Fond Doux

Near Soufriere, St Lucia Book from

Reviewed by Cat Martin
A tranquil heritage plantation looking out to the Pitons, where simple cottages and a lush tropical garden provide a secluded retreat
Fond Doux translates from local patois as 'sweet valley', and this 250-year-old plantation certainly lives up to its name. Still producing cocoa, it's one of oldest working plantations in the Caribbean and its dense tropical gardens of trees, fruits and flowers provide a glorious scent all year round.

Local owners Eroline and Lyton Lamontagne spent 10 years restoring the derelict site into the restorative haven you see today. They relocated 1 and 2-bedroom cottages from nearby Castries, added a triple cascading swimming pool, and generally refurbished with eco practices and nature preservation in mind.

With only a handful of cottages set in 135 acres of lush grounds, it’s ideal for those who treasure privacy and want an authentic experience of St Lucia. Indeed, it's a different world from the slick hotel resorts that line the coast. Perhaps first impressions are that it needs a lick of paint, but it’s all part of the plantation charm - and you'll be seduced by the peace and natural beauty in no time.

Highs

  • You're near the World Heritage site of the Pitons and volcano, but far from the sulphur smell
  • The restorative views, generous private decks and rocking chairs are ideal for soothing away a tiring journey
  • The colourful gardens are so expansive that you rarely see other guests - honeymooners will love it
  • This is a bird-watcher’s and horticulturalist's paradise at any time of year
  • The rooms are techno-lite, with no TV and limited WiFi; pure escapism

Lows

  • It might be too rustic for some - the odd tile is missing, and the energy-saving bulbs are a little harsh on the eye
  • The journey here involves continuous hair-pin bends - it's worth it for the views, but you may get queasy
  • Occasional cheesy muzak from the bar (Mariah Carey) breaks the quiet, and the spell
  • Large parties of cruise-ship tourists descend once a week for lunch, but you can always hide in your cottage
  • The food is good but the menu is limited, and there are no other restaurants within walking distance

Best time to go

Fond Doux is open all year and nearby Soufriere is the centre of many events: a jazz festival in May, a carnival in August and yachts in November. The abundant tropical fruits and flowers are seasonal so you may not see them all at once, but if you want to try some of the many varieties of mango then go in May. December to April is St Lucia's high season, when the weather is drier. June to November is the rainy season and there's a slight risk of hurricanes.

Our top tips

Pack ear plugs, walking shoes if you want to tackle the trails, and a sarong to walk through the garden to the pool. You may also need a jumper for the evenings. Pest control is rigorous, so although mozzie repellent is advised, I didn't need it.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 16
  • Restaurants and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Hilltop Coconut

Rooms

The cottages are bright, airy and surrounded by foliage, with polished wooden floors, handmade four-poster beds, bamboo lights, an abundance of wooden shutters, and private terraces with rocking chairs. Technology is limited to a careful selection of gadgets, and a torch and candles indicate there may be an issue with power, but not during our visit. There's no air-conditioning, but there's no need for it either - all have ceiling fans and the plantation's lofty position helps catch the breeze.

Bathrooms have rain showers and clay basins decorated with smiling faces - slightly bizarre. You'll also find handmade soaps and seasonal fresh flowers from the plantation.

Of the 1-Bedroom Cottages, our favourites were Hilltop Coconut and Hilltop Guava Tree, each perched on a forested ridge amongst coconut trees. Their peaceful terraces have fantastic views, but break-neck steps to access, so be sure to book a garden-level room if vertigo is an issue. We stayed in Coconut and loved the colourful décor and tranquil setting. It's worth noting, though, that as the sun goes down, the evening chorus of the rainforest ignites. We found it mesmerising, but take earplugs if you're a light sleeper. On terra firma, Cinnamon is popular amongst honeymooners, but we liked the look of Bamboo with its white louvered windows and pretty patterned bedspread. Since our visit, a 1-Bedroom Cottage with Pool has been added, for a touch of extra luxury.

Of the 2-Bedroom Cottages, each of which has a kitchenette, Avocado is the most private, located at the end of a long path. Bamboo furniture and bright Caribbean décor make it both comfortable and colourful.

Deluxe 1-Bedroom Cottage Angelina is a 2-storey, 160-year-old yellow colonial house that feels slightly more tired than the others, but offers generous amounts of space and an extensive private garden - great for families. With the bathroom and kitchen located off an open walkway, it wouldn't suit those who prefer their amenities hermetically sealed.

