St. Lucia Trip Report

Old Aug 8th, 2004, 10:53 AM
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St. Lucia Trip Report

Having read threads of people "waxing euphoric" on the beauty of St. Lucia, I may not have the most popular view here, but here goes. Took a big chance and booked our stay at Coco Kreole, a newly remodelled hotel in Rodney Bay. As it was too new and under new ownership, I found no reviews on Trip Advisor. Big mistake. Room to room noise very apparant (so much so I had to ask our neighbors to lower their voices at 11 pm) street noise with barking stray dogs and club goers in their loud cars & boom boxes. I booked here since I didn't want to rent a car the whole time, and it looked as if one could walk to a fair amount of restaurants, as well as a nice beach. From the moment we arrived (tired and with no luggage) my husband & I were hounded: first to buy drugs outside of the place we ate for dinner, then we were given a sales pitch by a self-appointed St. Lucia ambassador while walking on the beach trying to get some peace & quiet. I'm not sure what he was selling, maybe a tour or tickets to something, but I shut him down after he stalked us a few hundred yards. The next morning, the mission was to get out of the hotel and find a new one in (what I thought would be ) the better, southern part of the island. After booking the 2nd rental car (the first one had no AC, so be sure you ask) we set off to Stonefield Estates in Soufriere, thanking God that Expedia gave us a refund on Coco Kreole and that we didn't have to book a $300 room at Ladera. Key point here: I'd read statements such as "driving is for the most adventurous" and "the roads have potholes." I consider us to be adventurous people - we had no problem navigating the narrow roads of Bermuda on a scooter, we both ride outdoor motorcyles on dirt roads, and my husbnad is an excellent stick shift driver. The roads in places are washed away (not just simple potholes) and one must go extremely slowly, so as to not cause damage to the car. When we reached Soufriere, almost 2 hours later, we were in no mood to deal with the beggers who attached themselves to our car like tarantulas and asked for money, preying on the fact they new we were disoriented & looking for the right road. After leaving the village's poverty and starving dogs behind, we found ourselves on the worst road yet, but met up with a taxi driver who assured us we were almost at Stonefield. We pulled in feeling we had just completed a marathon, and we hoped for the best. We spent the following 8 nights at Stonefield. They bill themselves as an eco-resort, and that's probably very accurate. It's a lot like camping and if one expects the "star" system rating in the Caribbean to equal that of the states you will be disappointed. We though were desparate for a new room and didn't wanted to pay what we felt was a stiff price for other alternatives (many which were booked anyway). So we knew about no AC, and no TV and the "lush" rainforest atmosphere. Keep in mind this means only a ceiling fan and if you have any difficulty with humidity 24/7 this could be a problem, and very loud rain at night on the tin roof, so loud it would wake us. The mosquito netting was dicey as we still got bitten anyway. Towels were threadbare and often not replenished fully. The tile floor was consistently dusty, not very clean. We did have kitchen facilities but by then my energy for food prep was zapped. We did return to the village to buy drinks to keep in the fridge. The no TV part we got over but the difficulty in communication was aggravating: no nearby place to buy phone cards, our cell phones happened not to work there, and Stonefield's computer had difficulty in allowing me to send email messages, though I could receive them. (Please know the sole purpose of our need for email was to keep on top of news about our pets at home - we are not internet surfing addicts who couldn't bear to be without our technology!) Stonefield's view, pool, tour arrangements, and restaurant are its biggest assests. Very lovely staff who treat guests well. Again, I think for what they are striving for which is very low frills villas in a back to nature environment, they've succeeded. Would I have pre-booked this from the states? Probably not. I don't need a Ritz Carlton but need to feel a bit more pampered. Also, couldn't seem to escape the nightly noise of the barking dogs down here either! I have 3 dogs at home - don't need that on vacation! The beach directly below Stonefield is rocky and not worth the hike, so we rode over to the Hilton to visit their beach. Don't bring your own towels to the Hilton or the staff will ask for a chair fee, since you stick out as a non-guest. My husband had 3 excellent dives off the beach and I enjoyed snorkeling. We returned to the Hilton for a few meals, including one at "Bang" with the entertainment, and to visit the spa, which was fine. Really enjoyed the hike thru the rainforest. We also ate at Ladera which has wonderful food and views. We saw a room there but, though it was a category up from Stonefield, could not see how the rates were justified. We made the trip to Anse Chastenet, but I thought the Hilton Beach was better. Anse Chastenet says they are purposely not fixing the (horrendous) road that gets you there from the main drag so that they can keep the locals from coming in to the (public) beach. I beg to differ: they probably want to keep guests discouraged from leaving so that all their $$ can be spent there! This in a nut shell was where my husband and my previous vacation mo's of taking a car and exploring did not pay off. Once you hit your resort, you're better off staying there, probably for 4-5 days and then visiting another island. Maybe longer if you're on a honeymoon and all you want is solitude. Eleven nights was way too long! Our mistake. We spent the last 2 nights at Windjammer since it became clear at Stonefield that we wouldn't be able to negotiate the awful road back to the northern airport at 3 am to catch a 6 am flight. Really liked Windjammer: good rooms
withAC, nice, but somewhat crowded beach (lots of families so don't book for the solitude) and the water is murky, so good for swimming, not snorkeling. Food was very good if not spectacular and service was great. All villas are located on a steep bluff so a shuttle gets you to-and-from. & you are only 20 minutes from the Castries airport (albeit down another horrendous road). Yes the pitons are beautiful, yes some tours are worth it, but I would advise a shorter stay at (sorry to say since I'm not a huge "chain" fan) the Hilton, which seemed a little more "resort" like, though I still feel overpriced. I know I may sound cold about the poverty we ran into: this was why, being a rare Caribbean traveller (only been to St. Thomas and St. John) that I ruled out certain places like Jamaica (yay, poverty and drugs) and Curaca(more starving or dead dogs). I live in Los Angeles and am up against this every day, don't need to pay for the privelge of seeing it on vacation. Do I need to go to St. Barts or the Caymens to avoid this?!
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Old Aug 8th, 2004, 04:09 PM
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Heather: I don't disagree with anything you say but to be fair, there is alot of robust banter about St. Lucia on this and on other travel boards about the very same experiences you had. You took a gamble by staying at a hotel that you could not get any feedback on. You no doubt heard from others about the perils of driving in St. Lucia, and how bad Soufriere is. I know that I heard all of these things before I went so my wife insisted that we stay at the Hilton so that we did not need to leave the resort. My wife begged me not to rent a car (and I did anyway, and only used it two days). We were hit up for money in Soufriere and found the restaurants few and far between. The driving at best was exhausting. I don't think I will ever visit St. Lucia again, but I am glad that we tried it. (And I wish I had listened to my wife more).
 
