from the archives: hot spas of the caribbean

For too many years, Caribbean spas were strictly amateur affairs. Not anymore: The number of high-tech hideaways scattered throughout the islands has exploded, with each one promising to reinvigorate your body and renew your spirit in new and novel ways. As a bonus, direct flights from JFK abound this time of year, making it easier than ever to escape for a weekend of pampering and be back in time for the Monday morning meeting.

Here’s our guide to five that know how to turn up the heat: CLICK HERE for the full story.

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wishlist: spawn of the sea

Lush and tropical Anse Chastanet in St. Lucia is one of the Caribbean’s most scenic resort hideaways. In the heart of the island’s marine reserves it’s also one of the rare places where divers and snorkelers can witness the miraculous Coral Spawning, one of nature’s most spectacular performances. Often described as an upside down snow storm, corals spawn by releasing millions of packets of egg and sperm cells that appear underwater as massive pink and white clouds which slowly drift to the surface where fertilization occurs. The next day the sea is partly covered by pink slicks of coral larvae – the next generation of one of the ocean’s most vital organisms. Within a few weeks the larvae will settle on the bottom and begin the process of reef building. The advantage of such mass spawning is obvious: to increase the larvae’s chances for survival. Most will be eaten by fish and other sea organisms, but the sheer volume of spawn insures that many will live to propagate the species. Of course, the reproductive process takes on added significance as the effects of global warming and other environmental factors slowly decimate the world’s coral reefs, making this a bucket list experience if ever there was one. To witness the magnificent spectacle – expected to happen about a week after the August full moon - Scuba St. Lucia, Anse Chastanet’s PADI dive operation, is planning a series of night dives to the Anse Chastanet reef, located just off the resort’s beach. Double-dipping for the week is a bargain, too. For $1869 per person a summer dive package includes seven nights accommodation, airport transfers, all meals and then some, plus 12 beach or boat dives with all the gear.

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bucket list: 2010 – march

ST. LUCIA:  I’ve long been a fan of this tiny Caribbean island’s utter lack of pretense – and gorgeously underpopulated beaches.  Which is probably why I’ve tended to spend any amount of time here within spitting distance of the water.  Escaping the end of the winter, however, I found myself bang between the Pitons at Ladera, the open-air hideaway perched a thousand feet up and flanked by the island’s two towering volcanoes.  The birds-eye views seemed to accentuate the great swathes of rainforest which cover the island and inspired me to trek north, into the deep of the jungle, for a nature lesson and zip-line adventure in the forest canopy.

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video: piton place

Playing around here with a cool new bit of online software from Animoto.  Many thanks to Matthew Sandager for his photos of St. Lucia from earlier in the year.

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st. lucia: sundowners

The view of the Pitons form Ladera just does not get old – or boring.  The play of light and shadow across the foliage-covered volcanic rock creates a constantly shiftng landscape.  One of my favorite moments happens during the impending gloaming – those fleeting few moments as the sun starts to slip behind the peak.  Some people call it a corona effect, others refer to it as flare.  Seen through the boozy prism of cool vodka tonic, I call it the perfect end to the afternoon.

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st. lucia: three viewings, jalousie beach

Named for the louvered wooden shutters that are a common – and practical – architectural feature across the Caribbean, Jalousie Beach is a small stretch of heaven between the grand peaks of  Gros and Petit Piton.  Speckled with fish, the turquoise shallows are ideal for close-to-shore snorkeling; after the break the water turns deep blue, giving safe harbor to the passing envy-inducing yacht; and the sand is as warm and soft as it should be.

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st. lucia: guest pix

I was going to share a handful of my own photos until photographer Matthew Sandager offered to let me use his.  I give him all the credit – in addition to my thanks – for all of the fantastic images of St. Lucia  you’ll see over the next few days, such as these night-blooming water lilies in the garden pools at Ladera.  Creatures of the night, they unfurl each evening just after sunset to drink the evening dew.

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st. lucia: zip line

Unlike most Caribbean islands, St. Lucia is ripe with rainforest. Rain Forest Aerial Tram, in the highland community of Chassin, gave me a unique opportunity for the full immersion: a gondola ride up and away into the canopy, a bird’s eye view of the island’s verdant north, and a series of 12 zip lines that had me gliding from platform to platform like a big blue Navi.

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st. lucia: a ladder up to ladera

Just a tease for now – more to come later this week.  But suffice it to say that Ladera – and St. Lucia – did not disappoint.

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off the grid

I’m headed to St. Lucia this morning for a long weekend off the grid.  For a change of pace, the laptop will not be in tow.  So no live-blogging til next week, when I’ll catch you up on passion fruit, sustainable chef Orlando, zip lining through the rainforest – and how I (hopefully) managed to survive the absence of a fourth wall at Ladera.

And don’t worry about missing your daily fix, either.  I’m pre-posting a few bits and pieces to keep you occupied – and thinking – in my absence.

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