When I got word of a new music festival launching in St. Lucia—Rise Up St. Lucia, featuring two of my favorite reggae acts—I needed no convincing to hop a flight. At first glance, I knew that Rise Up had all the ingredients of a dream weekend. I was very, very right. Here’s why you should hurry up to book Rise Up for 2018.
Reggae star Sizzla at sea in Soufriere, St. Lucia (PHOTO: Jonathan Philip)
SOUFRIERE Every square inch of St. Lucia is lusciously beautiful. But the humble southern town of Soufriere is so magically magnificent, I count it among my favorite places on earth. There are two reasons for this: Gros Piton and Petit Piton, St. Lucia’s so-called twin peaks, its signature UNESCO World Heritage Site. It seems as if every angle in Soufriere is in homage to the Pitons, who tower above the region like nature’s version of Stonehenge, creating a mystical spectacle that is inimitably beautiful from all vantage points. Add to that sulphur spring baths, mineral waterfalls, volcanoes, black-sand beaches, stunningly lush greenery and the town of Soufriere itself—a charming place that time forgot—and you’ll forget there’s a rest-of-the-island worth exploring.
LADERA RESORT This storied Soufriere property—officially ranked in my top-five-hotels-in-the-world list—is feted less for what it has than what it doesn’t have: a fourth wall. The only resort in St. Lucia located on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, overlooking the Pitons and the Caribbean Sea, Ladera has 32 suites akin to luxurious treehouses, one wall knocked off to expose a view that is drop-dead gorgeous. This makes for perfect Piton worshipping at all hours—and causes the irrepressible desire to do nothing other than drink in that Soufriere visual magic. Ladera is the ultimate local-meets-luxury property—it feels so fundamentally St. Lucian. Suites are constructed of tropical hardwoods, Soufriere stone and furniture and art made onsite by local craftsmen; food at the divine Dasheene Restaurant is as local, fresh and delectable as it gets, from the homemade banana jam and creole bread basket at breakfast to a just-caught catch of the day served on just-picked greens. I stayed at Ladera once, about a decade ago, and imagined that there was no way to improve on perfection—but then I checked into one of the new Paradise Ridge suites and immediately changed my mind. The room was nothing short of palatial, complete with a shower as big as most hotel rooms and a romantic swing hanging over what is billed as a plunge pool but is actually a flat-out pool. Ladera.com
Reggae star Jah Cure serenading thousands at the Rise Up St. Lucia concert (PHOTO: Jonathan Philip)
REGGAE The Rise Up organizers selected their headliners carefully: Jamaican singers Sizzla and Jah Cure do not have songs—they have catalogues. The concert, the weekend’s big event, thus boasted stellar performances and a packed house. The outdoor Soufriere Stadium was transformed into reggae central, with a VIP Remy Lounge serving Remy Martin-infused cocktails and a Spiced Food Buffet offering delicious local bites. Artists performed hit after hit until the sun seemed poised to raise over the glorious Pitons, witnesses to the vibe.
COMMUNITY WORK Nothing wins me over like the marriage of luxury and local—and the union of fun and purpose. Partnered with RISE St Lucia, an NGO dedicated to the healthy development of St Lucia’s youth, the Rise Up Community Program has artists collaborate with public and private organizations for impactful initiatives that empower Caribbean youth. In connection with the show, there was a self-development workshop session for teenage students at the Upton Gardens Girls Centre and a visit to Bordelais Correctional Facility to discuss educational opportunities that promote public safety. Riseupslu.com
Baz Dreisinger , CONTRIBUTOR
I am: writer, globetrotter, professor, culture-hound. Born and raised in New York City, with one foot fixed in the Caribbean, I have written about travel, the arts and identity politics for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and many more; I produce on-air segments about global music and culture for National Public Radio (NPR). I am ceaselessly curious, fearless in my journeys, relentlessly ravenous to see and learn more. My global routes marry luxury with local, which is the essence of this travel blog: Welcome to a place where wanderlust meets culture-lust, where otherworldly high-end meets rootsy down-home.