Take advantage of what everyone else isn’t doing and make this year the year you visit St Lucia. There’s no way a place this charming can stay secret for long.
Foreign visitors per year: 350,000
Languages: English, St Lucian Creole French
Major industries: tourism, bananas
Unit of currency: East Caribbean dollar ($)
Cost index: beer in beachfront bar EC$5 (US$1.90), double room at boutique resort in high season EC$662 (US$245), minibus fare EC$1.50 (US$0.60), single tank dive EC$105 (US$40)
Why go ASAP?
This ravishing island of emerald mountains and golden beaches sings its siren song year-round. Its main city of Castries is loaded with shopping, dining and sightseeing opps. And with primo diving and snorkelling, hikeable rainforests, and even a drive-in volcano (yeah, you heard us), it’s also got all the right stuff for the off-the-beaten-path adventurer.
When it comes to nature, St Lucia thrills. Swim in the blood-warm waters alongside dolphins, take out a pair of binoculars and try to spot the island’s unique species of parrot, catch sea turtles laying eggs on Grand Anse beach, or observe an iguana sunning itself on a log.
Those seeking solitude can explore the secluded villages of the interior or the quiet sandy coves of the east coast. Thrill-seekers should climb the Piton mountains, kite surf Sandy Beach, or dive magnificent coral-crusted undersea walls.
But despite its splendour, this remote island paradise is still little-visited except for the usual cruise-ship traffic and in-the-know French couples. Take advantage of what everyone else isn’t doing and make this year the year you visit St Lucia. There’s no way a place this charming can stay secret for long.
Festivals & Events:
In May, national and international musicians jam together at the St Lucia Jazz Festival.
In June, St Lucia’s Carnival is a bacchanal of street dancers, calypso music, costumes, food and rum.
The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, a global sailing event, sees enthusiasts arriving in St Lucia in November and December, after sailing 2,700 miles from their embarkation point in Spain.
Glide through the treetops in the heart of the St Lucia rainforest on a zip-line tour with Rain Forest Adventure. If you’re an adrenaline junkie who finds walking nature tours a bit… pedestrian, this is the activity for you. Take in the sights, sounds and smells of the tropical forest – prehistoric-looking ferns, buzzing insects, voluptuous jungle flowers – from a bird’s perspective. For the less Tarzan-spirited, there’s an aerial tram tour as well.
Though St Lucia is no stranger to celebrity visitors, actor Matt Damon recently set tongues wagging when he and wife Luciana Barrosso rented out the entire ultra-luxe Sugar Beach Resort for a vow-renewal ceremony. The star-studded guest list reportedly included Ben Affleck, Chelsea Clinton, Chris Hemsworth and Gus Van Sant, who partied for three days to the tune of a mid-six-figure price tag.
Who owns the beaches? Can a beach be privatised, or does it belong to everyone? Historically all the beaches are part of the ‘Queen’s Chain’, open to the public even if they’re in front of a hotel. But many developers are keen to change this tradition.
The environment has been a hot topic lately as growing development threatens biodiversity ‘hot spots’, potentially causing land degradation and species loss.
St Lucia has the highest population-to-Nobel-laureate ratio of any country, with two winners: Arthur Lewis in economics and Derek Walcott in literature.
Control of the country went back and forth between the British and the French 14 times.
The national bird, the St Lucia parrot, only exists on the island.
It is illegal to wear camouflage clothing on St Lucia.
Most bizarre sight:
On Pigeon Island, so-called despite the manmade causeway linking it to the rest of St Lucia, visitors will be confronted with photogenically spooky ruins worthy of a Gothic romance novel. Back in the 1550s, the island’s first French settler, Jambe de Bois (Wooden Leg), used Pigeon Island as a pirate base. Later, the British turned the island into a fort for use in warfare against the French. Today it’s a historic site dripping with vines and thick with the mystery of ages past.