Tips and Considerations for Traveling to St. Lucia
St. Lucia is an island located in the Caribbean. It is a country of the British Commonwealth and is located just north of Trinidad and Tobago.
The main source of income for the island is tourism and there are many tourist attractions to explore while you are in the area. From the sulphur springs, to the botanical gardens, to a drive in volcano, not to mention all of the stunning beaches, St. Lucia is the perfect spot to simply escape.
When traveling to St. Lucia it is important to understand a little bit about the history of the island. The first known habitats of the island were the Arawaks. The Arawaks are thought to come from the northern part of South America sometime between 200 to 400 CE. Archaeologists have found many artifacts from the Arawaks. From 800 to 1000 CE the Caribs replaced the Arawaks.
Spain started exploring the Caribbean during the late 1490s to the early part of the 1500s and during this time likely discovered the island. The British tried to colonize the island during the 17th century, but failed. The French were the first Europeans to settle in the area when they signed a treaty with the Caribs during the year 1660. The French developed the island for sugarcane cultivation during this time and developed numerous plantations.
Slaves were imported to the island after European inhabitation. By the time the British abolished slavery, there were more people of the African descent living there than those of a European background.
The rights to the island were greatly contested throughout the years until Britain gained control of it in the year 1814. St. Lucia became part of the Windward Islands Colony of Britain. From 1958 through 1962 it was a part of the West Indies Federation. In the year 1967 St. Lucia became a part of the West Indies Associated States and operates an internal government. St. Lucia has had full independence since the year 1979.
From the middle of December through the middle of April is considered the high season. During this time of year and during the St. Lucia carnival and jazz events, you will likely find that hotel rates will be a bit higher.
The coolest months of the year are December and January. June through August are the hottest months of the year. It will often rain a substantial amount from June through November. If you visit in the months of September or October you will likely find it to be quite humid.
Events and Festivals
There are many great events and festivals that take place throughout the year. For golfers, there is an open golf tournament that takes place every April at the St. Lucia Golf Resort located in Cap Estate.
In early May there is the St. Lucia Jazz festival. This is a huge event that takes place on the island and if you want to visit during this time you will need to plan ahead as you may find it difficult to find a hotel room and if you do find a room, expect to pay a higher price for it.
The summer Carnival takes place in Castries and starts during the later part of June and continues into into the early part of July.
For those who love to fish, there is a Billfishing tournament that takes place every year during the late part of September and the early part of October.
Creole Heritage month is the entire month of October. It ends on the last Sunday of October on Jounen Kweyol Enternasyonal, which stands for International Creole Day.
In the late part of November or the early part of December, the Atlantic Rally of Cruisers takes place in the area. This is the biggest ocean crossing race in the world and is marked by a number of festivities that take place at Rodney Bay.
No matter what time of year you decide to visit St. Lucia chances are that you will find a festival or other event happening on the island, which only offers further entertainment on top of everything else there already is to do while you are there.
Traveling to St. Lucia
There are several ways that you can get to this wonderful island. There are currently 2 airports located on St. Lucia. The first is near Castries and is the George Fl Charles Airport. This airport is close to many of the resorts. It is right next to the Vigie beach, which means that you can work on your tan while you are waiting for your flights.
The terminal is located around 2 miles from downtown Castries, which makes it walkable if you do not bring a lot of luggage.
The other airport is the Hewanorra International airport, which is located by Vieux Fort.
If flying into the Hewanorra International airport you will be close to Vieux Fort and in fact you may think that you can simply walk to the airport from town. However, the control tower of the airport can be seen from Vieux Fort, but the terminal is approximately 2 miles from the center of the town. The entrance is on the eastern coast road, which is the road that the busses take to go to Castries. If you decide to walk, be prepared for around a 2 mile hike, which is not bad unless it is during the hot season. Another option is to take the bus that will drop you off directly in front of the terminal. If you have luggage that uses up a seat you will be required to pay for that seat as well.
Hewanorra is the larger of the two airports, but it will take about an hour by taxi to get to many of the major resorts. This can provide a great way to see the island if you arrive during the day.
There are ferries that come to port at St. Lucia from some of the other islands located nearby. These ferries can be quite expensive though. One of the cheaper ferries is offered by Channel Shuttles, but it only runs on Wednesday mornings and on Thursday afternoons.
