Sunshine, adventure, romance, rejuvenation…St. Lucia offers all that and more.
One of the most beautiful Caribbean islands, St. Lucia’s blends its natural appeal—lush rainforest, hidden waterfalls, mountain views, and pristine beaches—with an authentic Creole culture, as evidenced by the spicy cuisine, lilting accent, and laid-back attitude. Most resorts are in the north, but you don’t really know St. Lucia unless you’ve been to Soufrière, the original French colonial capital, and visited the intriguing “drive-in volcano,” meandered through the brilliant botanical gardens, explored a historic plantation or two, and viewed the iconic Pitons from every angle. But St. Lucia is not just about seeing, it’s also about doing: swimming, sailing, dancing, eating, hiking, biking, horseback riding, diving, snorkeling…the list is as long as your own interests.
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Take a Break at Marigot Bay
Soak in the sight of one of the prettiest natural harbors in the Caribbean, just five miles south of Castries. Daysail excursions along the island’s west coast all make a side trip into Marigot Bay just because it’s so lovely. Arrive on your own to hang around Capella Marina, ogle at the beautiful sailboats and yachts, enjoy a waterside lunch, toast the sunset, or have a classy dinner. A tiny ferry takes passengers back and forth across the bay to a tiny beach—the voyage takes a minute or so.
Indulge Yourself at a Spa
Just about every large resort in St. Lucia—even many small hotels—boast an onsite spa, but two resorts stand out from the rest. The Body Holiday, at the northern tip of the island in Cap Estate, is just that—a holiday for your body; daily treatments are included in the room rate. Then at Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, perfectly positioned between The Pitons in Soufrière, the treatment rooms in the Rainforest Spa are actually in tree houses. So give in to your sybaritic side. Treat yourself to a treatment!
Take a Dip Under a Waterfall
A mile or so inland from Soufrière Harbor and a stone’s throw from the main road through Fond St. Jacques, Toraille Waterfall cascades over a cliff and down about 50 feet to a pool where you can take a refreshing plunge or let the falling water massage your back and shoulders. A nature trail leads through the surrounding lush tropical gardens. Changing rooms are nearby.
Meander Through the Botanical Garden
Each side of every pathway that cuts through Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens in Soufrière bursts with tropical flowers—pink, purple, red, yellow, orange, blue—and a staggering amount of greenery. The gardens are part of a 2,000-acre land grant presented by French king Louis XVI in 1713. Eventually, you reach Diamond Falls, where the mineral-rich cascade has caused the underlying rock to sparkle like diamonds. Peace, quiet, beauty, and “floribunda”…a very nice afternoon break.
Sail Along the Coast
The most enjoyable way to get from the north to St. Lucia’s fascinating natural attractions in Soufrière is by sea. Catamaran excursions depart from Rodney Bay Marina and Capella Marina in Marigot Bay for the magnificent sail south to Soufrière Bay. The sailing excursion includes visits to the drive-in volcano, botanical garden, and lunch at a historic plantation. The Pitons are always in view. There’s a snorkeling stop on the return sail and a quick pass through Marigot Bay. It’s a “don’t-miss” experience.
Hike in the Rainforest
St. Lucia’s rainforest covers more than 19,000 acres of the island. A strenuous hike into Edmund Forest Reserve, accessible from Fond St. Jacques just east of Soufrière, will take three or four hours; the reward is a close-up view of exotic flowers and plants, and distant views of mountains, valleys, and the sea. Closer to Castries, the mile-long trail through Barre de l’Isle Forest Reserve is an easy hike with similar spectacular views. For either hike, you’ll need the permission of the Forestry Department and a guide.
Climb a Piton
The Pitons, a World Heritage Site, are the iconic symbols of St. Lucia. The view from the top of Gros Piton (2,619 feet) is breathtaking, and getting there is half the fun. More of a hike than a “climb,” yet still strenuous, it takes about two hours on average to reach the summit. You’ll need permission from the Forestry Department and a guide, who will lead you safely along the trail while explaining some local history, geology, and botany.
INSIDER TIPClimbing Petit Piton (2,461 feet) is not recommended; the trail is steeper, unmarked, and even dangerous in some places.
