St Lucia or Santa Lucia Caribe is the only country in the world named after a woman and if an island had a gender it could reasonably be argued that St Lucia is indeed well named. Exciting, stimulating, beautiful, lush, bountiful, serene – all the very best superlatives used to describe how remarkable women can be ascribed to St Lucia. The island caters for a diverse range of interests and to help you thin out the choices we’ve listed what we think are some of the best things to do in St Lucia. St Lucia is a popular honeymoon vacation destination and is home to one of our top Caribbean family resorts.
Part of the Commonwealth, this sovereign island country located where the Eastern Caribbean Sea meets the North Atlantic is a jewel among the various islands of the Caribbean. Covering a land area of 238 square miles, it is a lush island with beautiful beaches, dramatic mountains with over 70 per cent of its territory carpeted by tropical rainforests.
The volcanic activities of its ancient past have shaped the dramatic mountainous terrain – featuring the spellbinding Gros and Petit Pitons and Mount Gimie (at over 3,000ft). This alluring green vista will charm you from the air or sea before you’ve even set a foot on St Lucia.
The chequered distant political past of this island country has created a cultural diversity that influences modern and sedate St Lucia.
The legacy of the English leaves drivers navigating on the left-hand side of the roads is seen in some interesting buildings like Government House, a perfect example of Victorian architecture that is the residence of the current Governor-General of St Lucia.
The French too have left their mark, in the poetic place names of the island’s capital Castries as well as some of the picturesque harbour towns like Marigot Bay and Soufriere. In fact, on the southern end of Soufriere town, there are some lovely examples of French architecture.
The Caribe Indians, who preceded all this colonial fervour, have left a little footprint in St Lucia. But somehow this mishmash of history and culture has evolved into something both enchanting and original.
As you listen to calypso music, dine on the national dish of Green Fig and Salt Fish you are imbibing 500 years of history.
Without looking too far into the past, it’s time to look to the present of St Lucia island. It is laid back, welcoming, pretty beyond description with enough infrastructure and activities to please 21st-century travellers.
Getting Around St Lucia
A quick word on navigating around the island. You can, of course, rent a car or jeep to use while you visit the island but do also consider the water taxi services available at many of the beaches and harbours. These taxis can whisk you to lovely, quiet beaches or drop you back to your beach-front property. It is a time-efficient, not to mention, picturesque and restful way to reach your destination.
Best Things To Do In St Lucia
With the option of so many interesting things to do St Lucia is a great destination for both those who like an active vacation and for those who like something more sedate. If you’re not sure what to do in St Lucia, then read on. Heading to the beach is the very first consideration. Most likely you have found a Saint Lucia villa with beach access but for all water enthusiasts, there is an abundance of lovely and diverse beaches from which to launch yourself into the blue yonder.
The most famous and largest of the beaches is Reduit Beach (adjacent to Rodney Bay town). With a mile of golden sand and a view of Pigeon Island, this is the most popular beach on St Lucia. The sea is quite shallow and safe for young swimmers with an abundance of fun water activities available.
Swimming out to the inflatable water park, Splash Island, off Reduit Beach is terrific fun for young visitors. Have a casual lunch at the northern end of the beach where Spinnakers beach bar and restaurant offer local standards like jerk chicken or grilled fish.
Families with young children sometimes prefer the two smaller beaches on Pigeon Island that are located just within the entrance to the National Park. There is a causeway connecting Pigeon Island to the mainland or take a water taxi from Reduit Beach. It’s easy to get to and provides a welcome respite from the more hectic activity on the nearby larger beach.
Pigeon Park National Park
The National Park on Pigeon Island is a St Lucia attraction that is worth a day out. Enjoy exploring the old military ruins of Fort Rodney, climb the steep hill and take some wonderful photographs from this old naval lookout point. With so many lovely shaded, manicured green spots to sit and rest, as well as the two little beaches, it is an ideal destination for a day of exploration and a picnic. Or perhaps call into the thrillingly named Jambe de Bois (Wooden Leg), traditional beach café for some light refreshments.
Midpoint on St Lucia’s west coast, between Castries and Soufriere, is the small and pretty beach of Anse Cochon. For the easiest access, you can arrive by water or take the road south from Anse La Raye, turning off to Ti Kaye. Note that there are 166 steps down to the beach (and back up again!) so travel light.
It is certainly well worth the effort as the beach is quiet and is a divine place to swim out to the reef and snorkel. Kayaks, sun loungers and other water equipment can be hired at the beach and there is the nearby Ti Kaye’s bar for lunch.
A small beach with dark volcanic silver sand is at a beautiful location on the south-west coast of the island. Surrounded by steep hillsides, green with palm trees, this sheltered beach is the best place to access the reef.
