We scheduled to spend our 15th anniversary by ourselves (thanks to Grandma watching our beautiful daughters) and chose to go to St. Lucia. We had never been to the Caribbean, so we were not quite sure to expect.
Our thoughts were that if we were going to St. Lucia we wanted a unique, private, and most importantly, “St Lucian” experience. By this I mean that we knew about the other resorts that were more European/American, but thought that we might as well just travel to a US resort if this was what we were after.
So, after some research, we chose Fond Doux Holiday Plantation, which is located on the Eastern part of the island on an eco-friendly Plantation that is also a National Heritage site. There are eight individual cabins (they range in total size, but are equipped with bathrooms, porches, sitting areas and a king-sized bed). There are six that are in the plantation and two that are isolated on a hillside for wonderful views.
We chose to stay in the Hillside Coconut Cottage. All the cottages are open air, which is to say that you can take advantage of the cool breezes that are on the plantation by leaving the main door or the French balcony doors open, if you choose to do so. There are some glass windows that can be opened as well, but mostly there are screens covering the filigreed wood designs that surround the windows. The cottage was very quaint and beautiful and included a modern, tiled bathroom, dark hardwood floors, a refrigerator, coffee maker, electric kettle, small safe, porch with two nice chairs and couple of sitting areas, overhead fan, a mosquito/bug net for the night and a hairdryer. Also, the cottages are wired for European style plugs, so if you need an adapter bring it. If you don’t have an adapter, the Plantation will provide you with a transformer.
A quick note about the hillside cottages, I did see other reviews that were complaining about the climb and lighting. First, yes there is a climb that is on an extremely well lit, and well-maintained dirt path – this could be difficult for someone not expecting a small hike. There are 30 or 40 steps up to the hillside cottages, with the walk to the Hillside Coconut slightly more steep versus the Hillside Guava. Again, we could see the pathway well and if we were in a hurry to make it to the top, we were certainly out of breath. That being said we were delighted to have chosen this cottage, as it felt much more isolated and private. Additionally, the views of the plantation and the rainforest from that vantage point were spectacular and definitely made it worth the brief climb. I also saw a note that said that you have to carry your bags up to the cottages which is absolutely not true. Upon arrival and departure, and without having to put in a request, our bags were carried up and down.
A couple of notes for arrival for those who are new to St. Lucia (like us):
We landed at UVF, on the South side of the island. We spoke with Katrina in reception at Fond Doux, requested transport, communicated our flight times, and she had arranged for the Plantation Driver, Jerome, to meet us when we arrived. When we landed we went down a set of steps (no air bridges), into the lobby and were ushered to customs. The agent took the customs form and stamped our passports. Then we went left to the baggage claim, got our bags and went through secondary customs. They inspected our forms and left us with a departure tag (KEEP THIS for your return flight). We then went right outside of the airport.
The airport is a bit chaotic and has three “zones”. Right past customs, you will be approached by porters (they all had blue shirts on) and they will aggressively ask to take your bags – we declined. If you do have them port your bags, expect to tip them. Once outside there will be a “buffer” zone from which taxi drivers cannot directly approach you, even though they will. Since we had a driver coming to get us, we declined their offers of transportation. The experience can be intimidating, but if you directly and politely say “No, thank you”, the taxi drivers will understand and leave you be. The final “zone” is where the resort drivers are waiting holding signs with the guests’ name they are there to greet. They are grouped together and standing behind a red barrier. If you don’t see your name, simply announce which hotel/resort you are staying at and all the drivers will know which driver to direct you to. As a tip, I would take a breath and be polite. Our experience was that most St. Lucians where extremely friendly and helpful.
Jerome met us at the airport and helped us get organized. I would highly recommend asking Fond Doux to arrange pickup, it costs roughly $70 to $80 USD, but it is well worth the money. He was very pleasant and informative, sharing information about St. Lucia and our surroundings during the ride to the plantation. The trip is about an hour long and the road is a bit steep and winding, so sit back and relax and enjoy the incredible views.
When we arrived at the plantation, Jerome arranged to have our bags put in our cottage and directed us to the reception office where we checked in. Once checked in, we headed over to the restaurant and were given a choice of a beverage (local juice, rum punch, Piton beer) as a complimentary welcome drink. Then we headed to our cottage and since we had been traveling since the early morning settled in for a rest.
