I am currently writing this post staring at my snow dusted backyard dreaming of being back on the beach drinking pinà coladas. But for now reliving my trip through this blog post will have to do.
St. Lucia is known for their warm weather, beautiful palm fringed beaches, breathtaking views of the Piton peaks that jet out from the ocean, and their rainforest full of waterfalls and volcanic mud baths. It truly is a Caribbean paradise and it was the perfect spot for our annual New Year's trip.
Traveling during a pandemic was definitely challenging and resulted in certain things being closed, but truthfully it was 100% worth it. Just expect your vacation to be a bit different than it normally would be. I will get into all of the regulations and travel requirements in more detail below.
We stayed for 7 days and I personally thought it was the perfect amount of time to see everything that we wanted to see. We stayed at the Sandals Regency La Toc which is located in La Toc Bay in Castries, St. Lucia. It is about an hour ride from the Hewanorra International Airport.
There are two additional Sandals Resorts in St. Lucia as well — Sandals Grande St. Lucian and Sandals Halycon Beach. The best part about staying at Sandals Resorts is that if you are staying at one resort you're allowed to visit all the other sister resorts during your stay. Ultimately this means you can dine at all of their restaurants and utilize their amenities— creating even more options. However, because of COVID this was not permitted so keep that in mind because we were definitely bummed when we found that out!
Either way I HIGHLY recommend staying at a Sandals Resort if you are new to the all inclusive concept. They are notoriously known for doing a great job and they truly try to make your vacation as seamless and relaxing as possible.
ABOUT THE RESORT— SANDALS REGENCY LA TOC
La Toc is an all inclusive adults-only resort which is set on 220 acres. I would definitely classify this as an "IG worthy" resort because there are a ton of beautiful spots for photo ops within walking distance of your room.
There is a half mile beach located on site which is private to the resort. The views from the beach are stunning as it sits next to a huge cliff with plenty of tropical foilage. The beach consisted of smooth sand and was not rocky at all. There are cabanas available the length of the beach, just make sure you get up early to claim one!
However, if you're big into swimming in the ocean you might want to consider Sandals Grande St. Lucian because the water is much calmer on that side of the island. There was a red flag out on the beach 6 of the 7 days we stayed on the property which in turn didn't allow us to swim or use the water sport activities which is part of what is included with your stay.
There are several different room options to choose from at this resort. We stayed in the Sunset Bluff Oceanview One Bedroom Butler Suite. Gorgeous views of the ocean and a a private tranquility tub on the balcony made this room so dang dreamy (pictured here). Truthfully coming back after a long day of excursions and being able to soak in this tub with some champagne was one of our favorite things to do! FULL ROOM TOUR HERE.
LET'S TALK FOOD — Food at all inclusive resorts can be a hit or a miss, so I try to do as much research as possible before going to one because well I love my food.
Overall, I definitely preferred dinner and thought the food was very good (8/10). The dinner menus had a lot of options and I thought it was better quality compared to the breakfast and lunch options. In total, there are nine restaurants at this resort and my personal favorites were as follows:
BREAKFAST: There were two options for breakfast— the buffet located at the Pavilion or a la carte at Armandos. I highly suggest Armandos over the buffet for breakfast as the quality of the food was much better and you get beautiful ocean views!
LUNCH: There were four options for lunch (Armandos, the Pavilion, Neptunes, or pizza from Bella Napoli). My personal favorites were Armandos and Neptunes!
DINNER: Nine options for dinner, but my personal favorites were were La Toc (French), Armandos (Italian), Kimonos (Hibachi) and the Candlelight Dinner for Two (this was an additional $200 cost, but worth it).
Now let's talk about the drinks. All inclusive drinks are not top notch, so don't expect to get an espresso martini like the ones you drink at your favorite Italian restaurant.
It takes a bit of time to figure out what drinks the resort you are staying at makes the best because every resort makes them quite different.
However, I did compile a list of drinks that I thought they did a great job making to take the guess work out of it for you. My personal favorites were the Banana/Pinà Coladas, Rum Runner, Miami Vice, the Bob Marley, Mai Tai's, Mojitos, and Dirty Martinis (I was shocked with this last one)!
WHAT TO DO— WHAT WE DID + OTHER OPTIONS AVAILABLE!
Shaun and I are adventure seekers so we are BIG into excursions and making sure we see everything we possibly can when we go on vacation. Due to COVID we were only allowed to do excursions approved by the resort, but luckily we had tons of options still! The following excursions are the ones that we did in order of how much we loved them.
SOUFRIERE ADVENTURE CRUISE (8 hours)
If I could recommend one thing that you absolutely need to do, then this would be it. It's a long day, but it truthfully was so relaxing. The adventure cruise is a huge catamaran that takes you around the island showing you the most breathtaking spots. There are cocktails on board with lunch included.
