St. Lucia is a 238-square-mile island in the Windward Island chain, a sub-group of the West Indies. Martinique, a French department, is its nearest neighbor. Due to the island’s central location in the Caribbean and its fine natural harbors, the French and English fought endlessly for possession of it. With its gorgeous and diverse terrain including mountains, waterfalls, beaches and bays, there is no end to the number of diversions here. Read on to plan your perfect getaway! A few quick facts about the island.
168,458 (2006 estimate)
606 square kilometers
Mount Gimie, 950 meters (3117 feet)
St. Lucia’s currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar. Exchanges can be made at banks, hotels, and at Pointe Seraphine, a duty-free shopping complex in Castries. The exchange rate for the US dollar is fixed at $2.70 EC to $1.00 US; however the banks (which give you the best rate) change at $2.68 EC to $1.00 US. Note that banking hours are Monday to Thursday 8 AM to 2 PM, and Friday 8 AM to 5 PM. All of the island’s ATMs distribute Eastern Caribbean dollars, and credit cards are widely accepted around the island.
Entry requirements vary for each destination; it is your responsibility to verify you have the correct documents prior to travel. As of December 31, 2006 a valid passport is required for travel to all the Caribbean and Mexico.
St. Lucia lies within Atlantic Standard Time, four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. The island is one hour ahead of North American Eastern Standard Time year round.
Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road on St. Lucia (like England).
Outlets on St. Lucia use 220 volts, 50 cycles AC. Unless you’re coming from Europe, you will need an adapter for your travel appliances.
English is the official language. A French-based Creole is also spoken, a result of St. Lucia’s British and French heritage.
More About St. Lucia
The most obvious reason to visit any Caribbean destination is the weather, which can best be described as “endless summer.” St. Lucia enjoys a tropical climate, with steady northeast trade winds that make for pleasant conditions year-round. December through May is the driest and coolest time, with daytime temperatures in the 70s-80s (Fahrenheit). June through August are the hottest months, when daytime temperatures may rise into the 90s. While the rainy season runs from June through November, you shouldn’t expect constant rain. Instead, we see numerous short, intense showers. Hurricanes are the most serious weather risk during these months, and although the odds are quite low that a hurricane will strike while you’re on island, we do recommend travel insurance to protect your vacation.
The following list provides a brief description of several of the most beautiful beaches. Make sure to visit as many as you can on your next vacation in St. Lucia.
For the most part, St. Lucian beaches are relatively short, but with five miles of white sand on Rodney Bay, Reduit is the place for a long stroll by the shore and a swim in calm waters. One of the most popular beaches on the island, it is fronted by the Rex St. Lucian, Papillon and the Royal St. Lucian hotels. There are restaurants and vendors renting water-sports equipment and lounge chairs.
The white sand, clarity of the water, and stunning setting between the twin Gros and Petit Piton volcanic peaks make this beach south of Soufrière a favorite spot for sunning. Snorkelers and scuba divers come for the adventures to be had at the 1,800-foot dropoff at the base of the Pitons.
With a sharp dropoff, coral reef and sea walls, this beach affords snorkelers and divers many opportunities for viewing the vivid ocean life without ferrying out to deeper waters by boat. The natural sand reflects the volcanic origins of the island.
Pigeon Island National Park
Quiet and uncrowded, this beach on the north end of the island is the place to combine sunning and swimming with a visit to a mini-museum and a climb to a vantage point to see the historic Fort Rodney ruins and views of the distant Martinique. Two eateries stand ready to fill visitor’s needs.
Soon to become part of a new national park, this mile long stretch of beach north of Dennery is set against a backdrop of cliffs in an area that was once a plantation. Now, visitors come for Turtle Watch, where they can see the natural wonder of endangered leatherbacks, the largest of sea turtles, heaving themselves out of the water and onto the beach to lay their eggs.
