St Lucia is a very attractive island with strong local traditions and welcoming people so it is well worth exploring. There are some delightful beaches and villages down the west coast and some extremely dramatic greenery and scenery (the view of the Pitons as you as approach Soufrière from the north is especially good).
A local driving permit is required if you wish to drive in the island. It costs EC$54 and can be obtained from the car hire company when you hire the car, or at airport Immigration offices and local Police stations. It lasts for three months. Drivers must be over 25 years of age and less than 65. Please see general notes on Caribbean driving.
On St Lucia we recommend:
Cool Breeze Car & Jeep Rentals
Formed in 1992, Cool Breeze is based in the south of the island in Soufrière (inland from the waterfront) and has around 90 vehicles. Although they are headquartered in the south, they have five locations around the island. The manager is Andrea Faucher, who is based in Soufrière. Cool Breeze is awinner of the Par Excellence Award of the St Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association.
Drive-A-Matic on St Lucia is the sister company of Drive-A-Matic Barbados. Founded in 1993, the company started with just seven vehicles and a small number of staff. Now Drive-A-Matic St Lucia has 46 vehicles. The company is based in Rodney Bay.
St Lucia Carnival is held June and July rather than at the traditional time of Mardi Gras in February or March. The festivities follow a similar format to other carnivals up and down the island chain however, and they lead in with calypso competitions in the calypso ‘tents’, steel pan competitions and the Carnival Queen competition. While these are happening, the members of the carnival bands (which form the street parade) are busy preparing their costumes.
It all culminates with two days of partying and parades in which the bands get out onto the streets and dance their hearts out. J’ouvert (from Jour Ouvert) is a dawn dance parade in which everyone takes part, wearing old clothes and covering themselves in dye and paint, mud and even chocolate. Later that day the main street parade begins and revellers dance through the streets of Castries until late afternoon. Then they go out there again the next morning and dance all day then too. Bands (the parades of people dressed to a common theme rather than a musical band) vie for the title of liveliest dancing band. The Roadmarch title is given to the singer whose song the most popular dance tune in the street parades.
Carnival in St Lucia is fun and welcoming so it is well worth attending if you happen to be on island when it is taking place. If you would like to join one of the carnival bands and take part in the street parade then that is possible too, by buying one of the costumes and joining in.
Non-profit organisations and Government links:
For more information, contact the St Lucia Carnival - Lucian Carnival, PO Box 746, Castries, t 518 5555, www.luciancarnival.com.
St Lucia opened its very first casino in mid December, 2010, this followed years of opposition from Parliament, religious leaders and concerned citizens. Treasure Bay Casino is located within Rodney Bay’s new Baywalk Shopping Mall and features 22 gaming tables including Roulette, Blackjack, Craps, Caribbean Stud and Dice, plus there is a separate Poker lounge. It also has over 350 slot (traditional reel and video reel), multi-game and poker video machines, plus a sports bar with 28 big screen TVs. Opening hours are currently 10am-3am Sunday to Thursday and until 4am on Friday and Saturday and all gaming is in US dollars only.
While you are on holiday in St Lucia, taking off time for yourself and perhaps your family, it can be easy to forget that even in a place as beautiful this, the islanders are affected by the same problems as everyone elsewhere in the world. On Definitive Caribbean we have the opportunity to give something back and in St Lucia we support SLADD, the St Lucia Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities.
SLADD is almost entirely responsible for the systemised care and guidance of disabled children. Unfortunately, disabilities are still seen as something of a stigma in St Lucia, so SLADD was founded to challenge these views and give disabled children a chance to fulfil their potential. The charity acts as an umbrella organisation to allocate the funds it receives to three different outlets.
The first of these is Dunnottar School, which provides specialist tuition for children who are mentally and physically challenged. The second is the Child Development and Guidance Center (CDGC) which identifies, assesses and treats children with developmental disabilities. The third is the Dunnottar Vocational Center that looks to develop their clients into self-sufficient persons, aware of their position within the Island and able to find suitable employment.
