A wonderful perk of my job as a travel agent is to attend FAM trips to different destinations. FAM trips (or ‘educationals’) are where tourist boards or tour operators want to show off their country/product, so we can sell it better to clients. My recent visit to Saint Lucia was a FAM trip, hosted by the Saint Lucia tourism board. The tourism board wanted to show off how beautiful Saint Lucia is, so we were shown the best of what Saint Lucia has to offer.
Saint Lucia is such a diverse island within the Caribbean, boasting white sandy beaches, lush tropical rainforests and stunning volcanic landscape. It has made me fall in love with the Caribbean and island lifestyle and I can’t wait to explore more of what the Caribbean has to offer.
As part of work, we got to visit a lot of the island in a short amount of time, so here is my mini guide on the best of Saint Lucia where I talk about logistics, useful information, where to stay and what to do. Enjoy!
Getting There & Useful Info
Saint Lucia is located in the eastern Caribbean and the flight time is approximately 8 hours from the UK. You can fly direct from London and Manchester with Virgin and BA. Once you arrive, you would land at Hewanorra International Airport which is located in the south. Therefore, if you are staying in the north of the island expect transfers to take up to 90 minutes. As Saint Lucia is a mountainous island, roads are very windy and can be bumpy in some parts. So if you are prone to travel sickness, make sure you keep some anti-sickness tablets in your hand luggage!
Saint Lucia uses two currencies; Easter Caribbean Dollars and US Dollars. As I was going to New York later on in the year, I only took US Dollars with me (that way, if I had any leftover I could use them for New York), however, the exchange rate can be a bit confusing as most things are given in EC. Whichever you use, both are accepted everywhere on the island.
Weather-wise, Saint Lucia is best to visit during November-May. June to October is the rainy season, with August-October being prone to hurricanes. Saint Lucia doesn’t often get hit with hurricanes as much as the other Caribbean islands with their last big hit in 2010. Despite that, it is still best not to go during these times of the year.
As Saint Lucia was both colonized by the French and English, both of these languages are spoken on the island. Their colonial past has also shaped their cuisine, with Saint Lucian dishes having a wide variety of influences. Being such a fertile island, a lot of produce is locally grown resulting in an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. I ate nothing but mango and passion fruit while I was there – everything was so fresh!
Being the Carribean, you can also expect to find a lot of rum. And be warned, this rum is strong. There are tons of different rums to try and lots of cocktails will come with a good splash of the stuff. Not a big rum fan? Saint Lucians have their own beer – Piton, named after the countries most iconic landmark.
Where To Stay
Saint Lucia is only a small island, only taking 90 minutes from the bottom to the top. Therefore, even if you were to base yourself in just the north or the south, you can still explore the rest of the island easily.
In the South, along the west coast is where you would find the beautiful Piton mountains. You would find a lot of luxury accommodation here, with most hotels offering a good view of Saint Lucia’s national landmark. Stay in the south for gorgeous views and a tranquil, relaxed holiday.
The north is the more lively side of the island, with the main hub around the Rodney Bay and Gros Islet area. Here, you will find a lot more going on in terms of restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Every Friday night there is a famous street party in Gros Islet, where islanders and tourists drink, dance and eat street food. That doesn’t mean to say you can’t find luxury here too, some of the nicest beaches can be found in the north alongside plenty of high-end hotels.
What To Do
Known for its lush, volcanic landscape, Saint Lucia is a playground for thrill seekers. There is SO much to do in Saint Lucia you couldn’t possibly get bored on your holiday here. My personal favourite? Take a sunset sailing catamaran down to the gorgeous Pitons and see how beautiful these landmarks are from the sea.
Climb Gros Piton
The Pitons are Saint Lucia’s most iconic landmark, and a world heritage site, standing tall in the south west of the island near Soufriere. They are volcanic spires and the tallest out of the two, Gros Piton, can be hiked (Petit Piton is too steep to be hiked, but can be climbed if you are an experienced rock climber). I’ve been told the hike takes approximately four hours from top to bottom, but as someone who has never hiked before in my life, I’d take four hours as an estimation – not a rule. There are many operators around the island who offer tours to hike Gros Piton from around £120, so ask in your hotel if this can be arranged.
Visit the Sulphur Springs
The Sulphur Springs is an open (but dormant) volcano, also located near the town of Soufriere, and is the only volcano in the world that you can drive in to. Take a tour of the Sulphur Springs with an experience guide who can tell you all about it, then end the tour by taking a mud bath, which is said to have healing properties! But be warned, due to all that sulphur it does smell really bad – not unlike rotten eggs. Don’t let that put you off though, it is a fun experience to have.
I’d advise taking a dark swimsuit when visiting the mud bath and go at the beginning or the end of the day, so you have the place all to yourself!
Do A Segway Tour
Located in Rodney Bay, we took a Segway tour through, LucianStyle Segway Tours and it was a fun and silly way to get to know a bit more about Saint Lucia. Our tour guides were great, teaching us about the history of Saint Lucia, some facts about nature and we had the opportunity to see some excellent views over the west coast of Saint Lucia. I’d never been on a Segway tour before and it is nothing I would have sought out for myself to do, but I had an absolute blast and would definitely recommend.
Gros Islet Street Party
Gros Islet street party happens every Fright night and is a place for islanders and tourists to eat street food, drink rum and party long into the night. Even if you are not much of a party-goer (which I am not), its still worth it for the experience and to see the Caribbean care-free lifestyle.
You can find vendors selling everything from arts and crafts, local food and of course plenty of alcohol. Large music speakers line the streets and you’ll find people dancing in the street, having a good time. If you are unsure and don’t like large crowds, go before 10 pm as this is when most tourists will be there – it starts to fill with locals from 10pm onward.
Take A Tour Of The Rainforest
Saint Lucia is covered in lush, tropical rainforest which, through Rainforest Adventures, you can take an ariel tram tour of. Riding as high as the tallest trees, this tour isn’t for the faint-hearted but the guides are extremely knowledgeable and can provide a fascinating lesson about the rainforest and the different species of plants and wildlife that can be found there. You go so high up you’re in the clouds and you get fantastic scenic views across the whole of the rainforest. It is definitely an incredible experience!
The Caribbean sea is something else, and is such a beautiful blue you really have to see it to believe it. The Caribbean sea is on the west coast of the island (the Atlantic to the east, which is good for kite-surfers) and due to how calm and full of life it is, it offers brilliant opportunities to swim, snorkel, dive and even go on a sea-helmet trek!
We had the opportunity to go for an underwater trek with Sea Adventures, located within Pigeon Island National Park, and it was the most bizarre thing I have ever experienced. A giant fish-bowl shaped helmet is placed over your head and rests on your shoulders, which is then attached to an oxygen line. You walk along the sea bed following your guide and if you are lucky you will see all manors of wildlife from rays, octopus, eels, urchins and tropical fish. It was fascinating to see them in their natural environment and the sensation of walking underwater was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, not unlike walking on the moon (I imagine!). If you do this tour, I’d recommend going first thing in the day, as the later it gets the more visibility is reduced.
Sunset Sail Catamaran
This was my highlight of the entire trip. We took a sunset sailing cruise, through Carnival Sailing, along the west coast of Saint Lucia and ended at the Pitons, just before sunset. It was glorious. There was rum, Caribbean music and lots of dancing. A bucket list moment if there ever was one!
I hope I have managed to convince you to add Saint Lucia to your travel bucket list! Being such a varied and tropical Caribbean Island, I think I have been well and truly spoilt with my first Caribbean experience. Caribbean lifestyle is certainly something I can get on board with, so tell me what island should I visit next?
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