On Site Report: St. Lucia's Family-Friendly Royalton and Castles in Paradise

The Royalton St. Lucia has three distinct sections, offering a family-friendly vacation experience in the general resort, and upgraded amenities at Diamond Club and the adults-only Hideaway. // Photography: Matt Turner

Travel Agent recently returned from St. Lucia, where we scouted two properties, with completely different vibes from one another, that we think would be great for families.

The first property that we checked out was the Royalton St. Lucia (www.royaltonresorts.com), which opened in February 2017. The all-inclusive resort is set on a small bay, with its own white-sand beach surrounded by trees. (Although there are no private beaches on St. Lucia, the location of the resort isolates it, making it a de facto private beach.) We liked how the property was set up similar to a horseshoe, with the majority of the buildings along the U-shaped perimeter, allowing for a large central location to hang out. During our visit, the beach and the beachside Royalton Pool 1 seemed to be the focal point of the property. Music blasts through speakers, creating a fun vibe for all ages. 

The beach also offers a variety of activities, such as volleyball and soccer, ping-pong and non-motorized water sports like snorkeling and kayaking (Royalton even offers introductory scuba diving lessons in the pool). 

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For an upgraded experience, tell clients to reserve one of the six poolside cabanas that occupy three small buildings, each with its own swim-up pool. 

As part of the main Royalton property, there are three pools: the beachside Royalton Pool 1, the kids-oriented Splash Pad (which includes a theme park-like jungle gym, slides and a large bucket of water that dumps over once it’s filled) and the Royalton Pool 2 (which is also for all ages, but it seems to attract an older crowd, as it was a bit farther away from the music). 

Although the Luxury Junior Suites were one of the entry-level rooms, we really liked those on the first floor with a swim-up pool. For additional space, guests can opt for a queen / queen room or a king room attached to a queen / queen. We also liked the Diamond Club Luxury Penthouse One Bedroom Jacuzzi Suite, which can accommodate two adults and three children. It has a large terrace with loungers and a private Jacuzzi big enough for everyone. Larger groups (of up to eight) should consider the Chairman’s Two Bedroom Suite. It has a kitchenette, a full dining table and even a pool table in the living room. 

Guests of Royalton St. Lucia have access to several dining options, including Armadillo (for Tex-Mex cuisine), Gourmet Marché (International buffet), Zen (Japanese fare), Grazie Italian Trattoria, Score Sports Bar (pub and grill), Calypso (West Indies cuisine) and Hunter Steakhouse. There’s also an exclusive Culinary Experience, which includes a seven-course chef’s table dinner, accompanied by musical selections. This culinary team can also handle any special dining or dietary requests your clients may have.

The Royalton’s kids and teens clubs are named the Clubhouse and Hangout, respectively. At the former, children from four to 12 can play games, enjoy the playground or watch TV, while 13- to 17-year-olds have a place to play pool, ping-pong, video games and outdoor activities.

With the kids at their respective clubs, parents can visit the Royal Spa. There are nine treatment rooms, two cabanas, a hydrotherapy circuit and steam rooms, which have menthol crystals to aid respiration (note: it works). We suggest the Time to Connect treatment; it includes hydrotherapy, a body scrub and a wrap paired with an express facial. Allow 24 hours for bookings.

The Chairman’s Two Bedroom Suite at Royalton St. Lucia is well-suited for large groups. It has a kitchenette, a full dining table and even a pool table in the living room. 

The Royalton also has one of the most impressive hotel gyms that we’ve seen. The very large space has heavy bags, turf for CrossFit-style exercises and benches and squat racks with free weights. Personal trainers and yoga instructors are also on hand through the hotel.

Note: The Royalton St. Lucia also comprises the Diamond Club and the Hideaway at Royalton St. Lucia. There is no physical barrier separating the “resorts within a resort,” but they offer upgraded amenities.

Families who prefer butler service and special amenities — such as a private check-in, an upgraded in-room liquor selection and a pillow menu — should consider the Diamond Club. The room categories are the same as the rest of the property, but the Diamond Club is exclusively linked with Buildings 7 and 8, which are two of the closest to the beach. (Building 8 was our favorite, as it is directly on the beach and offers the most rooms with views of the water.) 

In addition, guests of the Diamond Club have their own bar and pool, behind the two buildings, providing separation from the remainder of the resort (Note: The pool still has ocean views). 

The Hideaway, on the other hand, is the adults-only section of the hotel. It has its own private pool, as well as restaurant and bars. For couples (or families with adult children) who enjoy the Royalton brand or are looking for an all-inclusive option on the island (another might be one of the two Sandals resorts), the Hideaway is a good option. We suggest Building 1; like Building 8 (the two bookends of the horseshoe), it’s located right on the beach and is the only Diamond Club-level accommodation in the Hideaway.

All guests receive a wristband signifying which “resort” they belong to, which means you won’t have guests from Royalton in areas designated for the Hideaway or Diamond Club. For enquiries, reach out to Sales Manager Petra John ([email protected]).