The Global Movement for Children, launched in St Lucia in 2002 admonishes: ‘Leave No Child Out’. Prime Minister Anthony declared 2003 ‘The Year of the Child’ in St Lucia, but the running of Dunnottar School, CDGC & Vocational Center are not covered by the Government of St Lucia. Although most of the staff are paid through the Ministry of Education and SLADD does receive a subvention from the Government, it is not enough to cover all salaries and day to day expenses. This means that the education and guidance of the lucky ones that are able to attend the School, Vocational Center or CDGC, is mostly funded by the SLADD.
There are so many ways you can help to put a smile on a child's face, please take the time to read more about SLADD and how you can contribute to this worthy charity.
Check In/Check Out
As a general rule check-out times are at around 12 noon and check-in is some time after 2pm. This may not be inconvenient because the majority of international arrivals into St Lucia arrive in the mid afternoon. Some properties may be flexible on check-in or check-out times by prior arrangement. If you are arriving on-island earlier in the day let them know and they may be happy to provide a day room/shower facilities subject to availability.
In general children are well received in St Lucia, though some hotels have an adults only policy or age restrictions at certain times of the year. Other hotels on the other hand have special children’s programmes. Most villas are well geared up for children too. It is easy to find babysitters, which cost approximately US$5 per hour, plus transport home after 10pm.
There are not many playgrounds on St Lucia, but you will find one at the Marigot Community and Daycare Centre. There are also some playgrounds in the hotels that specialise in children and in a couple of restaurants. There are trampolines and slides at Pizza Pizza and Key Largo.
The best accommodation choices for children featured in this guide are:
Villa Beach Cottages
Twenty pretty gingerbread villa suites set right on Choc Bay Beach between Castries and Rodney Bay in the north of St Lucia. Good facilities for independent living within walking distance, good wedding location and comfortable atmosphere for solo travellers. Also two classic Caribbean houses at La Dauphine Estate near Soufrière in the south for an interesting 2-centre combination.
Very spacious, well equipped 3 bedroom villa with modern design, good interior and exterior living space, separate dining and living areas, very private master bedroom and far reaching views.
A very private 5-bedroom colonial plantation style house inspired by Oliver Messel’s love of coral stone and cool green painted woodwork. Excellent venue for weddings and elegant entertaining, film/fashion shoots.
A stylish St Lucia villa with a comfortable Mexican/Caribbean mix of furnishings and flavour. Picture perfect for weddings but also a good villa for families. Pretty gardens in a dramatic cliffside setting (fully enclosed) with excellent views.
Admiral's Quay & Rodney Quay
Exceptionally pleasant waterfront and garden condominiums/townhouses in a quiet enclave of 24 units around a central pool by Rodney Bay Marina. Great for couples or families and anyone with a boat to park.
Village of whitewashed villas clambering up a hillside (and some hotel rooms nearer the beach), set in 55 acres fronting onto Labrelotte Bay, a calm beach on the Caribbean side of St Lucia. Very popular with families in holiday periods, but otherwise a good all-round resort, with something for everyone. Popular wedding venue.
Cotton Bay Village
A luxury villa resort designed specifically for families in the far north of St Lucia. Cotton Bay Village is a series of suites, townhouses and free standing villas in its own community behind a curve of Atlantic-facing sand. There are very good facilities including a spa, a children’s club, golf right next door and optional butler service.
A small and friendly hotel set right in Rodney Bay in the north of St Lucia, just across from the island’s liveliest beach and within a walk of the bars and restaurants of Rodney Bay Village. With eight rooms and three self-catering apartments, Ginger Lily is ideal for independent travellers on a medium budget.
Royal St Lucia
A large and lively resort hotel set right on the sands of Reduit Beach in the north of St Lucia. The Royal St Lucia’s 96 suites stand in a horseshoe around a pool and dining rooms, overlooking the island’s busiest and best beach. Good facilities including watersports, spa and conference facilities.
