What you need to know about Balenbouche and St Lucia
Novel corona virus
For up to date information on travel guidelines and to fill our an application for entry, please visit https://www.stlucia.org/en/covid-19/
For up to date information on how the pandemic is affecting St Lucia, please visit https://www.covid19response.lc/
if you suspect that you have Covid, the best is to take an at home test, which we have available (it is also good to bring one with you).
You can also get tested at Laboratory Services & Consultations Limited in Beanfield Vieux Fort, a 20 minute drive from Balenbouche.
You do not need an appointment, but you should go as early as possible to avoid long waiting time and ensure on time results. The latest you can go for the test is 2 pm. Rapid test results are usually available within 1-2 hours, PCR tests take longer since they must be sent to the Ezra Long lab up North. Results can be emailed and/or collected in person.
If you prefer, a private doctor can do testing on site (US$ 80 per person, plus the cost of the test (US$ 100 for PCR and $35 for antigen).
Booking and Payment
We can sometimes make exceptions on a case by case basis, depending on the season and our other bookings. You can also pay for 3 nights and stay for 2.
The deposit is refundable up to 6 weeks before your arrival, unless you have booked through airbnb, booking.com or other agent, who may have a different cancellation policy. If you decide to cancel, we always allow you to credit your deposit towards a future stay!
We accept most credit cards via online payment with square or paypal, as well as cash (US, Euro or local EC), wire transfers, Zelle transfers, and checks
Rooms and Amenities
Yes – the cottages are generally cleaned every other day. As part of our eco-friendly practices, towels and sheets are changed as needed or by request. There is no fixed charge for personal laundry service but we kindly ask that you leave a tip for our staff.
Check-in is anytime after 3 pm and check out generally at 12 pm. Depending on other bookings, it may be possible to check in early or late. You can always stay on property, store your luggage and use the wifi and restroom/shower facilities at the main house.
Kids of all ages generally love our property and pets, and we have personally raised three kids at Balenbouche, the most recent being a 7 year old grandson. However, please keep in mind that the historic property and beaches are not particularly safe for young children – supervision is required at all times. If your child is allergic or particularly sensitive to insect bites, we do not recommend that you stay at Balenbouche. More about traveling to St Lucia with kids…
Our property is historic and therefore not particularly wheelchair friendly. However, the main grounds can be navigated with a wheel chair, and one of our cottages (Almond Cottage) is wheel chair accessible. We are happy to assist in any way we can!
The average temperatures are in the 80’s, and it never gets above 89 F. The buildings and bedrooms are designed to be naturally cooled without air conditioning. There are fans in every bedroom. In the winter months, it can drop into the low 70’s and many of our guests then use an extra blanket. The beds are protected by mosquito nets. Read about St Lucia weather…
Every night, you will be serenaded by our night creatures – tree frogs, toads, crickets, and grasshoppers. Once you get used to it after the first night, it is very soothing and actually helps people sleep. It can also drown out the occasional music from the nearby village on the weekend. The Caribbean is generally a noisy place however. Although we don’t have any immediate neighbors, the wind does carry sounds from the village and road.
Our Voltage is 240 and we have UK style square three pin outlets. Every cottage should have one or two travel adapters. If you don’t see one, please ask! If you have multiple devices, you can also bring your own. Most devices now are dual voltage, but if you need a step-down transformer from 240 V to 110V, we can provide you with one.
All our cottages now have wifi, which is fairly reliable. We have 3 separate broadband connections from telecommunications company FLOW. If you are working remotely, it is also strongly recommended to also get a mobile data plan from Digicel as a backup. One month with 10 GB of data is US$ 45.
Meals and Restaurants
Most of our guests do a combination of self catering, local restaurants and take- out, and our own home cooked meals. We are currently offering meal and grocery delivery to your cottage, including daily breakfast for US$ 15 and a dinner special for US$ 30 (3-4 times a week). Please let us know at least 12 hours in advance what you’d like and whether you have any dietary restrictions. More about dining at Balenbouche…
There is a fruit and vegetable stand and small convenience store just a 5 minute walk away, in the village of Piaye. The closest supermarket is the MASSY store in Choiseul (5 min drive). There are 3 larger MASSY stores in Vieux Fort, as well as an ethnic food store (Suzy’s variety aka Chitolie’s), a liquor and whole sale store (Uptowns) and a small dry goods store (Greene’s). There is also a gourmet store, Faye’s Gastronomie
The closest places to eat are two small snack places and a Just a Chill beach bar (pizza, BBQ, local meals and beach cafe style food) just a 5-15 minute walk in the village of Piaye. The closest restaurant is Eebelles (between Balenbouche and Laborie), which is a 5 minute drive and requires reservations (minimum of 4). Other restaurants are in Laborie and Vieux Fort (10 and 20 min drive). We recommend Aquarius on the bay, Mama Rose and Mama Tilly in Laborie, and Island Breeze and the Reef at Sandy beach in Vieux Fort. There is also a good the Richcrew Trinidadian restaurant near the airport. More about St Lucia restaurants…
Location and Transportation
We are off the beaten path, but easy to find. From Hewanorra International airport (UVF), it’s about a 25 min drive. Follow the main road through Vieux Fort, past Laborie. After the Piaye bridge, you will see a school and sports field on your left. Balenbouche is just around the next large blind corner; look for a sign on your left.
