St Lucia: Caribbean Queen

You’ll know you’ve fallen in love with St Lucia long before it’s time to leave. There are few places on earth that welcome you as warmly and fulfil the promise of a dream holiday as completely as this enchanting Caribbean destination, and like every visitor, you’ll be under its spell within days. Discover the beauty of the island known as “Helen of the West Indies” and you’ll believe you’re in Paradise.

From the moment you hear the friendly “Bonjou” of the taxi driver who greets you at Hewanorra International Airport, you’ll be surrounded by a people who treat you like a lifelong friend. You don’t need to know a word of Kwéyòl, the local patois, but listen anyway, and enjoy the rhythm of a unique, lilting language that has its roots in French with a smattering of African, English, Portuguese and Indian.

St Lucia is rightly famous for its stunning scenery that includes a spectacular coastline, towering volcanic peaks, palm-fringed white-sand beaches and tropical rain forests. It is one of the least developed Caribbean islands, yet one of the most popular and unspoilt. Luxury holidays and eco-tourism nestle side-by-side, an ideal setting for honeymooners, families, couples and singles.

he main tourist centre is based around Rodney Bay, the area between Pigeon Island and Gros Islet, a few miles north of Castries City, the island’s capital and main port. Travelling to other parts of the island is easy, either by car hire, taxi or by minibus – the cheapest means of public transport and that favoured by those wanting to see the island in true Caribbean style.

Visitors looking for a “traditional” Caribbean beach holiday will not be disappointed. St Lucia has beautiful white sandy beaches in abundance, with Marigot Bay on the west coast often described as one of the “most picturesque beaches in the Caribbean”. The Golden Mile, the stretch between Pigeon Island and Gros Islet, is popular with tourists, although there is plenty of choice elsewhere.

Move further south and discover the volcanic black-sand beaches of Soufrière and Anse Chastanet – an experience with a difference. Some of St Lucia’s best beaches, including the romantic Anse Couchon, are only accessible by sea, so ask your hotel concierge or tour guide to recommend a local water taxi. The south-western region of the island features some of the most spectacular scenery, as the twin peaks of the Piton Mountains dominate the landscape from almost any local vantage point.

The area south of Soufrière offers great opportunities for eco-tourists. Aside from the Pitons, don’t miss the dormant volcano, Mount Soufrière, and the surrounding Sulphur Springs, where visitors can bathe in hot, mineral-rich waters that allegedly ease a host of medical conditions. A little further down the coast in the village of Choiseul, you will find ancient rock carvings created by St Lucia’s earliest Amerindian settlers.

Inland from Choiseul, explore a 200-year-old cotton plantation, and visit the estate house, preserved in its original 18th-century condition. Step back and immerse yourself in the rich history of St Lucia, its colonial past, the slave trade and its abolition, the cultural diversity of the island people and St Lucia’s move towards independence. Little wonder that St Lucians celebrate Independence Day each February in a style that has to be seen to be believed.

The island adventure need not end there. Travel beyond Vieux Fort on the southernmost tip of the island, and St Lucia’s natural assets are revealed for all to see. Offshore, the Maria Islands and, further north, the Fregate Islands are home to rare endemic species of birds and reptiles, including the world’s rarest snake.

Venture onto the eastern coast of the island and you experience the wilder and more rugged nature of St Lucia. Dramatic coastlines and indigenous rain forest hold all kind of secrets, and you will encounter a myriad of colourful flowers and shrubs, imposing (and sometimes poisonous) trees, tropical birds large and small, and maybe catch a glimpse of the increasingly rare green iguana.

East-coast beaches are better suited to sightseeing than swimming, although good snorkelling is possible from some shores. Towards the northern extremity, the longest stretch of sand on the island, Grand Anse, is the destination for hundreds of Leatherback Turtles that return each year to lay eggs on the beach. Move inland, and the lush green nature of the rain forest becomes apparent. Walking in this part of the island is always rewarding, but is not for the faint hearted. Return to your accommodation, freshen up and then enjoy a taste of heaven at one of the island’s many inviting restaurants and cafés. St Lucia’s brand of Créole cooking is a natural fusion style of cuisine, and owes its unique blend of flavours to the many nations from which the indigenous population is descended.

Sample goat colombo, the local green curry, or any one of a thousand mouth-watering seafood dishes. You can’t avoid the huge variety of local fruit and vegetables, nor should you – try breadfruit, plantains and christophine, a white, pearshaped fruit and a Caribbean favourite. If you’re unadventurous, avoid the Mountain Chicken – a local version of the traditional French frog’s legs!

When in St Lucia, live life to the full. Enjoy the Friday night parties and festivities and explore everything. Your holiday will end all too soon, and you have to face the journey home. Don’t despair. Remember this enchanted island and its people, and enjoy your memories of a wonderful holiday – until the day you return to St Lucia, the Queen of the Caribbean.

Jade Mountain Select


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