We are yet to see the Honeymoon Suites, each of which is a self-contained 1-bed cottage nestled at the top of the hill with a private plunge pool on the veranda. We like the look of the secluded Tree House, hidden away in the foliage.

Features include:

  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

There are 2 restaurants at Fond Doux, both offering Creole cuisine, and most of the fruit, herbs and vegetables are harvested on the plantation.

Breakfast is eaten in Cocoa Pod (once a pigpen!), where you choose from a continental / American menu, or the St Lucian menu of salt fish and salad, with cocoa tea. The raffia chairs are rather uncomfortable, and you need to watch out for cheeky birds eyeing your food, but the fresh grapefruit juice will be the sweetest you’ve ever tasted. You can also lunch at Cocoa Pod - a buffet of local and international dishes, such as fish curry and jerk chicken.

Dinner is taken in the Jardin Cacao, an open-sided bamboo construction where you're surrounded by candles, lanterns and greenery, and serenaded by the night chorus. The food is enthusiastic as opposed to masterful, but the à la carte menu offers plenty of choice such as baked red snapper with fresh herbs, golden plantation chips in a Creole dip, or Piton lamb rack marinated in local beer. As you might expect, cocoa is a regular feature on the menu (chocolate and onion soup, anyone?!) and the alarmingly named 'Volcanic Eruption' is a must-try dessert. Room service is also possible (just order from a menu in your cottage) and on Sundays there's a poolside BBQ.

If you were staying a week, you might find the menu limited, in which case there are a couple of popular restaurants, which the hotel can organise taxis to: The Mango Tree (great rotis) or Gee's (excellent seafood), both of which have sunset views of the Pitons.

The Deluxe 1-Bedroom Cottage and the 2-Bedroom Cottages have kitchenettes so you can self cater, too. Eroline owns a supermarket down the road and she can take you shopping or provide a starter pack. In terms of equipment you get a microwave, a stove, a fridge, a toaster, a kettle and a coffee maker.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Absorb the quiet from a rocking chair on your private terrace, then stroll through tropical gardens to lounge by the cascading pools
  • Take a complimentary tour of the plantation to learn about the cocoa-harvesting process
  • Follow an on-site nature trail to see cocoa trees, crops (bananas, nutmeg, coffee, cinnamon), historic battle ruins and stupendous views. Signage was lacking on our visit, so double check the route before you set off
  • Bird-watch in the gardens or from your room. Regular spots include St Lucia orioles, bananaquits and St Lucia pewees, and we had hummingbirds on our terrace - such a treat
  • Book a treatment at the spa, named Mama La Terre ('Mother Earth'). All products are made from natural organic ingredients such as citrus, chocolate and mud from the sulphur springs
  • Walk to St Lucia's famous 'drive-in' volcano and sulphur springs to enjoy a mud wrap (dark swimwear is advised!)
  • Climb the mighty Pitons, a World Heritage site. You'll need a guide for Petit Piton, which is the steeper of the peaks
  • Beach lovers can take the free hotel shuttle to Jalousie Beach (15 minutes away, with beautiful white sand) or ask local taxi driver Marcus to drive you to Anse Chastanet Beach (20 minutes away), where you'll find fantastic snorkelling
  • Take a day trip: Castries (St Lucia's main city) has colourful markets and lovely seafront eateries; Anse le Raye and Canaries (aka Kanawe) are pretty fishing villages; Soufriere has botanical gardens, a Friday night jump-up (street festival) and a Saturday market
  • Adrenaline junkies can charter a helicopter, zipline through the rainforest canopy, go scuba diving, head off horse riding, go whale and dolphin watching and hire mountain bikes from several nearby locations - enquire at reception

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Nightlife
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Well being
  • Whalewatching
  • Wildlife
  • Ziplining

Kids

Fond Doux is very family-friendly and children under 12 stay for free.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Each cottage can hold a baby cot and a rollaway bed, but space-wise we'd recommend 2-Bedroom Cottage Cocoa Tree or Avocado, or smaller families should opt for Deluxe 1-Bedroom Cottage Angelina. You may find it tricky carrying toddlers up to the hilltop rooms and their patio's have a steep drop off; you would need to keep a watchful eye near the triple cascading pools (there's no life guard).

Babysitting:

Baby-sitting can be arranged on request.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
6/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
9/
Overall

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