Thanks to sumptuous villas, breathtaking views, and divinely chic seaside dining, St. Lucia is one of the most romantic islands in the Caribbean for a reason. From chocolate tastings (and chocolate spas), to hiking and zip lining in the Pitons, to exploring the hidden shops on the secluded Anse Chastanet cove, this gorgeous Caribbean nation has much to offer. To help you plan the ultimate vacation, we've created a St. Lucia guide that covers every element of your trip, including what to pack, must-do outdoor activities, and how to get around the island. Read on to make those tropical daydreams a reality.
Planning Your Trip
- Weather: The dry season in St. Lucia occurs from December through June, though visitors should still expect some tropical showers while visiting in the winter months. (Don't worry, they pass quickly, and a rainbow often follows.)
- Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit St. Lucia is in April and May, after the busy holiday season and before the wet season begins in June.
- Language: The official language of St. Lucia is English, though Patois, a French-based Creole, is also heavily used in local conversation.
- Currency: The Eastern Caribbean dollar is the currency in St. Lucia. While most hotels and larger restaurants and shops accept credit cards, travelers should withdraw EC cash in advance. This is especially the case if you plan to explore more rural areas, as not every establishment takes credit cards.
- Getting Around: St. Lucia is one of the few islands in the Caribbean with a wonderfully accessible (and cost-efficient) public transportation system. The St. Lucia Minibus System is perfect for visitors looking to navigate the island like a local (and enjoy a cruise with a view). Alternatively, car rentals are available, and taxis are plentiful on the island.
- Tipping: Tipping is up to your discretion as a visitor to St. Lucia. However, the local standard is traditionally 10 percent of the total bill—and this applies both for restaurant waitstaff and taxi drivers. Of course, if you want to tip more, you're welcome to do so.
- Travel Tip: If you elect to rent a car, we encourage you to head out on day trips to explore the lush mountainous interior of the island. The beaches in St. Lucia are famous for a reason, but the tropical rainforests are equally breathtaking. So go ahead and take the road less taken (at least by other tourists visiting this slice of heaven in the tropics).
Things to Do
This "best-of-both-worlds" appeal follows you whether you're in the water or out. There are plenty of beaches to lay your towel, plus calm coves like the palm-shaded Anse Chastanet Resort for a bit of seclusion. When you want to mix things up, resorts, restaurants, and rum shops line beaches like Reduit. Here, the top three things to do in St. Lucia.
- There are plenty of hikes in St. Lucia. If you can only do one, the twin Pitons—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—provide a stunning backdrop to the island's magnificent beaches. We recommend trekking the 3.2-mile Gros Piton Nature Trail, though leisure travelers may prefer the less strenuous Petit Piton Trail (or even a zip line excursion through the rainforest).
- St. Lucia's beaches aren't just great for sunbathing—many of them offer great scuba and snorkeling right offshore.
- If you're feeling adventurous, consider visiting a "drive-through" volcano at Sulphur Springs; be sure to take a mud bath while you're there.
What to Eat and Drink
St. Lucia's restaurants are famed for their spicy Creole cuisine, which consists of curry goat, East Indian-inspired roti, and an abundance of roasted or fried local seafood. Many of the island's best restaurants are at upscale hotels, including Dasheene at Ladera Resort—but you will also find excellent eateries in some of the island's shopping centers and at Vigie Marina in Castries. We also recommend you opt for a chocolate tasting while on the island to learn more about the nation's history.
Where to Stay
St. Lucia is replete with luxury resorts. We suggest booking a cottage at the Sugar Beach Viceroy to elevate your vacation from blissful to utterly divine. (The 24-hour butler service helps to alleviate any and all worries or anxieties while on vacation.) Jade Mountain and Anse Chastane are other excellent options that more than deserve their glowing reputation as some of the best luxury hotels in the Caribbean. The island is also dotted with private homes and villas that are available to rent.
Visitors arriving from outside the Caribbean will land in Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort, which is roughly an hour from Soufriere. Prepare to spend some time on the road before arriving at your final destination (luckily, the views are incredible, so you won't feel too inconvenienced). Confirm your fare before hopping in a taxi, as the fare is subject to change based on the number of passengers and luggage items.
- Hewanorra International Airport: Hewanorra International Airport is the larger of the two airports in St. Lucia, and the only one that services international guests arriving from destinations outside the Caribbean. Located in Vieux Fort, Hewanorra is an hour's drive from Soufriere, though plenty of taxis are waiting outside the airport. Note that when departing from Hewanorra, drop-offs are always on the longer side (and therefore more expensive).
- George F.L. Charles Airport: The George F.L. Charles Airport services inter-Caribbean flights and is located a little more than a mile north from the capital city of Castries. Jet-setting travelers can take helicopter flights between George F. L. Charles (commonly known as Vigie) and Hewanorra International. The helicopter journey is a great way to appreciate the wild beauty of the island's mountainous interior.
St. Lucia Culture and History
St. Lucia's original inhabitants were the Arawak Indians, later displaced by the Caribs. The French first colonized the island in the mid-16th century; after that, the island changed hands more than a dozen times as France and England fought over St. Lucia's natural resources (notably the natural harbor at Castries). Today, the island retains some French and English influences, but Creole culture predominates. Festivals are held on the island year-round, though Creole Day and Carnival are especially popular.
- Public transportation is an excellent option for the budget traveler looking to save money on taxis, whose fares can fluctuate wildly.
- You should always check to see if the service fee is included in your hotel or restaurant bill; otherwise, a 10 percent tip is customary (though not mandatory) throughout the island.
- Though St. Lucia is famous for its romantic three-walled resorts, there are other ways to enjoy the beauty of the island on a budget. Larger groups and families should consider booking an all-inclusive resort to minimize extraneous fees on drinks and dining. Plus, you don't need to move far or plan much when you've already landed in paradise.
- Soufriere is the most popular tourist destination in St. Lucia, but it is by no means the only beautiful place here. Staying in less-crowded areas would result not only in lowered travel costs for accommodation but potentially reduced transit time between the airport and your hotel.