St Lucia – the palm trees, the sunshine, the combination of wild, craggy coastline and yellow-white beaches are calling.
And, if you want another excuse to visit this beautiful island in the Caribbean Sea, go to explore the food.
From classic creole cuisine to fruit you’ve never seen in the supermarket, let alone tried, the food in St Lucia is an education.
The local markets are packed with golden apples, sour oranges and jackfruit, and fish that definitely isn’t fingers.
There’s local rum to drink and curried goat to eat.
Here’s 10 top foodie reasons to visit St Lucia.
1. Salt cod fish cakes
My visit to St Lucia was organised by Sandals, which has three hotels on the island, and serves up a mix of local dishes and favourites from all over the world.
I tried freshly-cooked salt cod fish cakes both at Sandals La Toc, who organised my visit, and as part of the Flavours Of St Lucia tour at Greenwood Terrace in Glasgow Hill.
The latter is well worth a visit to admire top views across the island, learn history and food traditions, and find out who St Lucia’s famous sons are (spoiler: Geoffrey from The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air is among them).
It was also here I heard about the St Lucian Christmas tradition of the ‘house to house’ – groups of friends spending the big day from 5am til the evening all cooking and going round to each other’s homes to eat.
Back to the fish cakes – these are incredibly salty, fried and best dipped in hot sauce.
You’ll see these massive green spheres hanging from the trees then discover how versatile they are – great as a savoury mash or made into a sweet punch.
We were served a green banana, plantain, breadfruit and sweet potato mash – amazing comfort food wherever you’re eating it.
3. Rum punch or just rum
It’s not a beach holiday without something brightly-coloured with umbrellas in, the key ingredient of course being rum.
It’s so integral that some St Lucians call all alcohol rum.
The Chairman’s Reserve and The Admiral rum are both very popular and both made in St Lucia.
4. Curried goat
This might not win any beauty contests but it’s unmissable – more like warm, spicy stew than a curry house curry.
Don’t be put off by the chunks of bone or the slightly queasy yellow hue, this is one of the best dishes on the island.
This kind of large, green banana used for savoury cooking – may not be news to some but it’s still worth sampling here, where it hasn’t clocked up all those air miles.
I tried both fried plantain and plantain chips (like crisps but thicker chunks), the latter being my favourite.
6. Cocoa tea
Just when you think you’ve tried the food of the gods in all its forms, you go to St Lucia and have this chocolatey option.
A world away from the sweet, marshmallow-topped hot chocolate we’re used to, this is a lighter, spicier drink made with raw cocoa beans, milk, bay leaf, nutmeg and cinnamon.
7. Flambé bananas
Once you stop laughing at how rude this looks you’ll appreciate the almost overwhelming sweetness of this creation made with grenadine syrup, sugar, cinnamon, bananas and white rum.
8. Green figs aka green bananas
The national food is green bananas (also called green figs) with codfish – make a note to try it.
A bizarre-looking but utterly delicious sweet and sour fruit. Think Tangfastics, but healthy.
Pick up a few from Castries Market.
10. Cassava cake
Can be sweet or savory but, either way, as a stodgy texture all of its own.
Where to stay
I stayed at Sandals Regancy La Toc.
Although Sandals is still clearly a wedding and honeymoon favourite, I also met friends on beach breaks and mums and daughters getting away from it all.
The resort is arranged on a steep hill, with the most expensive suites at the top, with the loveliest views, although there’s something to be said for going for a cheaper, pool or beach-side hotel where you can wake up and go straight in the sea.
I stayed in a sunset bluff honeymoon butler suite, which included an outdoor bath, easy route down to the beach and two butlers on call until 10pm.
Some may struggle with the idea of one butler, let alone two – I took to it worryingly easily, getting them to pack my suitcase so I could have longer reading my book by the pool.
Notable aspects of the hotel were its beach, golf course and sushi restaurant, Soy, and I also enjoyed the huge hammocks near the shore and the friendliness of the other, mostly American, guests.
There’s two more Sandals on St Lucia – Grande St Lucian, which as of May has nine over-water villas to stay in – and Halcyon Beach Resort – and if you stay at one you can also take the daily shuttle to enjoy the others’ pools, food and beaches.
How to get there
Virgin Atlantic flies from London Gatwick direct to St Lucia and the flight takes about nine hours.
Virgin Holidays is offering a seven-night break in St Lucia, including flights, transfers and stay at Sandals Regency La Toc in a sunset bluff honeymoon one bedroom butler suite with balcony tranquillity soaking tub room from £2,499 per person, based on two people sharing.
Virgin’s food was great fun, in both their Upper Class lounge and on the flight – think cocktails, burgers and afternoon tea.
Where to stay at Gatwick before your flight
The Bloc hotel costs from £79 per night. I had a spacious, runway view room with a comfy bed.
The catch? The mood is deluxe prison cell come high class hotel come red light district.
There’s purple lighting round the bed and it’s all hard angles and stone.
Still, it’s certainly unique, brilliantly-located and great value.