SAINT LUCIA TRAVEL GUIDE
Saint Lucia is an Eastern Caribbean island nation with a pair of dramatically tapered mountains, the Pitons, on its west coast. Its coast is home to volcanic beaches, reef-diving sites, luxury resorts and fishing villages. Trails in the interior rainforest lead to waterfalls like the 15m-high Toraille, which pours over a cliff into a garden. The capital, Castries, is a popular cruise port.
A treasure trove of natural reserves with some rare species inhabiting the island, St. Lucia offers some excellent opportunities for quiet walks interrupted only by the chirpings of a bird or two. In the interiors of the Island, you can spot a variety of birds and wildlife in the lush rainforest. The numerous waterfalls provide soothing background music. Most of its sun-kissed silvery beaches washed by pure white surf are isolated thus making them ideal getaways. Unlike its Caribbean neighbours, St. Lucia is less attuned to tourism, which in itself is a major tourist attraction.
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SAINT LUCIA QUICK FACTS
Currency: East Caribbean dollar (XCD)
Area: 616 km²
Population: 181 889 (2018)
Language: English (official), French patois
Religion: Roman Catholic 90%, Protestant 7%, Anglican 3%
Electricity: 240V, 50Hz (UK plug)
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SAINT LUCIA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 22 February, Independence Day
- 1 May, Labor Day
- 1 August, Emancipation Day
- 1st Monday in October, Thanksgiving Day
- 13 December, National Day
- 26 December, Boxing Day
Also, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, and Corpus Christi.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SAINT LUCIA
Saint Lucia has a tropical maritime climate throughout the year with some relief from the high temperatures and humidity being offered by the easterly (trade) winds that blow from the northeast. Although it rains during every month of the year, there is a well-defined rainy or wet season that occurs between June and November. Precipitation during the wet season comes mainly from tropical waves, depressions, storms and hurricanes, which occur frequently over this region owing to its geographical location within the Atlantic hurricane belt. The tropical cyclone season typically lasts from June until November.
The best time to visit St. Lucia is between May and June. These late spring and early summer months offer wonderful weather – high 70s to 80s – plus there are enviable room rates at the best hotels. Music lovers should consider visiting in early May specifically to attend the St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival that's held at Pigeon Island National Landmark. The island is flush with activity in the summer and late fall, but there's a greater chance of hurricanes. The busiest and most expensive time to vacation is from December to April, the driest season.
High Season (Dec–Apr) - People fleeing the northern hemisphere winter arrive in droves and prices peak. This is the Caribbean's driest time and can be cool the northern islands.
Shoulder (May–Jun & Nov) - The weather is good, rains are moderate throughout. Reduced visitor numbers and the best mix of affordable rates and good weather. makes this an ideal time to visit the Caribbean.
Low Season (Jul–Oct) - Hurricane season; the odds of being caught are small, but tropical storms are like abound. During this time room prices can be half or less than in high season and you will find eastern Caribbean’s beaches good for surfing.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
HIKING & CYCLING IN SAINT LUCIA
The best months for outdoor activities in Saint Lucia, are December to June when it's driest and least humid. From July to November the rain usually falls in brief, very heavy showers.
BEACH OPTIONS IN SAINT LUCIA
Saint Lucia enjoys a hot, tropical climate suitable for beach going all year round. The driest and least humid months are typically from December to June, so these are best for enjoying the beaches. From July to November the rain usually falls in brief, very heavy showers.
SURFING IN SAINT LUCIA
The best months for surfing in Saint Lucia is from November to April. The most popular surf spots are Commaret Point, Marigot Bay, Pigeon Point and Winjammer.
KITESURF IN SAINT LUCIA
There is pretty good wind for kitesurfing in Saint Lucia from November to June, with the best conditions from February to April. One of the most popular spots is Cas en Bas, Plantation Beach or Cotton Bay.
HEALTH RISKS IN SAINT LUCIA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
SAINT LUCIA TRAVEL COSTS
The Caribbean is not cheap, but there are ways to get the most bang for your buck with a little forward planning and some savvy choices
Budget less than US$150 Room away from the beach: under US$100, Meal at a locally popular restaurant: US$10, Ride local buses: US$3
Midrange US$150–300 Double room in the action: US$200, Visit parks and beaches that are free, rent bikes or snorkel for US$10 per day Rental car for exploring: US$40 to US$60 a day.
Top end over US$300 - Beautiful rooms at the best resorts in high season: US$400 and over, Activities in beautiful places: US$100 and up, World-renowned meals: US$100 per person and more.
Here are some of the best ways to save money:
Travel in groups Bring your friends and other couples along with you and rent a villa.
Book far in advance For high season deals.
Book at the last minute For incredible deals as hotels dump empty rooms.
Follow the divers They demand great value near beautiful waters.
Ride buses and ferries You meet folks and may have an adventure.
Live like a local Save money while having a more authentic visit.
Travel in low season Prices can drop 40% or more.
SAINT LUCIA TRAVEL TIPS
The best way to get around St. Lucia is by car or minibus, though taxis are also available and water taxis around the island are plentiful.
- Rental cars or scooters can be obtained at the Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) in the southern town of Vieux Fort, which is about 40 miles to the south of Castries. For rental cars, you'll need a temporary driving license, which can be obtained in advance or by showing a valid driver's license at the car rental agency, the airport or the police station in Castries.
- Privately run minibuses serve as the main ground transportation for much of the island, with routes forming a loop between the main towns. Buses run on varied times depending on the route, but most do not operate on Sundays. Fares range from $1 to $3. Minibuses have a green number plate with an M prefix.
