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St. Lucia has become one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean, with some very well recognized resorts. The majority of the resorts is concentrated in the northwest, in the Castries and Rodney Bay area, fringed by white-sand beaches and in the southwest region known as Soufriere, where you’ll find the more unique resorts built into the side of cliffs.
St Lucia possesses a wealth of natural beauty—lush mountains, a steaming sulphur volcano, 19,000 acres of rain forest, black- and white-sand beaches, rare colorful foliage and exotic wildlife.
Relatively unknown prior to 2000, St. Lucia is becoming one of the most popular Caribbean islands. Since the dawn of the new century, World Travel Awards has named it “the world’s leading honeymoon destination.” Local authorities estimate that 36% of the island’s business comes from visitors either getting married or else on a honeymoon here. At the same time, Natural History Magazine has honored St. Lucia as one of the 50 top eco-tourism destinations in the world. Filming of episode of the TV reality show, The Bachelor, has catapulted St. Lucia into fame.
For a small island, there’s plenty to do. The rain forest is an ideal place for hiking, mountain biking, bird-watching or standing near a waterfall to soak up the mist from its spray. There’s also whale- and dolphin-watching, snorkeling, kite-sailing, fishing and diving.
Where is St. Lucia?
Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands located in the eastern edge of the Caribbean. It’s approximately 21 miles south of Martinique and 90 miles northwest of Barbados. It is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on its eastern shores and the Caribbean Seas along the west coast. The calmer beaches are along the Caribbean coast line. Those beaches on the Atlantic coast have a bit more wave action. It’s a small island – just about 27 miles long and 14 miles wide with a central mountain range running the length of the island.
With St. Lucia’s gaining popularity, a number of airlines have increased flights to the island. With 2 airports, Hewanorra Airport in the south, which primarily handles the larger international flights, and George F.L. Charles Airport (SLU), formerly known as Vigie Airport, in the north, which handles the smaller planes, travelers have more choices in how they want to fly to St. Lucia.
In just 3 ½ hours from Miami or 4 hours from New York, St. Lucia has become easier to get to from the United States. Since the island is mountainous, the travel time from the Hewanorra Airport to the Rodney Bay area can take about 1 ½ hours by car. It is a winding road so those prone to motion discomfort might want to sit in the front of the taxi or consider a 20 minute helicopter flight between airports. You’ll get a great view of the scenery and arrive at your resort much faster. For those staying in the Soufriere area, the Hewanorra Airport can still be a 45 minute drive. American Eagle from San Juan flies into Vigie twice daily for those staying in the Rodney Bay area and prefer to cut down their transfer time once they arrive on island.
Why St. Lucia
The most popular attractions in St. Lucia are great beaches, stunning mountain scenery, a steaming volcano, plantations, bird-watching, turtle-watching, all forms of watersports (including scuba diving, sailing, snorkeling, windsurfing and kite-sailing), hiking, tennis and golf.
With all its natural beauty and hiking trails, St. Lucia is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts who want to visit a Caribbean island—especially if they prefer less-developed areas. But anyone who loves great beaches amid beautiful scenery and plenty of peace and quiet will be very happy in St. Lucia.
What not to miss in St. Lucia?
- On Friday nights the whole island, both locals and visitors, turns out for the local street party, or Jump-Up, at Gros Islet near Rodney Bay. Soca dance music blares from huge speakers. There’s beer and dancing (locals call it wining), and home-cooked food—grilled chicken, lambi (conch), rice and beans—is sold by vendors from grills set up on the street. The party lasts well past midnight. No matter where you are, every taxi driver knows the way.
- A similar party takes place at the same time in Anse la Raye. Tourists have been known to outnumber St. Lucians at the Gros Islet Jump-Up, so you might want to try out the Anse la Raye Friday Night Fish Fry to lime (socialize) with the locals, dance and sample seafood straight from the sea. Or hop from one party to another to enjoy the best of both.
