Geothermal activity, dramatic mountain views, dense rainforests, volcanic sand beaches and multi-hued coral reefs allure travelers to the island of Saint Lucia, located in the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea, all year round. Hundreds of different bird species, diverse marine life—sea turtles, dolphins, whales—and other curious wildlife like bats, wild pigs, opossum, snakes, lizards, and the guinea pig-like agouti all call this lush wonderland home.
From tour guides to hotel staff to taxi drivers to vendors on the street, everyone will tell you about how the island has changed hands between the British and the French seven times each before the British took conclusive control in 1814. Saint Lucia claimed independence in 1979, and the decedents of black Africans, who were enslaved during British rule, form the majority of the island’s population today. While most locals speak English, a majority speak French creole. You’ll find that the music, food, and languages reflect the diverse cultures on this island.
Keep reading to learn about Saint Lucia—the only country in the world named after an actual female historical person—as well as what there is to do, see, and eat here.
Shop at Castries Market
Right across from the harbor in downtown Castries, the island’s capital and popular port city, you’ll find a lively market where you can buy local goods. Shop for spicy sauces and dips; hand-crafted art, textiles, and homegoods; tropical fruits and vegetables, presented in rows; and fresh coconut drinks.
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Get Muddy at Sulphur Springs
Lather up in gray and black mud and soak in the warm mineral-rich, spring-fed thermal waters at Sulphur Springs in Soufrière, the original French capital. Fed by the boiling springs of mud that can be seen just up the road in the “drive-in volcano”, a collapsed crater with lava crusts, this is a mud bath you won’t want to miss.
Hike Gros Piton
Intrepid travelers will love hiking to the top of Gros Piton on a guided adventure that begins near the village of Soufriere, at the interpretive center in the town of Fond Gens, on the island’s southwestern coast.
While centrally-located Mount Gimie, at 3,117 feet, is actually the tallest mountain on the island, it’s the pair of Pitons that are the most iconic, with the views everyone drools over in photos on Instagram and the like.
The 3.2-mile out-and-back hike will take you a significant portion of the day to summit at 2,619 feet above sea level, but the views at this World Heritage Site will be worth it. These volcanic plugs are Saint Lucia’s most recognizable landmarks and they’re worth viewing from every angle.
Learn Island History at Pigeon Island National Landmark and Museum
You’ll find 44-acre Pigeon Island, which today is actually a peninsula surrounded by the sea on three sides, on the northern tip of St. Lucia. A designated Historic Landmark, this area has a number of ancient military buildings and battlements, a museum and interpretation center, a couple of white-sand beaches, a look-out point and a walkable path to Fort Rodney. Snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, and diving just off the shores are other popular activities at Pigeon Island.
Smell the Vegetation at Diamond Botanical Gardens
In the historic French town of Soufrière sits the most exquisite flower and plant-filled six-acre garden on the island: Diamond Botanical Gardens. Hire a tour guide to get in-depth knowledge about the island’s tropical foods, marvel at the towering Diamond Waterfall (no swimming is allowed), and soak in the mineral waters.
Wander the Trails at Tet Paul Nature Trail
For grand views of the Gros and Petit Pitons, visit the Tet Paul Nature Park. You’ll be able to walk on an easy nature path, with viewpoints along the way, and take as many photographs as you like. This nature park is ideal for multigenerational families.
Experience Food Festivals
The island on weekend nights, between Soufrière and Castries, transforms into a lively party scene where Piton beer and local rum flows. Either visit the Gros Islet Street Party on the northern end of the island, the Anse Le Ray Fish Fry further down the western coast, or the Dennery Fish Fry on the eastern coast. Locals and tourists come together to eat, dance, and listen to live music at these weekly street “jump-ups”. This is a great way to experience the island’s culture and test out a variety of food.
The island has a number of popular festivals throughout the year, like the annual Saint Lucia Food and Rum Festival, where you can sample different noshes and nibbles.
Surely, you’ll taste the banana in a way that you’ve never tasted before—St. Lucia grows 127 different varieties.
Don’t leave the island without trying the signature salt fish and green fig dish, where dried and salted codfish are soaked overnight, boiled, crusted and served with sautéed vegetables and spices as well as boiled unripe bananas, known locally as “green figs”.
Keep your eyes out for chocolate—cocoa pods grow all over the island.
Photograph Marigot Bay
Five miles south of the island’s capital on the western coast sits Marigot Bay, a lovely natural harbor, protected and sheltered, where you can have a relaxing drink on the beach or stroll along the boardwalk. Treat yourself to a day sail adventure and stop here for a bit of relaxation, swimming, and exploring.
Rest Your Head
Designed by Barbadian architect Ian Morrison, the Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort, located on the island’s northwest coast in Labrelotte Bay, has the feel of a southern European village, with its matching white villas topped with red-tiled roofs dotted along the hillside. With the sapphire Caribbean Sea as the central focal point, brick paths wander through more than 60 acres of tropical rainforest at this island haven, ideal for families and couples that prefer privacy and commodious accommodations. You’ll notice a variety of hummingbirds as they flitter from one tropical plant to another.
Book a villa, complete with a fully stocked kitchen and a private plunge pool, for prime views of the ocean and verdant landscape. The all-inclusive package includes meals and beverages at five different restaurants, access to the resort’s swimming pools and a round-the-clock fitness center, and water sports like snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, and stand-up paddle boarding. The property’s concierge can arrange for island tours or private boat charters so that you can get exactly what you want out of your island vacation.