Coming from Soufriere, the closest larger village is Choiseul. Two minutes after crossing the River Doree bridge, the sign and entrance will be on your right at the end of a straight stretch of road.
From the North (Castries, Gros Islet, Rodney bay, GFL Charles airport (SLU) or the Ferry Terminal), it is easier and quicker to take the East Coast road via Vieux Fort (about 1 hour 30 minutes). The West Coast road is scenic but very steep and winding, and actually takes about 20 minutes longer.
We recommend renting a car at least for a few days, and can help arrange this. Rental cars are cheaper than taxis and a lot more convenient than the local buses which don’t have a schedule and only drive certain routes. Driving is on the left, and you will need a local driving permit, which is valid for 3 months and costs US$ 22 (fee is waived if you have an international drivers license). The daily rate for a small car is US$ 65 – 75 or US$ 75 – 90 for a 4-wheel drive, including tax and a collision damage waiver. More about getting around St Lucia…
We can arrange airport transfers with our certified driver or you can use the designated taxis at the airports. A taxi from Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) costs US$ 30. George FL Charles (castries – st lucia airport code SLU) is a 1 ½ hour drive and the rate is US$ 100. From Soufriere, you can expect to pay about US$ 60 – 70. if you don’t have much luggage and are feeling adventurous, you can also get a local bus to Balenbouche – contact us for detailed directions.
The closest ATM and supermarket is at the Choiseul MASSY Supermarket, just a 5 minute drive away. We are also happy to exchange or advance some cash. The town of Vieux Fort has a larger supermarket at the Gablewoods Mall (20 minute drive) as well as several banks. Small village shops and vegetable stands in Piaye, Laborie, and Choiseul carry a few basics.
Our two beautiful black sand beaches are within a 5 minute walk. Balenbouche Beach is easily accessible and has shallow water, rough seas and rocky bottom, but you can wade and take a dip. Middle beach is just as close, but the steps are very steep and require a certain level of fitness. There, the bottom is mostly sandy and swimming is good close to shore, but beware of currents further out. Piaye beach is a bit calmer and is a 10 minute walk (there is also a beach bar there). Laborie Bay and Anse de Sable in Vieux Fort, some of the best beaches in St Lucia, are only a 10 and 20 minute drive away. Read more about St Lucia Beaches and beach activities…
The closest attractions, apart from those on our property, are the river doree beach and Piaye beach (15 and 20 min walk) and the saltibus rainforest trail and waterfall, (20 min drive, 4 wheel drive and guide required). Laborie (10 min drive) has a beautiful beach, viewing point, and local village with restaurants and bars, kayak rentals, and monthly fish fry. Choiseul is very small, but has an impressive church and the arts and craft center. Ready to explore St Lucia off the beaten path? Read more about our favorite attractions in the South
Health and Safety
Mosquitoes are always present to an extent, but they are not as bad here as in the summer months in the northern hemisphere. We have several ways of controlling mosquitoes, including mosquito eating fish and BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacteria which destroys the larvae). After you’ve lived on the island for a while, your body adjusts and mosquitoes don’t bother you much.
For our Balenbouche estate guests, the best defenses are: Sleeping under the mosquito nets, wearing repellent and light, long-sleeved clothing, burning citronella or incense, and using the standing fans. Some insect bites are caused by sand flies found on or near the beach and in large grassy or sandy areas. Mosquito borne viruses such as Dengue Fever, Chikungunya and Zika break out periodically, but the risk to visitors is very low and they rarely cause serious complications.
Yes, most definitely, since we are surrounded by nature and the buildings are open plan and not screened. However, there is nothing poisonous or really harmful! The insects you will typically encounter are mosquitoes, moths, spiders, beetles and roaches. We strongly advise that you put all food in the fridge or plastic containers, and the organic waste in the small buckets with lids. We do put out roach bait, but try to minimize the use of toxic chemicals. We live more or less in harmony with the ecosystem and encourage our visitors to try the same. So, if you are squeamish about bugs, Balenbouche Estate is not for you!
The most common wildlife are birds, lizards (anoles), geckos, the small coqui frogs and the large cane toads. These all help control the insect population. Apart from that, you might catch a glimpse of a possum, mongoose, tree rat or mouse. Rodents are kept in check by our cats, and occasional traps. Finally, we have 3 tortoises, a few cows, two horses, and 6 friendly dogs. The dogs serve as security, tour guides and companions. As much as we seek to co-exist with all life in and around our property, please do let us know if any of the large or small critters become a nuisance.