The moment you arrive on St. Lucia, you’ll realize that its natural beauty seems to have been made for romantics. All that the island has to offer – including palm-fringed beaches, elegant old plantation houses, clear tropical air, rhythmic steel band music, and tantalizing cuisine – combine to make weddings, honeymoons, and anniversaries popular on St. Lucia.
It’s relatively easy to get married on St. Lucia. For a normal wedding license, you need to be on the island 4 days before the wedding; however there is a special license which does not have a residency requirement. If you arrive with all of your documents ready and file them with a lawyer in the morning, you could be married by the afternoon of the same day. The documents required to obtain a marriage license on St. Lucia are:
– Birth Certificate
– Decree Absolute (if one or both parties are divorced)
– Death Certificate, if one is a widow/widower
– Deed Poll, if a name has been changed
If under 18, evidence of the consent of parents is required (sworn affidavit stamped by notary public). If any required documents are not in English, an authenticated translation must be available.
The fee for a normal marriage license (applied for at least 7 days before ceremony) is EC$335. For a special marriage license (less than 7 days before ceremony) the fee is EC$540. There is an EC$100 registrar fee and an EC$8 fee for the marriage certificate.
CaribbeanDays can help you find a wedding planner if you’re interested in getting married on the island.
A wide variety of dining options are available to guests of St. Lucia villas, including French, Caribbean, and Indian cuisine. Dining here is likely to be al fresco, and many restaurants have waterfront views. If a service charge is not included, tipping is usually 10% of your bill. Here are a few of our favorite restaurants:
Buzz Seafood & Grill
Rodney Bay (opposite the Royal St. Lucian Hotel)
“Known for their seafood, but Rack of Lamb and Chicken Wellington are also amazing! Dessert is a must here, with something for everyone. Reservations essential. Closed Mondays April through November.”
“The place to go for steak They also serve great local seafood and lobster. Try the key lime pie for dessert.”
The Coal Pot
Vigie Marina, Castries
“Excellent meats and fresh seafood accompanied by your choice of the chef’s sauces. Wonderful ambiance and good service, too. Reservations essential.”
The Great House
“A beautiful setting for a night out. Waiters are dressed in black and white, and waitresses in traditional St. Lucian dresses, and they all provide excellent service. The menu changes nightly but consists of French cuisine with a Creole twist. Closed Monday.”
Jacques Waterfront Dining (Froggie Jacques)
Vigie Marina, Castries
“Caribbean with a decidedly French flavor. Excellent food, drinks, and service. Reservations essential. Closed Sunday.”
(758) 452-4485 or (758) 286-0511
“One of our top picks. Fine dining, with excellent food, service, and ambiance. A little hard to get to, but well worth it. If you like calamari, try it here. Reservations essential. Closed Tuesday.”
“The first and best Indian food on the island. Beautiful sunset views accent the tasty lamb and chicken dishes.”
“Wonderful grilled fish and chicken dishes with local vegetables such as christophenes, yams, breadfruits and callaloo, all organically grown on the estate. The restaurant is right on the beach, with a great view of the private yachts, mighty Pitons, and endless sea. If lobster is in season, it’s a great choice. Try to go when it’s not packed with cruise ship visitors or tour buses.”
The Body Holiday at LeSPORT, Cap Estate
“Wonderful Asian fusion cuisine. Mouthwatering main dishes, fine wines, and extravagant desserts. Reservations are essential as preference is given to hotel guests.”
Coco Palm Resort, Rodney Bay
“Great French Caribbean cuisine. Open-air dining with comfortable seating and exceptional food. Pastry chef creates sumptuous desserts.”
On Friday nights, you can enjoy street parties in either Gros Islet or Anse la Raye. Gros Islet Friday Night consists of barbecue grills cooking up chicken and conch kebabs and speakers set up on the street corners playing a variety of Caribbean rhythms. In Anse la Raye (just south of Castries), it’s a Seafood Feast starting at 6 PM. Vendors prepare lobster in season and a variety of seafood barbecued, fried, or cooked en papillote. The authentic fish braff made with daurade or mahi mahi is worth a try. There is music and, once-a-month, a local band provides live entertainment.
