St Lucia, an idyllic Caribbean island, stretches across a mere 238 square miles, yet it teems with a potpourri of attractions to satisfy every wanderlust. The echoes of history resonate in the time-worn ruins of Pigeon Island National Park, while the natural spectacle of the Sulphur Springs bathes the landscape in a steamy embrace. The magnificent Pitons, extending skyward, form an iconic backdrop to the island’s volcanic narrative.
Whether you’re chasing waterfalls or a sun-soaked beach getaway, St Lucia delivers. Here’s your guide to the best places to visit.
1. Pigeon Island National Park
Best area for historians
Do you enjoy history, but also want a taste of the great outdoors or the opportunity to relax on the beach? You’ll adore Pigeon Island National Park. History buffs will be interested in the ruins and artifacts – including an officer’s kitchen and soldiers’ barracks – from St Lucia’s past as a strategic outpost during the British and French battle for control, and adventurers will enjoy the hikes and views.
Located at the island’s northernmost tip, the national park spreads across 44 acres. A leisurely climb to Fort Rodney’s (225ft) summit unveils spectacular panoramic views of the northwest coastline.
The living museum continues at the top with an authentic cannon, the remains of the military fort and a powder room. An intrepid adventurer will find Signal Hill’s large rocks and loose gravel terrain more of a challenge. Even if you’re not the outdoorsy type, the unfettered panorama will make the scramble to the peak worthwhile.
For a halcyon day, retreat to the immaculately trimmed, expansive lawn for a picnic, or laze the day away on one of two white-sand beaches onsite. I’ve spent many weekends hidden away on the secluded beach inside the park, taking breaks only to grab a Bounty Rum and orange juice or some wings from The Thirsty Parrot located just outside the gates.
The quiet fishing village of Gros-Islet offers everything from peaceful beaches to street parties © Getty Images
Best area for foodies
The Gros-Islet district stretches from just outside the capital of Castries to the island’s northern tip, and it has a long-standing reputation as the most convivial corner of St. Lucia. But it’s also an underrated foodie paradise.
The Naked Fisherman, a secluded restaurant with a thatched-roof, serves delicious seafood delicacies, including conch fritters, crispy squid with pickled veggies, ceviche, creole fish stew with curry, and ahi tuna poke with cucumber. Enjoy the delicious spread as the waves gently caress the shoreline.
Located a few minutes south, the quiet fishing village of Gros-Islet comes alive with pulsating live music every Friday night for the staple street party. Amid the revelry lies a veritable buffet of local cuisine.
Duke’s Fish Place sits on the seafront and welcomes the crowd with a menu of grilled or fried marlin, tuna, barracuda, pot fish, and lambi (conch), accompanied by their sinfully sumptuous garlic sauce.
Diners can also dig into Auntie’s green fig salad (a mix of boiled green bananas, shredded saltfish, chopped vegetables, mayo seasoned with fresh herbs and spices, and a sprinkle of the magic found in any West Indian meal), along with other side dishes like ground provisions and local fruit juices.
Other options include barbecue chicken and bakes – fried doughy discs – from one of the vendors peppered along the roadside. Another favorite local haunt, the reggae-themed Irie Bar, is tucked away near the beachfront and offers cold libations and lighthearted conversation.
At the entrance of the nearby Beausejour community, a cluster of trucks makes up the bustling Food Village. Feast on authentic Jamaican fare, Mediterranean meals, wraps, vegetarian and vegan options, dairy-free artisanal ice cream, and arguably St. Lucia’s best burgers at Burnz Food Truck – don’t skip the caramelized onions, and if you’re feeling really brave, attempt the fully loaded Jabal burger.
3. Rodney Bay
Best area for sailing enthusiasts
To take a breather, unwind, and bask in the warm golden glow of a sunset, head to Rodney Bay Marina. In addition to being a premier yachting location, Rodney Bay Marina is one of the top sport fishing locations in the Caribbean.
The premises are well-equipped with a host of facilities and amenities for boaters and sailing enthusiasts, including private showers, WiFi connectivity and customs and immigration. There’s also a fully-equipped boatyard onsite with a 75ft travelift and dry storage staffed by an expert technical crew.
Since 1986, Las Palmas in the Canary Islands has been the starting point for the annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, a race heading west across the Atlantic bound for St Lucia.
Upwards of 200 boats participate, making it the largest trans-ocean sailing event on the planet. As soon as the participants arrive on the shores of St. Lucia, the following two weeks are one nonstop celebration after another heading into the Christmas season.
The Marina transforms into the ARC Village, with a wave of events including fire eating, limbo, J’ouvert (daybreak) jump-ups, performances by several local bands, chef demos, and costume parties. ARC attendees can even pit their athletic skills against those of locals in football. It can get pretty crowded, but it’s hard not to get swept up in the revelry.
For the more introverted, the Rodney Bay Marina also lays claim to exquisite waterside dining options like Rituals Sushi, La Mesa Bar and Grill (my personal favorite haunt), and Elena’s Italian Pizza and Gelato – the strawberry cheesecake yogurt is divine. The only experience closer to heaven is one of the serene sunset cruises that set sail from the dock multiple times a week.
