One of the world’s most luxurious resort brands, Sandals have three stunning properties in St Lucia, each offering their own taste of the Caribbean.
The idyllic island of St Lucia is one of the jewels in the Caribbean crown, attracting huge numbers of visitors every year seeking far-away sun, sea and sand. And when it comes to places to stay, the options are plentiful, ranging from budget guest houses to the pinnacle of luxury. Among the island’s most opulent accommodation offerings are three sumptuous all-inclusive, adults-only Sandals resorts, both featuring fabulous amenities set against a gorgeous backdrop of natural beauty. But which is the best? We’ve conducted a full comparison to help decide matters.
Dotted in a chain formation along 16km of western St Lucian coastline, and with a free hourly shuttle bus running between them from morning to night, the three Sandals resorts in Saint Lucia are all perfectly positioned for enjoying all that the idyllic island has to offer. Nonetheless, each has their own unique setting and surroundings, both geographically and in terms of their local attractions and amenities. Here’s a quick run-down of how their locations differ.
Perched on a spectacular peninsula that runs between Pigeon Island and Rodney Bay, Sandals Grande St Lucian is the most northern of the three resorts – and the newest. Rodney Bay boasts the calmest waters in all of Saint Lucia and to the east is the crashing waves of the majestic Atlantic Ocean. But whichever way you turn, you’ll be greeted by awe-inspiring panoramic views, from the volcanic mountains that rise majestically from the clear blue sea to the sheltered mile-long beach on the resort’s doorstep. Pigeon Island National Park, where guests can hike and explore, is an eight-minute walk away, and less than two miles inland is the lively centre of Gros Islet, with its historic sights, thriving marina. and Friday night street parties.
The most southern of the resorts is Sandals Regency La Toc, located on a crescent-shaped beach amid green hills on a coral cliff, close to the St Lucia capital of Castries. The 210-acre estate is surrounded by a rainforest as well as the spectacularly sand-powdered half-mile of beach and is the ideal base for exploring the local area, which includes attractions such as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the charming town of Soufriere and the deep sea sport fishing haven of Island Routes.
Nestled between them is Sandals Halcyon Beach, the smallest, quietest and most affordable of the three Sandals resort on St Lucia. It enjoys a prime spot on an unspoiled stretch of perfect white-sand beach just outside of Castries, and you can reach the capital’s colourful central market in just a few minutes by road. Despite being situated off the busy Castries-Gros Islet Highway, the resort offers peace and tranquility away from the noisy traffic.
Style and character
Caribbean touches combine with a distinctive colonial feel at the Grande St Lucian. Elegant rose-coloured buildings resemble a British palace, with majestic stone archways leading through the grand three-storey open-air lobby, where panoramic views greet you on all sides. At the same time, the resort seems to blend harmoniously with its surroundings. An impressive promenade follows the shoreline, leading to the resort’s array of lavish amenities – the piers with fire-pits, the enchanting restaurants and the entertainment venues.
The first of the three Sandals resorts on St. Lucia, Regency La Toc is a bit more traditional in style than its sister properties – and is perhaps the least polished of the three. Geared to couples and honeymooners, the upscale resort has an eye-catching lime-green façade with white gingerbread detailing springing up from a lush, green-forested canopy. Outdoors, mature grounds and flowering gardens lend a sense of calm.
The peaceful Halcyon Beach features low-rise French-Caribbean style buildings with exposed stone walls and white shuttered windows, set amid enchanting tropical gardens. Ar the front desk an oversized mural of brightly painted Caribbean flora serves as a notable backdrop, while the adjacent lobby is sprinkled with comfy sofas and chairs in rich jewel tones and swirling paisley prints. Low-rise, cottage-style accommodation create an intimate feel throughout the property, and the gardens with their mature trees and flowering hedgerows lend a decidedly English look and feel.