The initial observations of the plantation were very good. It is incredibly beautiful and looks just like the pictures on their website. Also, the staff was both helpful and very nice. The views from the hillside cottage were amazing and it was great to see the light, tropical rains roll in and out of the valley.
We decided to do the all inclusive meal package, which I would highly recommend because we felt comfortable knowing that we had a consistent place to eat and were able to sample a variety of the choices they offer over the course of our stay. We did eat at other resorts and in town, but having the thought that we could always go down to the restaurant or kitchen for a bite to eat was both cost effective and reduced stress.
I would describe the menu as upscale, St. Lucian food for Lunch and Dinner. The descriptions on their website are very accurate.
Lunch is served Buffet style, with fresh salad, Caribbean rice (white long grain with aromatic spices), Ground Provisions (this was a new term for us! - basically its root vegetables or starches, such as sweet potato, plantains, and bread fruit that are spiced nicely), a casserole (Macaroni and cheese or bread fruit pie, which tasted like cheesy mashed potatoes), St. Lucian fish (lightly breaded and grilled with Creole sauce), and Chicken (usually a Creole or Coconut sauce). Also, if you want to just order a chicken or fish sandwich with French fries straight from the kitchen you can – these sandwiches were great! Also, on Tuesday and Wednesday the plantation has large tours that stay for lunch, so if you see a huge crowd don’t get worried just approach a staff member and they will be more than happy to help direct you to a seating area.
Dinner is served in three-course style, with appetizers, main course and dessert. The dinner was well prepared and plated beautifully. Is it 5-star food that you would find at a gourmet American restaurant? No. Is it distinctively St. Lucian and upscale? Yes.
Breakfast is also a buffet style with:
• An omelet station. Omelets were made to order, but you can also request any other type of egg (hard boiled, scrambled, fried with butter).
• Dry cereal: raisin bran and corn flakes
• Breads: croissants and sliced bread for toast
• Sliced fresh fruit and whole fresh fruit
• Bacon, or sausages (hotdogs) sautéed with onions
• Cocoa Tea, which was very good! It was cocoa with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg fresh from the plantation. It is not as sweet as Americans are used to.
• Fresh juice: local lime or mango
• Coffee or tea
A personal favorite was when a local “bake” was made, also called a Johnny Cake. It was super tasty, and was basically a sweet, fried bread. I think I could have eaten about 10 of them.
Also, the last day we were there, Philip made us a Mango Sous Kaye, which was brilliant. Sweet firm fruit with garlic vinaigrette, it is not on the menu but I would definitely ask for it.
Also, there is fresh fruit everywhere on the plantation. We tried mango, coconut, coconut water, grapefruit, cocoa pods (which I loved), banana and lime. The plantation is very active in growing flowers, so the stroll around the grounds was beautiful.
The true difference between other hotels and this plantation was the staff of the Fond Doux. Mr. and Mrs. Lamontagne, which live on the plantation themselves, manage the staff daily. It is important to remember that Fond Doux is a working plantation, so there is constant trimming, harvesting and planting everyday. You will definitely see and have the opportunity to interact with both Mr. and Mrs. Lamontagne.
One of the best ways to describe the experience is to say that we were personal guests of the Lamontagnes, because that is truly how they made us feel.
The staff is a true strength of the Fond Doux. They were great resources during our stay. Some members to look for, in particular, were:
• Katrina – Concierge and Reception. She was amazing and went way out of her way to make us feel welcome and taken care of. She was patient with us, and made a point to make our stay a truly personalized experience. She also took care to ensure that if we were going anywhere that we had all the information and resources we needed. She is a great asset to the Fond Doux team. She also created a terrific, personalized menu for us on the night we had a private, candle lit dinner!
• Jerome – Driver. He will likely be the first person you meet. He is great and took his time to give us information about the area. He also spoke about local customs and crafts and even helped us communicate with a roadside craftsman who didn’t speak English.
• Johnson – Bartender. Very nice, funny and pleasant. He will make you anything you can think of. He also was willing concoct a drink off the top of his head, which we took advantage of and always enjoyed.
• Loveleah – Dinner Waitress. She was sweet and wonderful and made every effort to take exceptional care of us. She suggested great pairings and greeted us with a welcoming smile each night.
• Susaney – Breakfast/Lunch Waitress, and a younger sister of Loveleah. She was fantastic. So joyful and lighthearted. We really liked spending time with her.
• Tracy – Breakfast/Lunch Waitress/ Masseuse. Tracy was an excellent certified Masseuse and when she is not giving treatments, she was working to help out wherever she was needed. She is sweet and kind.
