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Off late, St. Lucia, and Castries particularly, is becoming probably the most popular locations within the Caribbean for vacationers. The lodging and facilities are top quality, and also the restaurants and activities are fabulous. Nearly all vacationers settle between Castries, the capital of St. Lucia, and also the northern finish from the island. The whole north side from the island is composed of whitened-sand beaches to dazzle the most seasoned and experienced traveler. The sea is really a glorious blue-eco-friendly, and also the atmosphere is really a regal mixture of beach and plush gardens. Except for the region between Castries and also the northern peninsula, the area is unspoiled and lots of it just lived on by indigenous animal existence. St. Lucia is really a mountainous island of approximately 240 square miles, and roughly 240,000 people reside there. Derek Walcott, native of Castries, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1992.
 
Banana farms, eco-friendly-mantled mountain tops, valleys, wildflowers, an active volcano, and fascinating fishing towns are just the start of this incredible paradise. The regal Pitons, two two 1000-feet mountain tops that rise in the ocean in dramatic and breathtaking fashion, really are among the scenic miracles around the globe. The sights and sounds will dazzle your senses and also the beauty will boggle the mind. St. Lucia is really an event that's essential for just about any Caribbean traveler.
 
Beaches and range of outside sports on St. Lucia are wonderful. The good thing concerning the island is when you need to do choose to take time off from the sun, the shopping, dining, and indoor relaxation stations on St. Lucia are magnificent.
 
Docking & Local Transportation

Cruise ships pier in the Port of Castries in St. Lucia. It's a full-service pier with restaurants, shopping, and much more. Taxis available to consider you to definitely your island destination.
Taxis can easily ferry you anywhere around island, and even though a little pricey, they're experts in moving the hilly and narrow streets that comprise the neighborhood infrastructure. Taxi drivers are good guides too, so discuss going for a driving tour from the island together.
St. Lucia features a smart minibus system that links Castries with Vieux Fort & Soufrière too. They leave Jeremy Street in downtown Castries.
 
Things To see and Do
The Fregate Islands can be found midway up St. Lucia's eastern shoreline, and they're a rock formation ten or twenty yards offshore of Praslin Bay. The region is known as following the exotic wild birds that breed here, and also the region includes a mysterious and interesting quality into it that must definitely be seen. Tall grasses skyrocket in to the sky, seeming to thrive from the mist in the crashes whitewater. Aside from the rock formations and grass, the land is barren and appears lifeless. That's, before you lookup in to the sky, and witness a real marvel of character, the Fregata Magnificens, the scissor-tailed frigate wild birds, that the hawaiian islands obtain title. Between May and This summer, the wild birds migrate and breed, and whilst in the air, they form flying designs and formations that bewilder all who observe. Watching their elegant flight is really a pleased and amazing experience. Most concur that the easiest method to tour the Fregate Islands and take notice of the Fregatas would be to travel across the character trail the St. Lucia government has built. Should you walk elsewhere, you can find lost, not get pretty much as good of the view, or disrupt the delicate ecosystem from the area.
 
With lovely little towns, beautiful beaches and bays, mineral baths, and banana plantations, you won't tire of exploring St. Lucia. You can even visit a volcano.
Additionally, in the same general vicinity, you are able to venture a little further and discover overwhelming enjoyment by means of watching the initial St. Lucian coast. Here you can observe dry ravines, wonderful ocean caves, a waterfall, along with a amazing mangrove swamp.
Maria Islands is located to the southeast tip of St. Lucia, right near Vieux Fort. This fantastic region hosts more than 100 types of plants, and rare reptile species. Watch out for the kouwes lizard and the ground lizard. To organize a tour of this magnificent region, contact St. Lucia National Trust.
 
Castries
The capital city has grown up around its harbor, which occupies the crater of an extinct volcano. Charter captains and the yachting set drift in here, and large cruise-ship wharves welcome vessels from around the world. Because several devastating fires (most recently in 1948) destroyed almost all the old buildings, the town today looks new, with glass-and-concrete (or steel) buildings rather than the French colonial or Victorian look typical of many West Indian capitals.

Castries may be architecturally dull, but its public market is one of the most fascinating in the West Indies, and our favorite people-watching site on the island. It goes full blast every day of the week except Sunday and is most active on Friday and Saturday mornings. The market stalls are a block from Columbus Square along Peynier Street, running down toward the water. The local women dress traditionally, with cotton headdresses; the number of knotted points on top reveals their marital status. (Ask one of the locals to explain it to you.) The luscious fruits and vegetables of St. Lucia may be new to you; the array of colors alone is astonishing. Sample one of the numerous varieties of bananas: On St. Lucia, they're allowed to ripen on the tree, and taste completely different from those picked green and sold at supermarkets in the United States. You can also pick up St. Lucian handicrafts such as baskets and unglazed pottery here.
 
