Today (July 8, 2015): Review of Ladera (St Lucia).
Ladera was once part of Rabot Estate, one of the Caribbean’s oldest and most famous cocoa plantations. In 1982 it was transformed into the unique resort it is today. Hanging on a cliff around 1000 ft (335 m) above the intensely blue Caribbean Sea, the resorts offers a dramatic view on the volcanic twin Piton Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All 37 suites come with a private plunge pool and have an open wall to expose the breathtaking vistas and gorgeous sunsets.
In this review (more info and photos below my slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Comparison of St Lucia with other Caribbean Islands
- Comparison with other luxury resorts on St Lucia
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Let’s start with Ladera’s stand-out feature: it’s absolutely incredible location along a 335 meters (1000ft) high ridge, with spectacular views of St Lucia’s famous twin Piton peaks (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the forested slopes of the south-west of the island, and the blue Caribbean Sea.
- The orientation of the resort is towards the west, guaranteeing some great sunsets (weather permitting).
- Ladera is a pioneer of the open air concept: all 37 rooms & suites have an open wall as the west side of each unit is left open to expose the magnificent views of the Pitons and Caribbean Sea (while complete privacy is maintained).
- The rooms & suites are constructed of tropical hardwoods, stone and tile, and decorated with locally crafted wood furniture, fixtures and accessories. They all come with private (heated or non-heated) plunge pools. No two rooms and suites are the same and depending on the category booked the size of the room and pool will vary.
- If you prefer to swim laps instead of relaxing in your private plunge pool, the resort also has a lovely main pool overlooking the Pitons and Caribbean Sea. The pool is surrounded by a deck area with comfortable loungers, and cocktails and snack service is available poolside.
- Guests and visitors flock to Dasheene, Ladera’s house restaurant, to enjoy award-winning cuisine in the open air, high above the Caribbean Sea and with spectacular views of the Pitons. Chef Nigel’s cooking renders stylish interpretations of traditional St. Lucian dishes, such as sweet potato and coconut soup, Caribbean lamb salad, roast conch with pickled vegetables served in a yam basket, Cajun Creole vegetable bakes, jerk poulet sausage, plantain gratin with coconut rum sauce and more.
- There’s complimentary high-speed WiFi throughout the resort.
- Ladera is an adults only resort with a Millennial clientele mostly looking for romance, gastronomy, service and privacy.
- Ladera has a lovely on-site boutique, which offers a wide range of items from tropical clothing and magazines, drugstore items and much more.
- Ladera is eco-friendly.
- The resort has a charming spa.
- The entire staff offers a welcoming island hospitality. Butler service is provided to all guests.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Ladera is a gorgeous, small-scale boutique hotel, that wows its guests with its cliffside setting and semi-outdoor suites (allowing amazing views). Nevertheless, it is not a perfect resort nor will it appeal to all, and one needs to know the following before considering a stay at Ladera:
- This is not a beach-front hotel (the hotel clearly mentions this on its website) as the property is located in the rain forest 1000 ft (335 m) above the sea. The good news though is that Ladera provides complimentary beach shuttle service to Jalousie Beach, St Lucia’s most gorgeous stretch of white sand located between the 2 Piton peaks. The transfer from the hotel to the beach takes around 5 minutes.
- In spite of the daily, complimentary shuttle service to and from Jalousie beach, Ladera has no control over the beach chairs or services for its guests offered by the main hotel on the beach (Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Hotel). Ladera uses a small corner of Jalousie beach (where it has some loungers), but if you want to use the more comfortable loungers of Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Hotel, you will have to pay extra (a whooping 50$ per chair per day).
- Ladera is not a family resort, but that will of course please those in search of tranquillity.
- Ladera is an experiential luxury resort located on a volcano, a Unesco World Heritage Site. From time to time, weather dependent, there is a smell from the volcano sulphur springs.
- In most rooms & suites, the plunge pools are very small (you cannot swim in them), although the more expensive room categories have a larger plunge pool.
- Suites are available with heated or freezingly cold plunge pools, so be sure to do your homework right and book the suite that fits your taste.
- The authentic island room decor has a somewhat dated look and may not appeal to all.
- The deck around the main pool is quite small, with not enough sun beds for all guests which can be problematic when the resort is at full capacity.
- Ladera is at a high altitude, which does not make it a preferred haven for bugs in general. Nevertheless, rooms have an open wall and especially the smaller rooms closer to the rainforest tend to attract bugs if you leave the lights on.
- There’s not much to do on site, so I would advise to limit your stay at Ladera to just a few days (and combine it with another St Lucia resort).
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 7/10
- Rooms: 7/10
- Food: 9/10
- Service: 8/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8/10.
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury resort like Ladera (and receive many free perks).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
- Bring an eye mask and ear plugs because it gets bright around 6AM and the birds can be quite loud (you’ll need them both to get good rest). It’s a small price to pay for the amazing feeling of being really close to (and literally immersed in) a gorgeous natural environment.