- Authorized taxis have a light blue number plate with a "TX" prefix. Before you hire a taxi, confirm the fare. Fares are about $70 from the airport to Marigot Bay. You can also hire taxis for island tours, which can be convenient if you're visiting St. Lucia by way of a cruise.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF SAINT LUCIA
Rising like an emerald tooth from the Caribbean Sea, St Lucia grabs your attention with its arresting Pitons. In hills above small beaches, you’ll find varied and interesting boutique hotels and resorts. Noted for its oodles of small and luxurious resorts that drip colour and flair, St Lucia is really two islands in one. Rodney Bay in the north offers modern comforts amid a beautiful bay. In the south, Soufrière is at the heart of a gorgeous region of old plantations, hidden beaches and the geologic wonder of the impossibly photogenic Pitons.
Castries, the main city of St Lucia is worth a brief stop as you transit from one of the islands to the other. Its best feature by far is the soaring Morne Fortune (2795ft) as its backdrop. Most of the city’s historic buildings were destroyed by major fires between 1785 and 1948, but it makes for an interesting stroll. The markets mostly sell tat to cruise-ship passengers, but you can find interest back in the recesses. If possible, avoid the charmless area of town along Jeremie St and the main port area.
A 30-minute drive from Castries along the Atlantic-battered East Coast transports you to another world, where you can experience a St Lucia that’s very Creole, laid-back and little visited. While this coast lacks the beaches of the west, it makes up for it with lovely bays backed by spectacular cliffs, a rocky shoreline pounded by thundering surf, and a handful of picturesque fishing towns, including Dennery and Micoud.
(more location and points of interest are available in the above map)
About 10km north of Castries, the vast horseshoe of Rodney Bay boasts the island’s most diverse tourist facilities. Within the bay is a large, artificial lagoon and marina, flanked by Rodney Bay Village, a somewhat bland assemblage of bars, restaurants, shops and more. Far more interesting is the fishing village of Gros Islet to the north. Here the historic streets are lined with rum shops and fishing shacks draped with drying nets.
Pigeon Island really used to be an island before being joined to the mainland by a sandy causeway in the 1970s. It's a fun place to explore, with paths winding around the remains of barracks, batteries and garrisons whose partially intact stone buildings create a ghost-town effect. At the top of Fort Rodney Hill, you’ll find a small but well-preserved fortress, a few rusting cannons and cardiac-arresting views.
Once you’ve left bustling Rodney Bay, life becomes more sedate as you head toward the island’s northernmost reaches. On Cap Estate the hilly terrain is dotted with chichi villas, large estates and the island’s only public golf course. From there it’s an easy drive downhill to secluded Cas En Bas Beach. On the wilder side of the island, the winds and surf here can be lively.
As the road heads south from Castries, it encounters the rising topography of the island – twisting and turning around hairpin corners and steep hills – and uncluttered ocean views. Passing through the tiny fishing villages of Anse La Raye and Canaries, and the banana plantations that surround them, the real St Lucia comes to the fore. Marigot Bay is an exquisite example of natural architecture. Sheltered by towering palms and the surrounding hills, the narrow inlet is said to have once hidden the entire British fleet from French pursuers.
If one town were to be the heart and soul of St Lucia, it would have to be Soufrière. Its attractions include a slew of colonial-era edifices scattered amid brightly painted wooden storefronts and a bustling seafront.
The surrounding landscape is little short of breath-taking: the sky-scraping towers of rock known as the Pitons stand guard over the town. Jutting from the sea, covered in vegetation and ending in a summit that looks otherworldly, these are St Lucia’s iconic landmarks.
At the very southern tip of the island, Vieux Fort, the island’s second-largest town, lies on a vast plain onshore from where the azure waters of the Caribbean blend with those of the rough Atlantic Ocean.
WHAT TO PACK FOR SAINT LUCIA
The Caribbean islands are casual, so bring light, comfy clothes: a bathing suit, T-shirt and shorts will be your wardrobe. Add long pants or a dress for nights out.
Sun hat Buying at home ensures a better fit.
Quick-dry towel A small one, for when the whim to swim hits.
Flashlight For night-time reading, blackouts.
Resealable bags / Drybags Essential for keeping things (cameras, air tickets, passports) dry on boat trips.
Snorkelling mask with corrective lenses Suddenly, reefs are in focus!
WHAT TO EAT IN SAINT LUCIA
With such a rich history of cultures, from Amerindians to Africans to the French and British, it's no wonder St. Lucia has an enormous melting pot of cuisines. Of course, as an island, fresh seafood plays a central role, with everything from conch to mahi-mahi prepared in a myriad of ways.
The island's national dish, Green Fig and Saltfish (Green figs are the local name for green bananas) is stewed saltfish with boiled green bananas, has a long history dating back to when salted cod was a staple for sailors on long voyages. It is prepared by stewing it with seasoning peppers and onions and is served with boiled, unripe bananas. You'll find it on most menus across the island. Barbecued pork and chicken is also quite popular. Cocoa tea, made with local cocoa, spices and milk, is a standard breakfast drink, along with hot, deep-fried bread.
Since many of the island's best hotels offer all-inclusive packages and boast several restaurants on-site, you may be tempted to enjoy all your meals within the comfy confines of your resort. But those who ventured off property reported finding several delicious local eateries.
Take time to meet the locals by doing what they do – you’ll enjoy a more affordable and authentic experience.
Eat at lunch wagons or stalls. The local fare is cheap and often incredibly good.
Drop by a local bar – often the de facto community centre. Besides a drink, you’ll get all sorts of useful – or wonderfully frivolous – advice.
Look for community fish fries or barbecues in the Eastern Caribbean.