Best area for adventurers
If you’re looking for an adrenaline fix, look no further than the Babonneau region, where you can ride a thrilling zip line through the rainforest treetops and get a bird’s eye view of the St. Lucian countryside.
Guests of Rainforest Adventures St. Lucia will receive a safety briefing from a trained naturalist before heading out on a practice run on the park’s training cable in groups of no more than eight.
You’ll arrive at the top station from the training cable by taking the aerial tram, which navigates you through the dense thicket of the rainforest. After about 10 minutes of hiking along a trail that gradually descends through the rainforest’s underbrush, you will reach the first platform.
From here, you can travel along eight different zip lines high above the rainforest canopy while taking in spectacular views of the north of the island, the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
Marigot Bay’s beauty has been chronicled in both film and books © Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images
Best city for shopping
The Castries Market is the heartbeat of St Lucia’s capital and a veritable treasure trove of unique local wares – find everything from woven baskets, carved wooden sculptures, and fragrant spices to unusual trinkets made from coconut shells and calabash.
Saturdays buzz with energy as locals descend upon the market at the break of dawn, weaving through stalls brimming with local produce and freshly picked herbs. Wander out back to purchase a coconut from one of the open-backed vans parked in the large lot. I like to have the vendor break the husk open to scoop out the translucent jelly. It’s even better – and crunchier – when it’s on the cusp of the firmer copra state.
For those yearning for a more refined shopping experience, the Pointe Seraphine complex awaits just a 15-minute walk from the city center. This duty-free compound caters to a wide variety of services and offers everything from car rentals and thrilling land and boat tours to an enticing array of souvenirs, luxurious fragrances, fine jewelry, and clothing.
Once a month, Helen’s Daughters, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering rural women, hosts a FarmHERS market at Pointe Seraphine. Here you’ll find a smorgasbord of locally produced goodies that transport me back to childhood, like coconut tablet, guava jam, pemi, souse with cucumber, and icicles.
Local tip: The Pointe Seraphine Shopping Complex also doubles as a dock when cruise ships are in port, so be prepared for crowds on these days. The city has limited parking but is very walkable, so you can skip the car rental and hop a bus or taxi to the market.
6. Marigot Bay
Best area for set-jetters
Forget jet-setting – set-jetting is the new travel craze. The most recent trend in wanderlust involves organizing a vacation around a filming location for a television show or movie you love. It might seem odd initially, but it makes perfect sense for pop culture junkies and cinephiles craving an immersive experience.
Enchanting, turquoise-hued Marigot Bay, once dubbed “the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean” by American novelist James A. Michener, has been featured in scenes from several films, including 1967’s original Doctor Doolittle (starring Rex Harrison), and 1979’s Firepower (starring Sophia Loren).
Marigot Bay also makes a memorable cameo in the first installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean blockbuster film series – it’s here that Captain Jack Sparrow first spots the skeletons suspended from an arch projecting from the crystalline Caribbean waters.
Even if you’re not a film buff, Marigot Bay is worth a visit for the views. A palm-fringed slip of sand sits in the calm, azure-blue waters amidst the verdurous slopes, creating a postcard-perfect scene.
There’s much to see, like an active volcano, on a visit to Soufrière © Holger Leue / Getty Images
Best area for natural attractions
Soufrière is a popular draw for visitors and locals alike, and for good reason. The allure is due, in large part, to the abundance of scenic backdrops and natural treasures found within the borders of the charming west coast town.
The iconic Pitons rise majestically from the lush, emerald landscape, inviting hikers and outdoor adventurers to explore. If you don’t feel like climbing, there are multiple other vantage points where you can enjoy the views of those vividly green mountains juxtaposed against impossibly blue waters.
The Sulphur Springs are the remnants of a collapsed volcanic crater, and the attraction is touted as the world’s only drive-in volcano. Even though the volcano has not erupted since the 1700s, visible wisps of smoke waft into the air, and the pungent sulfuric scent permeates the surroundings.
Its mineral waters are reputed to alleviate inflammation, ease the pain of arthritis and eczema, purify the body, and ease muscle soreness. Slather on the magnesium and sulphur-infused mud for a skin treatment that will leave your skin silky smooth and supple. If you’re lucky you will encounter Sherman – one of the onsite guides and a Soufrière native – who can help apply the mud and provide a detailed history of the springs. Rinse off in one of the four pools which vary in temperature.
On the edge of Soufrière, the Toraille Waterfall cascades down a 50ft cliff face into a plunge pool cocooned in thick vegetation. Another waterfall sits at the foothills of Petit Piton. The appropriately named Piton Falls is a 30ft drop from the top, with the water spilling into a small pool. Not to be outdone, the water at the Diamond Falls appears to change color due to various minerals from volcanic rocks and rain. The falls are flanked by botanical gardens brimming with a riot of vibrant plants.
Local tip: Hiking Gros Piton without a guide is strongly discouraged and should not be attempted following rainfall, when the terrain becomes slippery and muddy. Unfortunately, swimming in Diamond Falls is not permitted due to safety concerns, but you can still bask in its splendor.