One of the highlights of Castries is Derek Walcott Square, a dignified and verdant rectangle that's bordered with, among others, the public library and the island's most visible Catholic church, the Cathedral . Derek Walcott, born in St. Lucia in 1930, won a Nobel Prize for literature. Plaques within the park honor Walcott with a verse from his epic poem, Ste. Lucie: "Moi c'est gens Ste. Lucie: C'est la moi sortie, is there that I born." A few steps away is a plaque commemorating another island-born luminary, Sir William Arthur Lewis (1915-79), winner of a Nobel Prize for economics, whose face appears on some of the nation's EC$100 bills. Both of the commemorative plaques are virtually within the shadow of a 500-year-old "Simontree" (a local name for a local species), which anyone in the park will happily point out as proof of the fertility of the island's soil and climate.
 
One of the most important French-built religious buildings in the West Indies is the Cathedral, immediately to the edge of the park. Built during the 19th century of wrought iron, cast iron, and stone under the supervision of several generations of hard-working, long-suffering priests, it's covered with an almost surreal mélange of French Catholic and West Indian iconography. Notice on one wall the frescoes commemorating the "Martyrs of Uganda" who were slaughtered by the forces of dictator Idi Amin.
 
To the south of Castries looms Morne Fortune, the inappropriately named "Hill of Good Luck." In the 18th century, some of the most savage Caribbean battles between the French and the British took place here. You can visit the military cemetery, a small museum, the old powder magazine, and the Four Apostles Battery (a quartet of grim muzzle-loading cannons). Government House, now the official residence of the governor-general of St. Lucia, is one of the few examples of Victorian architecture that escaped destruction by fire. The private gardens are beautifully planted, aflame with scarlet and purple bougainvillea. Morne Fortune also offers what many consider the most scenic lookout perch in the Caribbean. The view of the harbor of Castries is panoramic: You can see north to Pigeon Island or south to the Pitons; on a clear day, you may even spot Martinique. To reach Morne Fortune, head east on Bridge Street.
 
The Pitons
The Pitons, St. Lucia's twin towering peaks and prime topographic feature, soar out of the sea to great heights. The Gros Piton (large piton) to the south is 798 meters high and the Petit Piton (small piton) is 750 meters. Formed by volcanic activity about 200,000 to 300,000 years ago, both the Pitons are considered difficult climbs. Some divers enjoy exploring them as underwater cliffs. However, most visitors simply view them for their scenic beauty. The colorful fishing village of Soufriere affords one of the best vistas of the twin peaks.
 
Marigot Bay
Marigot Bay, arguably the most beautiful bay on St Lucia, is best viewed from a vista point on the road between the main Caribbean coastal route and the bay itself. Lush hillsides plunge to the pretty palm-fringed beach, and yachts bob on the bay's blue waters. The harbor is so deep and sheltered that the British fleet supposedly hid here from the French by covering their masts with palm fronds. Marigot Bay was also the setting for the 1967 film Doctor Doolittle, a claim to fame that has left a permanent mark on the names of some of the local establishments. Water shuttles ferry people across the bay to hotels on the opposite side. Official site: www.marigotbay.com
 
Anse Chastanet Marine National Park
Anse Chastanet coral reef harbors a treasure trove of sea life across varying depths. On a plateau of two to eight meters, divers can see colored sponges, soft corals, boulder coral, and brain corals. Frogfish inhabit a large nearby cavern, and divers may spot many varieties of fish in the coral gardens, including parrotfish, goatfish, wrasse, chromis, and barracudas. The edge of the plateau is a wall that drops 46 meters to a lace coral ecosystem inhabited by lobsters, crabs, and eels. Plate coral starts below 30 meters. Above the surface, is a sheltered beach with beautiful views of the Pitons.
 
Soufrière
The colorful fishing village of Soufrière is wrapped around a beautiful bay and is best seen from an overlook on the main road to Vieux Fort. The town was founded in about 1745 with its most prominent features being the town square, home to the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the many buildings with filigreed balconies and tin roofs. The town square was the site of the guillotine erected during the French Revolution in 1780. Many plantation owners and their families were executed here. The wharf, a block away from the town square, is the stopping point of several sightseeing cruises. The 1989 courthouse next to the wharf has been converted into a restaurant with a batik shop on the second floor. Soufriere's main claim to fame is that Josephine, the wife of Emperor Napoleon Boneparte, was born here in 1763.
 
This little fishing port, St. Lucia's second-largest settlement, is dominated by two pointed hills called Petit Piton and Gros Piton. The Pitons, two volcanic cones rising to 738m and 696m (2,421 ft. and 2,283 ft.), have become the very symbol of St. Lucia. Formed of lava and rock, and once actively volcanic, they are now covered in green vegetation. Their sheer rise from the sea makes them a landmark visible for miles around, and waves crash at their bases. It's recommended that you attempt to climb only Gros Piton, but doing so requires the permission of the Forest and Lands Department (tel. 758/450-2078) and the company of a knowledgeable guide.
 