On Saturday nights, you can get a feel for more authentic St. Lucian culture by attending the Dennery Fish Fiesta in the Atlantic village of Dennery, a 45 minute drive from Castries. Beginning at 6 PM, you can enjoy seafood specialties like grilled, steamed, or fried fish, lamb or conch at very affordable prices.
While there are plenty of taxis available on the island, rates can be steep. If you’re going to want to go out to dinner and to beaches or other towns, we recommend renting a vehicle for at least part of your stay.
American drivers will have to get used to driving on the “wrong,” or left, side of the road. By paying careful attention, you’ll get the hang of it. Roads can be windy, so be very cautious, and try not to pass if it’s at all possible.
To get the most out of your St. Lucia vacation, we recommend renting a car before you arrive. Our villa specialists are happy to help you arrange your car rental.
After 25 years of friendly and reliable service, CaribbeanDays recommends Drive-o-Matic Car Rental as the premier on-island source for all of your transportation needs.
Please contact us for more information.
St. Lucia has two airports: Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) near Vieux Fort Quarter and George F. L. Charles Airport (SLU) near Castries, formerly known as Vigie Airport.
In general, international flights land at Hewanorra, while flights from within the Caribbean arrive at the smaller airport Vigie.
As far as their locations are concerned, Hewanorra is in a more isolated part of the island, while Vigie is closer to the main tourist areas. Most visitors will find it more convenient to fly into Vigie.
Visitors from New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Charlotte, Toronto, and Montreal may be able to fly direct (depending on the day of the week); otherwise you’ll likely have a connection in Miami, Barbados or Puerto Rico.
To gain entry to the island, U.S. citizens require a valid passport. For citizens of any other country, please check with your local consulate or embassy for specific entry requirements.
Departure Tax of EC $68 (US $26) for all passengers over 12 years is applied to ticket prices at the time of purchase (source: St Lucia Tourist Board).
Hewanorra International Airport (UVF)
George F.L. Charles Airport (SLU)
In addition to its fabulous beaches and varied water sports, St. Lucia’s gorgeous, unspoiled terrain provides a number of land activities to keep you busy, should you so desire.
VisitPigeonIslandNationalHistoricPark to get a taste of St. Lucia’s history. The military ruins of Ft.Rodney, where Admiral George Rodney built and managed a naval base lookout in 1778, are here.
There are endless opportunities for hiking on St. Lucia. Try the diverse path of the Eastern Nature Trail or Maria Major Nature Reserve in the southern part of the island. Although the St. Lucia Forest Reserve is a bit more commercialized, it’s worth the trip to see the rainforest and the brilliantly colored jacquot and other rare birds. These are just a few options – if you’re into hiking, be sure to check around for more information.
A horseback ride is a great way to sightsee “off the beaten path.” You might discover the Fond D’Or Historical Park or Cas En Bas beach, or take your horse for a sea bath. Call Atlantic Shores Riding Stables ((758) 454-8668) or International Riding Stables ((758) 452-8139) for reservations.
Hackshaw’s Boat Charters ((758) 453-0553 or (758) 452-3909, www.Hackshaws.com) runs a whale and dolphin watching trip, an unforgettable experience where you may even be able to spot a rare orca.
Arrangements can be made through the St. Lucia Forestry Department ((758) 450-2078 or (758) 450-2231) for bird watching trips. You can observe some of St. Lucia’s rare indigenous species, such as the St. Lucian Parrot, White Breasted Thrasher, St. Lucia Peewee, St. Lucia Oriole, and St. Lucia Wren. Try visiting the Bois D’Orange Swamp, the Rain Forest, and Boriel’s Pond.
