As you consider these budget travel tips for the island nation of St. Lucia, you'll be struck by the fact that this place appears to have been separated from the South Pacific: towering mountains of volcanic origin, pristine, secluded beaches and a feeling that you're on the other side of the world.
St. Lucia shows budget travelers a good time without sending them home bankrupt. Most of the important experiences here involve natural wonders that don't require large admission fees. Other places in the Eastern Caribbean have more nightlife, fine dining, and fine linen. But St. Lucia offers natural pleasures you'll remember long after you leave her breathtaking shores.
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Must See: Pitons
Pitons are steep mountains of volcanic origin. St. Lucia's iconic landmarks are the two Pitons that rise about a half-mile above sea level on its southwest coast. How is this part of a budget travel discussion? For the full experience, approach these natural marvels from the water. Tour operators in the capital of Castries such as "Maximum Chill-Out St. Lucia," operate from the port where cruise ships arrive. Arrangements can be made there for a day tour that includes land and sea excursions at reasonable prices. Narrow, winding roads make driving impractical for short-time visitors, so a tour affords that incredible view with a smaller investment of time.
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Snorkeling at Anse Chastanet
I'm far from a snorkeling expert, but my experience here was the better than anyplace I've ever visited. St. Lucia beaches are all considered public, so upscale resort beaches such as Anse Chastanet are open to explore with a snorkel and mask. Be mindful, however, that amenities such as beach chairs and umbrellas are not public property. The reef area is roped off for your convenience and safety. Here, you will literally swim with schools of fish. There are 140 species of fish living in this reef and others like it. Catch a boat tour out of Castries or hire a taxi driver to take you here. It will be money well-spent. Research this and other great snorkeling spots, hire transportation, and hit the water. You won't be sorry.
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"Drive-In Volcano"A site near the village of Soufriere (which means "sulfur in the air") is billed as the only drive-in volcano you'll ever see. While that's not quite true, it is a unique attraction. You don't actually drive in, and technically, this is only the remnants of what once was an active volcano. But you'll see sulfur and mineral pools and steam shooting from inside the earth. The smell of sulfur is not strong, but most visitors don't find it unpleasant. You don't drive or even walk into the active area. A guide was seriously burned years ago, and the resulting caution keeps visitors at a safe distance. Admission is $2 USD, but most people enter as part of a larger tour in which the entry fee is covered in the overall price.
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St. Lucia has a large selection of resorts at a variety of price levels. Budget travelers will need to do their homework, but most find accommodations at prices to their liking, especially in the off-season (May-October). In the picturesque Castries harbor area, you'll find Casa Del Vega where rooms with oceanfront views go for as little as $75 USD/night. Up the coast in the affluent Rodney Bay area is Coco Palm Resort where off-season rates start under $150 USD/night.
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Shopping in Castries
Port shopping can be an experience in hype. Every such facility loudly proclaims its duty-free deals are the best. St. Lucia has invested in a beautiful shopping facility at port side in Castries. Promotions here are a bit more understated than in similar places, but deals are available on jewelry, clothing, wall hangings and antique maps. The down side: the place resembles a shopping center in your home town. For more interesting surrounds, visit Jeremie Street, where you'll find the Castries Market, Even if you buy nothing, the place is a sightseeing attraction dating back more than 100 years. Saturdays are "Market Days," when you'll find fresh produce from the countryside sold in the stalls.