Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean on the east, and the Caribbean Sea on the west lies the mango-shaped island of St. Lucia, one of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles. There are more than 7000 individual islands in the Caribbean, yet despite its small size, both experienced travelers and first-time explorers alike choose St. Lucia. The lush landscape, picturesque beaches, and rich cultural history make St. Lucia one of the most beautiful and intriguing islands in the Caribbean.
It’s no secret that St. Lucia is a feast for the eyes. Shutterbugs should consider booking a tour with a professional photographer who not only knows the island but is also familiar with the best spots for creating awe-inspiring photographs. There is a wide variety of group tours available, but for those who seek a unique, customized itinerary, choose one of the private tours offered by a local professional photographer. These expeditions not only cater to your personal skill set and the type of camera equipment you use, but they also offer the opportunity to achieve that once-in-a-lifetime shot of Sugar Beach, the Piton mountains, Marigot Bay, or one of the other majestic locations found on St. Lucia.
The crystal-blue waters surrounding St. Lucia accommodate visitors with warm temperatures year-round and are ideal for the variety of water sports available. The warmest temperatures occur in early February, ranging between 79 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The coolest temperatures are in early August, running between 68 and 73 degrees. Top snorkeling spots suit a variety of diver skills from novice to expert levels and provide unparalleled views of the island’s underwater marvels. Capture up-close views of sea life or explore the magnificent coral reefs, many of which are just a few feet from the shore. Anse Des Pitons, Anse Chastanet Reef, Virgin’s Cove, and Devil’s Hole are popular snorkeling sites.
Fresh seafood, breadfruit, and green figs, infused with the island’s tropical flavors are the staples of St. Lucia cuisine. Caribbean spices add color and unique flavor to the island’s rustic offerings, which are based on St. Lucia’s diverse blend of African, French, British, and Indian cultural history. Local divers hand-spear and deliver an island specialty, fresh lobsters, to many local restaurants. Green figs, which are St. Lucia’s main cash crop, have been a staple in local cuisine for centuries. Most restaurants serve the national dish, green figs, and saltfish, as well as lambi, tasty conch shellfish in a spicy Caribbean sauce. Don’t leave without tasting the St. Lucian rum punch, a mixture of orange juice, nutmeg, angostura bitters, cinnamon, and delicious rum. Foodies will appreciate one of the available tours around a cocoa, coconut, or banana plantation.
Whether you’re a food ingredient and beverage connoisseur, or someone who appreciates cultural artisanship, St. Lucia offers extensive shopping choices. Castries market, located in the eastern end of the city’s harbor, offers a selection of locally grown fruits and vegetables, gift baskets brimming with an array of spices, and cocoa sticks you can use to create your own cocoa powder. Take home a bottle of the yellow hot sauce created from the fiery Scotch Bonnet pepper, a native Caribbean pepper with a heat rating of 80,000 to 400,000 Scoville units. Or, try the St. Lucian honey, celebrated for its own unique variety of flavors. Decorative pottery, hand-painted, carved wooden masks, jewelry, batiks, and even handmade brooms allow you to take home cultural souvenirs created through authentic Caribbean craftsmanship.
The notion of laying on white-sand beaches, swimming in beautiful blue waters, and enjoying a feast of exotic dishes conjures up images of the perfect romantic escape. St. Lucia offers all of these options and much more. The World Travel Awards has honored the island as the “World’s Leading Honeymoon Destination” nine times, and for good reasons. Many of the local resorts offer wedding packages in unique locales. Choose a ceremony location at one of St. Lucia’s historical churches, a stunning beach at sunset, a magnificent waterfall, or an inspiring mountain vista overlooking the ocean. Even a stroll hand-in-hand down a beach inspires romance in St. Lucia. Take a walk through the glistening golden sands of Reduit Beach in the northern part of the island and enjoying stunning views of Pigeon Island National Park.
Castries, the island’s capital city, is a mix of both colonial and Caribbean architecture. The St. Lucia Folk Research Center introduces visitors to the national dress, also known as creole dress, originating with the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. The people wear the national dress on August 1 each year to commemorate Emancipation Day, a public holiday observed in St. Lucia and many other Caribbean states. Castries was a major English naval port from 1803 to 1844. Morne Fortune is a mountain overlooking Castries and its harbor. Soufriere is a fishing village founded in 1745 and the birthplace of Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Buildings with filigreed balconies and tin roofs surround the town square.
Locals claim that a dip in these mud baths detoxify the body, and heal a list of ailments from sore, arthritic joints, to sunburns. Not only that, the minerals in the mud are said to tighten and smooth the skin and take 12 years off of your appearance. Hot stone, back, and foot massages are also available. Famous for being the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano, Sulphur Springs, located in Soufriere, St. Lucia is a geological wonder and the most active geothermal area in the Lesser Antilles. If you’re not into a therapeutic mud bath, take a guided tour or join in on a half-hour photo shoot with a specialized photographer.
There’s a reason the St. Lucia Pitons are the most photographed site in the Caribbean. Created nearly 1 million years ago by volcanic activity, the Pitons are located south of Soufriere on the western side of the island. The Gros Piton is the taller of the two at 2,619 feet. The Petit Piton, which reaches 2461 feet, is the smaller. Daily guided hiking tours are available for hiking the Gros Piton, with no reservations required. Officials require a permit for hikers taking on the more challenging Petit Piton climb. Its terrain is difficult and only experienced climbers should attempt the challenge. It takes about 4 hours to complete the Gros Piton hike--2 hours up and 2 hours to hike back down--but well worth the trek once you’ve reached the top and experience the breathtaking view.
Although not known for its wildlife tours, St. Lucia is full of species of flora and fauna endemic to the island. Deforestation in the past nearly devastated some species of birds and reptiles, but environmentalists have introduced breeding programs in attempts to preserve rare species native to St. Lucia. One example is the Jacquot or St. Lucia Parrot. In 1975, only 100 of these colorful majestic birds existed. Today, you can hike through the rainforest and possibly see one flying overhead. The Maria Islands, a nature reserve established in 1982 and located in southern St. Lucia, is home to both the rarest snake in the world, the ornate ground snake, and one of the rarest lizard species, the Vanzo's whiptail. An iguana reserve is located on the northeast coast of the island.
Each year since 1992, international and local musicians join together in St. Lucia during the month of May to perform calypso, jazz, and R&B music. The St. Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival also includes master classes, professional development workshops, and performance collaborations between famous musicians, local talent, and students from the St. Lucia School of Music. The week-long festival features both indoor and outdoor performances, street parties, and other festivities scheduled throughout St. Lucia.