There are many cruise ships that come to St. Lucia. The cruise ships often port in the gorgeous harbour and passengers can visit the open air mall located on the main pier.
Getting Around the Island.
Taxis offer the main form of transportation while you are on the island. There are also tours that can be arranged through your resort.
If you are looking to budget, taking taxis on your own is likely going to be the least expensive choice as some of the tours offered by the resorts can be a bit pricey. The prices for taxis are typically fixed, but you should shop around to get the best price. There are some taxi services that will offer tours of the island for about $150 for six to 12 people.
Taking local buses can offer an adventurous and affordable way to get around. These busses are really small vans that hold anywhere from ten to fourteen people. There is no regular route, but will typically travel to urban centers as well as to the more rural towns. They are affordable and offer a unique experience every time.
Another fun way to get around the island is by water taxi. These allow you to travel quickly to many coastal towns and private beaches on the island.
You can also rent a car on the island to get around. Rental car rates are similar to what you will find in the United States and in Canada. You drive on the left side of the road and you will need a permit in order to drive on the island.
Places to Stay
The resorts and the inns located on the island are all tucked away into wonderfully lush and secluded coves. There are resorts located on forested hillsides or on unspoiled beaches.
There are three primary locations where these resorts are located. They are on the calm and gorgeous western coast, on Rodney Bay located in the north Cap Estate, and in Castries to Marigot Bay. There are also places to stay around Soufriere. There is only one resort located in the south and it is at Vieux Fort.
Large Beach Resorts
Most people visiting St. Lucia choose to stay at one of the larger beach resorts. Most of these are upscale and pricey. There are some resorts that have an all inclusive option. These include three Sandals resorts, 2 Sunswept resorts, the Rendezvous, East Winds Inn, Morgan Bay Beach Resort, Smugglers Cove Resort, and Body Holiday.
If you are looking for something a bit more personal and less expensive, there are many dozens of small and locally owned hotels and inns. Some are located on the beach and some are not, but have close proximity to the beach.
What to See
There is one main highway that circles the entire island of St. Lucia. This highway goes everywhere except for a small area located in the extreme northeast of the island.
The highway goes all along the coast, through the mountains, and makes hairpin turns that have sheer drops. In some areas the road reaches dizzying heights. It will take around 4 hours to drive the entire loop of highway. This is even if you are taking a leisurely pace and stop often to see some of the sights the island has to offer. The curvy roads make this quite a tiring drive if taken during a single outing.
The West Coast Road located between Soufriere and Castries will take about an hour and a half to drive. There are many sharp turns and steep hills, but the route is well marked and offers some wonderful scenic views.
Just south of Castries the road will tunnel through Morne Fortune and goes around the largest banana plantation of the island. There are over 127 types of bananas grown on the island. The road also goes through many tiny fishing villages.
If you travel the road north of Soufriere you will see the areas where most of the fruit of the island is grown. This includes breadfruit, mangoes, lims, oranges, and limes. The mountainous region forms a backdrop for Soufriere and you will be able to view Mt. Gimie, which is the highest peak on the island.
As you approach Soufriere you will have wonderful views of the Pitons, which is an area that you will want to explore while you are visiting. Just east of Soufriere you will see smoke coming out of the thickly forested mountains. This smoke comes from the drive in volcano.
From the Pitons through Vieux Fort located on the southeastern tip of the island the landscape goes through dramatic changes. Along the southern coast traveling southeast from Soufriere, the terrain begins as a steep mountainside that has dense vegetation. It then changes to hills and then becomes flat and arid. If you fly into the Hewanorra International airport and stay at a resort in Soufriere you will go along this route, which takes about 45 minutes each way.
The east coast road from Vieux Fort going north to Castries twists you through Dennery, Micoud, as well as several other coastal villages. The road winds up and down and around the mountains, goes over the Barre d'Isle Ridge, and goes through rain forest. The scenery throughout this route is simply breathtaking.
You will find that when you travel to St. Lucia that there are many landscapes to see. From the rainforests to the mountains to the arid areas and the wonderful beaches, you will find many areas to explore while you are on the island.
St. Lucia is a wonderful vacation destination as it provides many things to see and do while you are there. Make sure to take the time to explore the entire island while you are there.