Caribbean: St. Lucia, an Overview

Escape to this tropical rainforest and you'll never want to come home.

You'll feel like Adam and Eve in a tropical wonderland on this picturesque southern Caribbean island. Orange, lime, lemon, pineapple, mango, breadfruit, plum, and coffee trees cover the landscape; vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon grow in thick profusion; and tall flame flowers, orchids, and hibiscus explode with color.

In a Word: Peaks

St. Lucia's symbols are the jagged Piton peaks, rugged mountains that climb from the sea to lofty heights. Located on the island's southwest coast, the verdant slopes of Gros Piton and Petit Piton are among the Caribbean's most recognizable landmarks.

What We'd Do: Six Features You'll Never Forget

  • Rain forest: You'll need a guide to enter the restricted rain forest region, so sign up for a tour to walk through the dense foliage and swim in a tropical waterfall. If you're lucky, you may see the rare St. Lucian parrot.
  • Volcano: Walk to the edge of the Sulphur Spring volcano, which last erupted two centuries ago. Lounge in the nearby mineral baths, built among ruins of the first baths commissioned by French King Louis XIV for use by his troops.
  • Coral walls: Don your fins and enjoy the underwater scenery via lazy drift dives, coral walls (some plunging 200 feet deep!), and a 165-foot freighter sunk near Anse Cochon. Keep your eyes peeled: Barrel sponges, angel fish, sea horses, spotted eels, stingrays, nurse sharks, and sea turtles call the area home. Beach entry is best at Anse Chastanet, a hotel on the southwest coast.
  • Shopping: Castries, on the island's north side, is St. Lucia's capital and offers a hopping Saturday market, where vendors sell everything from fruits and local spices to crafts. Choiseul, on the south side, is home to the Arts and Crafts Development Centre -- perfect for finding locally made straw, wood, and clay handcrafts.
  • Island eats: In Castries, visit Jimmie's, a hillside restaurant that offers saltfish, green fig, and other local favorites. You could also try Bang, tucked between the Pitons and best reached by boat, which specializes in Creole barbecue. Wash it down with local spirits including La Belle Creole, Bounty Rum, and Piton beer.
  • Dance fever: Gros Islet, a small island off the northwest shore, is known throughout the Caribbean for its Friday night jump-up. Street-side music blares as residents and locals jam to the sounds of reggae, soca, and calypso.

Pucker Up: Best Place to Smooch

Butterfly kiss near the cascading Diamond Waterfalls, where the twinkling spray seems suspended in the air.

When to Go: St. Lucia at its Best

  • Best weather: St. Lucia's climate is mild, with almost constant northeast trade winds. The mean temperature is 79 degrees. Rainy season runs from June to November.
  • Best prices: Mid-April to mid-December; exact dates vary by hotel. Hurricane season swirls from June to November (September is trickiest).
  • Festival highlights: The four-day St. Lucia Jazz Festival is held in May; Carnival is celebrated in extravagant style the third Monday and Tuesday in July; the finale of Creole Heritage Month is International Creole Day on the last Sunday in October; and the annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers is marked by a week of festivities in early December.

-- Paris Permenter & John Bigley

Photo: St. Lucia Tourist Board