What do you want in a tropical island? Sun, sand, surf, and pristine turquoise water? A dense rainforest filled with exotic creatures? The freshest seafood and strongest piña coladas? For me, the answer is “all of the above!” And I found my tropical paradise when Devin and I took a five-day trip to the island of St. Lucia several years ago.
We knew very little about St. Lucia before choosing it as our destination. My Fodor’s Guide to the Caribbean described the setting as romantic and the people as friendly, and that was enough for me. Located in the southeastern Caribbean between Barbados and Martinique, St. Lucia is one of the Windward Islands in the West Indies. The island has bounced between French and British rule for much of its history, and while it’s currently within the British Commonwealth, it retains a decidedly French and Creole flair.
After a little research, we knew that St. Lucia would offer the perfect mix of much-needed downtime and playful adventure, from chilling on the beach to soaring above the jungle canopy. For a small island, St. Lucia has a fair amount of variety: sandy stretches of beach, rocky outcroppings, thick jungles, a volcano, and of course, its famous twin mountains, the Pitons. (As the locals will tell you constantly, the Pitons were featured in Superman II.)
To get the most from this little island, I recommend exploring St. Lucia three ways:
1) By Land. We considered renting a car but decided to forgo the cost in favor of cabs (relatively plentiful in tourist areas like Rodney Bay, where we stayed) and public transportation. Our various tours gave us a good overview of the island, but I might consider a car next time, just to allow for more freedom. Whether you’re driving or taking a tour, don’t miss a trip to Soufriere. Located on the southwest coast, it’s home to a lush botanical garden, the Diamond Falls waterfall, sulfur hot springs (which you can smell from quite a distance!), a drive-in volcano, and those picture-perfect Pitons.
Tip: St. Lucia’s main airport is located in the south. If you’re staying, as we did, to the north, hire a car. I believe we spent $60 for an hour-long ride to our hotel—but the bonus was that our friendly driver doubled as an unofficial tour guide and gave us a great overview of the island as he took us through the rainforest and along the water.
2) By Air. You can’t hit up a tropical island without exploring the jungle—from above. We took an aerial tram above the canopy, which allowed for a gorgeous view of the rainforest and, in fact, the whole island. Now that I’ve zip-lined in Costa Rica, I want to try it in St. Lucia next time I visit.
3) By Sea. We loved our daily routine of hitting up the hotel pool (with swim-up bar!), but we weren’t about to miss out on the ocean. Devin and I spent a few afternoons at the local beach, and we also enjoyed a catamaran tour that let us look at the island from a different angle—and included snorkeling and rum punch.
We loved St. Lucia so much that we’ve often said we’ll go back, maybe even to elope (someday). In the meantime, we’ll admire that classic view of the Pitons every time we watch Superman II.