Old Aug 9th, 2004, 06:12 AM
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I have been to St Lucia twice - it was the first place we went to in the Caribbean - and have since traveled all over the region to many islands.

I also do not disagree with anything that you had to say or your impressions of the island.

YES! You do need to go to St Barts or the Caymans or Hawaii. Those are places I would never go because, imho, they have been white-washed to a level of commerciality and soulessness that does not appeal to me, but MANY MANY people love those places and go back to them year after year trying to avoid exactly the experience you had in St Lucia. Based on what you said you are looking for, I think any of those places would make good choices for you.

As the other poster mentioned, all of what you experienced is well known to anyone who has done in-depth research on St Lucia.

I'm sorry your vacation was not relaxing. I never suggest STL for newbies to the region - it's too intense for those who have not already been out and about in the Caribbean. (That's one of the things we find so interesting about it - it has retained a lot of its true flavor, and is not a "manufactured" experience. Some people like that, some people don't.)

If you liked St John, you will love Caymans, Hawaii or St Barts. Be sure to check them out for your next vacation. Better luck next time!

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Old Aug 9th, 2004, 06:17 AM
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Hi HeatherV. I felt sooooo bad for you reading your report, especially after seeing the length of your stay.
Hopefully that will be a lesson to people: Never be the guinea pig at a new resort!
We went to St. Lucia a few years ago. Although we didn't have any bad experiences, it's not an island we'll go back to (resort and food were just ok). The island itself is beautiful (the pitons, the picturesque fishing villages), but when we go to the Caribbean we want gorgeous beaches with crystal-clear water and we felt St. Lucia didn't offer that.
 
