Saint Lucia is a country which has been on my bucketlist for years and ever since I started following ‘travelsaintlucia’ on Instagram, it’s been a matter of not if but when I would visit. Just a quick scroll through that page and I was sold. It may be rated the world’s best honeymoon location and I may have a relationship status as exciting as stale bread but a bit of solo travelling never did anyone no harm. So when deciding where to spend my few days off work, my mind was clearly made up on a St Lucian getaway.
GOOD TO KNOW
The official language is English! For those really wanting to show off with their knowledge, 95% of the population also speak ‘Saint Lucian French Creole’ (although I’m sure they’ll forgive you for not being able to speak that one fluently!)
It’s officially the Eastern Caribbean Dollar ($EC) but basically everywhere (including buses and taxis) accept US Dollar also. Lots of places, however, do not give change for $US so it’s worth bring along a bit of $EC just in case.
They use British plug sockets (which makes my life nice and easy!)
They drive on the left hand side!
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. Castries is also the place where all the cruise ships dock so it’s a pretty popular spot with tourists.
The way in which I travelled around the island was by bus. I’m not going to lie, it is a bit of culture shock and an experience in itself (I had people sat on my lap at one point) but it’s cheap and my budget deffo thanked me for that! The buses are small Toyota vans with the letter ‘m’ at the beginning of the numberplate and they’ll have the route number in the windscreen (see all routes here)
WHAT TO DO:
In an attempt to make my blogposts a bit more of a manageable length (because let’s face it, I love to talk) I’ve actually already written a separate post on Soufrière which can you can read here. If you’re looking to cover yourself head to toe in mud, explore the world’s only drive-in volcano or capture a sight of the most photographed landscape in the Caribbean, then this town is not to be missed!
From Castries, take the 3f bus which will cost $8ec (you’ll find the bus stop next to the indoor market) The journey lasts about 45 minutes and will take you up some very steep hills and around some very tight bends (let’s just say I was pleased to arrive safely at the end!)
A short drive north of Soufrière is the town of Marigot – a place which boasts the title of having ‘one of the most beautiful bays in the Caribbean’. Due to being located in a hidden bay and thus named as ‘a hurricane hole’, the water is littered with boats; from small wooden vessels to large super yachts coming in to anchor away from the elements. Combined with the deep blue water and palm trees, it’s no surprise that this place has been used as the setting in many Hollywood movies including Doctor Doolittle and The Pirates of the Caribbean. The beach is pretty small and the town isn’t the biggest either so it’s not a place you could really spend all day but for a quick drink and photo stop, this place should deffo be added to your list!
The 3f bus line drives straight through Marigot. It is worth noting that, because the buses are so small and this stop is mid journey, they may already be full up and so you may be greeted with a beep to say ‘no room’. If you’re willing to stick around a bit longer, another bus will come soon enough or else call a taxi which are frequent in the area.
Castries is the capital of St Lucia and is the town where all the cruise ships dock. It is a very busy place with a lot going on and, wandering around with nothing but my huge backpack to keep me company, I did find it pretty overwhelming. Although it was a culture shock, there’s something about the buzz and vibrancy of this town which I love!
One of the best places to really get a feel for the atmosphere is at Castries market. The indoor market located on Jeremie Street contains clothing and souvenirs – much of which is homemade and sold by locals. If you’re looking for a straw hat, fridge magnet or other St Lucian memorabilia to remind you of your travels, then you’re sure to find something here!
Across the road is the food section of the market. It’s open air and sells a whole variety of fruit, veg, herbs and spices. A true taste sensation!
Derek Walcott Square is a small green retreat amongst the craziness of Castries life. This park is the perfect place to sit down and relax and admire the beauty of the 400 year old ‘monkey tree’ which is hard to miss! Derek Walcott Square is located very centrally and, as soon as you step out the gates, you’re back into the busy reality of life in the capital.
Not far from Derek Walcott Square is where you’ll find the largest church in the Caribbean – The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It’s one of those ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ places. From the outside, it doesn’t look like anything special, but take a look inside and you’ll be glad you did. The cathedral is free to enter and the brightly coloured walls and windows are simply stunning.
Once you’ve experienced the hustle and bustle of central Castries, it’s time to hit the beach! Vigie Beach is less than 2km from the centre of town and takes about 25 minutes to walk to. This sandy strip lined with palm trees is the perfect contrast to busy town life. It’s located opposite to the ‘George F.L Charles Airport’ – I don’t know about you but I’d happily wait for my flight lying on the beach as opposed to in a cold departures terminal!
Known as ‘St Lucia’s entertainment and recreation centre’, Rodney Bay is not short of things to do. Located just north of Castries, you’ll find many restaurants, a casino, some nightclubs and a few duty free malls (where I spent a bit too much money on skincare oops)
Reduit Beach is just a short walk from the centre of Rodney Bay and is said to be one of the best beaches in St Lucia. With that accolade, I couldn’t resist heading in search of the sand – but it appeared that everyone else had the same idea as me! The beach was very busy with lots of sun loungers and vendors but, it did live up to its name. It is very wide and veryyy long so, if you head left down the beach, you’re sure to find a good spot. I had quite a few people come up to me trying to sell stuff but most of it was food related so I wasn’t complaining at all! I like to see it as a personal room service on the beach kind of thing and I was happy to snap up a fresh coconut for $4usd (because have you reallyy been to the Caribbean if you haven’t sat on the beach sipping out of a coconut?!)
