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Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia is everything you dreamed of in a Caribbean getaway, and possibly a lot more. A honeymooner’s paradise with some of the finest luxury resort properties, sandy beaches, and sunset vistas in all of the West Indies, this remarkable island is also a great hiking destination, a scuba and snorkeling hot spot, and a fine place to experience exotic island cuisine. Capital city Castries pulses with a free-spirited vitality, while picturesque Soufrière draws visitors looking to catch a glimpse of its old fishing port, sulfur springs, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Saint Lucia is perfect for sunseekers on the lookout for warm rays, sand, surf, and a place to unwind with a rum punch and a good book, but this tiny island is also primed to reward more active visitors with some of the Caribbean's most remarkable experiences. Grand accommodations abound, perhaps none more so than Ladera, the only hotel inside the island's UNESCO site and a destination in and of itself thanks to its sweeping panoramic views, world-class restaurant, and cultural immersion programs. Pigeon Island National Park’s beautiful beaches are a short ferry ride away, while scuba and snorkel expeditions introduce the deep blue.
Saint Lucia’s cuisine, like the island’s culture, has been influenced by numerous neighbors, visitors, would-be conquerors, and colonialists since the 16th century. Local food is often spicy, and balanced by rice or potatoes and gravy. The ubiquitous national dish is salt fish with green figs, a fragrant, spicy pairing of fig bananas, fish, veggies, Scotch bonnet peppers, and spices. The Jamaican diaspora has brought meat patties, jerk chicken, and other foods to Saint Lucia, while macaroni pie, peas and rice, fish stew, and coconut-based soups mirror the dishes of other Commonwealth nations. Caribbean-style curries are prevalent, while roti pockets (common in Trinidad and Tobago) are now one of the country’s most popular snacks.
Saint Lucia’s identity is a fusion of French, English, West African, and local Caribbean cultures, informed by colonial forces and driven by centuries-old customs and traditions. Wild festivals like the Rose (August 30) and the Marguerite (October 17) mark local calendars, while Creole Day is celebrated across the island on the final Sunday in October. Bright costumes, traditional feasts, and raucous parades and concerts bring out the reveler in everyone. The traditional folk music scene survives in Castries and several other towns, though Caribbean music from other island nations is widely popular. Traditional art is held in high regard. Soccer is the most popular sport.
Castries is home to the island’s busiest shopping centers in the Castries Market and Vendors Arcade, where you’ll find tourists and cruise ship passengers haggling over local food, clothing, jewelry, and other trinkets. Discerning visitors will enjoy hunting down pottery, batik art, textiles, and hand-crafted woodwork—Saint Lucia is home to a number of carpenters and furniture makers of significant renown—in the small shops and boutiques in Castries and Soufrière. Culinary crusaders will delight to know that Saint Lucia produces arguably the finest coffee and cocoa in the Caribbean. Windward and Leeward brew a trio of local beers, including Piton Lager, Piton Shandy, and Rooster Select milk stout.
Thanks to its size and the proximity of the trade winds, Saint Lucia's temperature hovers between 75 and 90 degrees year-round. Visas are not needed for visitors from North America, but a return ticket is required before entry is granted. Hewanorra International (UVF) is the main airport, but its east coast location puts it nearly an hour away from most west coast accommodations. Ferries to and from Martinique and Guadeloupe are available. The currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, but U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere. Hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge, though leaving at least 5% more as a tip is expected in upmarket establishments. Electricity is 220–230 volts, but some hotels are wired for U.S. appliances.
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Lebawit Lily Girma Local Expert
Lily is an award-winning travel journalist, photographer, and blogger who splits her year between the U.S. and the Caribbean. A tropical bird since 2005, she’s lived in Jamaica, Grenada, Belize, and the Dominican Republic, aside from multiple visits to other islands. Lily's writing and photography, focusing on culture, nature, and adventure, have been published in CNN Travel, Delta Sky, BBC Travel, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, MorningCalm (Korea Air), Shermans Travel, Travel Channel, and others. She's the author of various Caribbean guidebooks for Moon Travel Guides, including Moon Belize, Belize Cayes, and Moon Dominican Republic (Avalon Travel/Hachette Books). In 2016, Lily received the Caribbean Tourism Organization's Marcia Vickery Wallace Memorial Award for excellence in travel journalism. Follow her journey online at Sunshine and Stilettos.