If there’s one place you HAVE to visit in Saint Lucia, it’s most definitely Soufrière. It’s possibly the most iconic town on the island as it’s home to the famous two pitons – the typical postcard pic of St Lucia which I’d seen so many times on insta pages and blogs. You can get your exploring shoes on and check out the local tourist activities available or just kick back and relax at one of Soufrière’s many luxury resorts – either way, you have to make sure you go there!
GOOD TO KNOW:
Language: The official language is English. ‘Saint Lucian French Creole’ is also spoken by 95% of the population (not that I expect many people outside of the island would be fluent in that!!)
Currency: It’s officially the Eastern Caribbean Dollar but pretty much everywhere (including buses and taxis) accept US Dollar also. If you pay in USD, they often don’t have cash to give you change but may give you change back in $EC – I’d suggest having a bit of $EC on you for cases like this.
Time Zone: UTC-4
Adapter: They use British plug sockets in St Lucia (makes life easy for me!)
Getting there: From Castries
There are two main airports in Saint Lucia – George F.L. Charles Airport in Castries and Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort. The former handles inter-Caribbean flights and the latter brings in flights from all over the world.
I actually came into Saint Lucia via a ferry from Guadeloupe so arrived into the capital city of Castries. From Castries, I decided to catch a bus down to Soufrière – an experience I’d read was a real culture shock but also a lot cheaper (it’s roughly around $US90 for a taxi) I’m always up for a bargain and don’t mind a public transport push n shove so wandered around the town in search of the ‘3F’ bus. My lack of data situ made things a bit more of a struggle but I finally located it just past the indoor market. The buses in St Lucia are small Toyota vans with ‘M’ at the beginning of the number plate and have the bus route number in the windscreen. As expected, it was chaos getting on and a very tight squeeze indeed but for $EC8, I wasn’t complaining at all. The journey took about 45 mins and was pretty sketchy at times with sharp bends and steep hills but I made it in one piece (just about!) Soufrière bus station is very central and from here, I could easily find a taxi on the waterfront to take me to my hotel. One thing worth noting is that because the buses are so small and popular, trying to flag one day mid journey may not always be successful and you’ll often be greeted with a beep to say ‘no room’.
If you’re thinking about hiring a car, it’s worth baring in mind that the drive down to Soufrière from Castries (and all around the town) is pretty hilly and I must admit that I’d be a bit hesitant about doing it. There are plenty of car rental places around however if you’re willing to accept the challenge (just remember that they drive on the left in St Lucia!)
Getting around: Soufrière and surrounding areas
One thing that I did learn the hard way was that the Southern side of the island is a LOT more hilly than the north. The town itself is pretty flat but getting from A to B around Soufriere is a bit of a struggle if you’re walking and I would highly recommend a taxi to get to some activities such as the Sulphur Springs or Tet Paul Nature Trail (unless you’re wanting to work on your leg gains in which case, you’ve got yourself a field day!)
After realising this on my first day, I considered booking myself onto a private tour so that I would be able to see everywhere I’d planned. You can arrange them via sites such as TripAdvisor where you book a driver for a designated amount of hours and they’ll take you to everywhere you want to go and give you insider info in the meantime (I was going to do this one which would’ve been $US90pp for 6 hours) As it turned out, my hotel host actually volunteered to be my guide for the day but I would have for sure booked another one if not as I didn’t notice many bus routes getting you to the top sites other than private buses (and I’d firmly decided that walking just wasn’t an option!)
WHAT TO DO
Wander Around The Town
The town of Soufrière actually used to be the island’s capital before it was changed to Castries in the early 1800’s but it is still a very popular place to visit for tourists. It’s a really pretty little town with a mix of pastel coloured buildings and set to a backdrop of the breathtaking pitons. Head down to the waterfront to get the best views of these mountains where you’ll find benches and tables to sit back and take in the views. Soufrière market is located next to the bus stop and offers an array of Caribbean fruit and veg to really treat your tastebuds. The ‘Chuch of the Assumption’ is located in a beautiful square in the middle of town which is worth an explore. As far as Caribbean towns go, I found it pretty clean and every shop or building was a unique burst of colour – everything looks better in pastel pink right?
Try the smoothies at Zaka Café
I’m a big fan of smoothies and the selection at zaka café did not disappoint. This brightly coloured and quirky coffee shop in the centre of Soufrière serves up some pretty cool Caribbean flavours including soursop, tamarind and papaya. I tried the soursop which is a fruit tasting like a citrus-y mix between a strawberry and an apple (yum) and then I went back again to test the papaya. The glasses are huge and the smoothies are super refreshing – and they cost only $US5. I’ve also read that they have some of the best coffees on this side of the equator. I mean, I’m not a coffee drinker, but surely this has to be a no brainer?! Without sounding like toooo much of a millenial, the wifi is also very fast! I know I’m on my holidays and should take a break from my phone, but my lack of sim coverage on the island makes it tricky to check my maps or find out my next point of call so tapping into some internet was very welcome (and of course, it also gave me chance to post a pic of my amazing smoothie onto the gram – when it looks that good, I can’t help myself!)