• Gemmy – Spa Specialist. Though Fond Doux has a spa area, it does not keep full time staff, so Gemmy travels in upon requests for treatment. He and Tracy worked with us on two terrific couples’ massages. He had a fantastic personality and was funny and charismatic.
• Philip – I am not exactly sure what Philip’s title is, because he is charged with many tasks including: trail maintenance, guiding guests on trails hikes, porter, tour guide (he gave us a fantastic tour of the plantation), and all around great kid. He was a favorite for us and many other couples during our staying at Fond Doux!
The other interesting aspect of such a small set of cottages that it is likely that you will be there the same time as other groups, so it becomes a micro-community, which was nice. You can choose to share experiences with other guests or choose to maintain privacy. However we felt, day-to-day, was respected.
I read some reviews that mentioned that the staff was standoffish or rude. I absolutely disagree with this. It is important to realize that this may be a cultural misunderstanding. We found that when we engaged with them, they reciprocated and were incredibly friendly.
Some Tips for Your Visit
1. Change – If you are coming from the US and bringing cash, make the effort to get smaller denominations ($5s and $10s). At reception they were always able to accommodate getting us change, but it was definitely an inconvenience for them and we usually had to wait until the evening to get it. If you are heading off the plantation, definitely have smaller denominations.
2. Cell Phone Use – We are Verizon users without international plans and we DID NOT have service. This was fine for us, plus we happened to have a Skype account to make outbound calls, so we could log onto the Plantation’s free wireless network and dial out. When we were leaving, we met a gentleman who had stayed at a different resort and had cell service with AT&T. His service did work, but he didn’t realize he was roaming until he got a text from AT&T saying he had exceeded $200 in roaming charges.
3. Internet – The plantation has free wireless service by reception, so if you have your phone or cpu you can easily check email or surf the web. You can also check your email quickly if there is an open computer at reception.
4. The Rainforest Trail – Also called the Lamontagne Trail, will take you up to an area where you can see Petit Piton and Jalousie Beach. The hike is aggressive but short, about 30 minutes. Wear tennis shoes and it would be best to have Philip with you in case you slip or need someone to take your picture at the top.
5. Ladera Resort – A 30-minute walk from Fond Doux on a busy road with no sidewalks and passing traffic that will likely scare you to death. Katrina gave us ample warning and offered to have someone drive us, but we chose to walk and explore. Generally, I would not recommend this; take a shuttle instead for your own piece of mind. Ladera is a 3-wall resort, very modern and beautiful. We took in the great views from their bar and saw that you can order typical, Western food (BLTs, burgers, etc.). It was much busier than Fond Doux and far less personable. Filled with Americans and Europeans, it wasn’t as friendly as we thought it might be. Plus, we went to reception to request that they call the Fond Doux for a shuttle back and was met with a guy running the desk who was very cold and put-out once he knew we were not guests. I would go for the view and experience, but it is expensive (around $60 US for drinks and sandwiches).
6. Jalousie Beach – This beach is amazingly beautiful. Nestled between the Gros Piton and Petit Piton, it was calm and peaceful. Fond Doux has a free shuttle to Jalousie Plantation, which departs at 10am with pickup at 4pm. Jerome will drop you off at the Jalousie plantation, and then you walk down to the beach. There are three sections of the beach: (1) public facilities, (2) rental facilities and (3) Jalousie Plantation facilities. The reason I say facilities is due to the fact that all beaches in St. Lucia are public, but the facilities are not. The public facilities are very small and are crammed in a corner to the right if you are facing the water (the Petit Piton corner) and are easy to miss. There are chairs but no umbrellas. The rental area (not sure of the cost) is in front of the Jalousie plantation restaurant. You will be given a striped (blue and white) towel that indicates that you rented a chair and can use the Jalousie Bathrooms. The Jalousie Plantation section is huge with plush cabanas. All guests use white towels. It is possible to simply sit down with a white towel and see what happens, but if you are caught they will promptly ask you to leave.
7. Jalousie Plantation – Like Ladera, it was very modern and plush. Staff seemed pleasant but removed. Filled with Europeans and Americans, also like Ladera, it seemed like a beach resort that you could get at Hilton Head in South Carolina. We heard that if you rent a spot on the beach and still try and eat at the restaurant on the beach without being a formal guest, the experience was not pleasant.
