St Lucia Destination Guide
St Lucia Holidays
Forget all those Caribbean flop and drop stereotypes: with its volcanic beaches, culture-filled fishing villages and a plethora of wildlife, St Lucia is an island enclave that most adventurers only dream about. A mountainous, volatile green giant, fringed by soft sands that give way to a dense, forested interior, this dramatic landmass is an enchanted haven, barely bigger than the Isle of Wight. This is the place where you can truly get off the grid, ignoring TVs, phones and internet in favour of hummingbirds, butterflies and a gentle hilltop breeze. Pair that with some of the best hiking, ziplining and snorkelling opportunities in the West Indies and it’s easy to see why honeymooners, thrillseekers and families alike adore this verdant paradise.
St Lucia is at its best on the west coast, particularly in and around Soufrière, a colourful town flanked by the UNESCO-listed Pitons on one side, and swaying palms on the other. This region is incredibly popular with hikers wanting to summit Gros Piton and Petit Piton. Taking on these twin peaks is not a challenge for the faint hearted – it’s arduous and incredibly steep – but those who do make the climb will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views in the Caribbean. And if it’s incredible vistas you’re looking for, you’ll be wowed by the rainbow aquascapes of the Anse Chastanet reef – alive with humongous brain coral, parrot fish, sergeant majors and, if you’re lucky, manatees and sea turtles. Wildlife lovers should keep an eye out for tree lizards and geckos aplenty, not to mention some of the country’s 170 plus bird species or, for a real bird’s eye view, take a thrilling zipline tour. And if all that’s not enough, there’s La Soufrière itself, the world’s only drive-in volcano. It’s worth the nose-stinging smell of sulphur to motor along within a few hundred feet of the crater’s gurgling, spitting hot springs.
Eat and Drink
Thanks to its French, Indian and British influence, St Lucian cuisine is an intoxicating flavour fusion. Locals love banana (green fig) and saltfish – a national delicacy and one of the most unique dishes on the island. It can be served as it comes, as part of a salad and even in a pie. Signature spices like garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, parsley, cloves and allspice are hangovers from the British invasion, while chefs also draw heavily upon the spices and feel of Creole cuisine. For a memorable experience, dine at the Rainforest Hideaway. Nestled on the west of the island in Marigot Bay, this magical spot is only accessible by boat and serves up a mix of European and Creole food. On specific nights, its wooden waterside decking plays host to live jazz.
Where to Stay
It would be a crime to stay anywhere that doesn’t afford uninterrupted views of the Pitons – the most iconic St Lucian landmark. The 5-star Jade Mountain hotel more than fits the bill from its hillside setting on the south-west coast. There are no TVs or telephones here, only luxury, relaxation, award-winning cuisine and, most importantly, an abundance of chocolate made from nearby cocoa trees. For a real local feel, there’s the 5-star Ladera too. It’s the only resort actually located atop La Soufrière – how’s that for one of a kind? From the pool of your Piton Suite you can admire the peaks and rainforest surrounds, not to mention all the locally-sourced furniture, tended to by employees from St Lucia.
Few do volcanoes quite like St Lucia. As we’ve already mentioned, the dormant La Soufrière (known locally as Sulphur Springs) is the world’s only drive-in volcano – the road runs up to and partially through the craters, a stone’s throw from boiling mud and water. But you can do more than drive alongside it: a stream runs down from the belching liquid, creating a steaming hot spring and mud bath. For those who are looking for a bit of skin therapy, this natural spa is blessed with an abundance of volcanic minerals. Just a short dip (you won’t be able to stand the bath-like temperatures for long) will make your skin feel refreshed and rejuvenated – just be prepared to smell a bit like egg afterwards. The views around the springs are pretty impressive too; an otherworldly confection of molten lava and copper-stained rocks will make you feel like you’ve been sent back to an entirely different geological era.
St Lucia like a Local
The good thing about St Lucia is that although it’s loved by adventurers and loved-up newlyweds from around the world, it has somehow managed to maintain its natural beauty and biodiversity. The locals take eco-tourism very seriously, so the best way to live like a local is to do the same: keep the beaches clean, recycle where possible and reuse your towels, to name a few. For an authentic perspective on life in St Lucia, you can also visit Lushan Country Life in Castries, a home-grown estate that offers full tours of the country’s history, culture and wildlife.