Blessed by nature, St Lucia has geographic and cultural riches enough to embarrass far bigger nations. Notwithstanding, it remains a down-to-earth place that wears its breathtaking beauty with nonchalance.
Noted for its oodles of small and luxurious resorts that drip color and flair, it is really two islands in one. Rodney Bay in the north offers lazy days and modern comforts amid a beautiful bay. In the south, Soufrière is at the heart of a gorgeous region of old plantations, hidden beaches and the geologic wonder of the impossibly photogenic Pitons.
Nature lovers can hike to jungle-clad waterfalls, climb extinct volcanic cones or zip through the forest canopy on land, or dive beneath the calm Caribbean to get up close to St Lucia's marine life. Foodies will be enamored with the islands delicious Creole cuisine.
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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout St Lucia.
The most famous beach on the island, gorgeous Sugar Beach is spectacularly situated between the two Pitons, ensuring phenomenal views both from the sand and in the water. Like most in the area, it was originally a gray-sand beach – the soft white sands are imported from abroad. There are free basic public loungers at the far northern end; alternatively, when occupancy is low, you can rent one of the resort's more luxurious models.
Pigeon Island is a fun place to explore, with paths winding around the remains of barracks, batteries and garrisons; the partially intact stone buildings create a ghost-town effect. The grounds are well endowed with lofty trees, manicured lawns and fine coastal views. Bring a picnic and make a day of it. Guided tours of the site can be arranged at the ticket office for EC$59 for groups of one to seven visitors.
A relaxing focal point for any eastern day trip, the Mamiku botanical gardens are located on the grounds of a former plantation and boast an extensive collection of tropical flora including some wonderful orchids. Upon arrival you'll be given a booklet to assist in identifying the 297 named species in the gardens. But it's not just about the plants, there are also historical ruins to explore, hiking trails and birdwatching tours.
Looking like something off the surface of the moon, the Sulphur Springs are saddled with the unfortunate tagline of being the world’s only drive-in volcano. The reality is far from the garish description. There isn’t a classic crater, or a cauldron of magma, to check out – but it's still an awe-inspiring place. Stinky pools of boiling mud are observed from platforms surrounded by vents releasing clouds of sulfur gas. Kids will love it.
Stretched out in front of the resort of the same name, Anse Chastanet is a fine curving beach. The sheltered bay is protected by high cliffs. The snorkeling just offshore is some of the best on the island; hassle-free access is through the resort, which also offers day passes if you want to use the sun loungers and water-sports facilities.
At the southern tip of the island, Sandy Beach is a beautiful strand of white sand that looks out on the rugged Maria Islands. There's always a stiff breeze, making it a hot spot for kitesurfers. It’s also suitable for swimming – on a calm day. It’s never crowded.
Off the beaten track and rarely visited, La Tille is one of the better waterfalls on the island, with a high-volume cascade falling into a large pool surrounded by greenery. But a visit here is about more than just the falls; the Rasta guardians of the site constantly work on the flower-filled grounds and a relaxed, natural vibe abounds. There is a nature trail and rope swing, and vegetarian meals are offered.
Wander amid tropical flowers and trees at this old estate. The mineral baths date from 1784, when they were built atop hot springs so that the troops of France's King Louis XVI could take advantage of their therapeutic effects. You can take a dip in small public pools among nature or in the less appealing enclosed private bathhouse. The gardens are 1 mile east of Soufrière town center.
Offering clear waters with some of the best diving and snorkeling on the island, Anse Cochon is a secluded bay and a favorite of the day-trip boats; it can either be blissfully quiet or way too crowded depending on when you arrive. Be aware of pushy vendors on kayaks offering to tow snorkelers to the best spots for exorbitant fees.