I’m lucky to have friends who love to travel and who travel well together. And I’m even luckier to have a few standing travel traditions, times of the year when these friends always plan to vacation together. Sometimes, the location changes, and in other cases, we like to go back to what’s loved and familiar.
One of my favorite times of the year to escape is mid-January. It’s just enough time after the holidays to need a little extra time off, and it’s also generally very cold weather in Ohio. So we like to pick a spot somewhere south. Over the years, we’ve done everything from adventurous expeditions in Patagonia (it’s the warmest time of year to visit the South Pole, after all) to beach-hopping in Vieques, Puerto Rico (I have a whole separate blog post planned on that one!). Even though the time of year stays relatively standard, we use it as an opportunity to check destinations off the bucket list.
So how did we end up in Saint Lucia?
For starters, we knew we had a large group and that we wanted to all stay in a house together. I love staying in hotels, but for larger groups, I’ve come to value the way a house gives the group the ability to share communal spaces for everything from meals to morning exercise to random unplanned moments of group activity (board games, anyone?). This serendipity of shared downtime is something I cherish with a group of friends who I genuinely enjoy spending time with. That’s part of the point of vacation, right? Yes, it’s about experiencing somewhere different than your normal surroundings, but it’s also about that experience being shared with the right people.
Anyways, in addition to wanting a great house for our group vacation, we knew we wanted a beautiful backdrop with lots of sunshine, beaches, ocean, and the ability to be a little bit off the beaten path.
So we landed on Saint Lucia. Full disclosure: We did not do everything there is to do in Saint Lucia. In fact, we barely scratched the surface.
We stayed at Villa Coulibri. Located in Anse Chastanet on the southwestern part of the island, the house was built into the hills with a perfect view of the famous Pitons and an insane attention to architectural detail. Best of all, the entire property was open air, with an open layout that gave us a fluid use of space between indoors and outdoors, poolside lounging and tableside dining, sun and shade. And with the most striking of surroundings (and a full posse of 11 friends), we basically never wanted to leave. Even for the one day when it was cloudy and rainy, we still had a great place to play board games all day long.
We did leave, if only a few times. We took a boat tour of coast, stopping along way at different secluded beaches and snorkeling, swimming, and hosting onshore handstand competitions.
We also spent a day at Sugar Beach, which is basically the most beautiful beach on the island (where the Viceroy Hotel happens to be located, so there is no thankfully no shortage of lounge chairs or libations). Some of us even hiked the Pitons (you can go to the very top!), although I was not one of them.
My favorite activity of all, however, was the party we decided to host on our final night on the island. Part of what makes Villa Coulibri so special is the staff: Shermika, Shawn, and Jahika were the best hosts we could ask for, cooking 3 meals for us every day and taking care of the grounds throughout our stay. So for our last night, we invited their families to join us at the house for a barbecue and game night.
One week after we arrived, we reluctantly left Saint Lucia to return home. It was one of my favorite vacations we’ve ever taken. Was it the people or the place? Hard to tell. Will it become a place we all go back to together? I hope so. Whether it be next January or some other time down the road, I have a feeling once was simply not enough.