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I’m not by nature much of a beach forager and usually beaches devolve into a litany of little crimes for me — the coral cuts your feet; the sand is muck; the tide is too pushy. But Sugar Beach’s waterfront is the kind of cove you only see on brochures and secretly always suspected were airbrushed. The powdery white beach (it really is this time) arcs in an austerely elegant curve between the craggy bookends of St. Lucia’s two best-known landmarks, the Gros and Petit Pitons. The loungers are fat white mattresses shaded by shaggy palm umbrellas. The waves roll in with a gentle slap, and when the sun sets, its rays stipple the center of the seafront. On my first night back a wooden sailing sloop (you can rent it out by the day) trailing high sails floated by, backlit by the rose-tinged Caribbean clouds. Now that beach is just showing off, I thought.
But finally nothing really can compete with the Pitons themselves. The two volcanic mountains are craggy spuds, furry with tropical brush, and they look mythical, haunting, primordial. Locals call them the island’s twin breasts and the sense of almost maternal connection seems inevitable, because the Pitons are as tenacious and unmovable as St. Lucia itself — and just as storied, though you have to pry the stories out. I had always assumed they were uninhabited. But the day I left St. Lucia, a waiter at Sugar Beach told me that wasn’t true. Runaway plantation slaves moved up the slopes of the Gros Piton in the 18th century, cultivating gardens in the plateaus, living in pitted caves, and building a renegade world near the clouds. Hugging the sheltering mountain, they had really come home.
Raphael Kadushin lives in Madison, Wis., and writes for Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler and other magazines.