An array of marine life like parrotfish, trumpet fish, green turtles are a short splash away and you can rent all the necessary equipment from Scuba St Lucia. Again, a water taxi from Soufriere is the easiest way to arrive for your day of beach activities. Bring a picnic or enjoy a terrific buffet lunch at the nearby Hotel.
Anse des Pitons
Anse des Pitons beach has imported its sand from Guyana giving it the photo perfect image of a Caribbean beach – turquoise waters, glistening white beach. Regardless of this rather dramatic gesture, this beach enjoys the enviable position of being situated between the Pitons.
With all the usual water activities to be enjoyed and plenty of dining options nearby, this is a lovely place to spend a leisurely day enjoying the sweeping views of the Pitons against the sky.
Sandy Beach, Vieux Fort is a key destination for the St Lucia activities of kite surfing and water sports. This beautiful beach at the southern-most tip of St Lucia has good wind conditions for the surfing enthusiast. A lovely, peaceful beach to visit for a romantic, secluded day of swimming and sunbathing.
Getting out on the water
One of the very best things to do in St Lucia is to take a boat excursion to do some whale watching. With over 20 species of whales that migrate along the St Lucian coast, there are so many opportunities to see our fellow mammals in their natural habitat. In addition to whales, there are many dolphin sightings so be sure you have your camera to hand! Any of the whale watching or marine trips operated out of St Lucia are low-impact tours, respectful to the environment and to the species being observed. Even the more jaded traveller is dazzled to see a whale breach the water. To witness, in such proximity, the size of these gentle creatures is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
If you are an intrepid sailor you can hire a sailboat, with or without a skipper, and enjoy the views of St Lucia from your own floating oasis. Hire Hobie cats, dinghies, speed boats or kayaks to enjoy offshore exploration and water sports. The harbour of Marigot Bay, inspirational by any Caribbean standards, is the place to view spectacular yachts. This glamorous destination, in a gorgeous bay, tucked safely within steep forested hills, is the very definition of a ‘safe harbour’ for water enthusiasts. A lovely day spent pottering around the coastline or relaxing in the harbour town is one of the best things to do in St. Lucia.
A Catamaran Charter Cruise is a must-do trip when in St. Lucia. The perfect way to absorb St. Lucia’s natural beauty & picturesque views, sailing past many beautiful bays & reefs, taking time to swim or snorkel and of course, view the stunning Pitons. Choose from full day cruise, half day cruise, Piton Hike & Sail, or sunset cruise.
Private Day Sail: Shiver Me Timbers – imagine a trip on a replica of a 16th century galleon. The excursion begins with a sail along the scenic west coast of the island heading down to the picturesque town of Soufriere. Here you will see the renowned twin peak mountains, The Pitons, as well as a cascading waterfall, botanical garden and the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano. Children get the opportunity to get dressed up as a Pirate and face painted for the day. Have fun with an exciting treasure hunt, learn to fire a cannon, swing from the yardarm and walk the plank if you so wish!
And now for something quite different ….
Probably one of the top things to do in St Lucia, for those with a head for heights and adventure, is the Canopy Tour linking by zip lines 9 tropical rainforest tree-top platforms. You will be like the colourful and shrieking St Lucian parrot flying through this UNESCO protected leafy tropical paradise.
Teak, Mahogany and Banana trees proliferate with an abundance of giant ferns, wild orchids and other colourful flowers. Look for hummingbirds or the elusive St Lucia parrot as you whizz by.
For the less able-bodied or younger visitors, an 8-person suspended gondola with tour guide will ferry you along zip wires through the jungle canopy. You will descend from your flight through the trees with a greater understanding of the flora and fauna of these amazing rainforests.
Hiking the Pitons
For a sturdy hike, why not take on the Pitons. It’s impossible not to be drawn to these two dominating features on St Lucia. To enjoy the experience, it is worthwhile booking a guide to help you navigate the climb.
Although the Gros or Petit Pitons aren’t especially high in comparison to US or European mountains, the onshore temperatures and muddy tracks add another dimension to any expedition, so it isn’t simply a casual Sunday stroll. As with all such activities, be guided by local knowledge and take all the usual water, long-sleeved shirts, hat, snacks etc. Is the view at the top worth it?
On a clear day, the answer is a definitive YES!
For the land lovers in your group, there are some excellent mountain biking trails that start from Anse Mamin, the beach adjacent to Anse Chastanet and Bike St Lucia can provide you with a sturdy bike and maps for a forested adventure. With eight miles of tracks, designed to suit most mountain biking standards, as well as the infinitely difficult Tinker’s Trail, it is a phenomenal day out for the fitness junkie.