Near Soufrière lies the famous "drive-in" volcano, Mount Soufrière, a rocky lunar landscape of bubbling mud and craters seething with sulfur. You literally drive your car along a winding, forested road into a millions-of-years-old crater. From the parking lot, you'll walk uphill, along a closely monitored trail peppered with park rangers and, from observation platforms, get a view in the near distance of bubbling sulfur springs and pools of hissing steam. The most visible of these is Gabriel's Pool, which was named in honor of a 1960s-era St. Lucian tour guide, Gabriel, whose weight collapsed the chalky surface of the congealed mud close to the hot springs. Ever since then, one of the pools has borne his name, and ever since, visitors are strictly prohibited from getting too close to the steamy depths. Entrance to the crater and the vicinity of the pools costs $5 per person and includes the services of your guide, who will point out the blackened waters, among the few of their kind in the Caribbean. Hours are Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm; for more information, call tel. 758/459-7200.
 
Nearby are the Diamond Mineral Baths (tel. 758/459-7155; www.diamondstlucia.com) in the Diamond Botanical Gardens. Deep in the lush tropical gardens is the Diamond Waterfall, one of the geological attractions of the island. Created from water bubbling up from sulfur springs, the waterfall changes colors (from yellow to black to green to gray) several times a day. The baths were constructed in 1784 on the orders of Louis XVI, whose doctors told him these waters were similar in mineral content to the waters at Aix-les-Bains; they were intended to provide recuperative effects for French soldiers fighting in the West Indies. The baths have an average temperature of 106°F (41°C). For $10 you can bathe and try out the recuperative effects for yourself. There is a $5 entrance fee. Hours are Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sunday 10am to 3pm. From Soufrière in the southwest, the road winds toward Fond St-Jacques, where you'll have a good view of mountains and villages as you cut through St. Lucia's Cape Moule-Chique tropical rainforest. You'll also see the Barre de l'Isle divide.
 
Morne Coubaril Estate
Overlooking Soufriere Bay, Morne Coubaril Estate is a popular stop on the tourist circuit. The estate is an elegant working plantation growing cocoa, coconuts, and manioc. Ziplining in view of the Pitons is the most adventurous activity on offer, but guests can also enjoy guided tours of the plantation, its tropical gardens, and a replica of a traditional village. Guides demonstrate the processing of coconut for food products and show how sugar cane syrup, cocoa, coffee, and manioc are produced. After the tour, guests can enjoy Creole food at the plantation's restaurant. Address: Opp. Jalousie Entrance, Soufriere, St. Lucia
Official site: www.stluciaziplining.com

Sulphur Springs Park, Mount Soufriere
Named for the sulfur once mined at this site, Mount Soufriere (also known as Sulphur Springs Park) is the most active geothermal area in the Lesser Antilles. A road traverses the edge of the 274 meter crater making this one of the world's rare "drive-through" volcanoes. Though the last major volcanic eruption in St Lucia occurred about 40,000 years ago, this volcanic pit continues to vent sulfur into the air and heat pools of water above boiling. Visitors can view the bubbling pools and hissing fumaroles from observation platforms, and soak in some nearby therapeutic springs.
 
Diamond Falls
The Diamond Falls section of the Soufrière Estate offers three popular attractions: well-conceived gardens, a beautiful waterfall colored by mineral deposits, and healing mineral hot spring baths originally built for the troops of King Louis the XVI of France. The gardens were planted among coconut, cocoa, mahogany, and red cedar trees with tropical flowers and shrubs from around the world. Within the gardens visitors will find educational displays of local fruits & vegetables such as christophine, soursop, and dasheen. For a small fee, visitors can also use the soothing outside pools or private bathhouses. Another attraction of this historic estate is the old mill and waterwheel where visiting groups are served a Caribbean buffet.
 
Pigeon Island National Park
Across from Rodney Bay, Pigeon Island National Park, is one of St. Lucia's most important historic attractions. Strategic lookouts on the island allowed the British to monitor the movements of French troops in Martinique during their struggle for control of St. Lucia. Today a causeway connects the island to the mainland and visitors can hike up to the lookout point and enjoy panoramic views of St. Lucia's northwest coast. Also on the island are the ruins of the military buildings used during battles between the French and English, an interpretation center describing the island's fascinating history, a small restaurant, and two white-sand beaches.
 
St. Lucia's first national park is joined to the mainland by a causeway. On its west coast are two white-sand beaches. There's also a restaurant, Jambe de Bois, named after a wooden-legged pirate who once used the island as a hideout.
Pigeon Island offers an Interpretation Centre, equipped with artifacts and a multimedia display on local history, ranging from the Amerindian occupation of A.D. 1000 to the Battle of the Saints, when Admiral Rodney's fleet set out from Pigeon Island and defeated Admiral De Grasse in 1782. The Captain's Cellar Olde English Pub lies under the center and is evocative of an 18th-century English bar.
 