Services and amenities
A signature pool with a swim-up bar and huge tower rising from its centre, stretching piers with fire pits, a beautiful spa, and a choice of eight restaurants are among the stand-out features at the Grande St Lucian. Younger honeymooners tend to head to the main pool, or play volleyball, while more mature guests retreat to one of the three quieter pools or the serenity of a beachfront cabana. Water sports are a big deal here too, and those already certified in scuba can partake in up to two dives daily, while windsurfing, sailing, paddle-boarding, and water skiing are also on offer. Evenings see a rotating schedule of activities, including casino nights, reggae nights, and late-night chocolate buffets.
A verdant, sloping nine-hole golf course with ocean views draws golfing fans to Regency La Toc in their droves. The resort also houses three swimming pools, including a beachfront signature pool complete with a waterfall and the largest swim-up bar on St. Lucia, along with numerous whirlpool tubs and a signature spa. Guests can also partake in endless activities including water sports and beach volleyball on the gorgeous sugar-sand beach, and there’s nightly entertainment too. The beautifully landscaped grounds also offer private lounging spots and nine restaurants.
There are two pools, both with swim-up bars, at Halcyon Beach and a second, sheltered bar with twin billiard tables provides an ideal break from the sun. The lushly landscaped grounds offer plenty of opportunity for wandering and lounging in oversized daybeds, on swinging benches, in oceanfront whirlpools, and on sofas set around fire pits overlooking the Caribbean. Beachside gazebos are used for private dinners and couples massages, partially compensating for the absence of a spa. All water sports (including scuba for certified divers) are included in the resort’s all-inclusive rates.
Guest rooms and suites
Accommodation is arranged over four areas across the 311-room Grande St Lucian: the Caribbean Village, the Swim-Up Lagoon Village, Grande Rondovals, and additional bungalows set atop the Caribbean Sea. Whichever you opt for, you’re guaranteed sea or garden views, along with air conditioning and king-size four-poster beds. Over-the-Water Honeymoon Butler Bungalows offer the choice of a decadent upgrade, complete with direct sea access, an outdoor tub, over-water hammocks and glass floor panels, opening onto the backlit waters below. Or book a Beachfront Rondoval Suite and step outside onto your deck area, then slide into your private whirlpool or plunge pool while your personal butler brings you a cocktail.
The Regency La Toc’s 331 rooms and suites fall into a head-spinning 19 categories with three levels of service. The Sunset Bluff Village is almost a resort within the resort, offering elevated views and high-end butler-serviced villas with private pools. Guests of all butler-serviced accommodations are given a cell phone with a direct line to a dedicated butler to assist with their needs. Rooms vary in decor and colour palettes, ranging from traditional colonial Caribbean style, with four-poster beds, carved mahogany furniture, and rugs with palm frond patterns, to Creole Caribbean style with gingerbread trim and beach-inspired artwork, to more modern looks with neutral and cool blue colours, wall-mounted flat-screen TVs, and marble floors.
Halcyon Beach’s 169 rooms offer 10 categories and three levels of service – Luxury level, Club level, and Butler level. Quaint, cottage-style rooms are set in one-story buildings with stone terraces, exposed stone walls, and bright white shuttered windows. While not large, the rooms are cosy, and awash in a soft palette of creamy beige and ivory, with walls accented by sepia-toned photographs of seashells and local flowers, as well as decorative medallions, hung over the headboards. Dark mahogany dressers contrast the lighter four-poster beds, desks, and side tables. All rooms come equipped with air-conditioning, white linens, ceiling fans, flat-screen TV, and coffeemakers. Club-level and Butler-level rooms also receive free Wi-Fi, room service, and stocked minibars.