Gardens, Trails and Gentle Hikes
If you want to enjoy the tropical rainforests in a more leisurely fashion, then a visit to Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens (and Mineral Baths) one of the key attractions of St Lucia is recommended. Near to Soufriere, the original capital of St Lucia under the French, and located on the west coast of the island, you can stroll around this lush estate with its hot mineral baths that date from the 1780s.
The baths are still in operation today and you can enjoy a soak in an enclosed private bathhouse or enjoy the mineral rejuvenation in some of the small public pools. With a wonderful waterfall, beautiful flowers and lush greenery, this is a lovely day out for romantic couples or families.
If your holiday is based around the east of St Lucia, then the Mamiku Gardens is equally one of the most memorable botanical gardens in St Lucia to visit.
These lush gardens have upwards of 250 species of plants and tropical flowers as well as the ruins of a former plantation. Orchid enthusiasts will be dazzled by the amazing species growing in this romantic and Eden-like paradise. There are some nice hikes and trails around these gardens so always wear suitable closed-in footwear to take full advantage of these natural wonders.
Soufriere Safari Buggy Tour offers visitors to the island an opportunity to traverse the undulating, bumpy and sometimes rather ragged roads of the island. This 6-hour tour sees a convoy of manual or automatic transmission buggies depart from the Soufriere area.
Booking either a 2 or 4-seater buggy, you will be guided to some of the best viewing points in the area. More important, you will visit the incredible drive-in volcano and mud baths, heading onto the Toraille Waterfall where you can swim in the picture-postcard perfection of its natural pool. A buffet lunch is arranged at one of the best viewing points along this tour. It really is a terrific way to see St Lucia by road and take some stunning photographs.
The Tet Paul Nature Trail is a heritage site also known as ‘Stairway to Heaven’. The gentle uphill climb through tropical fruit trees, medicinal herbs and an organic farm, offers unique and outstanding views of the Pitons and the ocean beyond. Onwards to the Sulphur Springs in the Drive-In Volcano to witness this true wonder of bubbling sulphuric waters, steam and mineral deposits. Visit the Diamond Botanical Gardens nestled in one of the most magical locations in the island.
For a more pedestrian morning or afternoon activity, why not visit the St Lucia Golf Club, an 18-hole championship course. This par-71 only plays 6,744 yards off the blue tees but the course attracts a USGA rating of 74.3. It is a lovely leisurely day out and the facilities in the Club House boast a duty-free pro shop.
For a more urban experience, visit the capital city of Castries. World-class duty-free shopping is available at Pointe Seraphine. Peynier Street is the best place to look for local arts and crafts. Don’t miss the 400-year-old Samaan Tree in the town centre. Lots of lovely cafes and restaurants ensure you will have a stimulating and diverse day out.
Anyone who wants to go yacht watching should visit Rodney Bay. The marina is very pretty and welcomes many Caribbean yachting enthusiasts. With an array of restaurants and cafés along the marina, it is a busy and vibrant place to visit. Lots of shopping to be enjoyed in town and there is a good selection of nightlife for night owls too.
Any discussion about St Lucia island activities wouldn’t be complete without mention of the Gros Islet Street Party. Every Friday evening (except Good Friday) this town becomes a party destination for live music, delicious street food, the place to sample local rum or the Piton beer. With the tantalising aroma of BBQ fresh fish in the air, this carnival experience attracts visitors and locals from all over the island.
Cooking the Caribbean Way
Learn about the current palette of the locals as well as the food origins of this historic island. Not only will you have an opportunity to learn how to cook some authentic dishes, you will also take a tropical garden tour that will culminate in a St. Lucian lunch of seasonal ingredients. Three hours of fun, friendly, interactive cooking.
With direct flights from major European and US cities, this island paradise is easily accessed. Named in honour of St Lucy, whose name derives from the word LIGHT, St Lucia will cast an enchanted glow over your visit – It is time to let the light in!
About Mairead Moriarty
Born and raised in Co Kerry, lived in London, New York, San Francisco, Dublin. Owner of one very battered suitcase, a well-worn passport and a million memories.
It seems very fitting for a travel writer that my surname translates as ‘Skilled Navigator’. Apart from an occasion when, aged 3, I got lost in a Supermarket in Tralee, I have managed to live up to my name!
Curiosity is probably the driver that has sent me on magical mystery tours around the world. I want to ‘feel’ a place. I want all my senses to be engaged: from the history and geography that has influenced a country or city, the arts and achievements of its natives, anything and everything really.
Regardless of whether I am on a local train travelling through Morocco, or poking around in Marconi’s study in Bologna or on a canal boat weaving through the heart of the English countryside, the same rules apply - ask questions, talk to locals, eat what they eat, sit quietly with nature and simply be.
Assimilate as much as is possible so as to understand the soul of a place. That is my passion. That is the compass by which I navigate.