Fodor's In Focus Barbados & St. LuciaView Details
Where can you visit the world's only drive-in volcano, zip line through a rainforest, and relax in an Ayurvedic spa in one action-packed weekend? St. Lucia, a Caribbean island that makes for a fascinating long weekend getaway. Get ready to knock a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a "rum buffet" off your bucket list—all in less than 72 hours.
Some of the island's most impressive cuisine can be found on-site at resorts on either side of the island. If you're traveling a deux, don't miss the chance to dine at Dasheene, the restaurant at the romantic Ladera resort on the south side of the island. (You'll want to visit this side of the island for the unbelievable view of the UNESCO World Heritage Pitons.) Feast on typical St. Lucian dishes, including jerk poulet sausage, Caribbean lamb salad, or roast conch with pickled vegetables.
Nearby, you can book a night in one of the luxurious beachfront bungalows at Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, well worth the splurge. Modern, white-on-white accommodations (including private courtyards with Jacuzzis) meet a beach nestled directly between the two postcard-perfect Piton peaks, Petit Piton and Gros Piton. After a day on the beach, head to the hotel's sleek Cane Bar for a rum and cigar pairing, followed by a wine-focused, seafood-inflected meal at the Great Room.
On the other end of the island, stay for a night in the boutique Cap Maison hotel. It's the crown jewel on top of a private, ocean-front bluff facing the Caribbean Sea. Descend 92 steps to The Naked Fisherman Beach Bar & Grill to soak up a stunning sunset while dining on conch ceviche, ahi tuna tartare and sweet rock crab—all set against a crashing sea.
Visitors love getting their hands dirty at the world's only drive-in volcano, near the town of Soufrière ("sulfur" in French; the aroma is unmistakable) on the southwestern side of the island. For $32.50, you can visit the volcano, take a guided tour of the springs, and view a beautiful waterfall, then submerge in a holistic mud bath (some pools reach 110°F) known to purify skin and soothe insect bites along with sore muscles (in case you pulled one lounging on the beach). Note: Try to avoid getting mud in your hair, as it can take days to wash out.
Just down the road is Mourne Coubaril Plantation. Dating back to 1740, it offers an interactive experience for those interested in the island's coffee and sugar history, and also boasts a cool zip lining course. Friendly guides lead tours of the estate, point out indigenous plants, and perform live demonstrations and tastings of local products. You'll see an expert de-husk coconuts, then have a chance to drink the fresh juice. A beautiful view of the bay below makes for an excellent photo opp.
While some consider it a tourist trap, the bustling Castries Market on the north side of the island has been an institution since 1894. Visit early on a Saturday morning, and stalls will feature freshly caught fish and tropical fruits (stock up on mangoes, papayas, soursop, and passion fruit) along with island spices, rum liqueurs, and hot pepper sauces. Of course, baskets, pottery, and T-shirts make an appearance, too, but skip the trinkets and peruse the winding alleys outdoors instead: You'll discover freshly made street foods like roti, curried lentils, or salt cod with green "figs" (unripe bananas).
Don't make plans post-dinner if you're in St. Lucia on a Friday. On the northern side of the island, near Rodney Bay, you'll want to attend the island's weekly street party, called a Jump Up. The fishing village of Gros Islet plays host: Giant speakers bump dance music, while local vendors dish out barbecued meats and fish. There's potent rum punch, or grab a Piton beer (made on the island) if it will help you move your feet.
Getting a massage while suspended in the rainforest is hard to top, and Sugar Beach's Rainforest Spa creates an enchanting environment, with seven traditionally built tree-house treatment rooms and an earthen Amerindian steam dome—known as a temazcal. Massages and facials incorporate local ingredients like bamboo, coconuts, and bananas. On the north side of the island, visitors can book an appointment at health-conscious The BodyHoliday LeSport. If you're not staying at the hotel, you'll need a day pass: It’s $100 for a full day on-property (10 a.m.to 6 p.m.), but experiencing the unique Ayurvedic-inspired treatments is priceless.
Wondering how to toast a great trip? Visitors looking to learn about rum making on the island (and those who want factory prices for bottles) can book a Rhythm of Rum Tour at the St. Lucia Distillery for $10. The experience includes a "rum buffet" tasting of some 20 rums, including the smooth, award-winning Admiral Rodney. If that sounds daunting, trust in the island's famous hospitality to ensure you get back to your room safely: "If you get too drunk, don't worry, I'll carry you," says tour guide "Stormy" Norman Mercier.
Courtesy of Dasheene; Alexis Korman (mud bath, Castries Market); Courtesy of Sugar Beach (Rainforest Spa)
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