Food and drink
The Grand St Lucia’s 12 restaurants range from barefoot beach casual to fine dining. Among them is the Bayside restaurant, which offers a buffet-style breakfast and lunch, and an a la carte dinner indoors or on the terrace. Toscanini’s serves classic Italian cuisine, or you can stop for pizza at Dino’s in the day, while the Jerk Shack serves authentic Jamaican jerk specialities amid a rustic atmosphere. There’s also Indian and Asian cuisine, or for a special gourmet experience, Gordon’s on the Pier is perfect for romantic dinners for two. Create your own dish at Barefoot by the Sea or tuck into traditional English fare such as fish and chips, washed down with a pint of ale, at the Olde London Pub. There are also a choice of seven bars for afternoon drinks or late-night cocktails.
Equally expansive are the food and beverage opportunities at Regency La Toc, where you’ll find a total of nine restaurants. Among the most popular is The Pavilion, which is set overlooking the Caribbean Sea, and serves up buffet-style international cuisine for breakfast and lunch, followed by a la carte and buffet meals for dinner. For lunch, you can also order made-to-order pizzas at Bella Napoli Pizzeria, or head to Neptune’s for fresh Mediterranean seafood dishes. Classic French cuisine with fine wines are also available and Armando’s provides an Italian fine-dining experience. At Kimono’s, watch chefs cook teppanyaki-style dishes at your table, and Soy offers a tempting sushi menu. For drinks, there are eight bars plus a free poolside and beachside drinks service.
A choice of six restaurants cater to the various tastes of diners at Halcyon Beach. A stylish Japanese restaurant and sushi bar offers seating at communal hibachi tables, at the sushi bar, or outdoors in a setting lit by lanterns and sprinkled with bamboo. Mario’s features a range of Italian specialities and fine wines, Kelly’s Dockside restaurant is set in a bright blue French-Creole style building at the end of a pier, and there’s also a beachside grill. Social-seeking guests during the daytime can head to the main oceanfront pool where a swim-up bar and a ring of closely packed lounge chairs invite conversation over a cool drink.
As you’d expect, accommodation prices at Sandals’ three St Lucia resorts vary significantly depending on the time of year when you’re looking to travel. Mid-December to mid-April marks the high season in St Lucia, which means an increased number of visitors, and low flight and accommodation availability. Weather-wise, winter is also the best time to visit, with hotel rates spiralling during this period.
When we searched for guest stays at the Grand St Lucian in mid-March for two adults, we found rates starting at $4,535 for a 7-night stay in a Caribbean walkout deluxe room. This rose all the way up to $14,589 for those seeking to push the boat out and stay in a Grande Rondoval Butler Suite with Private Pool Sanctuary.
At Regency La Toc, meanwhile, prices were a little pricier when we conducted our searches for the same period, with the cheapest available rate coming out at $5,151 for a 7-night stay in the Emerald Honeymoon Hideaway Grande Luxe. Meanwhile the priciest option was a touch more affordable at $11,187 for a Sunset Bluff Honeymoon Oceanfront One Bedroom Butler Villa Suite with Private Pool.
Finally, at Halcyon Beach, prices were somewhat comparable with the above resort when we searched for stays during the peak period of mid-March. During this time, we found that a week’s stay in a Crystal Lagoon Poolside Luxury room will set you back $5,120, or for a truly indulgent experience the Crystal Lagoon Walkout Swim-Up Club Level will cost you $7,283.
With uniform brand hallmarks, such as their mix of Colonial style and Caribbean architecture and aesthetics, combined with their beautiful coastal locations on the western borders of the island, all three Sandals resorts on St Lucia offer a certain degree of similarity. But there are also enough differences between them to be able to recommend one over the others, depending on your tastes, preferences and budget.
The most affordable resort by a fair margin is Halcyon Beach, owing to the fact that it is both the oldest of the three and also the lightest in terms of amenities. At the other end of the scale, Grande St Lucian is the newest resort and comes with a price tag to match. This resort also has the added benefit of being close to one of St Lucia’s best inland attractions, the vibrant centre of Gros Islet. Therefore, in summary, for those with the budget, we’ve picked out Grande St Lucian as our clear number one choice for your next Caribbean adventure.
Book a Sandals St Lucia resort here.