy can take a helicopter from Castries airport for stellar views of forest-cloaked island, rather than arriving by car, which takes around an hour and a half.

First impressions: The relatively small size of this all-inclusive property allows for a sense of privacy that’s not possible in larger resorts, making it perfect for its couples-only crowd. There are countless peaceful spots for guests to retreat to: from the loungers shaded by palm trees that wind along the lazy river, to the beachside cabanas on the postcard-perfect two-mile long beach, to the candle-lit tables at toes-in-the-sand restaurant Malabar. Rooms are understated, decorated with cheerful prints and devoid of TVs to encourage couples to find other ways to amuse themselves. The vibe is relaxed, not showy, and we’re greeted by beaming staff for whom nothing seems too much trouble. If couples can’t get along here, it’s probably time to call the lawyers.

The facts: The boutique resort underwent a pricey renovation last year, upgrading the hotel’s eight Seaside and 24 Verandah suites, which now all come with four poster beds and private terraces or balconies. The most charming lodgings are the gingerbread beachfront cottages, complete with patios that sit right on the beach. There’s also a new restaurant, Malabar Beach Club, an informal beachside spot that serves delectable Caribbean-influenced dishes, including plenty of freshly caught fish. The food is very impressive for an all-inclusive: there’s fine dining at a la carte restaurant Trysting Place, excellent breakfasts and themed diner buffets at the terrace bar, plus more fizz than you could hope for at the air-conditioned Champage bar. Couples can also arrange for candlelit dinners on the beach with a bespoke menu for special occasions. The hotel is hugely popular for weddings and honeymoons, and offers various packages including a retie the knot option. A large proportion of guests are British. 

A good base for: Doing very little, or as much as you like – guests can spend their days enjoying couples massages and candlelit dinners, or pick from a shedload of on-site activities including volleyball, sailing, archery and Pilates. I was there to celebrate the hotel’s 50th anniversary and the launch of Summer Tryst, a new programme of activities that will now run between June and September and includes complimentary rum tasting, couples yoga and massage classes. Supplementary activities include photography classes and ‘cook-offs’, where clients take a trip to nearby Castries market, pick out ingredients for dinner, and then prepare them under the guidance of the chef. For those wanting to venture outside the hotel’s confines, Rendezvous can arrange excursions to the famous Sulphur Springs, Pigeon Island and the Pitons’ show stopping volcanic peaks. Clients are also a short cab ride from Gros Islet’s ‘Jump Up’ street party, one of several on the island where locals and tourists gather every weekend to eat street food, drink rum and party.

Wow: Rendezvous’ success much to do with the vision of Denis Barnard and his family, and the sense of pride shared by all who work there is heart-warming. In the 1950s, sugar-plantation owner Denis bought the land to build a small beach getaway for him and his wife. When tourists would stumble across the beach and find the property, Denis would kindly invite them for lunch or dinner, and as its popularity grew, it was transformed from a house to a hotel. The welcoming family vibe is enhanced by the staff, who are a genuine delight. ‘Service with a smile’ is something of an understatement here. 

Price: Rates at Rendezvous over summer start from $341 per person per night, all-inclusive.

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