If you’re looking for a more substantial bite to eat, then I’ve heard that the ‘Petit Piton Restaurant’ serves up some good food. Soufrière is a very popular place with tourists and so you’ll have no trouble finding somewhere to eat here.
Hike the Pitons
Arguably the most iconic features of Saint Lucia are the two pitons – two mountainous volcanic plugs dominating the landscape. They form the perfect backdrop over Soufrière but if you want to explore them even further, then why not hike up them?
Ironically enough, Gros Piton (the biggest of the two at 771m) is actually easier to hike up than its neighbour ‘Petit Piton’ due to it being a more gradual incline with well maintained paths and signs. You can take a guided tour up the piton (which is pretty much mandatory) which costs $US50 from the interpretative centre at the bottom. The walk takes about 2 hours each way and I’ve heard that it ain’t an easy job; you do have to be in pretty good form to take it on. From what I’ve seen online, the views at the top make it all worthwhile and I wish I’d have had more time on the island so that I could have tackled it for myself (oh well, that’s just another reason to come back another time!)
You may think that Petit Piton (which is 743m above sea level) would be easier to climb but you couldn’t be more wrong. There is an incredibly steep incline and I’ve read that you can only really hike up it with specialised climbing gear. It is not recommended to climb but if you do so, then you do it at your own risk (I don’t know about you but that’s a pretty big deterrent for me!) I spoke to lots of people on the island who said they didn’t know of many people who’d done it but if you’re willing to take on the challenge, then I’ll take my hat off to you.
Tet Paul Nature Trail
If you’re thinking ‘Becky, why on earth would I come on holiday and want to climb a mountain’ but still want to capture the perfect shot of the pitons in person, then I have the place for you – the Tet Paul Nature Trail. Just a short drive outside of the town, this relatively easy walk provides some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen and it takes only 45 minutes in total to complete. Now I’m not normally a tour guide kinda person but for some reason, I decided to pay the $US10 to get one – and I’m glad I did! You definitely do not need a guide to show you the way as it’s all very well marked and straight forward but I enjoyed having somebody to tell me all about the plant life and history of the island (as well as someone to act as my personal photographer – it’s hard being a solo traveller okay!) He picked me a leaf from the lime tree which tasted amazing in my water, offered me a taste of some coconut candies from the shop and pointed out the pineapples growing nearby (20 years on this earth and I had no idea they grew like that!) The views along the whole trail were amazing but the aptly named ‘Stairway to Heaven’ gave the most incredible sights of the two pitons. These twin mountains are said to be the most photographed site in the Caribbean and my trusty tour guide was making sure I had my fair share of the pics. The walk wasn’t too challenging and, although there were a few steps, I barely even got out of breath (and I’m no Usain Bolt by any means) My tour guide did say, however, that I was the first person he’d toured who was wearing a dress but I stand firmly by my outfit choice (just maybe minus the flip flops as the muddy floor wasn’t really doing me any favours)
Another popular highlight in Soufrière is the Sulphur Springs which is said to be the world’s only drive in volcano. This tourist packed destination is located a quick drive from Soufrière and a very cool experience you have to try. When you arrive, there is a noticeable smell of sulphur in the air but I didn’t find it too unpleasant – especially when I found out that this was actually a good sign as it meant that the volcano isn’t going to erupt anytime soon. It last erupted in 1780 and, although it is now considered dormant, geologists are expecting it to erupt at some point again. An imminent eruption can be anticipated from a lack of sulphur smell in the air so boy was I glad to have smelt that! After my successful tour earlier, I decided to go crazy and book another around the Sulphur Springs Volcano. It was pretty short but still just as informative and I was able to get up close and personal with the bubbling springs (mind you, not as close as a tour back in the mid 90’s where you were actually able to walk on the volcano – that was until a tour guide fell through the crust and ended up badly burnt. My guide actually pointed out the place where he fell which is now named after him: ’Gabriel’s Hole’) I learnt more about the local nature as well as the history of the volcano and was able to touch some of the water springs being heated from inside the earth. It was a short but sweet affair but very cool to see.
Included in my Sulphur Springs tour was a trip to use the mud baths located just a short walk away. You can book plenty of tours online but I just got mine from the ticket desk there and then which cost $US15 (the ones online can cost upwards of $US100 so I’d deffo recommend getting a taxi to the volcano and just getting your ticket there) Grab a handful of volcanic mud, cover yourself head to toe in the stuff and wait for it dry before rinsing it off in the naturally heated hot tubs. It’s such a laugh and creates some pretty cool photos to add to the memory bank. The mud is said to have healing properties and takes years off your life – my driver was slightly concerned when I said I wanted to try it out as he was worried I would return looking like I was heading off to primary school! People pay loads for similar treatments in a spa and you can do it here for a fraction of the price – what’s not to love. Just remember to bring a dark bathing suit because once a pale bikini goes black then it never goes back!!
After the mud baths, I decided to go against the advice of TLC and asked my driver to take me to the best waterfall in the area to wash off the rest of the mud (because I’ll take a waterfall over a shower anyyy day of the week) He took me to Toraille Waterfall which is a 50 foot drop of water that you are able to stand under – just be warned, it is VERY cold!! Costing only $US3 to enter, it was the perfect way to wash off the remaining mud, island style. It’s 5.7km from the mud baths so hiring a taxi or driving is a must!