For a rare experience, visit Grande Anse Beach for a night of turtle watching. From mid-March through the end of July, Jim Sparks leads a camp-out wherein you sleep in a little tent city and (hopefully) enjoy the spectacle of leatherback turtles rising from the surf. Call Jim ((758) 452-8100 or 452-9951) before Friday night if you’re interested in joining him from 4:00 PM to 6:30 AM. Cost is EC$10 per person.
Visit the LatilleGardens ((758) 454-0202), a wonderful hidden treasure filled with delicious fruits, beautiful flowers, thriving plants, and vibrant waterfalls.
St. Lucia has several private tennis facilities, some lighted for night play. The St. Lucian Hotel ((758) 453-8351) has two courts, which are available to the public at reasonable rates, and the St. Lucia Racquet Club at Club St. Lucia ((758) 453-8351) has nine lit courts. The St. Lucia Yacht Club ((758) 452-8350) at RodneyBay also has two squash courts, open every day except Monday, and racket rentals are available.
There are several well-equipped gyms around the island, many with aerobics classes. Contact Body Inc. ((758) 451-9744) at the Gablewoods Mall, Gonard La Borde’s Gym ((758) 452-2788) on Hospital Road, or Caribbean Fitness Expression ((758) 451-6853) in Vide Boutielle, Castries.
St. Lucia’s main golf course is The St. Lucia Golf & Country Club, located in Cap Estate. This 18-hole, par 71 championship course accommodates players of all skill levels and also has a complete pro shop, driving range, and restaurant. Call (758) 450-8522 for a tee time.
The 9-hole course at the Sandals Resort (758-452-3081) is also available to guests not staying at the resort for a reasonable price.
You can appreciate the warm, inviting waters surrounding St. Lucia in any number of ways, from snorkeling and scuba diving to kayaking, sailing, and windsurfing. Spend a day or two soaking up the sun at St. Lucia’s lovely beaches – be sure to wear sunscreen!
Explore the beautiful underwater world by snorkeling or scuba diving. Because St. Lucia is volcanic in nature, there are awesome coral reefs, trenches, caverns, and walls with a variety of Caribbean reef fish. Many of these underwater sites are literally a stone’s throw away from beaches along the west coast, making them popular with snorkelers as well as divers. The most popular sites are within the Anse Chastanet Marine Reserve, where you can see giant sponges, huge sea fans, coral, octopus, squid, and starfish. Scuba diving is offered by several reputable dive operators, and certification courses are available. There are a number of sites for seasoned divers to explore, including the two marine reserves at Soufriére and Canaries, and night dives may be available. Contact Buddies Scuba (758-450-8406, www.buddiesscuba.com), Scuba St. Lucia (758-459-7755,www.scubastlucia.com), or Dive Fair Helen (758-451-7716,www.divefairhelen.com) for more information on diving or snorkeling in St. Lucia.
Vieux Fort’s Anse de Sable beach is the place for more adventurous water fun. Windsurfing and kite surfing lessons are available, and equipment is available for rent. Jet skis are available for hire in the high season.
Kayaking over the reefs along the shore is an experience nature lovers won’t want to miss. Jungle Reef Adventures (758-459-7755,www.JungleReefAdventures.com) does an excellent tour. Island ATV Tours (758-454-3777, www.IslandATVTours.com) also does kayak tours in the Savannes Bay Nature Reserve.
St. Lucia has been described as “an angler’s dream come true,” as it is home to several species of big game fish such as mackerel, king mackerel, barracuda, kingfish, and sailfish. You may even catch a legendary white marlin! Fishing charter operators include Hackshaw’s (758-453-0553), Captain Mike’s (758-452-7044) and Mako Water Sports (758-452-0412).
Yachts can also be chartered (bare-boat or skippered) for day sails through a number of operators at marinas in Rodney Bay and Marigot Bay.
Even if you’re a beachcomber or water-lover, you’ll want to take a tour of the island while you’re here. The scenery St. Lucia has to offer is unusually beautiful, including the Qualibou Volcano and its boiling sulfur springs, exotic plants and flower-lined roadsides, and the Pitons, ancient volcanic forest-covered cones that rise out of the sea on the west coast.