In addition to taking you around the island via the sea you also get to take three pit spots.
Botanical Gardens + Diamond Waterfall
Volcanic Mud Baths
HIKING GROS PITON PEAK (7 hours)
This one is not for the faint of heart. Shaun and I love going on hikes everywhere we visit and so far this was one of the most challenging hikes that we did. Definitely pack a backpack filled with water + some light snacks and wear good sneakers!!
This is around a 4 mile hike, 2,619 ft above sea level, approximately 145 floors (according to my iPhone steps), and takes about 4 hours (2 hours up + 2 hours down) however this timing differs depending on your own speed.
I would say 30% of this hike is on semi flat to inclined trails and the other 70% is climbing up rocks like this.
It was intense and exhausting— my legs literally felt like they were going to give out from underneath me on the way back down. BUT needless to say it was SO worth it and I am so happy that we did it. The views were just incredible and the entire experience was one for the books.
HORSEBACK RIDING + SWIM (3 hours)
This was truly just a unique experience. You go to a local horse stable, get saddled up, ride your way through parts of a village which ultimately leads out to the ocean. I will say that I wish the trail was a bit more scenic as 80% of the ride was on roadways rather than wooded trails or the beach.
However, being able to ride a horse on a beach and through the ocean was an experience I get to have with me forever even if it was only for a tiny portion of the trip.
Every Caribbean island vacation needs several lazy beach days. As mentioned above our particular resort did not have the best beach due to the overpowering waves which prevented us from going in the water, but the beach itself was nice to lay out on if you don't care much about taking a dip in the ocean. The beaches at the other Sandals resorts (specifically Sandals Grande) are more swimming friendly. So if you are traveling during the pandemic which doesn't allow transfer between resorts I would recommend looking into this one for that reason! If you are traveling post pandemic then you can just switch between them and do beach days at all three!
OTHER EXCURSIONS — We didn't do these ones, but these are other options to consider!
Piton Sunset Cruise— we wanted to do this one, but it wasn't available on the day we needed it!
Sunset Evening Party Cruise
Helicopter Shuttle & Island Tour— I HIGHLY recommend doing this on your way back to the airport when you leave the resort. It's a 15 minute ride to the airport versus an hour in the car and the views are amazing. Unfortunately, this wasn't running on the day of our departure so we took the car back!
Deep Sea Fishing
Joe Knows Speedboat Tour— similar to the catamaran cruise we did, but on a way faster boat & personally I enjoy the relaxation of a catamaran.
Mt. Pimard Hike— a much easier option if you aren't up to do the Gros Piton Peak hike!
TRAVELING DURING A PANDEMIC — COVID 19 PROTOCOLS AND WHAT TO EXPECT
As mentioned traveling during a pandemic definitely made things much different. Every island has different rules for entry into them and for staying on them so make sure to check where you are going specifically. For St. Lucia we were required to take a COVID PCR test within 7 days of our arrival date. You need to print out a copy of your negative COVID test and bring it with you to the airport so you can show it as proof. You also need to fill out a health questionnaire and general questionnaire on the St. Lucia website. You need to stay at a COVID approved facility (so I wouldn't recommend booking an Airbnb right now) and you are only allowed to leave the resort for approved excursions (all the ones listed above were allowed). Keep in mind that if you are traveling around the holidays your test results might get delayed, which is what happened to us and we had to postpone our vacation a day out until we got our test results.
As mentioned you aren't allowed to leave the resort except for the approved excursions so things like visiting the downtown areas for local shopping, dining out at local restaurants, or doing anything unguided is out of the question. This is definitely a bummer as it is part of the cultural experience and something we enjoy doing. Nevertheless, we still found PLENTY to do and didn't feel like we were too limited since we had a ton of options at our resort.
Cleanliness wise I felt so safe at our resort. They have sanitization stations EVERYWHERE and they hand sanitize you before you go anywhere. The buffets were also not self serve due to COVID so the staff was standing behind them serving you. If you did an excursion they checked your temperature at every checkpoint and again LOTS of hand sanitizer. It sounds like a lot, but they honestly did a great job at making you feel safe.
On the way back home from our flight our airport (BRADLEY INTERNATIONAL) had a COVID testing site set up so you could get a PCR COVID test right after you picked up your bags, if you wanted to. Shaun and I got tested as soon as we landed and it will take 2-3 days for our results. You do not have to quarantine for the full 2 weeks once getting back your negative test results. I HIGHLY recommend doing this upon your return for peace of mind.
If you have any questions at all let me know!
SUGARED STILETTOS TRAVEL CARD— My summed up rating of the resort!
SUGARED STILETTOS BY STEPHANIE