Pigeon Island, only 18 hectares (44 acres), got its name from the red-neck pigeon, or ramier, that once colonized this island in huge numbers. Now the site of a Sandals Hotel and interconnected to the St. Lucian "mainland" with a causeway, the island offers pleasant panoramas but no longer the sense of isolated privacy that reigned here prior to its development. Parts of it, those far from the hotel on the premises, seem appropriate for nature walks. For more information, call tel. 758/452-5005, or visitwww.slunatrust.org/pigeon_island.php.
 
Rodney Bay
This scenic bay is a 15-minute drive north of Castries. Set on a man-made lagoon, it has become a chic center for nightlife, hotels, and restaurants -- in fact, it's the most active place on the island at night. Its marina is one of the top watersports centers in the Caribbean, and a destination every December for the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, when yachties cross the Atlantic to meet and compare stories.

On the Gros Islet northern end of St Lucia, Rodney Bay is St. Lucia's tourist magnet with its picturesque crescent-shaped beach and many hotels, restaurants, and shops. Enclosed to the north by Pigeon Island National Park and to the south by Labrellotte Point, this sheltered bay is a popular spot for mooring. The Rodney Bay Marina is one of the best equipped in the eastern Caribbean with many watersports on offer. Impressive homes dot the hills surrounding the bay, and St Lucia's biggest shopping mall is in the area. Nearby Reduit Beach is one of St. Lucia's most popular stretches of glittering white sand.
 
Tet Paul Nature Trail
Winding through tropical forest in St. Lucia's World-Heritage-listed Piton Management Area, the Tet Paul Nature Trail offers some of the most spectacular views in southern St. Lucia. On a clear day, hikers can see all the way to Martinique and St. Vincent. The hike takes about 45 minutes and is rated easy to moderate. Along the gentle trail, hikers can learn about medicinal plants and trees, sample exotic tropical fruits, and discover the traditional Amerindian art of cassava production. The highlight is the "stairway to heaven", steps leading guests up to a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
Address: Near Fond Doux Plantation, Soufriere. Official site: http://soufrierefoundation.org/tet-paul-nature-trail

Edmund Rain Forest Reserve - Enbas Saut Waterfall Trail
Accessed at Edmund, above Soufriere, the Enbos Saut waterfall trail lies on the lush slopes of Mount Gimie, St. Lucia's highest mountain. The well maintained trail circles through dense rainforest to a waterfall, which has eroded its way into volcanic rock. The trail takes about two hours 30 minutes, and requires suitable hiking shoes. Along the way, hikers may spot birds such as the St Lucia parrot, St Lucia oriole, Sempers warbler, and St Lucia wren, and the park also harbors exotic plants, such as the Blue Mahoe and Honduras Mahogany. Most visitors access the trail in four-wheel-drive safari vehicles along a rough and rocky road, which also affords one of the best vistas of the Pitons.
Morne Fortune
From 1803 to 1844 the British made St. Lucia's capital, Castries, a major naval port and built fortifications on Morne Fortune, the mountain overlooking the harbor. It was here that some of the most brutal battles between the French and English took place. Today Morne Fortune, meaning "Hill of Good Luck" still offers stunning views of Castries and the harbor from its scenic overlook. On a clear day, visitors can see all the way to Martinique. The original fortifications still stand and visitors can visit a monument as well as old military buildings and cannons. The northern side of Morne Fortune is home to Government House, the official residence of St. Lucia's Governor General, set amid beautifully landscaped private gardens.
Address: Castries. Official site: www.slunatrust.org/sites/morne-fortune

Castries Market
The colorful Castries market, at the eastern-most point of Castries harbor, is a great place to experience a slice of local life on St. Lucia. Merchandise ranges from handicrafts to locally grown fruits and vegetables. Shoppers can buy batiks, woodcarvings, gift baskets of spices, banana ketchups and oils, hand-made brooms, hot-pepper sauces, and the usual souvenirs. While the market is open every day, the most active day is Saturday.
 
Derek Walcott Square
Named after St. Lucia's Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott Square is a great starting point for a walking tour of the capital, Castries. Its most famous landmark is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The cathedral exemplifies a Victorian variation on a Romanesque design and features an Italianate-style clock tower centered on the square. Opposite the cathedral, sits the restored public library and a series of brightly painted gingerbread colonial buildings with verandahs overhanging the sidewalk.
Address: Castries, St. Lucia
 
Discovering "Forgotten" Grande Anse
The northeast coast is the least visited and least accessible part of St. Lucia, but it contains dramatic rockbound shores interspersed with secret sandy coves. The government has set Grand Anse aside as a nature reserve so that it will never be developed. The terrain is arid and can be unwelcoming, but it is fascinating nonetheless. Grande Anse is home to some rare bird species, notably the white-breasted thrasher, as well as the fer-de-lance, the only poisonous snake on the island (but visitors report rarely seeing them). Its beaches -- Grande Anse, Petite Anse, and Anse Louvet -- are nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles, including the hawksbill, the green turtle, the leatherback, and the loggerhead. Nesting season lasts from February to October. Many locals tackle the poor road in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, especially the bumpiest part from Desbarra to Grande Anse.
 
