A dessert island fantasy (sorry), the Rabot Hotel from Hotel Chocolat in St Lucia seems made for chocolate lovers. The jungle-surrounded hilltop lodges – with views of the Caribbean Sea and Petit Piton peak – perch beside a cacao plantation that hosts classes and tours, with plenty of samples. The ultra-local restaurant serves some of the island’s best food, including chocolate in both sweet and savoury preparations. Though the hotel natural setting is relaxing enough to help you forget it all, cocoa is rarely far from mind: the superlative spa even uses homegrown pods in its massage treatments.
Get this when you book through us:
A half-hour massage for two, and a 50 per cent discount on the Tree to Bar chocolate-making class
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £570.91 ($704), including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates usually include a full English breakfast, and a daily shuttle service to Malgretoute Beach.
At the hotel
Spa, daily beach shuttle, gardens, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: iPod dock, and minibar.
Our favourite rooms
There are only two room types: Lodges and Luxe Lodges – which are twice as large and have a private verandah and better views. Of the Luxe Lodges, Room 7 has the very best views and extra privacy. One of the first rooms built, it sits toward the end of the property, offering some of the best views. It also has a stunning walk-in shower that is paved with river stones and has three separate water settings to simulate rainfall. Lodges 1 to 4 have particularly clear views of the Pitons, with east-west exposure for better tropical breezes and sunsets.
The 50-foot infinity pool is spectacular: lined in black quartz, the still water seems to perfectly mirror its views of the Piton Mountains and rainforest. The pool is surrounded by wood sunloungers and Adirondack rockers, and has cocktail service.
Cocoa Spa focuses on chocolate-centric treatments in open-air rooms with mountain views. The staff use the plantation’s home-grown cacao beans, butter and oil, along with banana leaves, to make antioxidant-packed lotions and oils for treatments.
Though the beaches are spectacular, the forest trails are even better, so bring a pair of hiking boots in addition to flip-flops.
Make your own chocolate in the Tree to Bar class, which starts with guests cutting cacao pods and ends with creating chocolate bars and truffles. There are also self-guided walks through the cocoa groves.
Leave the kids at home for this adult-only hotel.
The hotel is extremely eco-conscious, using locally sourced, organic and seasonal products wherever possible. Staff actively compost, recycle waste water and use solar power.
Snag a table along the edge for the best views of the mountain peaks.
Though this is one of the island’s best restaurants, with top-tier food, the dress code is fairly relaxed. Opt for island-casual, including linen pants, maxi dresses and sandals.
The open-air Rabot Restaurant has 180-degree views of the Pitons, mood-setting candlelight throughout and a jungle soundtrack supplied by tree frogs and birds. Like the rest of the hotel, the restaurant specialises in cocoa – think nibs, pulp, powder, roasts, grinds and more – for dishes like scallops in a citrus and cacao sauce, pork tenderloin marinated in cacao beer, and yellowfin tuna with a cacao-nib crust. Save room for dessert: the rum baba is a winner. The kitchen also uses tropical island ingredients, including coconut for a bread served with a choice of three cocoa infusions: balsamic, cocoa nibs in butter and basil-nut pesto.
The Cacao Bar is open all day, from 8am to 11pm, with a blackboard listing the in-season fruits in drinks like rum punches, banana daiquiri and papaya bellini. Deep sofas are arranged to best take in sunset views, with a soundtrack of calypso tunes and classic rock. True to the hotel’s name, the bar also serves chocolate-spiked cocktails, like a cacao-infused bellini, combining cacao pulp, prosecco, lemon verbena and soursop juice. There’s also a chocolate daiquiri.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 10am, lunch from noon to 2.30pm and dinner from 6.30 to 9.30pm; food is available poolside from 7am to 9pm.
A selection of sandwiches, salads and entrées – including fresh fish – is available from 8am to 9pm daily; the minibar in each room is stocked with local beer, rum punch, wine, water and soda.
The Rabot Hotel from Hotel Chocolat is set on the Rabot Estate in Soufrière on St Lucia.
The island’s main gateway is Hewanorra International Airport (www.slaspa.com), a 45-minute drive from the hotel. It offers flights from London (www.ba.com), New York (www.united.com) and other major cities. Two-seater private transfers are available for $80 a way.
If you intend to explore the island, stop by the rental kiosks at the airport and pick up some wheels. From the airport, follow signs for Soufrière, then keep an eye out for the Rabot Plantation, on the right. Rabot Eco-Escape's staff can arrange rental cars for you on arrival, and there's plenty of free parking at the hotel.
Those who arrive by boat can dock at the marina in nearby Soufrière.
Worth getting out of bed for
Rabot Hotel has enough activities to keep any chocolate fan occupied for days. Relax with cocktails by the black-quartz swimming pool, which looks as if it’s filled with liquid chocolate. Set inside the guests-only Club Boucan, the pool has plenty of sunloungers, and a steward to bring around drinks and snacks throughout the day. After that, book a chocolate-centric treatment at Cocoa Spa, then head off to the groves to try and make your own truffles or chocolate bar on the Tree-to-Bar expedition, after a tour of the plantation. You can also salute the sun at forest-set yoga sessions, or take hikes through the 140-acre estate.
St Lucia has plenty of natural wonders for exploring. The hotel staff can arrange a visit to the world’s only drive-in volcano, a hike up Gros Piton mountain or a soak in the nearby sulphur springs. Rent a boat to snorkel in search of leatherback turtles, or join the Boucaneer West Coast Raiding Party, a retro exploration inspired by raiders of yore that includes local lunch and rum punch as you conquer – or simply explore – Pigeon Island, Rodney Bay and Marigot Bay.