How you choose to tour the island is up to you, but keep in mind that the roads are not very well marked, and you may have trouble finding some of these sites on your own. There are plenty of taxis on island, with knowledgeable drivers who are happy to provide an island tour. You should negotiate your fare before you embark. Expect to pay about $120 for a tour of the whole island. One driver who comes highly recommended is Fabian (758-384-7847, www.FabianToursStLucia.com).
St. Lucia Helicopter Tours (758-453-6950, www.StLuciaHelicopters.com) offers aerial tours of the north of the island, the south of the island and a combination of both.
Jungle Tours St. Lucia (758-450-0434, www.JungleToursStLucia.com) leads hikes on three trails of varying intensity lead to secluded waterfalls in the rainforest.
The Maria Islands Tour offered by Trim Tours (758-452-2502,www.trimtours.com)
includes a tour of St. Lucia as well as a ride on a St. Lucia fishing canoe to Maria Island Major, where you’ll take a short hike with a St. Lucia National Trust tour guide.
The National Rain Forest is an especially appealing site for bird watchers, hikers, and nature lovers. For an organized tour, contact the Forest and Lands Department at ((758) 450-2231).
If you choose to take the Southern Safari (758-452-5005), a tour bus will take you through the island’s interior with stops at historic sites such as an old plantation house and the remains of a waterwheel. Alternatively, you could visit the Pitons and a petroglyph site, returning by boat along the west coast.
A number of plantations are available for tours, including the Errard Plantation (758-453-1260), Marquis Estate (758-452-3762), and Morne Coubaril Estate (758-459-7340).
The Pigeon Island Museum and Interpretive Centre provides an insight into the island’s history through interactive audio/visual aids and ancient artifacts. The museum is open daily from 9-5, and admission is EC$5 for adults. Contact the St. Lucia National Trust (758-452-5005) for information.
A visit to the 100-year-old Castries Market, along the harbor under the bright-orange roofs, is a must for any visitor to St. Lucia. While the markets are open from 6 AM to 5 PM Monday through Saturday, Saturday mornings are the busiest and most colorful time to visit. Unfortunately, you can’t import the local produce to the US, but you can bring back spices and bottled hot pepper sauces as well as local handicrafts such as wood carvings, clay pottery, and batik and silk-screened fabrics. Be warned that pick-pocketing has occurred here, so don’t flash your money or jewelry.
Duty-free shopping for imports like perfumes, crystal, and china is available at a few outlets such as Pointe Seraphine and La Place Carenage, in Castries, J.Q.’s Shopping Malls in Rodney Bay and Vieux Fort, and of course at Hewanorra airport. You must present your passport and airline ticket to make purchases at duty-free prices.
Gablewoods Mall, 2 miles north of Castries on Gros Islet Highway, has one of the island’s densest concentrations of shops as well as three restaurants. You may want to pick up a bottle of Bounty Rum, the local liquor made at a distillery in Roseau, at either the grocery store or liquor store here.
You can combine sightseeing and shopping by visiting the 100-year-old Caribelle hilltop house, where local artisans make batik and screen-prints. The Choiseul Arts and Crafts Center, on the southern coast of the island, is a wonderful source of hand-woven baskets, placemats, chairs and woodcarvings.
Store hours vary, but the majority are open from 8:30-12:30 and 1:30-4:30 Monday to Friday, and from 8:30-12:30 on Saturday. The major shopping centers may be open Saturday afternoon as well. Most shops are closed Sunday, with the exception of the marina-based shops.
St. Lucia has communications systems that are up to date with modern standards, so staying in touch with the rest of the world (should you so desire) is relatively easy. Most villas have cable TVs, allowing access to local, national, and international networks.