The 1a bus goes between Castries and Gros Islet, stopping via Rodney Bay (get off at the shopping centre to get you into the centre of town) Buses come super frequently and cost $2.25ec which is next to nothing!
Gros Islet is the next commune as you make your way up the west coast. There’s not a great deal to do most days of the week, but come Friday, this is the place to be!
It was actually during a conversation with a local in the nearby island, Guadeloupe, where I first heard about it. ‘You’re going to Gros Islet on Friday night? Wowww you’re in for a good night!’ he told me during a conversation about my upcoming travel plans. A quick google search and I realised exactly what he was talking about. Every Friday, Gros Islet comes alive for its weekly ‘Jump-Up’ Street Party where reggae, zouk and rap music create a lively yet laid-back island scene. There are street vendors selling a whole variety of mouthwatering Caribbean treats such as barbecue ribs, jerk chicken and the infamous ‘Piton Lager’ (a lager made locally on the island and a must try for any beer fans)
Now sadly, I didn’t actually get chance to visit but I walked past on Saturday morning and saw the remnants of the night before. It sort of gave me an Ibiza strip kinda vibe with bars lining the streets, all offering their special ‘jump up’ deals – I’m sure it would have been one hell of a party! I’ve heard the best time to arrive is around 7.30pm and the celebrations continue beyond midnight!
Take the 1a bus from Castries – Gros Islet (but you will need to arrange an alternative ride home if you’re planning on partying into the early hours!)
PIGEON ISLAND NATIONAL PARK
Poking out of the north-western side of St Lucia is Pigeon Island. Despite it’s name, it’s actually artificially joined to the mainland after being connected by a sandy causeway in 1972.
It’s now a national park which contains ruins of Fort Rodney, a few little sandy beaches, a restaurant and two ‘peaks’ you can climb up to see amazing views over the northern coast of St Lucia. Entrance into the park costs $10usd per person.
Now I’m a sucker for a good panoramic viewpoint so, when I heard about the two peaks on the island, I knew I had to climb them both. Fort Rodney is the easier of the two, and in about 15 minutes, I’d made it to the top. It can be a bit slippy in places and you need to climb some narrow stairs to reach the summit but it was very popular with people of all ages.
Signal Peak is the more challenging climb, and there were points where I had to test out my rock clambering skills. I had quite a few concerned comments about my choice of footwear but I spend 99% of my time in my flip flops and I’d say I’ve mastered the art of walking across difficult terrain in them (but it is not something I would recommend and in hindsight, trainers would have been a much more sensible option – but they don’t call me the queen of poor footwear choices for no reason!!)
The views from both peaks were incredible but I especially liked the one from Signal Peak, as you could really see the variation between the wavy Atlantic Ocean on one side and the calm Caribbean Sea on the other.
Once you’ve seen the island from above, there’s plenty more to do when you reach sea level again. Pigeon Island boasts some very well maintained gardens where you can explore all of the old military ruins or rest up on a picnic bench for a spot of lunch. There is a restaurant on the island but I’d recommend heading to one of the many eateries outside of the main gates to avoid any crazy prices! Just make sure you keep your ticket on you and you’ll be able to come and go as you please.
There are two beaches on Pigeon Island and, although they’re both quite small, you’ll be able to find a spot easy enough. Sunbeds and umbrellas are available to hire for a small fee and make sure you look out for the little boat selling refreshing cocktails and juices. This guy makes his way between both beaches on a small wooden boat decorated with flags and booming loud music – you really can’t miss him and the temptation of a cold drink is too much to resist! Outside of the gates is another beach, open to all members of the public (but I much prefer the beach on the island)
I actually walked from Rodney Bay which took about 40 minutes and was pretty flat (a welcome contrast from the hilly landscape of the south of the island) It’s a very popular tourist attraction so finding a taxi will be no problem or, if you’re feeling brave, embrace the rat race in the 1A bus which goes between Castries and Gros Islet. The bus route actually finishes before you reach Pigeon Island, but if you offer the driver a bit more money to take you directly there, they generally don’t have a problem with it.
WHERE TO STAY:
During my time on St Lucia, I spent two nights in Soufrière, a night in Rodney Bay and a night in Castries.
I decided to book a night at ‘Caribbean Dream’ after seeing its close proximity to Rodney Bay – in just 10 minutes, you can walk from the centre of town to the property which just sold it to me! Unfortunetely, my booking was messed up (due to no fault of the owners) but they were so helpful and booked me into the neighbouring hotel ‘Apartment Joanna’. I honestly couldn’t talk more highly of the hosts at Caribbean Dream and would certainly recommend both properties.
Just outside of Castries, I booked a night at ‘Karibelle Inn’. A 15 minute walk takes you to the main road where you can catch the 1a bus into town. It was a large, clean apartment with another fantastic host – what’s not to love!
After seeing sooo many pics of St Lucia come up on my newsfeed and Instagram page, it’s fair to say I visited with some pretty high hopes. One thing I can say is that I deffo was not disaappointed!