- Castries public market is one of the most fascinating in the West Indies, and a great people-watching site. It’s busy every day of the week (but closed on Sunday) and is hopping on Friday and Saturday mornings. The market is located a block from Columbus Square along Peynier Street, running down toward the water. The vendors dress traditionally, with cotton headdresses; the number of knotted points on top reveals their marital status. Try some of the fruits and vegetables grown on the island. On St. Lucia, bananas ripen on the trees, and taste completely different from the ones we get back home- give one a try- they are much softer. You can also pick up St. Lucian handicrafts such as baskets and unglazed pottery at the market.
- The Diamond Mineral Baths in the Diamond Botanical Gardens. Within the lush tropical gardens is the Diamond Waterfall, one of the top attractions of the island. The water bubbling up from sulfur springs causes the waterfall changes colors (from yellow to black to green to gray) several times a day. The baths were built in the 18th century on the orders of Louis XVI, whose doctors advised him that these waters were similar in mineral content to the waters at Aix-les-Bains and they were intended to provide recuperative effects for French soldiers fighting in the West Indies. The baths have an average temperature of 106°F
- TIP: If you try out the recuperative effects for yourself, don’t wear a light colored swim suit or one that you care about. The mud may not come out of the fabric.
- The Pitons- the town of Soufriere is dominated by two pointed hills called Petit Piton and Gros Piton. The Pitons have become the very symbol of St. Lucia. Formed by lava and rock, and once active volcanos, they are now covered in lush vegetation. Their sheer beauty comes from how they rise from the sea with the waves crashing at their bases. Can you imagine waking up to this view every morning?
- TIP: If you want to hike the Pitons, you might be able to try climbing the Gros Piton but only with permission from the Forest and Lands Department and with a knowledgeable guide.
- Sulfur Springs Park- now maintained by the Soufriere Regional Development Foundation, Sulfur Springs is home to the “drive-through” volcano. While it is still referred to like that travel guides books, access to the area is now restricted for safety reasons, and visitors must park and walk along a series of paths. Located south of Soufriere, the springs are actually bubbling mud, hissing steam and seething sulfur .
- TIP- this area stinks- literally of sulfur. It is said to clear your sinuses. If you are particularly sensitive to strong odors, try rubbing something like Vicks Vapor rub under your nose to cover up the smell.
My Vacation Lady recommends at least a week in St. Lucia and if you have more time, we might recommend that you split your stay in 2 different resorts to get a better feel of the island.
If not, try out this 7 day itinerary for a combination of fun in the sun and sightseeing and adventure:
Day 1— Arrive in St. Lucia and check into your hotel. Explore your resort and check out all of its amenities.
Day 2—Relax and enjoy a nearby beach. All beaches are public in St. Lucia but you’ll find that many of the resorts are built on some of the best beaches.
Day 3—Spend the day at Pigeon Point. Visit the ruins, museum and historic Fort Rodney, and then relax on the beach or enjoy a spa treatment.
Day 4—See the sights in the Soufriere area and try snorkeling off the beach at Anse Chastanet.
Day 5—Spend half the day shopping and exploring the town of Castries and cool down in St. Lucia’s newest attraction- Our Planet- a one of a kind interactive museum/planetarium/conservation center which will teach you about climate, weather patterns, conservation, and the universe creation.
- Take a sunset cruise or a snorkeling catamaran tour.
- Go Zip Lining or Kayaking or take an ATV tour.
- Try deep sea fishing for Blue Marlin, Wahoo, Dolphin (Mahi Mahi), Tuna, or Sailfish.
- Take a watching or whale watching excursion off the coast of Soufriere.
- Go for a horseback ride in the Caribbean Sea.
- Mountain bike ride through the rainforest to Errard Waterfall and then go for a swim.
End your Friday night at one of the street fairs and dance and eat the night way
Day 7—Depart St. Lucia.