Before going to St Lucia I wasn’t sure what to expect beyond sun, sand and sea. So when I arrived on the island to be greeted by lush greenery made up of mountains, exotic palm trees, banana plantations and rough coastlines exposed to the ocean, I realised I had wildly underestimated this place.
Why go to St Lucia?
It’s diverse and mind-blowing landscape! I also firmly believe everyone needs to experience the energy of the Caribbean at least once in their lifetime. Dancing is a huge part of the culture and you’re guaranteed to go home with an extra skip in your step.
I have a hard time believing some people don’t leave their resort when they come to this island, but it happens. Don’t be part of the statistic, get out and see as much of it as you can. It’s a small island, only 27 miles long and 14 miles wide which means you’ll be able to cover a lot in just a few days. Though due to its uneven terrain it takes longer than it would typically take to get from A to B.
What can I do there?
You can be as adventurous or lazy as your heart’s content, whether you’re hiking the Pitons, zip lining through the rainforest, mud-bathing, snorkelling in the ocean or sipping cocktails under the sun.
Saint Lucia is also ideal if you and your companion like doing different things. If you’re the outdoorsy type and your partner prefers to relax on the beach I’m sure you’ll both be able to leave each other for a few hours to do your own thing. And for the love birds, you can take comfort in knowing the island is only small so you’re never far apart from each other.
How Do I Get Around?
There are several ways to suit your preferences and budget.
- Hire a car
- Use the bus
- Take day trips from your hotel
- Hire a guide and taxi
Since I was by myself I decided to hire a guide a couple of times and also join a few excursions that ran from my hotel. I loved the intimacy of hiring a guide because he made suggestions, told me about local customs and answered any questions I had about St Lucia.
Had I been with a friend my preference would have been to hire a car because I love the freedom of pulling up to get a closer look at anything that catches my eye. Hiring a car is also the best way to get off the beaten track and expand your scope for photo opportunities, especially with all the colourful houses which are synonymous with the Caribbean landscape.
The public bus service looked very interesting. Instead of designated bus stops, most people just flagged down buses like taxis. This makes things easier in some ways but less so in others i.e. not having a bus timetable on hand.
What Money is Used?
Everywhere accepts US Dollar or East Caribbean Dollar (EC) so I took a mixture of both. Doing this worked well because some of the smaller places in Castries market advertised their goods in the local currency, whilst others showed both prices and some only showed US Dollar. By taking both currencies it means you’ll be well prepared.
What Language is Spoken?
The official language is English, but I heard locals speak a French based creole referred to as Patois. It developed when the island was colonised by the French so it’s very interesting to hear as it weaves the tapestry of St Lucia’s layered history.
A surprising thing for me is that everyone understood me perfectly. This might not sound like a big deal but I have a broad Yorkshire accent that even English people have difficulty understanding when I travel beyond the region of Yorkshire. As a result, being in St Lucia felt, in some small way, like being at home.
Eat and Drink
When you’re in Rome do what the Romans do and drink Rum! I’m not a big drinker but it would be a cardinal sin not to try the island’s most famous drink. The most popular brand is Bounty followed by Chairman’s Reserve. If you really want to know more you can go on a tour of a distillery. Beer drinkers should try Piton, the local St Lucian beer named after the island’s most iconic landmark and brewed in Vieux Fort.
Non alcoholic beverages offer a range of refreshing fruit juice like mango, lime and grapefruit. Coconut is obviously a standard drink on the island but for something different and unique why not try cocoa tea? With it being neither sweet nor savoury, I can’t say I loved it but I didn’t hate it either! I will definitely try it again if I have the chance before I rule it out.
One thing I did love was the Cassava bread, it’s nothing like ordinary bread and you can choose a variety of flavours. Never again will I underestimate something that looks so humble! My guide and I were driving on a long road with loads of potholes when he pointed to a small wooden building selling it and suggested I give it a try (FYI – the place is called Plas Kassav). If you ever get the chance I recommend banana and coconut flavour. It’s scrummy! The lady said it was made of cassava, water, banana, sugar, coconut and a variety of spices like nutmeg and I’m sure I detected cinnamon.
Surrounded by the sea it comes as no surprise when I say the seafood is incredibly fresh and delicious. I tried Mahi-Mahi for the first time, it’s a white fish which has a meat-like firmness with a mild and slightly sweet taste and is found in the region. I recommend it!
Lastly, every Friday the coastal village of Anse La Raye has a fête called the Friday-Night Fish Fry which is a fantastic way to come together with locals over dance and food of the fishy variety.
Where to Stay
There are a lot of resorts in St Lucia, but you also have hotels, guest houses and hostels. If you’re staying in a resort it can be easy to forget about what’s going on outside. To get the most out of your experience head outside of your resort and occasionally eat where the locals might go, buy souvenirs from the markets and talk to the people.
I stayed at St James’s Club Morgan Bay which is a very nice resort and spa but I also went out everyday to explore the island. Quite frankly, if you go to St Lucia without seeing the Pitons, you haven’t been to St Lucia.
The best thing about St James’s was the view from my balcony. My jaw dropped to the floor the first time I clapped eyes on it.
The food at the restaurants were also very good, especially at Morgan’s Pier, and the staff were really friendly and professional throughout my stay.
Dinner at Morgan’s Pier
Hotel staff being a willing model for me!
How to get there
I flew with Thomas Cook Airlines from Manchester and you can also fly from Scotland which is really convenient for people living in the north of England.
Hewanorra is the international airport located south of the island. Rodney bay and Castries are located in the North so you will have to get a taxi unless you’re picking up a car hire from the airport. Getting to Rodney Bay, the area that supports most of the hotels, restaurants and bars, will take approximately 1h 30m due to the winding roads. You shouldn’t expect to pay more than 100 US Dollars for a taxi to Rodney Bay.
If you’re travelling solo ask a driver if you can join a group to split the cost, I did this and paid 40 US Dollars. Many hotels are located nearby each other so definitely use this to your advantage when negotiating a taxi. All in all, I found taxi drivers to be very fair and hassle free in St Lucia.
What Not to Miss
- The Pitons
- Sulphur Springs and Mud Baths
- Marigot Bay and Gros Isle
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