Saint Lucia's Wonders

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Saint Lucia's Wonders
Saint Lucia's incredible biodiversity—from dense rain forests in the heart of the island and dramatic volcanic landscapes by the sea, to tropical garden estates and glamorous bays and marinas—coupled with an alluring cultural mélange give this island an air of wonder.

With additional copy by Lebawit Lily Girma.
By Flash Parker, AFAR Ambassador
Photo by Flash Parker
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    Local Flora
    This tiny island is home to nearly 2,000 species of plants, many of which can be seen at historic estates that have been turned into tropical gardens, like the Diamond Botanical Gardens on the former Du Boulay family estate. Enjoy lunch at Boucan and then stroll through the restored cacao plantation on the grounds. Observe tropical flora in its uncultivated state with a hike through Edmund Forest Reserve.
    Photo by Flash Parker
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    Birds of a Feather
    Saint Lucia is home to a spectacular array of bird species. Some are rare, like the Saint Lucian parrot, and others are more common, like the island pewee. Great numbers of migratory birds spend time here, too. The Edmund Forest Reserve trails offer an excellent chance to bird-watch—spot parrots, frigate birds, white-breasted thrashers, and the Saint Lucian wren. Located within the reserve, the Millet Bird Sanctuary is home to five endemic species—black finch, parrot, warbler, oriole, and pewee—as well as 30 other species of Caribbean birds. The Maria Islands Nature Reserve, a 20-minute boat ride away, protects and shelters African migratory birds during their summer residency here, spent mating and nesting.
    Photo by Flash Parker
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    Chasing Waterfalls
    Saint Lucia's rolling topography, geothermal core, and lush vegetation have conspired to generate a number of stunning waterfalls—some are swimmable, while others must be observed from a distance. Diamond Falls, near Soufrière, is worth a visit to see the unique colors of its water, the result of a nearby volcano. Relax in the tiny pools beneath Toraille Falls, one of the island's most spectacular cascades. Towering Sault Falls, in the remote Dennery District, can be enjoyed after an intense hike; it's the perfect place for a picnic and a rewarding dip in the cold waters.
    Photo by Flash Parker
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    Rain Forest Expeditions
    Saint Lucia's inland rain forests are often overlooked by visitors keen on sticking to the beach. The plus side? Even the most impressive destinations—like the historic Morne Fortune with its sweeping panoramic views of Castries and the harbor—are never crowded. Edmund Forest Reserve's multiple guided trails, too, are rich in flora and ideal for birding, waterfall viewing, and a memorable escape into nature.
    Photo by Flash Parker
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    Volcanic Activity
    Saint Lucia's most famous geographic marvels are the volcanic Pitons, rising dramatically from the sea to a height of over 2,500 and 2,400 feet, respectively. Both can be climbed; the Gros Piton hike is strenuous but not overly dangerous, while the Petit Piton has sections of fully exposed, fixed-cable rock scrambling and is a more vertical and difficult climb. The famous drive-in volcano of Soufrière is home to 25 bubbling sulfur springs, as well as mud pits that can provide a natural spa treatment.
    Photo by Flash Parker
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    Saint Lucia's Music Scene
    Saint Lucia's music culture contains strains of West African, Caribbean, and European traditions. Don't be surprised to see the occasional polka or waltz danced at a local bar, but African and Caribbean influences dominate. The traditional four-stringed banjo known as the bwa poye is experiencing something of a renaissance among the youth. Local and island genres—Jamaican reggae and Trinidadian soca (and steel pan) are the most popular types of music and play a large role in the vibrant Lucian Carnival celebrations. Weekly jump ups, or street parties, at Gros Islet and Anse la Raye feature live music late into the night, and local bands perform on weekends at venues around the Rodney Bay Marina.
    Photo by Adalberto RĂ­os Lanz/age fotostock
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    The Rich Biodiversity of the Waters

    On its eastern shore, Saint Lucia is bathed by the cool waters of the Atlantic, and on the west by the warm Caribbean Sea. This geographical luck has resulted in remarkable underwater biodiversity. Off the beaches at Anse Chastanet and Anse Mamin, waters teem with tropical fish like sergeant majors, needlefish, and parrot fish. The underwater slope of the Pitons is home to a variety of corals and colorful tropical fish. Off Anse Cochon, seahorses can often be found clinging to coral and plants. Whales—humpback, sperm, pilot, and, from time to time, orca—visit the waters of the southeast; whale-watching tours cruise down the Caribbean coastline to spot the enormous mammals, as well as pods of dolphins that sometimes number more than 150.

    Photo by Norbert Probst/age fotostock
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    New Caribbean Cuisine
    Chefs like Nigel Mitchell are turning Caribbean cuisine inside out by putting an inventive local spin on classics of the Western culinary canon: Lobster burgers, mahi-mahi fish and chips, and clay-pot stew make frequent appearances on his menu at Dasheene. Local staples—like green figs and saltfish, and opossum pie—have spread from local stoves to resort kitchens. For visitors who want to learn more, various cooking classes are available on the island, many of which include a morning visit to the market. Cap Maison hotel offers a couples' cooking class.
    Photo by Flash Parker
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    Tropical Cocktails

    Go "liming"—the local slang for hanging out and enjoying a few drinks with friends—and sample some Saint Lucian rum, preferably at a rum shop, as local bars are known on the island. You'll find plenty of those in the island's scenic neighborhoods. For happy hour deals, head to beachfront driftwood bar Jambe de Bois, tucked inside Pigeon Island National Park, or go off the tourist path and chill out at Salt Rush Cafe, in Laborie fishing village, or at Marjorie's on Cas en Bas Beach. For fancy libations, there's Dasheene, but it's fun to kick back with local live music and drinks on the water at Rodney Bay.

    Photo by Flash Parker