The crime rate on the island is fairly high, so we like to be cautious. As a general rule, lock your valuables in the rooms/closets provided or leave them with us for safekeeping. We also lock our bedrooms at night, and suggest you do the same. Our dogs do a good job of alerting us whenever someone enters the property, and our family and staff who live on property is always on alert. All st lucia beaches are public, so we cannot control access. Please do not take any valuables to the beach, and report any suspicious activity on or near the property.
The tap water is drinkable and comes from a nearby spring, after which it is treated and piped in by public works. Up until 1998, we used only rain and river water, and still have this as a back up and for watering plants etc. We filter the tap water with a simple Brita filter which takes out some of the chlorine and improves the taste. We discourage the use of single use plastic bottles. As you know, the quality of bottled water is often not even as good as tap water.
All our cottages are equipped with a fire extinguisher, and we have an extensive first aid kit at the main house. Your room keys have a small whistle or alarm which you can activate in an emergency. On occasion, we experience heavy storms or flooding. For this there will be adequate warning and we will take all necessary precautions. Earthquakes are rare but small tremors do occur.
Our liability policy currently only covers certain organized tours. We are not responsible for any injuries or lost and stolen items. Please take the necessary precautions such as reading the information and signage provided, keeping your valuable items in a safe place, and making responsible choices in keeping with your health and level of fitness. We encourage getting an individual travel insurance and/or checking with your credit card company what it covers.
The nearest ambulance is stationed 15 minutes away, the closest health center 10 minutes and the nearest hospital (St Judes) 20 minutes. Medical services on the island however are basic and serious injuries or special procedures are often done in Martinique. The private hospital up north (Tapion) probably offers the best care, but there is also a brand new hospital OKEU. The old Victoria Hospital has now become the designated respiratory clinic for Covid patients.
Activities and Events
Our certified yoga instructor is available several days a week, and can come by prior appointment to lead a class with a minimum of 4 people. For smaller groups, we sometimes offer an informal class led by a family member, and of course you are always free to use the yoga space for your personal practice. More about yoga and wellness…
Yoga classes and massages should be booked at least 48 hours in advance to ensure availability of the yoga instructor and massage therapist who will travel to Balenbouche by appointment. Yoga classes are US$ 20-30 per person, and massages are between US$ 60 and $100.
Balenbouche Estate is the ideal venue for retreats. On average, we host 3-4 international groups per year, as well as several local weekend or week-long retreats. Group sizes vary between 6 and 14 people. Retreats are usually advertised many months in advance, with an “early bird” option. More about our retreats…
Typically, our retreats are closed events and we do not take other bookings for rooms or meals during that time. However, if a retreats does not fill completely, we may open up one or two cottages 2-3 months before the retreat. Many retreats are open to local residents, who can purchase a day-package including lunch or dinner. More about our retreats…
Occasionally, on average once or twice a month, we have a wedding or other event at Balenbouche. Typically, all events must end by 10 pm, in consideration of Balenbouche guests and residents. The only exception is if a group books ALL of the accommodations for a private event, in which case there is no cut-off time. More about Balenbouche weddings…
Yes, on most occasions, it is possible to camp at Balenbouche Estate for US$15 – $20 per person per night. We do not provide tents or official camping facilities, but we do offer restrooms, an outdoor hot shower, a place for keeping valuables, wifi, breakfast (US$ 15) and a very private and beautiful natural environment. Please contact us for further details. More about camping in St Lucia…
Property and Owners
Balenbouche produced sugar and rum from the late 1700’s to the 1930’s. After sugar, the main crops were cotton, citrus, coffee, cocoa and coconuts (copra). Since the early 1990’s, we only keep some livestock and grow a small amount of organic vegetables and fruits largely for our own consumption. More about the history of Balenbouche…
Uta is originally from Germany but has lived abroad since her mid 20s (Europe, India, Thailand, Japan, USVI). Her ex-husband, whose parents originally purchased Balenbouche in 1964 is from St Croix, with a Danish West Indian ancestry. Roy and Uta moved to St Lucia in the early 1980’s in an attempt to save and revitalize the family estate. Verena and Anitanja have lived in St. Croix, St Lucia, the US, Germany, UK and the Dominican Republic. More about the Lawaetz family…
Uta and some of the staff live on the estate permanently. Our work team consists of 4-5 full time staff and occasional contractors and volunteers. Verena is there most of the year but sometimes leaves for a few months in the summer. Anitanja lives on island and visits frequently but currently works elsewhere.
English and German fluently, Conversational French and a little Italian and Spanish.
“Balenbouche is indeed a world within itself exuding a tranquil presence of warmth, hospitality and harmony.”
+ 1 (758) 455-1244
P.O. Box VF 707, LC12101, St Lucia
Copyright 2019 Balenbouche Estate