Old Aug 9th, 2004, 11:29 AM
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To Diana: I learned a valuable lesson on the benefits of doing more exhaustive research: I think I got a preview of the good and the bad, just not the ugly. Also, this post was not meant too simply vent, it will hopefully give a snapshot of some of the things I didn?t find out prior to departure. Sometimes gambling pays off: I?ve had some wonderful lodging experiences staying in no-frills guesthouses on local people?s property. But at some point, a gamble on a place you can?t get feedback on may backfire.

If I have to travel to places like St. Barts to exchange depressing poverty for "commerciality and soullessness" then call me shallow and point me to the nearest day spa and Dior boutique on the island! Yep, silly me - my husband and I do work hard and go on vacation to relax. We both wholeheartedly support getting to know the locals and learning more about the culture (I wouldn't trade experiences like I've had to that effect in Europe for the world) but not at the expense of our safety and wallet. I'll remain optimistic that there is some middle ground here on some of the other Caribbean islands since I am not looking for a Sandals or Disney experience by any means. If there are any ideas out there I would love to hear them - esp. if there is good scuba and snorkeling involved.

Thanks!
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Old Aug 9th, 2004, 01:16 PM
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Heather-
I'm sorry you feel that way about St. Lucia. But as some other posters said, it's not for everyone.
The fact is that St. Lucia is a developing country. As a result, there is poverty, and things arent the same as at home (wherever that might be for you). And unfortunately the economy relies heavily on tourism, and even the most impoverished know that.
Perhaps you would prefer some of the more developed islands: St. Maarten, Antigua, etc. for the quiet beachy holiday that you want.
I've lived in St. Lucia for over two years and love it. It doesnt have all the bells and whistles that other islands do, but it's still my favorite. AND i would still recommend Coco Kreole to anyone; my parents stayed there recently as part of a package, and loved it.
better luck on your next vacation...
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Old Aug 9th, 2004, 02:18 PM
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This site is a wealth of information , even without having actually visited a destination we can fairly well determine which island would suit our personal tastes .I have gathered that at this point in my life islands like Aruba , St.Barts , St.Thomas ,Anguilla are simply not for me . Some due to topography , some due to being a bit too refined for me . Through this site I have gathered that St.Lucia , Martinique , Grenada , St.Vincent and the Grenadines are islands I cant wait to visit . This is not to say I do not appreciate the honesty of advice , just to point out what one person loves the other might detest , and vice versa . Funny thing , the place I visited that I found the most upsetting and disturbing due to begging and poverty was Paris , the city of light , go figure ,guess I just wasnt expecting it ! I know I will see poverty in St.Lucia , perhaps get asked to buy a few things , I am prepared . For me it still has the most allure . Thanx to all , Faith.
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Old Aug 9th, 2004, 03:54 PM
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I agree with Faithie. Having been to the more developed islands we stepped out going to St. Lucia---completely blown away with its beauty--however, I did a lot of research and was not suprised at all with what I saw. It is just hard to get the natural, undeveloped feel in many other commercialized Caribbean countries. HeatherV----sorry you had that experience. I can see how what you described could have easily happened. As for us---water taxis, the Hilton and occasional land taxis to Castries worked well. We could usually get a water taxi for $50 per person for a half day---(time is no problem) or $150 on land for a full day.

