Saint Lucia juts out of the tropical Atlantic waters like an exotic emerald oasis. Located between the islands of Martinique and St. Vincent, this gem forms part of the Lesser Antilles. Officially, St. Lucia is considered a Windward Isle – a name that arose from its easy access by sailing ships en route from Africa to the New World. The island is only 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, but boasts a variety of outdoor activities, spectacular views and a host of opportunities to relish in island living.
Long before European colonists arrived, native people known as the Arawaks inhabited St. Lucia (200-800 A.D.) Eventually the Carib people, whose control extended throughout the Lesser Antilles, conquered the peaceful Arawaks. It is unknown the exact date that the first Europeans arrived, but the French did eventually established forts here in the 1550s.
In 1643, the French established their first permanent settlement on the island. The British ultimately defeated the French Navy and acquired the island in 1778 after the Battle of Cul de Sac. To this day, St. Lucia remains a commonwealth territory of Great Britain.
Recognized as the “Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Destination” for 2011 and 2012, St. Lucia is as perfect for couples as it is for families. What better way to start a new life than by experiencing the magic of the island together? Whether adventurous or laid back, St. Lucia caters to every type of couple. And the best part is that the island is a short plane ride away from major East Coast United States airports. There are also direct flights from Dallas, Texas, and London, U.K.
Check out 10 Things to Do in Curacao
Similar to other Caribbean islands, St. Lucia was formed by several volcanic eruptions that occurred 40 to 60 million years ago. Its deep valleys and steep mountains are the direct result of this explosive activity. St. Lucia’s east coast is bordered by the wild waters of the Atlantic Ocean, while its western coast is surrounded by the relatively placid Caribbean Sea. Of all its unique natural wonders, the two volcanic peaks on the island’s southwestern coast, known as the Pitons, are her most iconic. This majestic pair, known as the Gros and Petit Pitons, sits near the beach town of Soufrière. Beyond the Pitons is a verdant rainforest dotted with rural villages and banana plantations. St. Lucia has a subtropical climate that makes it a desirable destination year round.
St. Lucians are a warm, friendly people. They possess a distinctive cultural heritage largely influenced by British, French, African and Indian traditions. And there is no better way to experience this intermingling of cultures than through St. Lucian cuisine. Fresh grilled seafood, curries, and Creole-inspired soups comprise the local diet. Like all island nations, St. Lucia’s people are closely tied to the sea. Much like the Arawaks did more than 2,000 years ago, St. Lucian fishermen head out each day, sometimes in disagreeable conditions, in hopes of a bountiful catch. As much as they work, St. Lucians also know how to play, and they go all out. Weekends are a time to kick back and let loose. Friday and Saturday night festivities are common across the island, with the Gros Islet block party and Anse-la-Raye fish fry at the top of the must-do list for any traveler. Here you have the top 20 things to see and do in Saint Lucia!
Gros Islet/Rodney Bay
Rodney Bay, which is located in the northwestern part of the island, in an area known as Gros Islet, is a gorgeous district with numerous hotels, dining options and shopping venues. At the center of the action is the Rodney Bay Marina and nearby Bay Walk Mall. Beach bums, deep-sea fishermen and golfers all come to Rodney Bay to enjoy its unrivaled natural beauty and multitude of activities. By day, Rodney Bay Marina is teeming with action as the yachts roll in and out of their slips.
Nightfall brings shorts-clad tourists to the marina’s bars and restaurants. The Gros Islet Friday night block party is perhaps the most popular party in St. Lucia. Beginning around 8 p.m., tourists and locals crowd the streets of Gros Islet village to dance, drink, eat and socialize into the wee hours of the morning. The Gros Islet area attracts hundreds of honeymooners each year with its quiet beaches and intimate boutique hotels.
