Though St. Lucia is a relatively tiny island (measuring only 27-miles long), this Caribbean nation is home to a diverse array of diamond waterfalls and volcanic mountains, lush rainforests, and black-sand beaches. And beyond the natural beauty of the tropical landscape, St. Lucia boasts a lively festival and music scene—not to mention some divine Creole cuisine.
A word on transportation: Taxis become less available once the hours inch towards early morning. When you're headed out on the town, plan for your taxi to collect you once the night is over. Agree upon a specific time and place in advance, and decide upon the fare beforehand, as taxi costs are subject to change based on distance, the number of passengers, and other variables. You can enlist your hotel to connect you with a taxi service.
From hiking in the Pitons to chocolate spa treatments in Soufriere, read on for the eight best day trips visitors should take from the St. Lucian capital of Castries.
St. Lucia was invaded continuously by both the British and the French before achieving its independence in 1967, and Pigeon Island was the site of much military action. Travelers should explore the military ruins of the British and French at Fort Rodney before retiring to one of the picturesque coastlines to enjoy the surf (and the view).
Getting There: Located on the very northern tip of St. Lucia, Pigeon Island is accessible by an hour-long boat ride from the mainland. Entrance to Pigeon Island National Park is $10 for adults and $5 for children, with an $8 service charge applied per group. Viator offers three-hour tours that depart from Port Castries.
Travel Tip: Travelers should be sure to hike up to the lookout, located atop the Fort, for an unforgettable panoramic vista of the Northwest coast.
Gros Piton: Hike a UNESCO World Heritage Site for Stunning Views
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Pitons twin peaks are the most iconic national landmark in St.Lucia—and reaching the summit of Gros Piton is a must-do for the avid hiker. You will begin your trek at the village of Fond Gens Libre; from there, climb the Gros Piton Nature Trail up to the top for breathtaking views of the island and the Caribbean Sea. If a five- to six-hour hike isn't your jam, you can opt to take the less strenuous (but equally rewarding) Petit Piton Trail instead.
Getting There: Visitors can take a water taxi from Castries to the Pitons (30 to 40 minutes) or drive (75 to 90 minutes)
Travel Tip: Reward yourself after hours of hiking by relaxing at the beach and sipping on a rum punch or three. Head to lunch at Dasheene Restaurant at the luxurious Ladera Resort afterward. Order a cocktail and lounge by the pool post-meal—you more than deserve it.
Rodney Bay: Live Music & Even Livelier Nightlife
Friday night is a big night on St. Lucia, as the town of Gros Islet plays host to a weekly street party known as the "jump-up," complete with barbecues, a live DJ, and arts and crafts for sale. Additionally, the Anse La Raye Fish Fry is held on Friday evenings; with fresh snapper, tuna, lobster, and crab served right off the grill, the Fish Fry is a mandatory experience when spending time in the West Indies.
Getting There: Rodney Bay is only 11 kilometers (7 miles) away from Castries and is accessible via MiniBus and taxi. Ubers do not exist on St. Lucia, though ride-hailing service PayCab is available.
Travel Tip: If you appreciate the jazz to be found in Rodney Bay, consider visiting St. Lucia during the annual Saint Lucia Jazz Festival in May.
The North & South Island: Take a Helicopter Tour
Consider a quick jaunt by air with St. Lucia Helicopters for an informative tour of the North Island, South Island, or both. We recommend booking the North & South Island Tour, which is 30 minutes long and takes visitors above all the key St. Lucian landmarks: rainforests and waterfalls, fishing villages, the Piton mountains, Pigeon Island, and more. The pilot will offer commentary on St. Lucia's history as well as current developments on the island.
Given the limited space, travelers should attempt to reserve their spot ahead of time; this is especially important when planning a tropical vacation during the busy winter months. Do note, however, that there is a 50 percent cancellation fee if something comes up last minute.
Getting There: The George F. L. Charles Airport is located a mere 1.2 miles north of Castries and is easily accessible via taxi. From there, you can hop on a helicopter.
Travel Tip: St. Lucia Helicopters is the official service that provides shuttles between the two airports on St. Lucia: Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) in Vieux Fort and George F. L. Charles Airport (SLU) in St. Lucia. If you are traveling from outside the Caribbean, you will be flying into UVF; you can shorten the travel time between the airport and your hotel by booking the shuttle service. (Plus, the 40-minute ride from Vieux Fort to Castries is lovely and should be experienced once.)
St. Lucia is the ultimate Caribbean destination for chocolate lovers, and signing up for a tree-to-bar experience is a great way to indulge in your favorite treat. Boucan by Hotel Chocolat offers tours of Rabot Estate, one of the oldest cocoa plantations in St. Lucia. During the tour, you will wander through cocoa groves, harvest cocoa pods, and learn how to make your very own chocolate. Relax with a cacao massage or facial in the spa afterwards—but not before ordering the Cocoa Bellini at the hotel's scenic bar.
Getting There: Visitors should opt for a taxi or the Minibus system when visiting Boucan, as it is further inland from the coast.
Sugar Beach: Sunbathing & Snorkeling
Head to Soufriere for some snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing in paradise. The Bayside Beach Bar at Sugar Beach Viceroy offers delectable cocktails in a gorgeous sandy setting. (Fun fact: The sand is imported from Guyana.) We suggest ordering the "After Eight In St. Lucia" cocktail, but you can't go wrong by leaving the choice up to the bartender's discretion—trust us (or rather, trust the bartender).
Getting There: Visitors can choose between taking a Minibus, taxi, or water taxi for their day trip to Sugar Beach.
Marigot Bay: Set Sail with Sundowners
Find out why James Michener referred to Marigot Bay as “the most beautiful in the Caribbean." Head to Marigot Bay Resort and visit Doolittle Restaurant, a laid-back eatery with fresh fish (think conch fritters and piña colada shrimp), Jamaican jerk wraps, and roti on the menu. Dolitte's transforms into a happening scene come nightfall, particularly on Saturdays when there's live entertainment.
Getting There: Marigot Bay is 11 kilometers (7 miles) from the capital of Castries, or roughly 25 minutes by car. We recommend splitting a cab, which would usually cost around $50 for two people. Again, be sure to agree on the fare before your departure and pickup.
The North Island: Go on a Dolphin & Whale Watching Tour
A visit to St. Lucia wouldn't be complete without spotting some of the marine life that frolics off the North Island. As the island nation boasts some of the best whale and dolphin watching in all of the Caribbean, get out on the water by signing up for a tour.
Getting There: Captain Mike's, a sports fishing operation, can pick you up from Castries and get you on your way out to sea.
Travel Tip: March is the best time to visit for whales and dolphins, but it is also peak tourist season. Visitors planning their trip during the winter months should book hotel rooms and tours as early as possible to avoid increased fees.