Explore the Depths
The coastal waters around the Pitons and north to Anse Cochon are protected as Marine Reserve areas and, as such, are excellent places for scuba divers to explore reefs, walls, and wrecks. Dive St. Lucia, in Rodney Bay, is a state-of-the-art, purpose-built, full-service facility with classrooms, a training pool, and a pair of snazzy, 30-passenger dive boats. Several large resorts also have onsite dive shops that offer day trips, courses, and certification.
INSIDER TIPSnorkelers find plenty to see, too, whether swimming off the beach or tagging along on a dive trip.
Jump Up on Friday Night
The Gros Islet Jump Up (street party) is the place to be on Friday night. Giant speakers set up on the village’s main street blast Caribbean music all night long. On the side streets, villagers barbecue chicken and fish—and also sell beverages. Tourists and locals alike join in the fun—and, of course, the dancing.
INSIDER TIPDon’t worry about getting back to your hotel…your taxi driver will arrange a pick-up time.
Head for the Fish Fry
In the tiny fishing village of Anse La Raye, midway between Soufrière and Castries, Friday night means “Fish Fry.” The entire main street is lined with folks preparing grilled or stewed fish, crayfish, and lobsters, along with roasted corn and bakes (biscuits). The live music and your choice of beverage should keep you hopping well into the night.
Ride a Horse on the Beach
Creole horses are relatively small and sturdy—and love to trot along St. Lucia’s sandy beaches and swim in the sea. Atlantic Shores Stables offers two-hour guided trail rides to beaches in Vieux Fort on the southern coast. At Hoofprint Ranch in the Roseau Valley, south of Castries near Marigot Bay, you can take a beach ride as well as a trail ride through a banana plantation. They’re all fun for the whole family—no horseback riding experience necessary.
Zip Through the Rainforest
Choose your view. In Babonneau, Rain Forest Sky Rides give you a choice of a thrilling, 10-station, zip-line adventure or a more sedate aerial tram ride through the island’s northwestern rainforest. On the eight-station zip line at Morne Coubaril Historical Adventure Park in Soufrière, you rush past panoramic views of the towering Pitons before heading under the forest canopy.
Play in a Water Park
Just offshore on Reduit Beach, in front of Bay Gardens Beach Resort, Splash Island Water Park is a group of inflatable water “sports” activities that especially appeal to youngsters (over six years) and teens. There’s a trampoline, climbing wall, swing, hurdles, high jump, water polo…and lifeguards.
INSIDER TIPAt the southern tip of St. Lucia, the family-friendly half of Coconut Bay Beach Resort has a huge water park—activity pool, lazy river, waterfalls, and multiple water slides—all included in its all-inclusive rates.
Eat a Banana (or Two)
Is a banana just a banana? St. Lucia grows 127 varieties! Bet you didn’t know there were so many kinds. You’ll see endless banana fields along the roadside in Babonneau and near Marigot Bay, with a blue plastic bag wrapped around each bunch to protect it from birds and insects—because everyone wants a perfect banana. The familiar yellow fruit seems sweeter and more delicious here. You’ll see.
Everyone in St. Lucia speaks English, but you’ll also hear local folks speaking a Kwéyòl (Creole) among themselves. It sounds like French—but not quite. You might like to try a few phrases during your visit. For example, the morning greeting is Bon jou; in the evening, Bon swè. Or you might ask, Sa kafèt? (How are you?)
A favorite St. Lucian dish is bouyon (rich boiled soup with meats and root vegetables), bananas are called figs, avocados are zaboca, and to eat is manjé. Pick out Kwéyòl words on menus, notice them on signs, and practice them with people you meet.
Watch Cocoa Pods Become Chocolate Bars
Cocoa pods grow on trees all over the island. When ripe, the beans inside the pods are dried and processed into chocolate. The historic Morne Coubaril and Fond Doux plantations in Soufrière will show you exactly how that’s done. Nearby, Boucan by Hotel Chocolat, on Rabot Estate, takes the lesson a bit further with its “Tree to Bean” and “Bean to Bar” tours. You actually create your own chocolate bar(s). Yum!