Look no further for the ultimate rush. Rainforest Adventures has it all. What better way to see St. Lucia’s natural beauty than from the treetops? Rainforest Adventures is not only one of the most reputable adventure operators in the Caribbean, but also offers guests the opportunity to experience the rainforest in many ways. Tours offered include zip lining, bird watching, nature hikes and aerial trams. The zip lining tour ($69) is one of the most popular.
Brave guests are suited up and instructed on how to zip across a series of cables and platforms, each with a different height and degree of difficulty. For those less valiant, the aerial tram tour ($72) takes guests on a relaxing gondola ride through the treetops. Rainforest Adventure provides transportation to and from your hotel, a complimentary drink with your ticket purchase and plenty of stories to tell your friends. Receive a 10% discount when you book online.
Rodney Bay Marina
The Rodney Bay Marina has become a first-class yachting destination and fishing charter hub. DSL Yachting and Island Lady are two local companies based out of Rodney Bay. Exodus Boat Charters offers sunset dinner cruises, whale and dolphin watching, deep-sea fishing and snorkeling/swimming trips. Landlubbers can hang out around the marina’s casual restaurants for a little pub grub and a cold Piton Beer.
For history and nature lovers, a visit to the Pigeon Island National Landmark is a great way to spend the day. This protected area lies near Gros Islet on the island’s northwestern coast and has played a fascinating role in the history of St. Lucia. What started off as a pirates’ hideout during the 1600s ultimately became a military base during the British-French power struggle over the island, which lasted from 1722 to 1814. Pigeon Island still has traces of military life — a few of the structures left behind include an officer’s kitchen, mess hall, latrine, gun battery, powder magazine and cemetery. Another peculiar find on the grounds of Pigeon Island is Josett’s House.
Named after the Englishwoman who lived and operated her notorious restaurant here, Josett’s House is where Mrs. Josset Agnes Leigh lived until shortly just before her death in 1977. Pigeon Island is covered by rolling hills and boasts stunning ocean views. Picnics, nature hikes and swimming at the beach are a few of the things Pigeon Island has in store. When you get hungry, head to Jambe De Bois for some Creole fare. This cash-only restaurant is casual and eclectic, and hosts live jazz shows on weekends.
The Body Holiday
For the best pampering and rejuvenation, look no further than the Wellness Centre at The BodyHoliday LeSPORT. This opulent beach resort specializes in providing its guests with healthy, relaxing and luxurious vacations. Non-guests are also welcome to partake in the lavish menu of treatments available at the BodyHoliday’s award-winning spa facility.
The Wellness Centre, which was designed to look like a Moroccan palace, is an opulent sanctuary where pampering guests takes precedence over everything else. Choose from a variety of treatments including Ayurvedic massages, Japanese stress reduction techniques, reflexology, body scrubs, aromatherapy, body wraps, facials and a host of beauty services. All treatments must be pre-booked. You won’t want to leave!
Cas en Bas Beach
This one-mile stretch of beach provides a wonderful escape from the crowds at Reduit Beach and Pigeon Island National Park. Although you will need a 4×4 vehicle to access Cas en Bas, the bumpy ride is well worth it. Popular with kite surfers, Cas en Bas is a secluded natural harbor surrounded by swaying palm trees and verdant cliffs. If you don’t want to set up your beach towel on the sand, the local Rasta will gladly rent you one of their lounge chairs.
Cas en Bas has a beach bar and grill, but you could just as easily bring your own snacks and drinks for a picnic, or dine at the beachfront restaurant of the beautiful Cotton Bay Resort. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a bareback pony ride across the beach for $10. To access Cas en Bas Beach, take the turn opposite the Gros Islet Town exit off the Castries-Gros Islet Highway.
Many would argue that Marigot Bay is the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean Sea. Historically, it has served as a safe harbor for fishing boats during rough storms. With hundreds of boat slips and luxury villas surrounding it, Marigot Bay is a yachtsman’s paradise. By day, the crystal blue waters become lanes for extravagant super yachts and sports fishing boats. Marigot Bay also has a small sandy beach, which is only accessible by boat (we paid a local boatman $5 to take us there).