Massage therapy in St Lucia
In terms of complementary health and holistic activities, St Lucia is well developed. There are plenty of good therapists and opportunities for enjoying treatments that pamper the body and spirit.
Brenda Nicholas, MICHT, IIHHT, for appointments contact Rodney Bay Medical Centre, t 452 8621, 717 6833, 452 0063 (Thursdays only). Brenda offers aromatherapy and Swedish massage, Indian head massage, and reflexology. Costs range from US$20 for a 15 minute Indian head massage to US$65 for an 80 minute Swedish massage. Brenda’s location in the North makes her a very good choice if you are staying at a villa or hotel anywhere between Castries and the Cap Estate.
Christine Kollek Prescott, t 454 5143, Vieux Fort
Christine is a natural health practitioner who offers homeopathy, acupuncture, Reiki, holistic massage and reflexology. She will visit hotels and villas within reasonable distance of Vieux Fort.
Oasis Spa, The BodyHoliday at LeSPORT, t 450 8551
Holisitic and rejuvenating treatments including masssage, acupuncture and acupressure, Suikodo Chinese bodywork, Ayurvedic treatments, reflexology, kinesiology and iridology. Open to non-residents with a day pass.
With such dramatically beautiful and varied terrain, St Lucia has plenty to protect both on land and offshore in the constant battle between development and conservation. The island has a number of groups that involve themselves with the protection of species, habitats and historic sites. The St Lucia National Trust was formed in 1975 and oversees the preservation of buildings, objects of historical and cultural interest and animal and plant life. They offer a range of eco-tours. The Forestry Department oversee conservation of forests and mangroves and they also offer guided walks. In 2004 the island’s famous Pitons were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Some of the conservation projects overseen by the National Trust include:
The Frégate Island Nature Reserve and the Atlantic Coast Trail, see Hiking, the Maria Islands Nature Reserve, see Nature, Morne Fortune Historic Area and Pigeon Island National Landmark and Marigot Bay, see Places to Go/Activities. They also control Anse la Liberté, a valley with a campground and Anse Galet.
They run tours to Pigeon Island, Morne Fortuné and Maria Islands (contact them at the address above
The Forestry Department, t 450 2231, is responsible for managing forest and wildlife resources, the Forestry Department also offer guided hikes through the rainforest.
The endangered St Lucia parrot, or Jacquot, the national bird of St Lucia, has seen considerable efforts to protect it. At one stage there were thought to be fewer than 100 birds but now it is doing well and the parrots are extending to a greater range.
The best independent conservation project is the turtle protection programme at Grand Anse on the east coast, to which turtles come to nest between March and September. It is a community project in which the villagers have become part of the protection of the site and benefit from the visitors in return. You will need to drive to the village of Desbarra along quite rough roads (better if you have a jeep). Call t 284 2812 to discuss price and arrangements. Otherwise you can book through Heritage Tours, t 458 1454, who offer an overnight camp where you can turtle watch and participate in the conservation process.
The Pitons Management Area was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2004 for the two mountains and their extreme beauty. The twin pyramid peaks sit in 2909 hectares on the west coast of the island, and they have habitats that vary from dry littoral forest on the coast, through subtropical moist and wet forest to wet elfin woodland at the summits of the peaks (2619ft and 2461ft). Around 150 species of plant exist on the Gros Piton and 100 on the Petit Piton. There are also 27 species of birds, three rodents and three bats and an opossum. Offshore some 60% of the area is reckoned to be covered with coral reef. There are over 160 types of fish and around 60 other species including corals, sponges, molluscs and worms. Hawksbill turtles, whale sharks and pilot whales also pass through the area.
Soufriere Marine Management Association (SMMA)
There is a marine management area around Soufrière, covering the eleven kilometres of shoreline between Anse L’Ivrogne just south of the (southerly) Gros Piton and Anse Jambon to the north of Anse Chastanet. It has a number of zones which allow for mooring, scuba diving and preservation areas that enable the regeneration of the fish stocks.