8. Water Taxi’s – From most beach locations you can get Water Taxi’s where the price is negotiable. We took one from Jalousie Beach to Soufriere, which was one way for $25 US. We overpaid, but were not in the mood for much bartering. It was a quick 10-minute ride and a good experience. Some people were looking for a water taxi to Castries (the capital), and it was suggested that the price tag was more around $300 US each way, so it is probably cost prohibitive.
9. Soufriere – The main town on the East. I would not recommend going to Soufriere because there is very little to actually see. There are the Diamond Falls outside the town, but the town itself is not a tourist attraction. From the docks, we were hassled and eventually ended up with (at first) an unwanted guide. The issue is that the immediate assault is way too aggressive for most tourists. On the upside, the young man, Alex, took us to a local restaurant to get lunch, then ushered us around town to get a few things. I asked him basics about his ‘tour guide’ duties, at first he was reluctant, but then offered some details about the tip-splitting procedures. Basically the younger teenagers try to work for tips by being guides. At the end of the day, they split all of their earnings equally. The clearer we were with Alex, the better it was. If I were to do it again, I would be more upfront and say, “Okay, here is what I would like to do: go to lunch, walk around the town for a few things and if you can keep the many homeless and pushy street vendors from latching on to us, that is worth a generous tip.”
10. Sulfur Springs – Do this. It is truly unique experience. We did it as part of a spa treatment so Gemmy was our guide. Jerome dropped us all off. We went down to the spring area, changed into our bathing suits in the outdoor changing rooms, and took a dip. The water is very hot. I would guess 100 to 105 degrees F. It takes your breath away, but you get used to it. Gemmy said it was best to arrive very early or after 6 pm because the sun will heat the water even more. After the soak, Gemmy helped get the mud to rub on our skin – the grey mud is the prized mud but you can only get it from locals because it comes from the restricted area of the Springs. Once the mud air/sun dries, we took another soak, and then showered off. I would recommend that you take a large bottle of water because you are going to be dehydrated afterwards. Also, while you can do this on your own, I would recommend getting a guide and taking a shuttle. Otherwise it could be chaotic if you go at a time when tour buses are present. It does smell like rotten eggs, but remember it is active volcano!
11. Mama La Terre Spa - This is onsite on Fond Doux, but does not have exclusive, full-time staff. This was never a problem and we received excellent service during our couples’ massages, but keep in mind that you will need to make an appointment. With only eight cottages on site, we could easily pick a time that suited us. I would recommend Gemmy and Tracy as masseurs.
12. Weather Tips – Expect it to rain in August, about 1 to 5 times a day sometimes hard for about 10 minutes. We found it relaxing, sitting on the porch reading, and the breeze definitely cooled things down a bit. The rain can make things slick, so just have some common sense when walking around.
13. Nighttime – We didn’t need earplugs and didn’t think the noise was an issue, but there were a complimentary set of earplugs on the nightstand in our cottage upon arrival.
14. Bugs – Since you’re in the heart of a rainforest, even with bug spray, just expect to get a few bites and definitely use the net at nighttime.
15. Wildlife – A couple of notes on animals roaming about the plantation: Expect to see tons of lizards hoping around, there were even some in our room. It wasn’t an issue for us because they didn’t bother us and we knew they’d eat any roaming insects. Other animals we saw: toads (big), tree frogs (very small), land crabs (crabs that only live in the forest!), fruit bats (at Jalousie Beach), Dolphins (on a sunset cruise we took), cats (named Trouble and Double Trouble), and a German Shepherd (Bounty, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Lamontagne).
16. Tipping – There is quite a debate on Tripadvisor about this issue, so here is our take: You are supposed to tip. No, it is not decreed anywhere and yes, most hotels/restaurants have built in service charges. We tipped 10 – 15%, as we would in the US. I think that most Europeans may be opposed to this. It is not required. We made the point of taking care of the people who were taking care of us.
17. Departing – Jerome took us to the airport and was, as always, very pleasant. We checked in easily. Once you get through the first phase of check in with an agent you will need to have the Departure Form that was given to you upon your arrival completed and ready for security. If you have misplaced this, get one from the ticket counter and fill it our before you get in the security line.
Overall, this was a wonderful place and we enjoyed our experience immensely. Keep in mind that it is a St. Lucian resort. If you want to experience a stay filled with the magnificent culture of the people and the land, then Fond Doux is definitely the right place. We would certainly come to stay again!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.