While not as large as other beaches on the island, Marigot Beach does have great views of the marina and surrounding rainforest. But be aware that there are no bathroom facilities here. In case you don’t bring your own supplies, beach chairs can be rented and rum punches are available at a small bar. If the St. Lucian sun makes you hungry, we recommend dining at Doolittle’s at the Marigot Beach Club.
Castries is the only official city in St. Lucia. Just like it was when it was founded in the early 1700s, Castries serves as the island’s industrial hub and main shipping port. Luxury cruise liners dock in Pointe Seraphine harbor each day, unleashing hoards of tourists onto shore and into the Castries Market. Though Castries lacks an organized city plan, Derek Walcott Square is considered the center of downtown. The square is named after one of St. Lucia’s Nobel Prize winners, who won the prestigious honor in 1993 for his contribution to literature.
The streets surrounding the square are run down and dingy, showing their weathered façades from the fires that ravaged the city in 1927 and again in 1948. The central market is where the action is, but it is somewhat of a tourist trap due to inflated prices. Castries merits at least a couple hours of sightseeing, especially at the market and Morne Fortuné. Because Castries is quite industrial, you won’t find dining recommendations in the city center, rather one just outside the city.
St. Lucia Helicopters
If you have ever dreamed of soaring above a tropical island in a helicopter, this is your chance! St. Lucia Helicopters provide travelers with unforgettable thrills as they hover above the lush island and its beaches. A 30-minute tour from Castries will reveal incredible aerial city vistas and other natural sites including Marigot Bay, Rodney Bay, Pigeon Point, the Pitons, Soufrière Volcano, rainforests and coral reefs. Price is $200 per person and all bookings must be made in advance. Reserve online or contact St. Lucia Helicopters directly for your time in the sky.
This isn’t your typical beach town. Instead, Soufrière is an enchanting area surrounded by some of the Caribbean’s most awe-inspiring sights including waterfalls, rainforests, colonial estates and the legendary Pitons. During the 1700s French colonists began founding large sugar and coffee plantations throughout the Soufrière valley. Of all the colonists to arrive in Soufrière, the Devaux brothers were perhaps the most successful. To this day, many of their estates are preserved by hardworking St. Lucians dedicated to conserving the local culture.
Soufrière’s name stems from the French term for “sulphur in the air,” which aptly describes the pungent smell emitted by the neighboring Soufrière Volcano. Soufrière and its fringes are situated on an active geothermal zone, which has remained dormant, but is still gurgling beneath the surface. It takes approximately one hour to drive the 26 miles from Castries to Soufrière.
Climbing the Pitons
The Arawaks worshipped them, UNESCO incorporated them as a World Heritage Site in 2004 and they are the most photographed subjects in St. Lucia. The magnificent Pitons stand proud, watching over the western coast of the island. These volcanic plugs were naturally formed millions of years ago by a series of volcanic explosions. They are covered in lush vegetation and offer superb panoramic views from their summits. It is possible to climb both Pitons, but there things to keep in mind. Gros Piton, the larger of the two, is approximately 2,619 feet high, making it the second highest peak in St. Lucia after Mount Gimie.
To climb Gros Piton takes approximately five hours (two hours to the top and two hours back). Tours begin at the Gros Piton Welcome Center. For about $29 (80 EC) per person, visitors are led by a professional nature guide to the top of mountain. The climb is by no means easy, but is possible for those that persevere through the rough terrain.
Surprisingly, the climb up Petit Piton, which is 2,461 feet high, is a significantly more difficult endeavor. Unlike its larger counterpart, Petit Piton does not have a welcome center or official guides. Instead, it is customary to hire a local to take you. Petit Piton is a steeper (and more perilous) climb, but does have the better views of the bay.