Drink Fresh Coconut Water
When driving around the countryside—on your own, in a taxi, or on a tour—you’ll likely see a “jelly man” standing on the side of the road next to heap of green (“jelly”) coconuts with a machete in his hand. Never fear. For $1, more or less, he’ll use the machete to cut off the top of a coconut in one quick swipe and then hand it to you with a drinking straw. You’ll enjoy the freshest coconut water—right from the source.
Bathe in a Sulphur Spring
While a “mud bath” at a spa is a rejuvenating experience for your skin (and your soul), St. Lucia offers a unique “natural” mud bath experience. Detoxify, heal, restore, tighten, and smooth your skin by taking a dip in the mineral-rich waters of the Sulphur Springs in Soufrière. Cover your body with the warm gray mud (wear an old bathing suit), wash off in the spring-fed thermal pool, and then cool off under a nearby waterfall.
Ride a “Dollar” Bus
Privately owned, 16-passenger vans comprise St. Lucia’s bus system—a quick, cheap, and fun way to travel a short distance—say between Castries and Rodney Bay or Rodney Bay and Cap Estate. While there are usual stops, you can hail one simply by raising your hand when you see one coming down the road. And just knock on the panel above the window when you want to get off.
INSIDER TIPThe “dollar” bus now costs EC$1.50 for a short trip, but that’s still only US $0.56. Take one, if only to enjoy the local music blasting from the driver’s radio.
Buy Spices and Crafts at the Saturday Market
Trolling a Caribbean produce market is always fun—and Saturday morning is the best time to go. Row upon row of vendors display their heaps of tropical fruits, vegetables, spices, and more—urging you to buy bags of spices and bottles of hot sauce to take home. Look for the bright orange roofs in downtown Castries, right across from the harbor.
INSIDER TIPNext door at the huge craft market, you’ll find straw items and souvenirs. And across the street, even more vendors sell their wares.
Eat Saltfish and Green Fig
Dried, salted codfish—soaked overnight, then boiled, crumbled, and sautéed with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and spices before adding boiled unripe bananas, known as “green figs” in St. Lucia—is the island’s national dish. Considered a Sunday dish for home cooks, local restaurants often feature it on their menus—even for breakfast!
Tee off at Cap Estate
St. Lucia has only one 18-hole championship golf course, the St. Lucia Golf & Country Club in the far north of the island at Cap Estate. Golfers enjoy magnificent views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea when playing the 6,829-yard, par 71 course.
INSIDER TIPSeveral nearby resorts offer preferred tee times and complimentary transportation to their guests.
Watch the Sunset Between The Pitons
Perched on the ridge between The Pitons, Ladera Resort offers the most striking landside view of the two peaks—Gros Piton and Petit Piton—and the valley between. While a glorious view during the day, watching the sun set between the peaks is downright enchanting. Come for cocktails on the resort’s deck and stay for dinner at its restaurant, Dasheene.
INSIDER TIPSunset is always around 6 pm in St. Lucia.
Bike Through an Old Plantation
Biking in St. Lucia isn’t easy, as most of the island is mountainous. That said, those with stamina and strong legs will love biking along forested mountain trails in Soufrière that crisscross an 18th-century plantation. On the Bike St. Lucia “Jungle Biking” Tour, you poke around the remnants of the old plantation house, pass through thick tropical vegetation, stop for a picnic lunch, and end with a swim. Worried about your off-road biking skills? Test them out beforehand at a training area.
Charter a Boat
Blue skies, blue water, sunshine, light breeze…is sailing in the Caribbean on your bucket list? Rodney Bay and Marigot Bay are the island’s yachting centers. You can charter a sailboat—catamaran or monohull—or even a powerboat by the day, week, or longer and with or without a crew. Cruise along St. Lucia’s magnificent coast and into its inviting bays and coves—or sail through the nearby Grenadines and on to Grenada, one-way or round-trip.
INSIDER TIPMoorings Inc. has facilities on both St. Lucia and Grenada, so you can charter a boat at one island and drop it off at the other.