Drive one hour from Hewanorra International Airport at the southern tip of St. Lucia to the capital city of Castries, where most business meetings take place, and you’ll quickly realize you’re visiting one of the most lush and mountainous islands in the Caribbean. The road swirls up and down the dramatic volcanic interior, offering views of those stunning twin peaks called the Pitons and miles of uncongested coastline. Add great water visibility and active reefs for scuba diving and snorkeling, a welcoming people and some of the finest resorts in the Caribbean, and you’ll no doubt want to finish your work quickly to join your family and take full advantage of the destination.
Some prefer to stay at many of the finer properties on island — such as Cap Maison, BodyHoliday and Windjammer Landing — located a half-hour’s drive north of Castries on the outskirts of Rodney Bay. Others choose to stay at the renowned resorts on the western end of the island, close to the town of Soufrière, which include Anse Chastanet, Jade Mountain and Sugar Beach.
Take a hike at Pigeon Island National Landmark, a perfect introduction to the lushness of St. Lucia, especially if you’re staying at one of the resorts at the northern end of the island. Once surrounded by water, the spot now links to the mainland via a causeway built in 1972. Pay the admission fee, and soon you’re walking in the shade under a row of casuarina trees. As you climb the hillside, the beaches and resorts on Rodney Bay come into view and the tropical vegetation smells ripe with humidity. The high-pitched calls of birds welcome you to the walls, ramparts and cannons still standing at Fort Romney. The 18th-century fortress perched atop the promontory was an important chunk of land for the British trying to hold off the French in their many battles over the island.
Intrepid groups from the wellness resort BodyHoliday like to rappel down these cliffs before sea kayaking back to their property. A far simpler option is to climb up the rocky path to the top of Signal Peak. To the north you can see the ridges of the long island of Martinique. To the south you can just make out the two jagged peaks of the Pitons, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Then it’s back to your resort of choice to play tennis, golf, scuba, sail a Hobie Cat in a sheltered bay or simply soak up the sun on a pearly white stretch of beach. The aquamarine waters of the Caribbean beckon, cooling off your warm and weary body. The northern tip of the island also offers pleasant biking along seaside villages and deserted beaches as you breathe in the humidity-thickened tropical air tinged with a dose of salt from the sea.
Arguably the best thing to do in St. Lucia: Jump on a boat and view the verdant cliffs from afar. Joy’s Adventure offers a six-hour boat trip in its Boston Whaler along the western coast. Zip past cruise ships in port at Castries and peer at the exquisite cove of Marigot Bay, where Mick Jagger and Oprah both own homes along the waterfront. Just past the beach at Anse Chastanet you get your first glimpse of the cone-shaped Pitons rising dramatically from the ocean floor to a height of more than 2,000 feet. Around the bend in Soufrière you switch over to minivans to be led up the hillside for a swim under a waterfall. Lather the volcanic mud on your body and wash it off in the cool waters, resulting in silky smooth skin, undeniably the best spa treatment on St. Lucia.
The tour continues at Joy’s home, where you lunch under the guava, papaya and banana trees. Then it’s off to the Sugar Beach resort, smack dab between the Pitons, to go snorkeling with neon-colored fish including parrotfish, queen angelfish and bright blue chromis. You’ll also spot fan, organ pipe and brain corals that are very much alive. On the return boat ride, drink homemade rum punch and listen to reggae while cruising back at high speed — the perfect ending to a perfect day.
If you choose to stay closer to Soufrière, more exploration of the island awaits. Next door to Anse Chastanet lies Anse Mamin, a former 18th-century plantation and sugar mill. The 500-acre ruins now offer more than eight miles of trails for either hiking or mountain biking. Walk over the massive fallen leaves of African tulip and calabash trees on a soft path next to a river. Deep in the jungle you cross over a bridge that leads to a centuries-old storage facility for molasses.
Another worthwhile nature walk near Soufrière is the Tet Paul Trail. A local guide leads the hour-long endeavor and teaches you about all the natural remedies developed from the vast range of tropical trees, bushes, herbs and fruit. Located in a farming community, everything seems to grow here. Fruit projects straight out of the bark of the soursop tree, whose young leaves, soaked in hot water, are supposedly good for the prostate. In fact, it seems St. Lucians use tea for all their woes. Rosemary leaves treat migraines; fennel serves as a digestif. Pick bay leaves, lemongrass and mint for their aromas, and spot ripe guavas, pineapples, cashews, apricots, the sour oranges used in many fish dishes, star fruit, passionfruit, limes and mocambos (small bananas great for frying). You’ll pass elephant ear ferns, the red ginger lily flower and the prickly bark of the gri-gri palm tree, which locals call the devil stick.
Then you climb the “stairway to heaven,” ascending stairs to a platform overlooking Gros Piton and his little brother, Petit Piton. You look down in amazement at the astounding view of the twin peaks and the spanking- white beach below. You might arrive in St. Lucia for business, but the problem is you might never leave.
INFO TO GO
St. Lucia is 27 miles long and 14 miles wide. Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort is located an hour’s drive south of Castries, 90 minutes south of Rodney Bay and about a 50-minute drive from the resorts near the Pitons in Soufrière. Taxis are readily available at the airport; a taxi to the northern resorts typically costs $80 for up to three passengers.
Anse Chastanet Resort
Sit on your balcony at Anse Chastanet or by the private infinity pool at sister property Jade Mountain and soak up the jaw-dropping views of the Pitons straight ahead. Their beach also offers one of the finest snorkeling spots on the island.
1 Anse Chastanet Road, Soufrière
BodyHoliday’s long line-up of fitness classes — spin, Pilates, yoga, tai chi, AquaFit — and guided hikes come with a reward: a daily massage, wrap or facial included in the price.
Cariblue Beach, Cap Estate, Castries
Known for its villas that climb a hillside and offer spectacular views of the sunset, the resort proves popular with families who like the all-inclusive option.
1504 Labrelotte Bay, Castries
Opt for the casual Bayside Restaurant set on a white-sand beach. Then get ready to dig into wood-fired oven pizzas and the grilled catch of the day.
Sugar Beach Resort, Val Des Pitons, La Baie de Silence, Soufrière
The Cliff at Cap
Grab a coveted seat overlooking the ocean at The Cliff at Cap and get ready for a fusion of Caribbean- and French-influenced flavors washed down with the specially made Cap Maison Solera rum.
Cap Maison Resort, Smuggler’s Cove Drive, Cap Estate
Ti Kaye Resort boasts one of the finest wine lists in the Caribbean, including a rare sighting of a Joseph Phelps Insignia. Sample a world of wines in its Ti Kave wine cellar, paired perfectly with an assortment of cheeses.
Ti Kaye Resort & Spa, Anse Cochon, Anse La Raye
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