‘Give us your body for a week and we’ll give you back your mind’: BALANCE trials BodyHoliday
After a challenging few months involving break-ups, unforeseen illnesses and frenzied work deadlines, my best friend of 20 years, Florence, and I were hankering to swap the driven streets of London for a piece of island life. We set off on a 10-day wellness adventure to, fittingly, the only country in the world named after a woman – St Lucia.
With a population of just 185,000, it remains a verdant, unspoilt paradise, with 77% of the coastal land made up of rainforest, protected by the National Trust. It’s also home to volcanic beaches, waterfalls, sulphur springs, reef diving, ziplines, chocolate plantations, and the majestic pitons (two renowned precipitous volcanic spires which sit across the Jalousie Bay in the south). Incredibly, it has escaped the devastating impact of hurricanes, instead focusing efforts on supporting islands which haven’t been so fortunate.
‘Give us your body for a week and we’ll give you back your mind’ is the bold promise made by BodyHoliday, an all-inclusive wellness spa resort in the north of the island. Amy Winehouse once famously visited here on vacation and stayed for eight months, but it’s the Bodyguards – the resort’s trainers – who are the real celebrities. Talented athletes from around the world compete to get on BodyHoliday’s prestigious in-house training programme and become staff and, as I discovered, their classes rival the best studios in London or New York.
With a schedule tailored to suit your body and mind’s needs, this getaway is for those who want a tropical paradise, but cannot abide sitting still. My typical day starts with a 7am spinning class in the Treehouse (a glass box suspended on stilts with a view of the Caribbean Sea) and ends with outdoor Full Moon Yoga. California-based yogi Kaya, only 24 years old, deserves a special mention for her soulful, wise instruction and unique guided meditations.
This is a place where anything goes. So, while there are plentiful classes and activities, if you prefer lounging by the infinity pool or at the resort’s private beach, that’s fine, too. I broadened my horizons with a beginner sailing lesson, ziplining and a one-mile WellFit Trail, which involved wandering across beaches, hiking and working out at exercise stations dotted around the resort.
What separates BodyHoliday from other wellness resorts is it doesn’t take itself too seriously; there are no pretensions with fun and, if you fancy it, unlimited booze on the menu. The hotel also runs monthly themes, from Solo Travellers to SwimFit, for those wanting a more focused stay.
‘Jade Mountain is as magical and otherworldly – and, costing from $1200 per night, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime destination’
Complimentary daily spa treatments take place at the palatial 33-room Wellness Centre. The Deluxe Coconut & Spice back and shoulder massage, delivered under a canopy on a chair specially designed to alleviate lower back problems, was pure bliss. Although Ayurvedic treatments at the stunning Temple cost extra, they’re well worth it. I experienced the art of Shirodhara – where oil continuously flows on to the ‘third eye’, regulating hormone imbalances and relieving anxiety. I am hooked.
One of the newest additions to BodyHoliday was the ‘I-Tal farm to plate experience’. Hosted by Damian, a charming Rastafarian, and his beautiful wife Ratoya, our morning was spent picking produce from the hotel’s sustainable garden and enjoying a cookery lesson at the hillside restaurant, before sitting down to an exquisite six-course vegan lunch. It was also an opportunity to learn more about farming marginal land, climate-smart agriculture and the fascinating origins of Rastafarian culture. This conscious eating experience demonstrates BodyHoliday’s progressive approach and desire to become an Eco-friendly tourist destination.
For an authentic experience, we headed to Gros Islet for its weekly street party, where locals and tourists meet, dance and eat local dishes, including green figs and saltfish. Even torrential rain couldn’t stop everyone from busting moves, accompanied by mixers of dark rum and coconut water, revealing the Caribbean I love – inclusive, unaffected and anything but segregated. Having fallen in love with the island’s thumping heart in the north, it was time to travel south-west to fall in love with its soul. Home to the Pitons, Soufriere is less populated and more difficult to access, but with that comes tranquility and wild beauty.
Designed by world-famous architect Nick Troubetzkoy, Jade Mountain is as magical and otherworldly as a Star Wars creation – and, costing from $1200 per night, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime destination.
Jade Mountain certainly caters to romance, be it with your companion or reinvigorating your romantic relationship with Mother Earth. The hotel has been designed around its vista, the Pitons, and without a fourth wall, every room (referred to as a ‘sanctuary’) is open to the elements and frequent avian visitors. All 29 sanctuaries are green certified, with 24 boasting private infinity pools, ideal for skinny dipping, as the open-plan structure has been designed to guarantee discretion.
A private butler (or Major Domo) caters to your every whim, and is contactable 24/7 via your personal mobile phone. For example, our particular requests included playing cards (the only source of arguments during the trip), antihistamines and aloe vera gel for an excess of Caribbean sun (delivered with a consultation by a spa therapist, who recommended a bespoke aloe vera and rosehip body wrap to further soothe).
What else is there to do on the island?
If finding your wellness includes external stimuli, the hotel organises trips to explore the area, be it the beautiful botanical gardens, trekking the Pitons, or the sulphur springs and mud baths. If you can get over the smell, it’s quite an experience.
Somewhat daunted by the magnitude of the Pitons, we settled for the Tet Paul hike – a gentle 2km excursion with spectacular views of the volcanoes and island, providing charming insight into local agricultural life.
St Lucians naturally espouse the virtues of wellness and everyone you meet is quick to point out the benefits of the island’s many indigenous plants and tell you about their relative, who happens to be a Bush Doctor. “Living on the island, it’s not very loud, so you get to train your senses,” our delightful major Domo, Davidson, says.
And to eat?
The Jade Mountain Club, the resort’s sky-high restaurant, is worthy of a Michelin star. Modern fusion dishes feature seasonal ingredients and exotic flavours, beautifully paired with fine wines. However, if you prefer to enjoy meals in the comfort and privacy of your Sanctuary, you can still experience silver service there.
No stay in St Lucia is complete without a trip to the Emerald Farm where the veg, microgreens, fruits, spices, nuts and herbs used in resort kitchens are produced. They even grow the Bean to Bar experience cocoa beans, ready for use in the Chocolate Lab.
When the hillside Eden becomes too much, sister resort Anse Chastanet – which shares the site – is the perfect antidote. Set in lush tropical vegetation, it offers a slightly more grounded 4-star escape. Sharing two golden beaches, Jade Mountain guests are able to use all the facilities of its little sister.
It’s the little touches at Jade Mountain that mean so much: the impeccable and personal service, daily snack box left in your fridge, and turn down service, consisting of lit candles, lanterns and burning mosquito incense.
‘That’s St Lucia: the island that delivered right to the end’
We arrived expecting a decadent beach holiday, but left with much more, feeling truly connected to the earth and our part in the carbon cycle.
St Lucia disappointed on only one front: a freak Atlantic current collided with the warm Caribbean Sea, creating nine-foot waves and cancelling our whale watching trip. But, as we took a winding coastal road to the airport – watching the sun sink into the ocean – a whale breached the surface, casting a perfect silhouette against the sky.
That’s St Lucia: the island that delivered right to the end, leaving us ready to face real life once more.
Win a seven-night, all- inclusive Caribtours September Solos stay at The BodyHoliday, worth £2,095. To enter and for full T&Cs, head to balance.media/stlucia