Nature Reserves
The fertile volcanic soil of St. Lucia sustains a rich diversity of bird and animal life. Some of the richest troves for ornithologists are in protected precincts off the St. Lucian coast, in either of two national parks: Fregate Islands Nature Reserve and the Maria Islands Nature Reserve.
 
The Fregate Islands are a cluster of rocks a short distance offshore from Praslin Bay, midway up St. Lucia's eastern coastline. Barren except for tall grasses that seem to thrive in the salt spray, the islands were named after the scissor-tailed frigate birds (Fregata magnificens) that breed here. Between May and July, large colonies of the graceful birds fly in well-choreographed formations over islands that you can visit only under the closely supervised permission of government authorities. Many visitors believe that the best way to admire the Fregate Islands (and to respect their fragile ecosystems) is to walk along the nature trail that the St. Lucian government has hacked along the clifftop of the St. Lucian mainland, about 45m (148 ft.) inland from the shoreline. Even without binoculars, you'll be able to see the frigates wheeling overhead. You'll also enjoy eagle's-eye views of the unusual geology of the St. Lucian coast, which includes sea caves, dry ravines, a waterfall (during the rainy season), and a strip of mangrove swamp.
 
The Maria Islands are larger and more arid, and are almost constantly exposed to salt-laden winds blowing up from the equator. Set to the east of St. Lucia's southernmost tip, off the town of Vieux Fort, their biodiversity is strictly protected. The approximately 12 hectares (30 acres) of cactus-dotted land that make up the two largest islands (Maria Major and Maria Minor) are home to more than 120 species of plants, lizards, butterflies, and snakes that are believed to be extinct in other parts of the world. These include the large ground lizard (Zandolite) and the nocturnal, nonvenomous kouwes snake (Dromicus ornatus).
 
The Marias are also a bird refuge, populated by such species as the sooty tern, the bridled tern, the Caribbean martin, the red-billed tropicbird, and the brown noddy, which usually nests under the protective thorns of prickly pear cactus.
For more information, contact the St. Lucia National Trust (tel. 758/452-5005; www.slunatrust.org).
 
Beaches
All the St. Lucia beaches are open o the public, and are not characterized by a private resort monopoly. Visitors will find plenty of beaches near Castries. Beaches across the western coast of St. Lucia are calmer and much more targeted toward family usage. It is because the surf is much more tranquil consequently from the decreased breeze in this area. Around the East Side, the winds are greater, and also the surf gets bigger.
 
Soufrière is really a town and quarter around the Southwest coast of Saint Lucia in the western world Indies. Soufrière was the previous capital of Saint Lucia throughout occasions of French rule. It's now a little sleepy fishing port by having an emerging tourism industry. It boasts several points of interest together with a "drive-in" volcano, the Gemstone Botanical Gardens with waterfall (briefly featured within the Superman II movie) and historic mineral baths, as well as the nearby black sand beaches of Anse Chastanet towards the north and Malgretout towards the south.
 
The whitened-sand beaches at Pigeon Island have a variety of amenities, together with a restaurant, historic museum and aquatic sports.At Rodney Bay you are able to climb aboard the brig Unicorn, utilized in the video Pirates from the Caribbean and find out free airline side from the island by ocean from her decks. There's a marine sanctuary (national park) on one for reds from the island through the Anse Chastenet resort. Great place to discover local marine existence & ecology.
 
Pigeon Island, from the north shoreline, is an excellent place to go for relaxation. Outside sports could be performed because well, and many sport and go swimming equipment could be leased. Meals are nearby, and also the entire scene is perfect, having a charming feel and friendly local people. Reduit Beach at Rodney Bay is easily the most visited beach around the island. The graceful, beige sand and obvious, calm waters attract vacationers unlike any other. Additionally, the shore features water-sport kiosks, with bars and restaurants only a minute's walking distance.
 
Since most of the island hotels are built right on the beach, you won't have to go far to swim. All beaches are open to the public, even those along hotel properties. However, if you use any of the hotel's beach equipment, you must pay for it. We prefer the beaches along the western coast, as the rough surf on the windward (east) side makes swimming potentially dangerous. The best hotels are all on the western coast for good reason.
 
One of the best beaches is Pigeon Point Beach, off the north shore, part of the Pigeon Island National Historic Park. The small beach here has white sand and is an ideal place for a picnic. Pigeon Island is joined to the mainland of St. Lucia by a causeway, so it's easy to reach.
The most frequented beach is Reduit Beach, at Rodney Bay, 2km (1 1/4 miles) of soft beige sand fronting very clear waters. Many watersports kiosks can be found along the strip bordering Royal St. Lucian Hotel. With all its restaurants and bars, you'll find plenty of refueling stops.
Choc Bay is a long stretch of sand and palm trees on the northwestern coast, convenient to Castries and the big resorts. Its tranquil waters lure swimmers and especially families (including locals) with small children.
 
