Three unique hotels that are a step back in time
If chrome-and-glass towers aren’t your idea of a vacation resort, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a select number of small hotels in the Caribbean that evoke the charms of the Colonial Era. Three of the most iconic plantation inns in the Caribbean are found on the green islands of Martinique and St. Lucia. These properties, once working plantations, remain true to their agricultural roots, while also paying homage to the elegance of days gone by.
Fond Doux Holiday Plantation, St. Lucia
This early French colonial estate pays homage to its history, as the property continues to grow cacao much as it did in the eighteenth century. Today the estate is the pride of husband and wife team Lyton and Eroline Lamontagne, who transformed the estate into a place of integrity and national pride, while also maintaining the natural environment. What first began as a heritage site for day visitors has evolved into an eco–friendly tropical resort with a nod to traditional architecture and workmanship. The plantation includes a collection of 15 one and two-bedroom cottages, with amenities such as private plunge pools, canopy beds, outdoor showers and private decks or terraces. The property has a spa that uses all natural organically grown ingredients in the treatments, a gift shop and two onsite restaurants.
Set within the crater of an extinct volcano that is part of the Soufriere caldera, Fond Doux’s 135-acre grounds are accented with flowering trees, fruit trees and walking trails. This four-mile area surrounding the plantation offers guests access to active sulphur springs and the towering peaks of the Pitons, which are St. Lucia’s fame. The town and market of Soufriere is nearby, as are beaches, zip lining or hiking the Pitons. Fond Doux translates to “sweet valley” and the sweetness of chocolate fills the air during harvest time. Guests are invited to join in the process of harvesting, drying, and rolling cacao beans, leading to the final production of chocolate bars made on property. For its attention to the environment, Fond Doux planation has been certified by Green Globe International for a number of years, and continually strives to increase greener operations.
Le Domaine Saint Aubin, Martinique
Set on a hilltop near Trinity Bay on Martinique’s bucolic east coast, Le Domaine Saint Aubin is a 19th century Creole manor house set on the site of a former sugar plantation. While much of the original estate was sold to other farming families in years past, the mansion is still surrounded by farmland. Current owners Joëlle & Laurent Rosemain have restored the property to its Colonial Era roots, and now offer 30 unique guest accommodations divided between the main house, a conversion of the original stables, and a collection of cottages built in the style of the original manor. All rooms are decorated with 19th century Louisianan mahogany furnishings, and fitted with accents pieces that bring back the elegance of the time.
Le Domaine’s park-like property encompasses a French garden, open terraces and a pool with views of the sea. The long grass lawn is flanked by groves of mango, banana, and avocado, which add to the chef’s pantry, while beds of anthuriums and heliconias are incorporated into flora arrays that brighten guest rooms. The onsite restaurant is elegantly furnished with mahogany period antiques and offers breakfast and an exceptional, fixed-price dinner to both hotel guests and visitors. Adjacent to the dining room is a similarly decorated music room that becomes the resort’s social center. While somewhat remote and quiet, the manor is close to the Banana Museum and Saint James Rum Museum.
Balenbouche Estate, St. Lucia
This family-owned property is a step back in time, and an immersion into a lush laid-back lifestyle of St. Lucia. Balenbouche Estate is a colonial sugar plantation and has been under the watchful eye of the Lawaetz family for three generations. Its members strive to preserve the authenticity of the estate, and share its history with guests. The 60-acre grounds include a historic sugar mill, a 180-year old colonial plantation house and five cottages where guest come to stay. The grounds surrounding the estate’s cottages and great house are covered in fruit orchards, flower gardens as well as an organic farm. It provides an ideal location for weddings, retreats and workshops. There are several secluded black sand beaches within a short walk, some of which are suitable for swimming on calm days.
The five cottages, each unique and designed to blend with the natural surroundings, are dressed in gingerbread fretwork, wood- carved furniture and quaint decks and porches framed with flowering plants. Each cottage is named after local flora like Almond, Callabash, Nanuan and Waterlily and Banyan. Rooms are cooled by St. Lucian breezes and celling fans. Larger cottages offer guests the option to prepare their own meals, while breakfast is served daily. Dinner is served once or twice a week in the small restaurant that seats just 24. The cuisine is a blend of Asian and Creole flavors, incorporating fresh, plant-based dishes, organic produce and local seafood.