Located in the eastern Caribbean on the boundary with the Atlantic, and part of the Lesser Antilles, St Lucia has long been a draw for holidaymakers as an upmarket, secluded and romantic destination.
A lot of this mountainous island is covered in dense rainforest, and among its natural assets are the precipitous, verdant volcanic cones, the Gros and Petit Pitons, soaring up out of the aquamarine water.
Of course, people come here for the beaches, and these are undeniably glorious, with endless stretches of golden sand in the north and mainly silver strands in the volcanic south. But you should also make time for the island’s botanical gardens, sulphur springs and bubbling volcanoes.
Or perhaps a spot of whale, dolphin, exotic birds or turtle watching would be more your thing? Grand Anse Beach offers the perfect place to see turtles.
Your hotel could have a double hammock on the balcony, a plunge pool, or an outdoor garden shower, adding to the feel of St Lucia as a dream destination.
But while it is definitely popular with loved-up couples, the island has a broad appeal. There’s plenty of accommodation that’s great for families, and vibrant nightlife in the country’s only resort, Rodney Bay Village.
Places to go
Technically, this national park is not an island since a causeway was constructed in the seventies. It’s a stunningly beautiful place, with marked paths over the ruins of Fort Rodney, which the Brits built in the 1700s and which was an American signal station during World War Two – so it’s ideal for history buffs.
It may be a hot, steep trek up to the top of the fort, but the panoramic vistas from the summit of the lower of St Lucia’s twin hills offer a rich reward.
A couple of superb beaches are to be found on the southern side of Pigeon Island.
Glide up and down the mountainside in an eight-seater gondola and take in the rainforest canopy.
For those needing more of an adrenaline fix, take a zip-line ride down a hill – there are a number of zip-lining opportunities across the island, for example at the Morne Coubaril Estate.
In all, there are 19,000 acres of rainforest to walk through on St Lucia – look out for the elusive native parrot, waterfalls and ferns the size of a house as you go.
Lushan Country Life
This is seven acres of forest and gardens in a rural community, attached to a house belonging to the Anthony family. There are guided walks through the grounds, allowing you to take in everything from plants and trees to bird calls. Sample local fruit and other delicacies at the same time.
Other must-see gardens include the 12 acres at Mamiku Gardens, and at Diamond Falls.
Start your tour of St Lucia’s capital with the vibrant market opposite the waterfront, before strolling on to the focal point of the town, the square named after the island’s most famous writer, Derek Walcott.
Brazil Street, on the square’s southern side, has many of Castries’ original wooden buildings.
Nearby, the 20th century cathedral features some gorgeous murals.
Shoppers will enjoy the Saturday morning fruit and vegetable market, while crafts and spices are on offer too. The town also has a couple of duty-free shopping areas, Point Seraphine and La Place Carenage.
Hike to the summit of Gros Piton
You’ll need to be reasonably fit to reach the top of the island’s second highest peak, which forms part of a World Heritage Site. The climb can take up to six hours one way, so set off while it’s still cool, with enough time to return by dark.
The incredible views will keep you going, and there are panoramic vistas to be enjoyed from the outset.
The east and centre of St Lucia offer a more rural, tranquil way of life. In the farming community of Babboneau, for example, you could meet a local family and learn about their traditional way of life.
On Friday evenings, in Gros Islet, near Rodney Bay, locals hold street barbecues, fill the air with music and generally party the night away.
Meanwhile, January sees the island’s Food and Rum Festival, May the Jazz and Arts celebration. Look out for parades on February 22nd (Independence Day), while June and July is carnival time.
When’s the best time to go?
St Lucia’s humid, tropical climate is tempered by freshening trade winds. It’s always warm, but the driest time of year usually falls between February and May.
Rain outside these months may be heavier, but typically comes in short downpours with sunshine all year round. While the chance of hurricanes is small, these are most likely to strike between July and November.
With so many reasons to go to St Lucia – what are you waiting for?