The 3km (2-mile) white-sand Malabar Beach runs parallel to the George F. L. Charles Airport runway, in Castries, to the Rendezvous resort. Vigie Beach, north of Castries Harbour, is also popular. It has fine beige sands, sloping gently into crystalline water. La Toc Beach, just south of Castries, opens onto a crescent-shaped bay containing golden sand.
 
Marigot Bay is the quintessential Caribbean cove, framed on three sides by steep emerald hills and skirted by palm trees. There are some small but secluded beaches here. Some of the Caribbean's most expensive yachts anchor in this bay.
One of the most charming and hidden beaches of St. Lucia is the idyllic cove of Anse Chastanet, north of Soufrière. This is a beach connoisseur's delight. Towering palms provide shade from the fierce noonday sun, and lush hills are a refreshing contrast to the dark sandy strip.
 
The dramatic crescent-shaped bay of Anse des Pitons is at the foot of and between the twin peaks of the Pitons, south of Soufrière. The Jalousie Plantation transformed the natural black-sand beach by covering it with white sand; you walk through the resort to get to it. It's popular with divers and snorkelers. While here, ask about a very special beach reached only by boat: the black volcanic sands and tranquil waters of Anse Couchon. With its shallow reefs, excellent snorkeling, and picture-postcard charm, this beach has become a hideaway for lovers. It's south of Anse-le-Raye.
 
You'll find miles of white sand at the beach at Vieux Fort, at the southern end of the island. Reefs protect the crystal-clear waters here, rendering them tranquil and ideal for swimming. At the southern end of the windward side of the island is Anse des Sables, which opens onto a shallow bay swept by trade winds that are great for windsurfing.
 
Best Beach for a Half-Day Visit: Choc Beach is just a 20-minute taxi ride from Castries, and offers a lovely stretch of white sand.
Best Beach for Active Types: Rodney Bay's Reduit Beach (pronounced red-wee) -- about 10 minutes north of Choc Beach -- offers hotels, restaurants and water sports. 
Best Scenic Beach: Anse des Pitons is nestled between St. Lucia's famous twin peaks and is a good place for snorkeling or diving. (Fun Fact: This beach was initially made of volcanic black sand, but the white sand that you see today has been imported to "improve" its appearance.)
 
Shore Excursions
Best for First-Timers: Take an island highlights tour that lets you explore such highlights as Soufriere's Drive-In Volcano and Diamond Botanical Gardens & Waterfall.
Best for Photographers: Take a catamaran cruise to Soufriere to capture images of the Pitons and the lush green coastline. The sail might be combined with a bus trip to Soufriere's Drive-In Volcano, or a swimming stop in Marigot Bay.
Best for Adrenaline Junkies: Get your heart racing with a zip-line adventure, either on its own or combined with a rainforest hike and/or aerial tram ride.
Best for Nature Adventurers: Take a guided walk through the rainforest to one of St. Lucia's many waterfalls. Pack sturdy shoes that you won't mind getting wet, as you may have a chance for a quick, cool swim.
 
Rainforest Sky Rides -- A Rainforest Aerial Tram Adventure is the greatest scenic adventure on the island. Gondolas safely glide you through and over the treetops of this oceanic rainforest. Dense thickets of vegetation merge with cascades of flowers such as lavender stars, orange bursts, and white magnolias. Sixteen open-air gondolas seat up to eight passengers, with one guide each. The cost is $72 for adults or $62 for children 2 to 12. The ride is just one of several rainforest excursions offered by Rainforest Sky Rides, Reduit Gros Islet, Rodney Bay (tel. 758/458-5151; www.rainforestadventure.com).
 
Deep-Sea Fishing
The waters around St. Lucia are known for their game fish, including blue marlin, sailfish, mako sharks, and barracuda, with tuna and kingfish among the edible catches. Most hotels can arrange fishing expeditions. Call Mako Watersports (tel. 758/452-0412), which offers half-day fishing trips for $99 per person or full-day trips from $400. Captain Mike's (tel. 758/452-7044; www.captmikes.com) also conducts fishing trips, renting boats by the half-day for $450 to $550, or a whole day in the $800-to-$1,000 price range.
 
Golf
St. Lucia has an 18-hole golf course (6,815 yd., par-71) at the St. Lucia Golf Resort and Country Club, Cap Estate, at the northern end of the island (tel. 758/450-8523; www.stluciagolf.com). In winter greens fees are $145 for 18 holes or $105 for 9 holes; these charges are lowered in summer to $120 for 18 holes or $95 for 9 holes. Carts are included, and clubs can be rented for $50. Hours are from 6:30am to 6pm daily, and reservations are needed.
 