Non-profit organisations and Government links:
Conference facilities are available in a number of St Lucia’s hotels. Large venues are available, but there are also some good smaller venues which offer a more intimate, personal service or a retreat with a difference. If you are looking for a well-connected local organiser to help you organise the local elements of an event, conference or incentive trip then contact St Lucia Representative Services Ltd. They can arrange themed events with a company message, including walking and driving rainforest adventures, plantation house visits, day and sunset sails, whale watching trips, barbecues on the beach.
Hotels with conference rooms include Sandals Grande, Rex St Lucian, Royal St Lucian, Bay Gardens Hotel, Windjammer Landing and The Jalousie Plantation in the south. Also consider the Gaiety in Gros Islet, which is used for theatre, disco and meetings and Coco Kreole, Rodney Bay Village, a small hotel with meeting facilities.
Cricket in St Lucia
Interestingly cricket was never really that big a game in St Lucia, but the island decided to build a test-standard stadium, the Beausejour ground, located in the north of the island near Rodney Bay, and it has been hosting international test matches since 2004. It was home to the England Cricket team and the Barmy Army during the early ‘Group Stage’ of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007.
Darren Sammy, a young all-rounder from Micoud, is the first St Lucian to be selected for the West Indies senior team and he carries the hopes of his nation quite forcibly on his shoulders. You might see him in action during the inter-island Carib Beer Series or in one of the Digicel Home Series games, which pits various international teams against the home nation.
For match dates and fixtures please see our Calendar of Events.
None of the cruise lines currently use St Lucia as a port of departure, but among the many large ships that put in at Point Seraphine on Castries Harbour, there are also a number of smaller ones. Cruise companies with smaller ships which currently put into Castries during the winter season include: Silversea – MS Silver Cloud, MS Silver Shadow, MS Silver Spirit and MS Silver Whisper. Fred Olsen Cruise Lines - MS Braemar, MS Black Watch or MS Boadica. Compagnie du Ponant – MS Le Diamant. Voyages of Discovery – MS Discovery.
St Lucia’s smaller anchorages such as Soufriere and Marigot Bay tend to attract the tall ship and megayacht companies: Star Clippers - SY Royal Clipper. Sea Cloud Cruises – SY Sea Cloud and SY Sea Cloud II. Sea Dream Yacht Club – SV Sea Dream I.
The currency of St Lucia is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$) which is fixed to the US dollar at a rate of US$1 = EC$2.65 and is used by all the former British islands between Anguilla and Grenada. All prices on island are quoted in EC Dollars, with the exception of hotel rates, which are in US only, and duty free items, for which prices are given in both EC and US Dollars. When out and about in St Lucia you will find that the US dollar is accepted (notes, not coins) by everyone. However in restaurants, supermarkets and large stores you will find that the rate of exchange will not be as favourable as against exchanging money at the bank.
Credit cards are widely accepted by anywhere that deals regularly with tourists, in restaurants, duty free shops, large stores and supermarkets. Most major cards are accepted, but perhaps double check in advance when making reservations at restaurants. Do not expect local bars or small local restaurants to accept them.
Day Sails/Boat Trips
There are plenty of opportunities for day sailing trips. Generally they cruise down the beautiful Caribbean coast of the island, heading south from Rodney Bay and Castries towards Soufrière. They coast the massive green headlands that tumble to the shoreline and stop at bays on the way there or back, often Anse Cochon. Marigot Bay, also a regular stop, is an incredibly pretty cove. At Soufrière itself you are presented with one of the loveliest views in the Caribbean, the awe-inspiring sight of the Pitons, vast pinnacles of pointed rock that soar from the water side by side. Some trips also include an onshore excursion which will take you to the volcano and to a couple of the old plantations in this extraordinarily fertile and beautiful area of the island.