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Soufrière Volcano and Sulphur Springs
Sulphur Springs Park is one of the top sights in southern St. Lucia. Visitors can pull up right next to the collapsed Soufrière Volcano and bathe in the mineral-rich Sulphur Springs. The title of “world’s only drive-in volcano” is a little misleading since it is impossible to actually drive over it, let alone through it, but the name has stuck. The Soufrière Volcano is dormant, but geologists still detect activity beneath its surface. Plumes of sulphur-rich steam rise up from the cracks, which is why the area smells like rotten eggs, and how Soufrière got its name.
If you can forget about the odor, you may actually enjoy seeing this spectacle of nature. Many choose to take a short informative tour, and then bathe in the mineral-rich hot springs that pool downhill from the volcano. These murky pools contain therapeutic volcanic mud, which is packed with health benefits, especially for skin ailments. For $11, a combo ticket covers a tour of the volcano and entrance to the springs. The Soufrière Volcano and Sulphur Springs complex is open every day 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pior booking is not required.
Anse Chastanet Beach
Considered one of the best dive spots in St. Lucia, Anse Chastanet Beach never fails to impress with its black sand and scenic views of the Pitons. The reef is just 10 yards from the shore and boasts a variety of colorful fish and corals. Scuba and snorkeling equipment rentals are available from the Jade Mountain Resort Dive Shop, but you’ll spend a lot less by bringing your own. Action Adventure Divers is a great little dive shop located in the Hummingbird Beach Resort that will rent you Scuba and snorkel gear for the day. Anse Chastanet Beach is shared by two resorts, but is open to the public. For non-guests, there are public restrooms and free parking.
Diamond Falls is a premiere attraction for nature-loving travelers. What once formed part of the 2,000-acre Soufrière Estate is now six lush acres of land situated just five minutes from the town of Soufrière. The youngest of the Devaux brothers, Henry, ran the estate. In 1784, King Louis XIV had Henry build stone baths on the property for French troops to take full advantage of Soufrière’s mineral-rich waters. Those original baths have since been restored and are now part of a relaxing mineral bath complex, which has public and private baths.
The estate also has a manicured botanical garden where visitors can get lost among flowering plants including orchids, hibiscus, frangipani and balisier. The garden also features several species of citrus and palm trees along the way. And finally, everyone should take a few minutes to experience the breathtaking Diamond Waterfall, where the estate got its name. This 50-foot-high cascade provides a constant supply of mineral water to the property. Diamond Falls is pure bliss for anyone who enjoys tropical flora. The estate is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 3p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
London-born expat, Simon Gajadhar, is perhaps the island’s best-known artist. With a gift for transforming pieces of local wood into captivating masks and totems, Gajadhar has defined a genre. A visit to Gajadhar’s studio, Zaka, is an unforgettable experience. Colorful masks, elaborate figurines, vibrant totems and diverse wall art will enchant you as you browse around the cluttered shop.
Themes range from sea life and flowers to tropical rainforest and the almighty Pitons, and there are masks in virtually every size. Apart from owning an original work of art, taking a Zaka mask home from St. Lucia is like bringing a tangible piece of culture into your home. They also make great gifts for loved ones. Located in Soufrière, on the road to Sugar Beach, Zaka Studio is impossible to miss.
Fond Doux Holiday Plantation
This 250-year-old estate is one of the oldest plantations in the Caribbean still in operation. The Lamontagne family acquired the property from the Devaux brothers — three Frenchmen from Normandy that were granted property in St. Lucia’s Soufrière valley by King Louis XIV. The brothers founded several estates throughout the area, and Fond Doux Plantation is perhaps one of the most charming.
The Lamontagne family’s hard work and dedication have earned the property an excellent reputation for commitment to organic agriculture. Visitors can reserve an intimate historic cottage for an extended stay, get a soothing treatment at the estate’s Mamma La Terre Spa, or have a tropical lunch at one of Fond Doux’s two Caribbean-Creole restaurants.