Hiking
A tropical rainforest covers a large area in the southern half of St. Lucia, and the St. Lucia Forest and Lands Department manages it wisely. This forest reserve divides the western and eastern halves of the island. There are several trails, the most popular of which is the Barre de l'Isle Trail, located almost in the center of St. Lucia, southeast of Marigot Bay; it's a fairly easy trail that even children can handle. There are four panoramic lookout points with dramatic views of the sea where the Atlantic and the Caribbean meet. It takes about an hour to walk this 2km-long (1.25-mile) trail, which lies about a 30-minute ride from Castries. Guided hikes can usually be arranged through the major hotels or through the Forest and Lands Department (tel. 758/450-2078).
 
Horseback Riding
North of Castries is the island's oldest riding establishment -- Trim's National Riding Stable, Cas-en-Bas, Gros Islet (tel. 758/450-8273) Its activities range from trail rides to beach tours, and the stable even offers horse-drawn carriage tours of Pigeon Island. Rides are $45 for an hour, $60 for 2 hours, or $80 for a 3-hour beach ride with a barbecue.
 
Scuba Diving
In Soufrière, Scuba St. Lucia, in the Anse Chastanet Resort (tel. 758/459-7755; www.scubastlucia.com), offers one of the world's top dive locations at a five-star PADI dive center. At the southern end of Anse Chastanet's .4km-long (1/4-mile) secluded beach, it features premier diving and comprehensive facilities for divers of all levels. Some of the most spectacular coral reefs of St. Lucia, many only 3 to 6m (9 3/4-20 ft.) below the surface, lie a short distance from the beach.
 
Many PADI instructors offer five dive programs a day. Photographic equipment is available for rent (film can be processed on the premises), and instruction is offered in picture taking. Experienced divers can rent any equipment they need. PADI certification courses are available for $650. A 2- to 3-hour introductory lesson costs $95 and includes a short theory session, equipment familiarization, development of skills in shallow water, a tour of the reef, and all equipment. Single dives cost $40. Hours are from 8am to 6pm daily.
 
Another full-service scuba center is available on St. Lucia's southwest coast at the Jalousie Plantation, at Soufrière (tel. 758/456-8000). The PADI center offers dives in St. Lucia's National Marine Park; there are numerous shallow reefs near the shore. The diver certification program is available to hotel guests and other visitors ages 12 and up. Prices range from a single dive for $40 to $85, to a certification course for $550 to $800. There's a daily resort course for noncertified divers that includes a supervised dive from the beach; it costs $95. A 10-dive package is $400; a six-dive package is $300. All prices include equipment, tax, and service charges.
 
Tennis
The best place for tennis on the island is the St. Lucia Racquet Club, adjacent to Club St. Lucia (tel. 758/450-0551). It's one of the finest tennis facilities in the Lesser Antilles. Its seven illuminated courts are maintained in state-of-the-art condition, and there's also a good pro shop on-site. You must reserve 24 hours in advance. Guests of the hotel play for free; nonguests are charged $12 per hour. Tennis racquets rent for $8 per hour.
 
The Jalousie Plantation, at Soufrière (tel. 758/456-8000), has a good program. Vernon Lewis, the top-ranked player in St. Lucia, is the pro. You'll find four brand-new Laykold tennis courts (three lit for night play). Hotel guests play for free (though they pay for lessons). Nonguests can play for $25 per hour.
 
Other Watersports
 
The best all-around watersports center is St. Lucian Watersports, at the Rex St. Lucian Hotel (tel. 758/452-8351). Water-skiing costs $20 for a 10- to 15-minute ride (three rounds). Windsurfers can be rented for $25 per half-hour. Snorkeling is free for guests of the hotel; nonguests pay $10 per hour for equipment.
 
Eating Out
The Eco-friendly Parrot in Castries is the most popular night hangout place on the island. Located at Chef Harry Drive, Eco-friendly Parrot features the beautiful Castries Harbor backdrop. The menu is a mix of European and Caribbean, and also the drinks are some of the most inspiring concoctions you’ll try. There’s a limbo contest and fire show to keep guests enthralled. The ambiance, food, and fantastic harbor view make Eco-friendly Parrot a fabulous experience. San Antoine is known for its juicy lobsters and fettuccine Alfredo. San Antoine, situated in Morne Fortune, is good as well.
Indies is a happening dance club. Situated at Rodney Bay, Indies is easily the most popular post sundown party place.
 
Nightlife
Friday-night "jump-ups" are weekly street parties where islanders let it rip. These jump-ups, especially for guests of all-inclusives, offer a real opportunity to get out and mix with the locals. For reggae and hot times, head for the gatherings at Gros Islet, attracting both St. Lucians and the visiting yachties from Rodney Bay. You won't go hungry: Stall after stall hawks barbecued meats along with such sides as rice 'n' beans and a tuber called dasheen, as seafood sizzles over hot coals and the smell of barbecued chicken whets appetites. More jump-ups take place at Anse la Raye on St. Lucia's western shore. Rum and reggae flow from about 6pm to midnight or beyond. Stalls along the Anse la Raye waterfront often sell fresher and better seafood than you get in the upmarket dining rooms of the all-inclusives -- conch, lobster, mahimahi, and even "potfish." Islanders claim that if you drink a "sea-moss shake" (seaweed, milk, sugar, and fruit), you'll keep jumping up throughout the night. In the winter, at least one hotel has a steel band or calypso music every night of the week. Otherwise, check to see what's happening at the Green Parrot (tel. 758/452-3399), in Castries.
 
