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Totting up your 2012 travel wishlist? Jade Mountain in St Lucia is worthy of going straight to the top…

Abundant in all the Caribbean vacation clichés (sun, sea, snorkelling, secluded sands), Jade Mountain has everyone feeling like a honeymooner. It’s an architectural triumph that insists visitors to this friendly island enjoy all the tropical paradise headline-grabbers in full: and then some (rum-tasting, rainforest hikes, in-room spa treatments).

Photogenic, quirky and eco, little wonder so many choose to host their weddings on the top terrace or in a Jade Mountain ‘sanctuary’ (how they’ve labelled their oh-so special suites). This exclusive hilltop hidden-in-the-jungle hotel has an otherworldly charm: walkways are festooned in flowers and foliage, and gemstone glass tiles give swimming pools pizzazz and make colourful artworks of stone pillars. Heck, how many luxury hotels can get away with not even having windows? And which island retreats promise private Piton-view infinity pools to watch sunset from? A few wedding and honeymoon resorts out there can be forgiven for looking a little sheepish by now…

‘We wanted Jade Mountain to feel like a natural extension of and a tribute to its island environment,’ owner Nick Troubetskoy told us over a superior dinner prepared by chef Jonathan Dearden. It’s a good deal they have a fine international wine cellar: Jade’s Canadian-Russian creator deserves a toast for designing every inch of this award-winning property. His charismatic German wife Karolin is the other half of the dynamic hotelier duo; she provides the smarts for the operation side and is the driving force behind their own organic farm, Emerald Estate (above left, bottom image). This verdant pocket of the Soufriere Hills provides micro-greens, vanilla beans, nutmeg, cinnamon and much of the exotic fruit on the menu.

This particular gaggle of Ms Smiths may not have been celebrating any nuptials, but we had fun ogling a glamorous bride and groom each day, and happily settled for yoga on the Celestial Terrace where others regularly say ‘I do’. The week before us, rugby star Gavin Henson had been filmed here for The Bachelor final; the hotel also appeared on the American dating show series in 2010. Clearly the dream rendezvous to wave goodbye to your single days: yet this romantic retreat proved perfect for a stylish all-girls escape too.

Rooms 29 suites, 24 with infinity pools, from US$950 a night for one of the four Sky suites, excluding 18% tax. Gavin Henson and this Ms Smith stayed in an out-of-this-world Sun Sanctuary (not together, thankfully) – this sprawling apartment-size space has private butler service and, as with all the rooms, has a sexy open-plan bathroom with a view of the great outdoors.

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