Castles in Paradise, a collection of villas and apartments on a quiet hillside overlooking the Savannes Bay, has 14 villas, which range from two to four bedrooms. 

Castles in Paradise

From all the way on the northern tip of the island, we headed to the southeast to Savannes Bay in St. Lucia’s Vieux Fort district. Here, we visited Castles in Paradise (www.castlesinparadise.com), a collection of villas and apartments on a quiet hillside overlooking the bay. At the property, which is owned by a mother-daughter duo, there are 14 villas, which range from two to four bedrooms. There is also a condo unit with six one- and two-bedroom apartments, which can be rented out individually. A minimum three-night stay is required at Castles in Paradise.

We experienced Villa 13, a three-bedroom accommodation (all with en suite bathrooms), a fully equipped modern kitchen and a spacious living and dining room space. What makes Villa 13 unique is its semi-circular design, which means all rooms have views of the patio, pool and bay. Two of the bedrooms (one queen bedroom and one set up with two twin beds) are on the main floor, while the third is located on the lower floor and is accessed by the outside. 

All bedding is flexible and can be tailored to the composition of the group. Villa 13 is also one of the few villas that has its own pool (as do Villas 7, 8, 12 and 14); the other accommodations have access to a resort pool. Inside, guests will find cable TV, Wi-Fi and housekeeping six days a week. We loved that each villa has its own rooftop deck to enjoy the weather and views. 

Guests can arrange for an in-villa chef to come and cook for (or with) you. In-villa massages are also commonly requested. 

There isn’t a restaurant on property, as most guests prefer to make use of their own kitchen. There is a pool bar, however, which can be booked for private events or parties. Another option for guests looking to experience local cuisine is to head to Soufrière, which is just shy of one hour away by car, to check out the restaurants in town. (We suggest Orlando’s, one of the top culinary experiences we’ve had anywhere, or dining at Ladera or Hotel Chocolat. We’re told that there are also two informal cafés nearby.)  

Castles in Paradise is just five minutes from Anse de Sables and the shops and facilities in Vieux Fort. Two-thirds of the resort’s guests rent their own cars (each villa has a carport), but transportation is provided to the beach for guests who would prefer to leave their car on-property or for those who didn’t rent. (St. Lucia is a very mountainous island with narrow roads at points, so driving can be tricky at times. For those considering it, know that the resort is less than 10 minutes driving time from Hewanorra International Airport.) At Anse de Sables, we suggest wind- or kite-surfing, both of which are very popular at the beach. 

Other activities to consider include:

  • Dennery Treetop Adventures, where guests can take a jeep safari, go on waterfall hikes or zip-line through the canopy; 
  • Boat trip to snorkel at Anse Chastanet (one of the best coral reefs in the Caribbean); 
  • Day trip to Martinique with Martinique Splendor, an all-inclusive tour that offers a quick ride to the neighboring French island for a day of relaxing, exploring or shopping; 
  •  A sunset cruise (did anyone say rum punch?); 
  • Visiting Sulphur Springs, botanical gardens and / or mineral baths;  
  • Climbing St. Lucia’s famous, half-mile-high Pitons

We opted for the Tet Paul Nature Trail, which takes guests on a leisurely hike several hundred meters high, where — from two separate vantage points — they can get fantastic views of the Pitons. A guide leads guests to discuss the local flora and fauna, and answers their questions. Climbing the Pitons, we’re told, takes a couple of hours and is an impressive feat. We were more than happy to enjoy our stroll for the better photo ops.

Agents can direct queries to Marketing Director Gizelle Fleischhacker ([email protected]).

Bay Gardens Marina Haven opened earlier this summer.

More St. Lucia Family Options

Here are some other developments on St. Lucia’s family-friendly resort front.

Bay Gardens Marina Haven (www.baygardensresorts.com) opened earlier this summer while sister hotel Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa upgraded 16 beachfront and 14 pool-view rooms, with another 16 rooms slated to be refurbished before the end of the year. Included in room upgrade are new furniture and fittings in pastel colors, and new Wi-Fi-enabled Samsung and LG smart TVs. New stainless steel kitchen appliances have also been installed in the one-bedroom beachfront suites. Guests at all four beachfront Bay Gardens Resorts hotels have free access to the Coral Kidz Club and Splash Island Water Park on Reduit Beach.

Marigot Bay Resort and Marina (www.marigotbayresort.com), home of Zandos’ Activity Program for kids, has ended its association with Capella Hotels & Resorts and joined the Preferred Hotels & Resorts LVX Collection. The newly independent resort has launched an introductory offer that pays travel agents 15 percent commission for bookings made through October 31, 2018.

Usually closed for renovations during September, Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort (www.windjammer-landing.com) is open for business. Guests booking a three-night stay can receive 35 percent off the price of their room if they book early: 14 days in advance for low season, 21 for high season and 45 days for the Christmas holiday. Deals are available for travel through December 20, 2019, with some blackout dates.

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