A pick of the day sails includes:
Sea Spray Cruises, t 758 452 8644
The Brig Unicorn is an authentic 140 foot replica of an 18th century tall ship. In fact you might recognize her as the ship used in the hit movie Pirates of the Caribbean and the epic TV drama Roots. She has 2.5 miles of running rigging and 6000 sq ft of sail. The Brig Unicorn Pirate Family Adventure is a day well geared for families with children and there are treasure hunts, land tours and swimming and a cannon firing. The Brig Unicorn Day Tour Cruise sails south along the west coast and visits highlights in Soufrière. Also available is the Brig Unicorn Sunset cruises with steel band on board and the Tout Bagay Catamaran Day Tour. In St Lucian Creole Tout Bagay means ‘a little bit of everything’. The company has several catamarans - Mango Tango, Jus Tango and Tango Too.
Endless Summer, t 450 8651
Two catamarans, Endless Summer 1 and Sunkist, which make the trip south to Soufrière and include a visit to the volcano, Diamond Falls and the Botanical Gardens, also snorkelling.
Hackshaw’s Boat Charters, t 453 0553
Day sails, whale and dolphin watching trips (from US$60 per person for a ½ day) and deep sea fishing trips, in a 31’ Bertram and a 38’ Bertram Special (US$500-600 to charter per ½ day).
Aquabulle - Water Sport World Inc, Gros Islet, t 458 4292
A one-hour tour in a glass-bottom boat along the coast near Gros Islet.
Flying Ray - St Lucian Wave Riders, Rodney Bay, t 452 0808
Day trip to Martinique, on a 60ft double deck catamaran. Ninety minute ride to Fort-de-France where you can shop duty free and stroll through the town. On the return trip you will stop in the pretty cove at Anse Noire for some swimming and sunbathing and a BBQ and ti punch. Departure at 7.30am from Rodney Bay Marina, return 5.30pm - passport information needed by noon the day prior to the tour.
Departure Tax & Taxes
From early 2008, the departure tax of US$26 per person will be included to airline ticket prices, meaning that your departure tax will be paid at the time of purchase.
Hotels are required to add 8% tax to all bills (including bar and dining room bills, unlike outside restaurants) and they will usually add a 10% service charge too.
Driving & Parking
Driving is on the left hand side of the road in St Lucia (with the usual chicanes around the inevitable pot-holes on the country roads). Visitors must buy a Temporary Driving Permit at a cost of EC$54, which is available on presentation of your driving licence from home to the car hire company or at airport Immigration Offices and local police stations. Temporary Driving Permits are valid for three months.
Seat belts must be worn, and there are drink-driving regulations. If you have a breakdown, call the car hire company and they will send out a mechanic. If the car hire company does not offer a 24 hour service and you break down outside office hours then leave the car where it is and report the problem in the morning.
The main roads on St Lucia are generally quite good (there has been a lot of work recently on the west coast road down to Soufrière and beyond to Vieux Fort) and a car is sufficient unless you venture onto minor roads, some of which might only be dirt tracks with huge potholes. With the mountainous terrain all over the island, the minor roads can be extremely steep, including to some of the villas in parts of the Cap Estate. You may prefer to rent a 4-wheel drive Jeep.
Castries is something of a bottle-neck, particularly if you are heading north at rush-hour time, because so many people live in the north of the island. A good by-pass has recently been built heading south, so it is no longer necessary to climb all the way up Morne Fortune to leave the town.
Parking in Castries can be a problem, so it might be easiest to use the multi-storey Conway Business Centre car park which is opposite the market next to the government buildings. Downtown Castries, Derek Walcott Square, is within five minutes by foot. Alternately you can park at Pointe Seraphine, the duty free centre and cruise ship dock on the opposite side of the bay from the city centre. On days when cruise ships are in port a small ferry links Pointe Seraphine and the Carenage. You get a harbour cruise for a few minutes thrown in. The ‘ferry‘ costs US$1 per person each way and runs every few minutes.
Parking on yellow ‘No Parking’ sections will result in a penalty starting at EC$40. Don’t park where the yellow ‘No Parking’ signs are painted on the road or you will be towed away. Collection from police station starts at EC$100. The airport car park costs EC$2.