With views of the sea and Piton Mountains, Mango Tree (+1 758 459 5648) has a setting to match its excellent Caribbean food. Order conch chowder, jerk chicken, roasted fish or spicy shrimp, with brightly coloured rum cocktails. Request a table near the water at Petit Peak, on Maurice Mason Street in Soufrière. The restaurant serves buttery roti, curries, creole-spiced chicken and stews. Don’t leave without trying the banana crumble. Get a taste of the best native St Lucia ingredients at Dasheene at Ladera (+1 758 459 6623). The restaurant, which has spectacular sunset views, serves Caribbean specialties, including sweet potato soup, plantain gratin and roast conch. Sunday brunch features a St Lucian Shak Shak band.
Just outside the town centre, Whipsers on Bridge Street is the best place to catch football matches (+1 758 720 8486) with cold beer and snacks. The unofficial drink of the island is rum punch, best ordered at the low-key shacks just off the road.
Mr Smith’s obsession with the cocoa bean and all it yields is superseded only by my own. So, it’s little surprise that the prospect of staying on a cocoa plantation at the Rabot Hotel from Hotel Chocolat in St Lucia (owned by super sweet purveyors Hotel Chocolat) – a mere four-hour flight from New York City – resulted in our quickest travel consensus, ever.
The leisurely-paced 40-minute taxi ride from the airport allowed us to take in the rainforest-clad volcanic landscape. People waved at us as we rolled through the multi-colored villages, and we were warmly greeted by more of the same at the hotel.
Bags whisked away, we were immediately led to the seductively lit bar adjacent to the restaurant and offered a welcome cocktail by Judy, an exuberant ex-pat who revived this 140-acre estate along with her design-minded husband Phil. ‘May I recommend our signature drinks: the cacao Bellini or cacao martini? Although they do get me a bit giggly,' she smirked.
Giggle-inducing and chocolate-tinged seemed like a winning mix, so I opted for the martini. Mr Smith kicked things off with the 40 per cent proof Captain’s punch, a heady hotel specialty (you’ll find your own secret swig bottle in your room). Cool drinks in hand, we sink into the comfortable seats, and soak up the intoxicating view of one of the two proud Pitons, the volcanic mountains that magnificently dominate the landscape.
Not at all a cartoonish confectionery theme park, the hotel is a sophisticated homage to chocolate: all dark wood, with an infinity pool that looks like cocoa and ceramic soap dishes the shape of cocoa pods which are cheeky, but not kitsch. The decor is tasteful and minimalist – fabrics are natural and muted, wooden structures form walls of geometric pattern – yet it eschews the coldness that style can sometimes bring.
Pulling ourselves away from the bar, we followed a path paved with stone slabs flanked by gardens thick with tropical trees and splashes of vibrant floral to our room. It was in a clutch of six smaller lodges (still more sprawling than a studio apartment) built to resemble the plantation’s original buildings.
The open-plan lodge with lofted ceilings was styled with a modern take on classic Caribbean mahogany furniture, and the four-poster bed draped in white mosquito netting would have been the most tempting thing if it weren’t for the massive walk-in shower with a view of the stars. Mr Smith took a peek inside the fridge that was well stocked with home made cookies, nuts, water and bubbly all free for the taking. Don’t mind if we do…
We knew not to spoil our appetites, though. Locals and tourists from all over the island travel to the hotel’s buzzy restaurant for the exquisite farm-to-table fare. The cocoa theme prevails, of course: organic leaf salad with white chocolate and coconut dressing and cacao-nib croutons, coconut chicken curry with chocolate-flecked flatbread and poached kingfish in a cacao nib escabeche bouillon. Chocolate addicts will definitely be sated, but there’s enough variety to please all palates.
Each day began with a sumptuous spread of fruit, smoothies, home-made muffins, bread with chocolate ‘smudge’, eggs, bacon and porridge. Coffee is my morning medicine, but the high-octane cocoa tea served here is just as effective. Discovered by the Mayans, a king reportedly swallowed 25 stamina-boosting cups a day – helpful with the demands of his twelve wives, we’re told.
The king would have approved of the sultry Tuesday night barbecue here, I’m sure. The entertaining evening started with a laid-back buffet-style affair before two handsome, semi-naked men sprang forth in the center of the room and proceeded to gyrate, dance, perform balancing acts and swallow fire to the beat of pumping tunes.
As the night progressed, nearly all of the guests were lured out on the floor to limbo. A born spectator, this would usually fill me with horror, but somehow, the magic of this place (and its martinis) melted those inhibitions away.
One could certainly be content lounging by the hotel's placid pool all day, but there is a bus that shuttles guests to and from the nearby town of Soufrière twice daily. There are several adventures to be had once in town, but we hopped on board the hotel’s private boat and jetted around the bay to the aptly named Sugar Beach, a breath-stealing swath of white sand set smack-dab between the two Piton spires. There was an abundance of watersports on offer, but we were content to lounge in the hammocks, drink cocktails and listen to the surf.
Back at the hotel, a plantation tour and chocolate-making lesson, led by the charismatic nursery director, Cuthbert Monroque, is a must. Mr Smith and I thought we had a thing for chocolate – until this passionate local led us through the thick fruit groves on the tree-to-bar experience.
He helped us to pluck pods right from the cacao trees, and we then grafted two different kinds of cocoa plant, to ensure optimum taste and hardiness, which would be planted on the property when ready, bearing our names. They’d later be harvested, ground into cocoa nibs and made into a trademark bar.
It's sugary shenanigans such as that that had us happily collapsing into bed each night. Lulled by the sound of the surrounding wildlife (this must be where they recorded the ‘tropical rainforest’ setting on the sleep machine), we'd drift off with visions of chocolate everything dancing in our heads… Sweet dreams, is right.
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