St. Lucia is a bubbling, brooding volcanic mass of an island that rises from the middle of the Lesser Antilles in a medley of rugged coastal coves and mountainous peaks.
Dressed in jungle and rainforest from head to toe, the landscapes here are amongst some of the most celebrated in the Caribbean.
That means St. Lucia is far from just your usual rest and relaxation destination.
It’s a place of wild highland walks and adrenaline-thumping ziplines too, curious creatures and out-at-sea adventures.
History oozes from the pores of crumbling colonial castles from Pigeon Island to the historic plantation estates of the south, while luxurious all-inclusive hotels offer prime honeymoon locations between the coves and crevices of the coast.
Add to that an interesting mashup of Parisian and French cuisine, strong rums and a hearty local welcome, and it’s easy to see why this jewel of an island remains a true Carib favorite!
Lets explore the best things to do in St. Lucia:
1. Climb the Gros Piton
No trip to beautiful St. Lucia could possibly be complete without at least a short journey to spy out the most recognisable and iconic Heritage Site on the island (and perhaps even in the entire Caribbean region!). The striking duo of the Pitons, UNESCO-tagged and soaring like spearheads from the rollers of the ocean, mark the coastline around sleepy Soufriere.
The largest of the two, known suitably as the Gros Piton, reaches a whopping 798 meters, making it the second-highest mountain in the country.
Scaling the great volcanic summit is one of the top activities around, with hikes taking less than a day to complete and offering some seriously unforgettable views of Soufriere Bay and the green hills of the south!
2. Wonder at the Sulphur Springs
Billed as the world’s only drive-in volcano, the bubbling, steaming Sulphur Springs that emit plumes of smoke and ash betwixt the hills above Soufriere are certainly not to be missed.
They can be easily accessed on the winding roadways that weave into the panoramic tropical ridges from the south-western coast of St.
Lucia, offering up breathtaking views of the inland jungles and the coast as they go.
Too hot to bathe in, the Sulphur Springs hit whopping temperatures of nearly 200 degrees Celsius.
Visitors can park up, wander close by (but not too close!) and peer down into the collapsed crater where the heat and the magma meet.
3. Bathe in the nearby mud pools
A perfect addition to any trip into the Soufriere hills to see the Sulphur Springs, the mud pools that lurk downstream from the volcanic opening in the mountains here offer a fine session of relaxation and healing.
Set over a series of separate baths and complete with dedicated changing rooms and showers, the site has been famed since the French colonial age for its ability to de-stress, cure tension and relieve skin disease.
It’s also just darn good fun, with the bubbling mud reaching temperatures of 38 degrees and add-on pools offering steamy waters to sit in and watch the jungle swaying in the highland breezes all around.
4. Stroll along Vigie Beach
Void of all the gaudy souvenir shops and pushy touts, and without any rows of plastic deck chairs or sun umbrellas, Vigie Beach has an indelible charm of its own.
Wide and powdery, the sands slope down into the Caribbean as they fringe the northern reaches of Castries City.
They are largely secluded for most of the day and glow yellow and pink when the sun sets.
That makes them a perfect spot for strolling and beachcombing, with the occasional banyan tree and palm moving in the trade winds and the odd smiling local passing by.
5. Feel the romance on Anse Chastanet
Just around the rocky coastal bends from Soufriere, nestled in its own little fold of high coastal mountains and deep green rainforest, the Anse Chastanet resort occupies perhaps the most romantic spot of any hotel in the Caribbean.
Designed by acclaimed architect Nick Troubetzkoy, the 600-acre spot boasts sweeping views of the south-eastern Caribbean Sea, dramatic broadsides of the UNESCO-attested Pitons and seemingly endless gardens of blooming orchids and bougainvillea, coconut palms and lansan groves.
At night, diners can settle on the sands for candlelit meals set to the sounds of the lapping waves.
During the day, they kick-back on loungers and cool off under the vine-dressed cliffs.
It’s all very refined.
6. Feel the haunting history at Morne Fortune
Set high above the city streets of Castries, the hill known as Morne Fortune is a fine spot to get a fascinating glimpse of the long and bloody colonial histories that have coalesced on this rugged isle of the Lesser Antilles.
Once a stronghold for the British settlers, the fortification later switched to French control, and the hillsides around its garrison were the site of some seriously bloody fighting between the two colonial invaders.
Today, Fortune is home to a series of ruined gun houses and batteries, along with one haunting memorial to the 27th Inniskilling Regiment, many of whom perished in the plight to capture nearby Guadalupe.
7. Take in the energy of Marigot Bay
As one of the bona fide tourist meccas of St. Lucia as a whole, the little inlet that forms Marigot Bay midway between Castries City and Canaries on the island’s western edge comes loaded with everything from enticing Caribbean restaurants to luxurious accommodation options.
Sat just a little way down the coast from the runways of the George F.L. Charles Airport, it’s the perfect place to begin a holiday here.
Check out the lively Marina Village, with its wealth of craft shops and clothes boutiques; enjoy the abundance of tour operators offering the likes of SCUBA excursions out beyond Roseau Bay, and don’t forget to join in with the local barbeque evenings – the best are at JJ’s Paradise, just meters back from the harbor!