Having been to about 10 islands it is no doubt the loveliest we've been to. Cheers!
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Old Aug 10th, 2004, 04:34 AM
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I too am sorry that HeatherV did not take to St Lucia. It is certainly one of my favourite islands but I would say that for a first timer whose tastes run along the lines of Caymans or St Barts, it could be a bit of an experience. St Lucia suits those looking for a more authentic Caribbean experience. I was there approximately 3 years ago for the jazz festival - my 6th visit. My friend and I stayed at Bay Gardens Hotel which was just fine. It is not on the beach but it is close enough, locally owned, very well kept, the rooms are large and tastefully decorated, a good restaurant on site, delicious food mainly local fare and the price - I think it was something like 80.00 per night. Could'nt be beat. In addition to taking in the jazz events, my friend and I drove the length of the island down to Soufriere to visit a relative of mine and elswhere in the interior (ate at the Still) and I do not us recall having any problems with the roads. The only thing I recall thinking was about the steepness of some of the roads but other than that it was smooth sailing all the way. HeatherV must have taken some out of the way backroads or the roads have simply deteriorated since our visit. As for the poverty, that is to be expected no matter where you go on this planet. It has never affected my visits to St Lucia. In fact I was more impacted by poverty on a recent trip to Toronto where while walking downtown we noticed all manner of vagrants on every street corner it seemed (moreso than on previous visits to that city) and we were approached more than once for money etc. And yes, it was very offputting and unexpected.
Anyway HeatherV I hope your experience does not put you off visiting the islands in the future and I would say based on the sentiments expressed in your posting that you should look into Cayman, Bermuda, maybe Nevis, St Barts, Anguilla, St John's - any one of which should meet your expectation in terms of what you desire in an island vacation.
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Old Aug 10th, 2004, 06:25 PM
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We have visited a number of Caribbean islands and can afford to stay at nice hotels. I still say St. Lucia is the only island we did not like. It is the only place I have ever been car sick, the only place I have ever lost luggage and not been able to deal with the airport people, the only place I have ever complained about the rain and the only place that the bugs seemed to have mistaken me for their dinner. And it was more expensive than anywhere else we have ever been in the Caribbean. The important thing is to be a good researcher and and travel to places that truly have what you need/want in a vaction.
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Old Aug 10th, 2004, 06:54 PM
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Heather: rule one in researching personal travel reports is know your own tastes and recognize when others don't share yours. If you love a nice, clean, safe resort with plenty of amenities, the opinions of those who love camping and budget travel will not only be of little value to you, they can actually guide you in the wrong direction. Figuring out which opinions you can bank on for your travel purposes takes a little time, but can pay off big when you can avoid bad/disappointing travel experiences (like the one you sadly recounted above).
If you like American style travel with good service, good food, and nice accommodations you have to be vary careful in the Caribbean. Far more places will disappoint rather than please you.
St. Bart's is not at all soulless IMO. It has a lot more uniqueness and cultural flair than places like Aruba, Grand Cayman and Nassau.
You won't find anyplace in the Caribbean with the same standard of living as Bermuda.
But you can find a few places with very nice compromises, and without the negatives you're seeking to avoid.
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Old Aug 10th, 2004, 09:09 PM
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Ted: I guess that explains why I loved Bermuda so much! And yes, your points on doing the right research are dead on. Lesson learned.
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Old Aug 11th, 2004, 06:42 AM
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Since I'm already committed to going to St Lucia at the end of the month, reading this report has me more dismayed. This was an impulse trip -- and I havne't had a happy day since I've read about "snakes", "bugs" etc. I'm not a novice traveler and I don't expect to take all of my "comforts" with me. However, I did expect to enjoy this trip as I have through many Caribbean countries. I will be staying at the Windjammer and I guess that's all I'll see becuase it doesn't sound like I'd be missing much outside their perimeter. At least I'm only there for 4 nights -- I'm I can hack it.
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Old Aug 11th, 2004, 08:08 AM
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Heather: I'm very sorry that after your intial research and calculated risk that you were so disappointed by your trip to St. Lucia. I hope that with more research in the future that you're able to find an island that's a perfect fit for you.