- It is worth to spend some extra money for a room with a heated plunge pool (otherwise, you will end up with a very cold pool).
- Request a room or suite close to main facilities (restaurant, bar and pool) as it makes access easy and these rooms have a somewhat more open view.
- I would advise to stay here 2 or 3 nights to enjoy the wonderfull food, views and rain forrest setting, and then to move on to a beachfront resort (e.g. Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Hotel, or Jade Mountain).
COMPARISON OF ST LUCIA WITH OTHER CARIBBEAN ISLANDS
The big difference between St Lucia and its Caribbean sister islands is the topography. St. Lucia is an outdoor’s paradise, with lots of flora, fauna, high mountains, jungle, a volcano, plantations and waterfalls. It is somewhat reminiscent of the spectacular Hawaiian scenery. However, St Lucia’s beaches are not the best in the Caribbean as they are mostly composed of dark coarse brown sand, and pale in comparison to the sugar white beaches and turquoise waters of Anguilla, the Virgin Islands, the ABC Islands, the Bahamas, and Turks& Caicos.
COMPARISON WITH OTHER LUXURY RESORTS IN ST LUCIA
St Lucia harbours some of the most exclusive resorts in the Caribbean. In addition, some of the most luxurious hotel brands in the world are opening a property on the island in the coming years. While Ladera was a pioneer of luxury travel in the Caribbean, it’s no longer the most luxurious property on the island as it is ‘surpassed’ by 3 other luxury properties: Jade Mountain, Capella Marigot Bay, and Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort. Nevertheless, it’s still worth to spend a few days here in the rainforest (before proceeding to a beach resort) because Ladera’s gorgeous setting, spectacular views and gourmet offerings are still unmatched.
- Jade Mountain – about a 20 min drive from Ladera – is currently St Lucia’s most luxurious and famous resort. The impressive, contemporary design with rugged stoned-faced columns reaching towards the sky and individual bridges leading to the suites, makes it one of the Caribbean’s most mesmerizing resort experiences, especially for honeymooners. Similar to Ladera, Jade Mountain offers an amazing view of the Pitons (albeit from a different perspective though and somwhat less spectacular) and all rooms come with a private infinity pool and lack the 4th wall. Jade Mountain’s rooms and infinity pools are far superior though to the ones at Ladera (but so is the price tag). Jade Mountain is located on a hilltop, but has its own beach club. To read my review of Jade Mountain, click here.
- Ladera’s other competitor in the Souffriere area is Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort. This stunning, recently renovated hotel has a colonial architecture and is located along a stretch of white beach between the 2 Pitons, right beneath the cliff where Ladera is built on. It has more of a beach vibe as compared to Jade Mountain.
- Capella Marigot Bay (a rebranding of the original Marigot Bay hotel) is located about 30 minutes to the north of Ladera. It’s located along a gorgeous bay, although it does not have the spectacular scenery which you find in Souffrière. Nevertheless, the bay was described by legendary American author James A. Michener as “the most beautiful in the Caribbean”. Capella Marigot Bay is adjacent to St Lucia’s premier marina and berthing place for mega yachts. The resort’s stunning amenities are very luxurious (even more so as compared to Jade Mountain and Sugar Beach) but there’s no beach. So don’t stay here if a beach is a must.
- The hotels in the North of the Island, such as Sandals Grande St Lucian, Sandals Regency La Toc and Cap Maison, are nice and have slightly better beaches, but they are not as luxurious as the resorts described above, and most importantly, they are not surrounded by stunning scenery as compared to the Souffrière area that Jade Mountain, Ladera, & Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort call their home.
- Hotel opening to watch: Six Senses Freedom Bay.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The dry, peak season on St Lucia runs from mid-December to April. In these months, accommodation rates are generally significantly higher than at other times of the year, but the weather is usually at its best. Rates are cheaper in the summer and autumn months, when it’s stickier and wetter – and note that St Lucia gets more rain than other less mountainous Caribbean islands such as Barbados or Antigua. Also bear in mind that the hurricane season runs from June to November, with September and October statistically the likeliest months for major storms.
HOW TO GET THERE
The resort is located a 45/60-minute drive from Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) and 75 minutes from the interisland George F L Charles Airport (SLU). You can book a private taxi through the hotel, or take a cheaper taxi upon arrival. Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) is the main point of entrance for most passengers, and the airport is served by many airlines (click here for a direct link to their websites):
- From/via Europe: British Airways (via London Gatwick), Virgin Atlantic (via London Gatwick), Thomas Cook Airlines (via Manchester), Condor (via Frankfurt)
- From/via Northern America: American Airlines (via Miami and New York), US Airways (via Charlotte and Philadelphia), Delta Airlines (via Atlanta), United Airlines (via Newark), Air Austral (via Reunion Island), Jetblue (via New York), Air Canada (via Toronto and Montreal), Air Transat (via Toronto and Montreal), Westjet (via Toronto).