Saint Lucia. Ahhh. Do you instantly picture twin mountain peaks, lush rainforests, and beautiful beaches when you hear this Caribbean island mentioned? Is it on your Bucket List of places to visit? If not, it should be! It’s certainly on mine. So what makes Saint Lucia a top island destination for weddings, honeymoons, and families from around the world?
Located in the southeastern Caribbean Ocean, approximately 1,300 miles from Florida and a 3 ½ hour flight from Miami, Saint Lucia is considered one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful and geologically diverse islands. Volcanic in origin, the island’s mountains and valleys are covered in tropical splendor year round, including wild orchids, giant ferns, bird-of-paradise plants, and tropical rain forests. Saint Lucia’s most famous landmarks, the Pitons (Gros Piton and Petit Piton shown here), are forest-covered volcanic cones formed millions of years ago. If you’re an experienced climber, you may climb the Pitons with a licensed guide; and though the Pitons are certainly impressive in size and scale, they pale in comparison with Saint Lucia’s highest mountain, Mt. Gimie, located in the island’s interior and topping out at over 3,000 feet.
When is the best time to go to Saint Lucia?
Simply put, when it’s cold in the United States, it’s a great time to visit Saint Lucia! For the best deals, however, consider going in the early summer months to avoid peak-season winter rates. The island’s average monthly temperatures range from 75-81 degrees Fahrenheit with the tropical climate tempered by northeasterly trade winds throughout most of the year. The warmest months are June through August, when temperatures can reach the mid-90s. In January, temperatures may drop into the mid-60s. You may expect cooler temperatures and more rainfall in the higher elevations, and more hot and humid temperatures in the interior areas of the island. Average rainfall ranges from 60 inches in the coastal regions to 160 inches in the interior rain forests. Saint Lucia’s driest period is between December and May while the rainiest season is typically June-November, which coincides with hurricane season. Though hurricanes typically tract north of Saint Lucia, you can expect the most active months for hurricanes and tropical storms to be August through October.
How do I get to Saint Lucia?
Several major airlines offer flights to Saint Lucia, and most international flights typically fly into Hewanorra International Airport on the south end of the island. Saint Lucia is also a popular stop for cruise ships. Additionally, you may take advantage of high-speed ferries from Saint Lucia’s closest neighboring islands, Martinique (21 miles away) and St. Vincent (24 miles away).
What documentation is required to enter Saint Lucia?
United States citizens are required to have a passport valid for six months beyond their travel dates along with proof of a return ticket.
What language is spoken in Saint Lucia?
English is the national language of Saint Lucia, which makes it an easy and comfortable place to send my travel clients, including first-time international travelers. You will also hear Kweyol, a French-based patois widely spoken by the locals.
What currency is used in Saint Lucia?
The Eastern Caribbean Dollar is the primary currency of Saint Lucia, but US dollars are accepted in many places. Credit cards are also widely accepted at major shopping centers, restaurants, and hotels, but don’t assume they will be accepted by smaller Mom-and-Pop shops and vendors.
Where should I stay in Saint Lucia? The island offers a wide variety of accommodations from bed & breakfast residences to all-inclusive resorts, such as Sandals Resorts (there are 3 Sandals Resorts in Saint Lucia). My best advice is to first determine the activities you wish to enjoy while you’re on the island, then have a travel professional (me) help you determine the best island location and accommodation to fit your needs.
To help you better understand the various regions of Saint Lucia, I thought I’d highlight some of the island’s “hot spots” for tourism. The map below is courtesy of Saint Lucia’s Tourism Board. (Click on the map to view a larger image.)
Assuming you’re flying to Saint Lucia from the United States, you’ll arrive at Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) in Vieux Fort. This region is best known for its proximity to the Maria Islands, which are protected by the Saint Lucia National Trust, and home to the world’s smallest (and harmless) grass snake, the Kouwes, and a unique ground lizard called a Zandoli. Guided boat tours to the Maria Islands, arranged in advance through the Trust’s office in Castries, will take you to Maria Major and Maria Minor where you can swim and snorkel off small, pristine beaches; however, the islands are closed to the public during leatherback turtle nesting season and seabird nesting seasons (spring/summer months).
Vieux Fort is Saint Lucia’s second-largest town. Here you will find small hotels and resorts, banks, and supermarkets. On Saturdays the main public market is held here. If you enjoy drives up steep cliffs for amazing views, including views of the Maria Islands and neighboring St. Vincent on a clear day, you will enjoy the Vieux Fort region. Bird watchers and fishermen will appreciate the Mankote Mangrove within the Savannes Bay Nature Reserve while lighthouse fanatics will appreciate viewing the Moule a Chique Lighthouse (the lighthouse, itself, is closed to visitors). Do you like white-sand beaches and windsurfing? You should consider visiting Anse de Sables Beach. It’s considered to be one of the island’s finest and longest beaches and one of the Eastern Caribbean’s best spots for windsurfing due to the constant onshore trade winds.