Requestaword: Take heart. My first trip to the Caribbean a few years ago was to St. Lucia, and I've been a hopeless addict ever since. My then-partner had always loved the Caribbean and twisted my arm to go. As a native of Mississippi, I was certainly not looking forward to a vacation where the sun was even hotter and the humidity just as high, but he promised that I could pick the next vacation spot so I gave in with good grace. I've been back to the Caribbean quite a few times since that first trip, but I've never found a place that equals, or even rivals, St. Lucia for sheer natural beauty. With a bit of luck and a determination to have a good time, your vacation at Windjammer could be much closer to my experience than to Heather's. I wish you the bet.
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Old Aug 11th, 2004, 08:35 AM
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Requestaword - your trip to St Lucia is going to be fine. Just go with an open mind. And please do venture out and see the place rather than staying walled up at the resort. St Lucia is a beautiful island and it would be a shame for you to miss it on account of one person's experience.
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Old Aug 11th, 2004, 08:45 AM
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TedTurner: Well said.
Requestaword: I really hope you don't just stay at the resort. What's the point of going to new places if you do that? If you do venture out, whatever your final thoughts on St. Lucia end up being, at least they will be based on your own true experience
 
Old Aug 11th, 2004, 08:46 AM
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I wholeheartedly agree with ejcrowe and Enya. I think you will be pleasantly surprised and hope that you have a truly wonderful time. Please post a trip report upon your return.
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Old Aug 11th, 2004, 09:07 AM
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St Lucia was also my very first trip to the Caribbean in 1992.
We fell madly in love with the culture, the exotic beauty and the people, and have been going to the region ever since once or twice a year and made it back to St Lucia in 1997.

Our first trip to STL, we were out and about the entire time - bicycle trip into Castries, horseback riding at Trim's, island tour, catamaran trip, SCUBA diving, etc.

Yes, when we first flew into the (then a wooden hut) airport, we were amazed at the sights and sounds and a bit intimidated, but travel to many places in this world that are new and exciting requires an open mind, and a willingness to have completely different experiences than one is used to.

I think finding a place where people put almost NO stock in what you own or what you do, but what type of person you are, is most refreshing, and we have become almsot addicted to the lack of trappings necessary to make lifelong friends and have amazing revelations every time we go.

I believe one's choice of a vacation spot is VERY personal, and what is Nirvana to me could be torture to someone else.

If we've learned nothing else here on this board, it's that "to each his/her own" and you'd BETTER do extensive research if you want to avoid disappointment, and even then, there's no guarantee.
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Old Aug 11th, 2004, 11:08 AM
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I want to personally thank everyone for giving a positive spin on my upcoming trip. I promise to post a trip report and to give the good and bad experiences. I reside in NYC and work one block from the Stock Exchange -- I really need this break in my routine and will keep an open mind (if I can live here -- St Lucia should be a joy).
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Old Aug 12th, 2004, 10:08 AM
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I don't think there's anything new to add about STL, except my personal experience.

My wife and I stayed a week at Anse Chastenet in Soufiere and a week at the Royal St. Lucian in Castries in May '03. We loved every minute and look forward to going there again.

There were a million things to do in and near Soufiere. We hiked 1,000 feet down a rainforest path to a waterfall, visited a volcano, sailed, snorkeled and went scuba diving (the first time for both of us). We ate in restaurants and grocery shoped in Soufiere (we always used the same driver and relied on him to help us with local customs, like giving a little tip to the child who bags your groceries at the grocery store). The people were friendly and helpful and we never ahd any experiences with snakes. In fact the Ranger who guided us down the path said he rarely sees them and he lives in the forest. The three best places in Castries are Anse, Hilton and La Dera and each has positives and minuses. Personally, I'd choose Anse again has it's more activities oriented. La Dera has awesome rooms and views and the Hilton has a lot of bigger hotel conveniences. If you do enough research you'll find plusses and minuses about each, as with any place.

In Castries, as it's more urban, we did less activities and more city-oriented stuff. We spent a few days walking through the town, taking the local bus to and from the Royal. The restaurants were better in Castries but it's city vs. country. I golfed, we shopped at the huts near the pier and swam off of white sand beaches. The only down side was when a cruise ship came in prices went up.

Sure there was poverty in places in STL but certainly no worse than in the States. In fact, because of all the local fruit trees, they grow everything there, there's no hunger.

I feel bad for Heather but her experience is testimony to the benefits of research.

BTW, we spent ten days in Turks and Caicos in June and there's another absolutely phenominal island! That is if you like water and beach activities.
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