If you'd like to go barhopping, begin at Shamrocks Pub, Rodney Bay (tel. 758/452-8725). This Irish-style pub is especially popular among boaters and gets really lively on weekends.
At Marigot Bay, where the 1967 version of Doctor Doolittle, starring Rex Harrison, was filmed, the memory is perpetuated at Doolittle's, part of the Marigot Beach Club Hotel (tel. 758/451-4974), lying 14km (8 3/4 miles) south of Castries. The Marigot Bay ferry takes you to the palm-studded peninsula of the resort; tickets cost $1.90. On Saturday nights -- when Doolittle's offers a lavish seafood and barbecue buffet along with a steel band -- this is the best place to be on the island. You can come here for drinks (try the Singapore Slings), or for dishes like chunky pumpkin soup, jerk chicken, or lobster and coconut shrimp Creole.
 
St. Lucia Jazz -- Amazingly, the St. Lucia Jazz Festival is now ranked number two in the Caribbean, eclipsed only by Trinidad's Carnival. It takes place every May. Leading jazz artists from all over the world descend on St. Lucia at this time, offering varied shows that range from New Age jazz to rhythm and blues. Shows range from formal performances to late-night open-air venues. The tourist office has complete details of the festival, and information is also available online at www.stluciajazz.org. There's a downside to all this: Many hotels take advantage of all these arrivals to jack up room prices.
 
Shopping
In the capital city, Castries, you can stock up on hot sauce, spices, and luscious fruits and vegetables at the bustling public market, or bring back pottery, wood carvings, and silk-screened textiles from the shops along William Peter Boulevard and Bridge Street. Head to Rodney Bay for original artworks and antique prints, and Soufrière for batik clothing.
 
Most of the shopping is in Castries, where the principal streets are William Peter Boulevard and Bridge Street. Many stores will sell you goods at duty-free prices (providing you don't take the merchandise with you, but have it delivered to the airport or cruise dock). There are some good (but not remarkable) buys in bone china, jewelry, perfume, watches, liquor, and crystal.
 
Built for the cruise-ship passenger, Pointe Seraphine, in Castries, has the most comprehensive collection of shops on the island, along with offices for car rentals, organized taxi service (for sightseeing), a bureau de change, a philatelic bureau, an information center, and international phones. Cruise ships berth beside cement piers immediately adjacent to the shopping center. The complex was designed as a labyrinth of arcades and cottages (each capped with terra-cotta roof tiles) that meander amid landscaping in a kind of extended garden. Access to the compound requires that you present a cruise pass or an airline ticket to the shopkeeper when purchasing duty-free goods. Visitors can take away their purchases, except liquor and tobacco, which will be delivered either to the airport or to your cruise ship, depending on your means of transport. The compound is open in winter Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm and Saturday 8am to 2pm; off season, hours are Monday to Saturday 9am to 4pm. It has extended hours when cruise ships are in port.
 
On Gros Islet Highway, 3km (2 miles) north of Castries, Gablewoods Mall contains three restaurants and one of the island's densest concentrations of shops.
 
Local products of note include an inventory of at least seven kinds of locally distilled rums from La Belle Creole (also known as Wilco, Ltd.) Most visible is a delicious version flavored with coconut, and Seventh Heaven, a variety that's (informally and unofficially) advertised for its powers as an aphrodisiac, thanks to the combination of ginger, local herbs, and aromatic bark (suggestively known as bois bandé) that go into it.
 
Souvenirs and Craft
Craft Vendor St. Lucia produces high-quality island wares using native materials and traditional Carib designs. The famous local coal pot is a typical example. The ideal way to get a sample of the many local products is to visit one of the vendors markets and arcades, or an arts and crafts centre.
 
There is a lovely, colourful open-air market located near the waterfront in downtown Castries. At the Castries Market, the largest on the island, visitors will find numerous vendors, especially on Saturdays, selling an assortment of fresh island fruits and vegetables, flowers, spices, handicraft, and clothing. Across from the Castries Market is the Vendors Arcade, where visitors will find a good selection of handicraft, screen-printed clothing, leather goods, jewellery, and wood carvings; all of which make good, inexpensive souvenirs.
 
The local market scene is a colorful and bustling atmosphere where vendors haggle for the highest price. Be prepared to negotiate a price for any thing which is a must-have item. Enjoy! The following are some of the shops where visitors may purchase souvenirs and handicraft made in St. Lucia.



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