A spellbinding otherness sets St. Lucia apart from its Caribbean cousins. The twin spires of the Pitons rise dramatically from the sea like ancient island stewards, granting passage to hot springs, waterfalls, and beaches. A honeymooner’s paradise with some of the finest luxury resorts and sunset vi…stas in all of the West Indies, this remarkable island is also a great hiking destination, a scuba and snorkeling hotspot, and an excellent place to try island cuisine. Capital city Castries pulses with a free-spirited vitality, while picturesque Soufrière draws visitors eager to experience its old fishing port, sulfur springs, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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With a subtropical climate kept mild by cooling trade winds, St. Lucia is pretty much perfect year-round. However, there’s a greater chance of tropical showers and hurricanes from June through November. The busiest, most expensive time to visit is during the dry season from December to April. Those looking for fewer crowds and lower rates should consider going in May or June, when temperatures range from the high 70s to the mid-80s.
Direct flights to St. Lucia’s Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) are available from New York and Boston on JetBlue; New Jersey and Chicago on United Airlines; Atlanta on Delta; and Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Miami on American Airlines. Interisland travel within the Caribbean is also available on airlines like LIAT, Air Caraïbes, Air Antilles, and Caribbean Airlines as well as on a variety of ferries.
Once on St. Lucia, minibuses serve as the main ground transportation. These buses run at various times depending on the route, with fares ranging from around 90 cents to $3. Cabs are also readily available at taxi stands or by phone—just be sure to confirm the fare before riding. Those wishing to do their own driving can rent cars or scooters at the island’s airports, hotels, or car rental offices. A temporary license, required for visitors, can easily be obtained by presenting a valid U.S. driver’s license at the airport, at the police station in Castries, or at car rental offices. Remember to drive on the left side of the road.
St. Lucia’s cuisine, like the island’s culture, draws from the numerous neighbors, visitors, would-be conquerors, and colonialists that have passed through since the 16th century. Local food is often spicy but balanced by the accompaniment of rice or potatoes and gravy. The national dish is salt fish with green figs—a fragrant, spicy pairing of fish, fig bananas, veggies, Scotch bonnet peppers, and spices. The Jamaican diaspora has introduced meat patties, jerk chicken, and other foods to St. Lucia, while other Commonwealth nations have contributed macaroni pie, peas and rice, fish stew, and coconut-based soups. Caribbean-style curries are prevalent, and roti pockets (common in Trinidad and Tobago) are now one of the country’s most popular snacks.
St. 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. Flower festivals like La Rose (August 30) and La Marguerite (October 17) hold a place on local calendars. Creole Day is celebrated across the island on the final Sunday in October, with bright costumes, traditional feasts, and raucous parades and concerts bringing out the reveler in everyone. A traditional folk music scene survives in Castries and several other towns, though Caribbean music from other island nations is also widely popular. Traditional art is held in high regard and soccer is the most popular sport.
St. Lucia is perfect for sunseekers on the lookout for 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 as grand as 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. The beautiful beaches of Pigeon Island National Park are a short ferry ride away, as are scuba and snorkel expeditions that introduce the deep blue.
The temperature in St. Lucia hovers between 75 and 90 degrees year-round, thanks to the island’s size and proximity to the trade winds. Visitors from North America don’t need a visa but must present a return ticket 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.
Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning travel journalist, photographer, and blogger who splits her year between the U.S. and the Caribbean. Her writing and photography, focusing on culture, nature, and adventure, have appeared in CNN Travel, Delta Sky, BBC Travel, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Morning Calm (Korean Air), Shermans Travel, Travel Channel, and others. In 2016, she received the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Marcia Vickery Wallace Memorial Award for excellence in travel journalism. Follow her journey online at Sunshine and Stilettos.