Moving up the west coast from Vieux Fort you will pass many small fishing villages, such as Laborie and Choiseul, where you will find naturally weather-beaten wooden houses and boats, small markets, a few white-sand beaches, and arts and crafts centers where you may purchase pottery, baskets, and wood carvings made by local artisans. Between Laborie and Choiseul lies the Balenbouche Estate, a privately-owned working plantation filled with ruins and artifacts dating back 1,500 years. The Balenbouche Estate is a great place to visit on a guided tour.
Continuing north along the west coast you will pass the Pitons (Gros Piton and Petit Piton) and come to the town of Soufriere, Saint Lucia’s oldest town. Many of the island’s most-visited attractions are within a few miles of town. The Diamond Waterfalls & Botanical Gardens are full of beautiful greenery and tropical plants with the waterfall’s six stages descending through sulphur springs, causing the cascade to take on different colors. Mineral baths at the base of the falls, built by a French king for his troops because the sulphur water was believed to have healing powers, are open to the public for a fee. Nearby, Sulphur Springs has one of the world’s only few drive-in volcanoes. Here, seven acres of semi-active volcano offer visitors a peak into bubbling pools of sulphur water having a temperature of about 340 degrees. Be sure to hold your nose—the sulphur smell is strong. Toraille Waterfall & Gardens, with its short nature trail through a lush tropical paradise, falls 50 feet over a cliff into a pool at the center of the garden. The Soufriere Estate and Fond Doux Estate nearby offer visitors a glimpse into Saint Lucia’s cultured past. Anse Chastanet Beach, home to one of the island’s best black-sand beaches, offers superb snorkeling and shore diving.
Traveling north of the Soufriere region through West Central Saint Lucia, you’ll pass more fishing villages such as Anse La Raye, home of the popular Seafood Friday (community fish fry and street party). Next, you will arrive at popular Marigot Bay. Considered one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful bays, Marigot Bay was the location for the classic film, Doctor Doolittle, starring Rex Harrison, and today serves as a popular yachting center.
Next up is Castries, the capital of Saint Lucia. Because the city has burned to the ground twice (in 1796 and 1948), much of the city structure is new. Popular tourist sites include the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Derek Walcott Square, and Morne Fortune (Hill of Good Luck), a former 17th-century outpost with an overview of the city of Castries. You will also find Saint Lucia’s second airport, George F.L. Charles Airport (SLU), used mostly for regional inter-island flights.
Between the city of Castries and region of Cap Estate at the northernmost tip of Saint Lucia, you will find the largest number of hotels and resorts, in addition to some of the most popular bays and beaches on the island—Choc Bay, Rodney Bay, and Reduit Beach with its golden sand, considered the finest beach. You’ll also find the island’s only 18-hole golf course, located in Cap Estate at the St. Lucia Golf and Country Club. The region is also home to several national parks and nature trails, such as Pigeon Island National Landmark and the Union Trail and Interpretive Centre.
Traveling north to south along the east coast of Saint Lucia, popular stops include Desbarres and Grande Anse Beach where nightly guided tours are organized to witness leatherback sea turtles laying their eggs from March through July. At the Marquis Estate, the island’s largest estate is still a working plantation full of cocoa, coffee, teak, and mahogany trees. You may travel from the plantation down the river to the ocean for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean. It is also a popular area for horseback riding.
The town of Dennery, a sizable fishing village, is known for its Fish Festival and community party held every Saturday. Located a few miles offshore from Dennery lies the Fregate Islands Nature Reserve where visitors may observe frigate birds in their natural habitat (please note that the trails on the Fregate Islands are closed during nesting season from May through July). Popular hiking trails and nature preserves are also located near the town of Dennery, including Fond d’Or Nature Reserve and Historical Park. It is in these areas where you will find zip line canopy tours, festivals, and horseback riding. In Praslin Bay you will find boat-builders who still make fishing canoes out of a single tree, and nearby Mamiku Gardens is a 12-acre tropical garden full of exotic trees and the ruins of an estate house that was burned down by ex-slaves in 1797.
Finally, we come to the small village of Micoud. It is near Micoud you will find the turnoff to Latille Waterfalls and one of Saint Lucia’s most popular hiking trails, Des Cartiers Rain Forest Trail.
Who should visit Saint Lucia?
Anyone! Whether you are a nature lover, bird watcher, scuba diver, adventurer, or romantic, Saint Lucia offers something for everyone. Boating, fishing, culture, ecotourism, family travel, golf, hiking, horseback riding, sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, spas, windsurfing, zip lining, dolphin and whale watching—these are just a few of the island’s most popular activities, but there are many more reasons to visit Saint Lucia. So what’s stopping you? Saint Lucia — ‘Simply Beautiful.’