Quite simply, Sugar Beach is St. Lucia’s most picturesque stretch of coastline. Nestled between the Pitons and surrounded by fine white sand, it is a stunning spectacle of nature that everyone must experience at least once. The translucent water is ideal for snorkeling and swimming while the crescent-shaped beach provides the perfect vantage point for the Pitons and the turquoise ocean just beyond the bay. While the beach is open to everyone, the Viceroy Resort does hold claim over a significant portion of it. The public section of Sugar Beach has restroom facilities, lounge chair rentals and local food vendors selling their daily homemade dishes and rum concoctions to hungry tourists.
For those with a more discerning palette, there is the Viceroy Resort’s Bayside Restaurant. The hotel also has lounge chairs for rent, but those will come at a much steeper price ($20 per person). We recommend taking a taxi or driving to Sugar Beach as the road heading in is steep and offers little shade from the hot Caribbean sun. On the way in, you will pass some small local eateries including the celebrated Martha’s Tables Restaurant and the Zaka Art Studio. Sugar Beach forms part of a 7,188-square-foot UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the Pitons and the Soufrière Volcano.
Near the southernmost tip of the island is the city of Vieux Fort, or “old fort.” Although the nearby Hewanorra International Airport is the island’s main point of entry, Vieux Fort has remained relatively tranquil. There is not much to do in Vieux Fort unless you like kite and wind surfing, long walks on the beach, or meandering around the derelict downtown area. There are however, breathtaking views from the Cape Moule A Chique Lighthouse.
Anse De Sable Beach
The trade winds in the south are much stronger, which has helped Vieux Fort become a premier kite surfing and wind surfing destination. Anse De Sable Beach is where water sports enthusiasts, amateur and professional alike, can come to practice and show off their moves. For equipment rentals, look no further than The Reef, which is conveniently situated on the beach just feet from the water’s edge. Located just a two-minute drive from Hewanorra International Airport, the beautiful Anse De Sable Beach is also ideal for families with young children and those who just want to relax with a good book. The beach has free parking, nearby restaurants and bathroom facilities.
Maria Islands Nature Reserve
Just off the coast of Point Sable, near Anse De Sable Beach, are the protected Maria Islands. After being declared a nature reserve in 1982 by the government, the islands have become a sanctuary for birds, turtles, snakes, lizards and tropical plants. The Saint Lucia National Trust conducts guided nature walks through the reserve. Contact [email protected] or call +758 454 5014 to book your appointment. The reefs around the islands also make it a popular snorkel and dive spot.
Note from David
For the quintessential Caribbean vacation or honeymoon, Saint Lucia can’t be beat. Whether you’re looking for a tranquil stretch of beach, an adrenaline rush zip lining in the rainforest, or a romantic dinner cruise for two, this little island delivers. My advice: make time to see both the northern and southern parts of the island. Soufrière, which is home to the iconic Pitons, holds historical treasures like old world plantations and geological wonders like the amazing Sulphur Springs Park.
In the north, Rodney Bay is where you’ll find the best shopping and a vast array of restaurants to satisfy every craving. St. Lucia holds a very special place in my heart because I honeymooned there in January 2013. The Creole culture, exotic cuisine, spectacular ocean vistas and picture-perfect beaches were more than I expected to find. My wife and I spent 10 amazing days experiencing everything we could, and we regrettably left the island knowing there was still so much to see and do.
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I recommend renting your own 4X4 vehicle, which will give you the freedom to explore more of the island. Taxis can get expensive after a while, so the price you’ll pay for a rental car will save you money in the end. Overall, my experience here was unforgettable. My only regret is that we couldn’t stay longer.
