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St. Lucia, and its capital city of Castries, has become one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean for cruisers. The majority of travelers settle between Castries and the northern end of the island. The entire north side of the island is made up of white-sand beaches that dazzle even the most seasoned traveler. The water is a brilliant blue-green, and the atmosphere is a majestic combination of beach and lush gardens. With the exception of the area between Castries and the northern peninsula, the island is unspoiled and a lot of it only inhabited by exotic animal life.
Banana plantations, green-mantled mountains, valleys, wildflowers, a bubbling volcano and interesting fishing villages are only the beginning of this paradise of 238 square miles. The majestic Pitons, two 2,000-foot mountains that rise from the sea in dramatic fashion, are a one of the scenic wonders of the world. Taking a tour around the island is like watching all of the best cinematography out of your favorite movie. The sights and sounds will dazzle your senses. St. Lucia is truly an experience that is a must for any Caribbean traveler.
The beaches and wide array of outdoor sports on St. Lucia are marvelous. You could not ask for more activities and fun-filled events to occupy your time. The best part about the island is that if you do choose to have a day out of the sun, the shopping, dining, and indoor relaxation stations on St. Lucia are magnificent.
All of the beaches of St. Lucia are open to the public, and this is a nice feature because on a lot of the other Caribbean islands, certain hotels have a monopoly on particular beach areas. This is not the case on St. Lucia, and there are plenty of tremendous beach spots near Castries. The beaches along the western coast of St. Lucia are calmer and more geared toward family usage. This is because the surf is a lot more tranquil as a result of the decreased wind flow in this region. On the windward, or East Side, the winds can be higher, and the waves are often much larger.
Pigeon Island, off the north shore, is a wonderful destination for relaxation. Outdoor sports can be played here as well, and a wide selection of sport and swim equipment can be rented. Food is nearby, and the entire scene is ideal, with a charming feel and friendly locals. Reduit Beach at Rodney Bay is the most frequented beach on the island. The smooth, beige sand and clear, calm waters attract tourists like no other. In addition, the beach features water-sport kiosks, with restaurants and bars just a minute's walking distance.
The Fregate Islands can be discovered halfway up St. Lucia's eastern shoreline, and they are a rock formation a short distance offshore of Praslin Bay. The area is named after the exotic birds that breed here, and the region has a mysterious and fascinating quality to it that must be seen. Tall grasses shoot up into the sky, seeming to thrive off of the mist from the crashing whitewater. Except for the rock formations and grass, the land is barren and seems lifeless. That is, until you look up into the sky, and witness a true marvel of nature, the Fregata Magnificens, the scissor-tailed frigate birds, from which the islands get their name. Between May and July, the birds migrate and breed, and while in the air, they form flying patterns and formations that bewilder all who observe. Watching their graceful flight is a joyful and amazing experience. Most concur that the best way to tour the Fregate Islands and observe the Fregatas is to travel along the nature trail that the St. Lucia government has established. If you walk elsewhere, you might get lost, not get nearly as good of a view, or disrupt the fragile ecosystem of the area.
In addition, from the same general vicinity, you can venture a bit farther and head to St. Lucia's coast. Here you can see dry ravines, marvelous sea caves, a waterfall and a remarkable mangrove swamp.
Tourist attractions include Sulphur Springs (at Soufrière). The hot springs complex features a pool that the hot water runs through, so visitors should bring their swimming trunks. The twin mountain peaks "The Pitons" are a world heritage site, and climbing the Gros Piton is an achievable goal for most people. The trailhead begins at about 600 feet above sea level and requires about two hours of moderate-to-strenuous hiking to reach the summit of about 2,600 feet above sea level. Another 90 minutes is needed to descend. Guides are required and entrance costs $30 US. Taxis or local buses can be used to reach the trail head. There are also several other official hiking routes on the island. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ website has links to information about hiking routes.
Visits by cruise ships over the years have led to a duty-free mall (at dockside, Point Seraphine, Castries) with jewelry, souvenirs, art, liquor/rums and other offerings typical for cruise shoppers. Travelers will also find lower, duty-free prices available across the island in strip malls and resorts.
The Green Parrot in Castries is an island favorite. Located on Chef Harry Drive, Green Parrot overlooks the Castries Harbor. The food could best be described as a mix of European and West Indian, and the drinks are some of the tastiest and most exotic you'll ever try. Enjoy your dinner or lunch and at the same time be entertained by the limbo contest and fire-eating show! The ambiance, scrumptious meals, and view of the harbor make Green Parrot (758/452-3399) a wonderful overall dining experience. San Antoine (758/452-4660) is known best for its succulent lobster and great fettuccine Alfredo. Visit San Antoine, located in Morne Fortune, and your taste buds won't be disappointed.
After dinner, Indies is a spectacular soundproof dance club that is the hot spot on St. Lucia. Located at Rodney Bay, Indies is the most happening place on the island once the sun goes down.
Just off the southeast tip of St. Lucia, right near Vieux Fort, you can encounter the Maria Islands. This fabulous region is home to over 120 species of plants, butterflies, lizards, and snakes that are believed to be extinct everywhere else in the world. Among these interesting creatures are the kouwes snake and the large ground lizard. To take a tour of this great region, contact St. Lucia National Trust.
The island climate is tropical, moderated by northeast trade winds, with a dry season from December to May and a wet season from June to November.
Cruise ships dock at Pointe Seraphine in the Port of Castries in St. Lucia. It is a full-service pier with restaurants, shopping, and more. In addition, taxis are ready and waiting to take you to your island destination.
Taxis are readily available on the island, and although a bit pricey, they are experts in navigating the hilly and narrow roads that make up the local infrastructure. Taxis serve as excellent guides as well, so discuss taking a driving tour of the island with them.
St. Lucia has a minibus system that connects Castries with Vieux Fort & Soufrière as well. They depart from Jeremy Street in downtown Castries.
Documents: A passport is required.
Language: English is the official language.
Currency: The currency of St. Lucia is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar; however, the US dollar is widely accepted around the island.
Tipping: The local standard for gratuities is around 10% of your total bill for restaurant wait staff and taxi drivers.
Safety: St Lucia is not an incredibly dangerous place, but rates of homicide, rape and mugging have increased over the past several years. You should exercise the same caution as you would in other travel destinations; try to stay in groups and be careful in any secluded area. See Cruiseable's safety tips for cruise travelers.
Street vendors are decidedly less aggressive than most Caribbean nations. A simple "no thank you" is sufficient.
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“I'm told it's about an hour's drive from the airport to my resort nestled between St. Lucia's famous Pitons. But my hired driver says I can be in paradise in less than five minutes. He stops at an off-road beach at Anse de Sables, where I shimmy out of my travel gear and stroll into the surf.”
“From Castries, get a taste of adventure with the thrills of zip-lining in the rainforest with Rain Forest Sky Rides. 11 ziplines in the trees have you soaring across the hamlet of Chassin.”
“Spend an afternoon hand in hand, strolling through the historic gardens of madam de Micoud's estate, Mamiku Botanical Gardens. Along the way, you'll see orchids and heliconias, a variety of birds and an impressive view of Praslin Bay.”