One of the most mountainous islands in the Caribbean, St. Lucia is many things — lush with rain forest, sprouting with banana plantations and, most of all, rich in culture. Driving the island, it’s clear that much of the action is found on the west side, where the calm Caribbean Sea laps its waves ever so softly against the shore. Traveling south to north will take you through the extreme topography via winding roads, from small fishing towns and old villages to newer “highways” in the capital city of Castries, an area teeming with restaurants, bars and resorts.
Whether you’re looking for a natural escape or an all-inclusive resort vacation, or perhaps a little bit of both, St. Lucia has something for every type of traveler, all seasoned with the flavor of Caribbean hospitality.
For those wanting to enjoy the natural beauty of the island with easy access to a great beach, Ti Kaye, meaning “small home” in French Creole, is for you. A perfect balance of natural surroundings and modern comforts creates environmentally conscious rustic luxury. Located by the private, pristine Anse Cochon cove, the resort is nestled into the hillside and has easy access to a diving center and one of the best snorkeling beaches on the island. Indulge in simple yet luxurious amenities, such as outdoor showers and wide hammocks on every cottage deck. A beautiful wine cellar and a great happy hour round out the experience to give you all the comforts you need to call Ti Kaye home.
Cap Maison Villa Resort & Spa
Located on the north end of the island, Cap Maison allows its guests to enjoy the best of both worlds — a private waterfront escape and the action and nightlife in Castries. Mediterranean-style villas are quiet and private, and a secluded beach is just a stone’s throw away. Prefer some pool time? Cap Maison boasts 17. Smugglers Cove beach, one of my favorites, has crystal-clear water, perfect for snorkeling, a hammock hanging in the rock cliff with the waves below, and a beach restaurant, the Naked Fisherman, named after the sometimes-nude fishermen who hit the cove bright and early in the morning.
A winner of Wine Spectator awards for the past 2 years, Kai Manje at the Ti Kaye Resort offers a selection of wines from all over the world in its wine cellar under the restaurant. It serves elegant fare to match for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and menu options spotlight local seafood such as conch and kingfish. Pair all that with a beautiful sunset and candlelight, and you have yourself a beautifully intimate island meal experience. Don’t forget to check out happy hour at the bar downstairs, where the drink specials — including rum punch, pina coladas and various wines — are a great precursor to dinner.
If you’re staying in Marigot Bay or even Castries, and you’re looking to venture out for some grub, Power Pub is a nearby place to get delicious local food at great prices. When we noticed the grill smoking outside, locals on the deck and music booming, we had to give it a try. Go on a Wednesday or Friday, when the grill is fired up and jerk chicken, stewed goat, fig salad and more are on the menu. Wash it all down with some Piton beer or local rum. While there’s no view of the sea, you’ll eat like a queen for less than $10 among locals in an energetic and friendly (though dark) atmosphere.
Tree-to-Bar Experience at Hotel Chocola's Rabot Estate
Hotel Chocolat’s tree-to-bar experience at Rabot Estate will give you a new appreciation for that chocolate bar you love. You’ll learn everything from the various cocoa tree species to how to harvest and ferment the beans. My young guide, Kurtridge, was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the agricultural practice, which was both refreshing and reassuring to see, since everyone else on the plantation is at least twice his age. You’ll even get a chance to graft your own cocoa tree, which you can go back to visit, and make your own chocolate bar.
Catamaran From Castries to Soufriere
When visiting St. Lucia, it’s key to see both the city life and the natural wonders down south, including the Pitons, Sulphur Springs Park and its mud baths, as well as the historical town of Soufriere. If you’re not keen on driving and want to maximize your time on the water, opt for a catamaran ride from Castries to Soufriere. Viewing the island coast and villages laden with colorful French homes is a great way to travel from one end to another. Plus, you’ll get poster-worthy views of the Pitons.
Hot Springs and Mud Baths at the Soufriere Volcano
Be sure to visit Sulphur Springs Park, which offers hot springs and mud baths at what is called the world’s only “drive-in” volcano — just don’t forget your swimsuit. Take a tour to learn about the history of the springs; then, head down to the mud bath area, where buckets of mud and a hot bath, said to have therapeutic properties, are shared, and charismatic locals encourage spousal mud rubdowns.
Ocean Image Photography, Shutterstock.com
While beaches are scarce and fairly small, great ones can be found with little effort, and the water is crystal clear for those who love to snorkel. Prime snorkeling beaches include Anse Cochon cove, Anse Chastanet and Smugglers Cove, where you won’t even have to swim out 100 feet to begin seeing schools of fish and beautiful coral and sea life.