Additional Travel Information
Time zone: UTC -4
Capital city: Castries
Languages spoken: English, St. Lucian French Creole (Patois)
Currency: Eastern Caribbean Dollar (“XCD” or “EC”)
Currency converter: XE
Getting around: Taxis are widely available throughout the island. Though they are not outfitted with meters, fares are predetermined, which is why travelers should confirm the fare in EC$ and USD$ prior to the trip. Taxis are distinguishable by their red or blue license plates that begin with the letters “TX.” Renting a car gives travelers the most freedom to move around. Weekly rates vary depending on the type of vehicle, but usually fall in the USD $300 to $400 range per week. It is recommended to rent a 4X4 vehicle, as St. Lucia’s terrain can be rocky and steep in certain parts. To rent a car, you must present a current driver’s license from your home country and pay USD $22 for a temporary St. Lucian driver’s license. Driving is on the left.
Shopping: The Baywalk Shopping Mall in Rodney Bay features a casino, more than 80 stores and restaurants, a supermarket and bank. Conveniently located near all major hotels in the Gros Islet/Cap Estate area, the Baywalk Mall is the perfect stop for leisure shopping or dining. The supermarket has a large selection of local rums including Chairman’s Reserve and Bounty, which are cheaper to buy here than anywhere else. Here you can also find Baron West Indian Hot Sauce and Banana Ketchup, which are sold at almost every souvenir shop on the island for double the supermarket price. For art lovers, Eudovic’s Art Studio in Castries is a nice substitute for the busy Castries Craft Market. Having dedicated his life to a career in art, Vincent Joseph Eudovic is one of St. Lucia’s most recognized sculptors. His work has been exhibited throughout Europe and the Caribbean. Eudovic’s Art Studio is a fun and creative space where visitors can browse for a statement piece for their homes. For more original works of art, visit the Melting Pot Craft Shop in Anse La Raye and Batik Studio at the Hummingbird Beach Resort in Soufrière.
Service charge: An 8% government tax (VAT) and a 10% service charge are added to all restaurant and hotel bills. Additional tip is not expected, but it always appreciated (another 10 to 15% for good service is customary). There is no sales tax on other purchases
Hours of operation: Banks are open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. A few branches in Rodney Bay open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Most stores are open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and reopen from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Many stores close during Saturday afternoons, although shopping malls generally have extended hours every day of the week.
Electricity: 220 volts, 20 cycles. Some hotels have 110-volt sockets. Most sockets take UK standard three-pin square plugs and some sockets take European 2-pin round plugs.
Entry requirements: Each traveler must have a valid passport. A Visa is not required for U.S. citizens.
Departure tax: St. Lucia charges a departure tax of EC $68 (approximately USD $26) for all passengers more than 12 years old who are departing via air travel. These charges are usually included in the ticket price. The departure tax for travelers leaving via sea travel is EC $30 (approximately USD $11).
Best time to go: May through June is the best time to visit because temperatures usually remain in the upper 80s (°F) and chances of rainfall are low. For this reason, May and June are the most popular months for destination weddings on the island. Keep in mind that during Carnival season, which begins in late June and continues into July, the streets get crowded and business hours can fluctuate. If you’re willing to book during hurricane season, which lasts from May to December, this is when hotel rates are cheapest. No matter when you decide to come, it is best to book accommodations at least four-to-six months in advance.
- Buy bottles of water and St. Lucian spiced rum at the supermarket, as these items can get pretty pricy anywhere else, especially at hotels
- It is advisable that you don’t walk around alone at night in Castries or Soufrière
- Driving is on the left and St. Lucians are known to drive fast
- Use caution while driving along the rainforest roads throughout the interior of the island, as they can get quite slippery and there are no barriers along ditches
- Wear sunscreen, a hat and bring insect repellent for the mosquitoes
- To avoid unwanted attention, refrain from displays of wealth including wearing expensive jewelry and producing large amounts of cash
- Inquire about public holidays prior to your trip because store hours can change and streets get blocked
There you have the top things to see and do in Saint Lucia! Have you been to Saint Lucia? Leave us a comment below with recommendations about places you must see in Saint Lucia!