The phone system on St. Lucia is the same as that used in the states, with an area code (758) plus 7 digits. Most villas have telephones that are capable of making calls overseas. If you feel the need to catch up via the internet, there is an internet café in Soufriére. Call Elite Logics at (758) 457-1171 for information.
Guests of St. Lucia vacation villas will find that the island is relatively safe and secure. Keeping these few health and security concerns in mind will help to ensure that your vacation is enjoyable and hassle-free.
As is true for any vacation destination, we recommend keeping your villa and your rental car locked. Don’t keep any valuables in your rental car, even if it is locked. St. Lucia does have its fair share of robberies. Valuables left unattended on beaches are also vulnerable to theft.
Tourists are a target of opportunity, so you are advised to stay on the main streets, which are patrolled. Use caution, especially at night and while walking on the beach alone.
Driving on St. Lucia can be challenging, since the roads wind around a bit and the natives are not the most cautious of drivers. Stay alert, follow the speed limit, and drive carefully to avoid a trip to the hospital. Seatbelts are recommended for all passengers as well as the driver.
Do not underestimate the power of the Caribbean sun – many a traveler has had his or her vacation spoiled by painful sunburns or sunstroke. Protect yourself with sunscreen and avoid the strong midday rays.
There are a number of hospitals on St. Lucia, none of which provides the level of care we’re used to in the States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate payment for their services. There is no hyperbaric chamber here; divers requiring treatment for decompression illness must be evacuated from the island. For major medical problems, contact St. Jude Hospital in Vieux Fort (758-454-6041), Victoria Hospital in Castries (758-452-2421), Golden Hope Hospital in Castries ((758) 452-7393), or Dennery Hospital (758-453-3310). For minor medical issues, it’s best to avoid the St. Lucia medical centers and the insurance hassles that may evolve. Instead, visit a local pharmacy. There are several pharmacies in Castries, one on the Gros Islet Highway and one in Gablewoods Shopping Mall. Most hotels have “over the counter” medication, such as Aspirin, and first aid facilities.
For the police, ambulance, or in case of fire, call 911.
St. Lucia’s first inhabitants were the Arawak Indians, around 200 A.D. Caribs gradually replaced the Arawaks by about 800 A.D. The Caribs called the island “Hewanorra,” which means “Island of the Iguanas” and is now the name used for one of the island’s airports.
To this day, it is unclear which European was first to discover St. Lucia. It may have been Columbus in 1502, or it may have been one of his contemporaries, Juan de la Cosa, in 1499 or 1504. The French pirate Francois le Clerc (a.k.a. Jamb de Bois, or Peg Leg) used the island as an outpost for attacking Spanish galleons in the 1550s, but it wasn’t until around 1600 that Europeans attempted to settle the island.
Around 1600, the Dutch set up camp at Vieux Fort. In 1605, a British vessel on its way to Guyana was blown off course and landed on St. Lucia. Its 67 colonists bought land and huts from the Caribs. Five weeks later, their party, now reduced to 19 due to disease and fighting with the Caribs, was forced to flee the island.
The English made a second futile attempt at colonizing the island in 1639, although the French had officially claimed the island in 1635. The first successful colonization of the island took place in 1651, when a French group commanded by De Rousselan came from Martinique. The British and French would continue to fight over the island, and to use it as a bargaining chip, for the next 150 years.
In 1746, the first town, Soufriére, was established by the French. It was followed by a number of other French towns and settlements. Once the sugar industry began to develop in 1765, St. Lucia became attractive to an even greater number of colonists, both French and English. The British launched their first invasion effort in 1778, in the “Battle of Cul de Sac,” and after a long series of devastating battles, Britain finally triumphed in 1815.
Meanwhile, slavery was officially abolished in 1794, but the British soon restored slavery for the wealthy plantation owners. It wasn’t until 1838 that slavery finally came to an end on St. Lucia.
Since that time, St. Lucia has gradually become more independent and self-governing. The country remained under the British crown at some level until February 22, 1979, when it became independent within the British Commonwealth.