8. Tour the Botanical Gardens of the Soufriere Estate
A onetime royal grant to the Devaux clan from Louis XIV of France himself, the Soufriere Estate encompassed as many as 2,000 acres of lush tropical rainforest on the south-western end of the island when it was first established in the early 1700s.
The modern site is much smaller, but the draws are the same: waxy orchids the size of pancakes; magenta-red hibiscus blooms; explosions of grass-green ferns and winding pathways that go deep into groves of bamboo, jasmine and creeping figs.
Other draws include the roaring Diamond Falls, which cascade over moss-dressed rocks in the middle of the gardens, and a series of bubbling hot pools at the adjoining spa.
9. Keep company with cannons on Pigeon Island
Don’t be confused by the name: Pigeon Island was once an island.
It languished out in the swells of the Caribbean until as late as 1972, in fact, when it was connected with a concrete causeway to the roads around Gros Islet in the north.
But that’s only the latest episode in the spot’s long, long history; a history that goes all the way back to pre-historic times, when the native Arawak people of the region resided in the deep coastal caves and crevices that line the coast.
More recently (and the reason so many modern visitors opt to alight on Pigeon Island), one Admiral Rodney of the English fleet commandeered the rocks and constructed a formidable fortress on its top.
The battlements and canons, the mess halls and the docks can all still be seen today!
10. Get the heart thumping at the Treetop Adventure Park
When you’ve had enough of kicking-back on the sunny sands of Soufriere and Gros Islet, be sure to make a beeline for this adrenaline-thumping attraction close to the historic town of Dennery Quarter on the east coast.
The self-proclaimed Treetop Adventure involves a series of speedy ziplines that crisscross through the forest canopy.
If you’re brave enough to look down, you’ll be able to spot the wild undergrowth below, along with colourful tropical birds flitting through the boughs close-by.
Additional tours from the site include safaris along the less-trodden eastern coast and cycling excursions through the rainforest!
11. Splash around the Splash Island Water Park
The perfect choice for travelers with kids in tow eager to hit the beaches and the Caribbean Sea, the Splash Island Water Park can be found bobbing out along the shoreline of southern Gros Islet, where the yellow sands of Reduit Beach give way to the green dunes of the north.
Made up of a series of inflatable rafts and walkways, bouncy castles and obstacles, the attraction adds a dash of energy and fun to a day at the seaside – making it great if you’re sick of lazy days of sunbathing and wallowing in the tropical heat! Kids especially will enjoy the climbing wall, the monkey bars, the rope bridges and the trampolines, while that out-at-sea volleyball court is always a real hit!
12. Shop your way through Castries Market
Located smack bang in the heart of the island’s bustling capital at Castries City, this sprawling market erupts from Monday to Saturday behind the charming façade of the 19th-century market building on Jeremie Street.
An earthy, local affair, visitors who come here can expect oodles of chatter and smiling Saint Lucians, not mention stall after stall selling regional produce that’s been plucked straight from the fields and trees of the island.
Expect stacks of jungle-green cucumbers, sun-orange papayas by the bucket load, fragrant spices like cinnamon and vanilla, aubergines and shiny yellow plantains, not to mention countless emporiums touting handmade crafts, trinkets and souvenirs.
13. Explore the rainforest hiking trails
With its verdant interior of virgin rainforest and mist-topped mountains that bubble and steam with plumes of sulphur and smoke, it’s hardly surprising that St. Lucia is one of the top destinations in the Caribbean for donning the walking boots and hitting the trails.
There are oodles to choose from too, setting aside the aforementioned Gros Piton Trail to the top of the rugged mountain near Soufriere.
Check out the paths that criss-cross Frigate Island for starters, where the mind-boggling zandoli te lizard flits through the grasses, or the winding Barre de L’isle Rain Forest Trail that fringes the edge of the island’s densest woods, peaking at 1,400 meters up with the tip of Morne la Combe.
Then there’s the Des Cartiers Trail, where hikers keep company with colourful parrots and slinky snakes.
14. Attend the weekly food festivals
Attention all foodies: St. Lucia’s weekend rigmarole of culinary fests is simply not to be missed.
Friday night starts things rolling with a huge blowout of lobster and sizzling shrimp between the streets of Anse La Raye on the west coast.
Locals come by their droves to join in the fiesta, which is fuelled by oodles of super-fresh Caribbean fish cuts, samba dancing and chilled beers to boot.
Next up is the Canaries Creole Pot that takes place on the last Saturday of each month, where bubbling bowls of stock meet the salty seafood of the region.
Alternatively, hungry travelers can make a beeline for the charming seaside town of Dennery Quarter on the east coast, where BBQ fish joins reggae until the early hours.
15. Have a homebrew at the Antillia Brewing Company
The first (and probably the only) microbrewery to grace the streets of St. Lucia as a whole, the Antillia Brewing Company was started in 2015 by a team of Canadian expats.
Passionate about creating fresh and artisanal ales with a difference and spurred on by the successes of the brewing industry in their home country, the owners now serve up pint upon pint of their much-loved Golden Wheat and Stout at their large drinking hall in Rodney Bay.
There’s food on offer too, like spicy jerk wings, American-style hotdogs and burgers, wedges and more – all perfect company for a couple of homebrews in the Caribbean sun!