I’ve also heard great things about ‘Diamond Falls’ at ‘Diamond Falls Botanical Garden’ which is located near Soufrière however you can’t actually swim underneath the water. You are able to wander around the gardens and see many other small mineral baths though whereas at Toraille, there’s not much else to do other than see the waterfall.
Soufrière Beach Park
Once you’re in Soufrière, walk past the bus station for a minute or so in the direction of Colombette and you’ll find Soufrière Beach Park – a nice strip of beach surrounded by restaurant and bars in little colourful huts. The beach itself was pretty quiet with just a few sun loungers and not many people. As far as beach views go, I’d say this was pretty up there. Combined with the fact it was so close to the town centre, I couldn’t believe it wasn’t more popular (not that I was complaining of course)
I chose to eat a quick snack in one of the little huts named ‘Mystique Breeze Restaurant’ and I think it’s the most scenic location I’ve ever eaten sweet potato fries (and I’ve eaten my fair share of them in my time) Now I’m not gonna lie, they were about my 4th choice as everything else on the menu seemed to be unavailable but I’ll quite happily settle for sweet potato fries!! Especially these ones which were like a Caribbean take on the orange sweet potatoes we have in the UK; what can’t you love about purple sweet potato fries overlooking the pitons and the cheap prices just added to my happiness. And if you’re looking for a drink to wash it down, then try the ‘Piton’ lager, which is made on the island. Drinking a Piton whilst looking at the pitons – don’t know about you but that sounds like piton perfection to me.
Other than the beach at Soufrière Beach Park, I didn’t actually get chance to visit many beaches in the area (I know, that’s a shock coming from me!) There are a few good places to head to if you’re in search of the sand including Anse Chastanet, Anse Mamin and Sugar Beach (formerly Jalousie Beach – if you’re looking for luxury then this is the place!)
I had quite a few people approach me asking if I was interested in taking a little boat ride to the neighbouring bays which is a popular option for tourists. I think it would also be very cool to see the pitons from the water in the process!
View point in Colombette
If you’re driving into Soufrière from Castries, then I’d recommend stopping off at the viewing platform in Colombette. From here, you can get some amazing views over the town of Soufrière. It was here that I saw my first glimpse of the pitons in person and it really one of those ‘lost for words’ moments. There are a few vendors selling jewellery and souvenirs but it’s mainly just a good little place to pull in if you’re in the area.
WHERE TO STAY
When looking for a place to stay in Soufrière, I only had one thing on my checklist – an infinity pool with a view of the pitons. I found ‘Samfi Gardens’ online which ticked all of my criteria and continued to exceed my expectations when I arrived. It’s clean, the staff were friendly and, just as I had hoped, the pool offered the most amazing views over the pitons and town of Soufrière down below – winner. It was on the pricier side at $US195 a night, but I figured if I was coming all the way to St Lucia, I may as well do it in style. I’d be lying if I said I lived like this for my whole stay as most other nights I was staying in hostels or cheap hotels but I think the splurge was worth it for a night. I booked Samfi Gardens via booking.com but you can find a ton of other AMAZING places if you search for Soufrière on Airbnb. I was just searching through them in awe and it was these pics which really sold the St Lucia dream to me.
I found this home stay style hotel on booking.com and it turned out to be much more than just a bed to sleep. Tucked away in the forest just past the village of Fond Saint Jacques (which is a 15 minute drive from Soufrière), I stayed in a room hosted by a lovely local couple, Mitch and Serena. The bed was huge and the balcony outside into the trees made it really feel like a little ‘serene escape’. However, it was the hospitality which really won me over about this property. I instantly felt welcomed by Mitch who offered to drive me to his restaurant ‘Serenity Escape at Hibiscus’ located a short drive away. It was quiet but Serena cooked me up some tasty Caribbean cuisine including a crepe filled with spicy chicken and potatoes (now I’ve eaten a whole lot of crepes over the years but that was a first – and I was pleasantly surprised). They then challenged me to a game (or 500) of dominoes to which I can safely say, I got thrashed. Somebody once told me that you’ve never properly visited a place until you have a drink with a local and I’m sure that playing dominoes for over 3 hours straight can count for that.
I mentioned to Mitch at dinner that I was considering booking myself onto a guided tour to see the sights of Soufrière and he said that he’s done his share of tour guiding in the past (hotels, restaurants, tour guides – what doesn’t this man do?!) Long story short, the next morning he was driving me to all the hotspots in Soufrière for a decent price of $US70. So in Serenity Escapes, I didn’t just get a place to stay but a place to meet locals and embrace the true St Lucian way of life!
I hope that I’ve showed just how much you can do in this area and why I think it is 100% a must see when visiting the island. In fact, I reckon a full week just in this town wouldn’t be unreasonable if you’re wanting to take a few days to kick back and relax at the pool and a few days to explore. I had big expectations for St Lucia after the countless dreamy photos I saw online and Soufrière did not disappoint!