If you are thinking of going to the Caribbean for the first time, I would highly recommend the lovely little island of St Lucia as a ‘starter island’. The island has a chequered history, having been fought over many times throughout history. During the late 1700s, the island was fought over six times between the French and the English, with the English taking control until the island had its independence in February 1979. It remains a member of the British commonwealth.
The two mountain peaks, the Pitons are a Unesco World Heritage site, the largest, Grand Piton is nearly 799 meters high, linked by a ridge to the Petit Piton standing at 743 meters. The small fishing village of Soufriere sits in their shadow giving a fantastic view across the island from the summit. From the peaks on a clear day, it is possible to see Martinique, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent.
Not far from the Pitons is the hot springs and geothermal field, this is still pumping out sulphurous gases which carries on the wind out to sea. There is a visitor complex and tours of the site available for a small charge. Definitely worth a visit if you have an interest in geology.
One of the sites of interest is the fort complex on Pigeon island. The outstanding views across Gros Islet and across the sea to Martinique. The fort was built as a defensive complex when the conflicts with the French were commonplace. From the summit you could see the enemy ships leaving port. This gave the defenders time to prepare!
A causeway was built from Gros Islet to the Island in 1972 with a substantial road. One of the Sandals resorts stands half way across. The effect of the causeway was to produce a fantastic bay, protected from the Atlantic sea and the prevailing wind. This is a tourist mecca and windsurfers and Hobie cats patrol the bay, their sails adding to the colours of the lush trees and carefully planted indigenous species.
The island has been a national park since 1979 and incorporated into the St Lucia National Trust in 1996. The small entry fee to gain access is well worth the price. The fort and barracks ruins are perfect for whiling away a morning, the view from the top is awe inspiring.
The tourist industry is growing and resorts are appearing all over the north of the island. They are well spaced out and once inside you have the feeling of being the only resort on the island. We stay at the Sandals Halcyon beach resort, one of the smaller complexes but it has a personal feel and you are looked after extremely well. The staff are so friendly, mirroring all of the island’s inhabitants.
As a first time visitor, I would highly recommend a half day tour by one of the local taxi drivers, they of course are the locals who know all the good spots to visit and the places to avoid especially on days when the cruise liners are in port. If you use an organised tour you can often miss the really good places and end up with all tourists!
If you can afford it a trip with St Lucia helicopters is a must, an island tours takes you to all the ‘must see’ places, from there you can decide an itinerary for a physical visit once you return to your resort.
The main airport, Hewanorra, is in the South of the island, the trip to the area where most of the resorts are located takes about an hour and a half through the rainforests where bananas grow with profusion. The resort transfers are very comfortable with air conditioned vehicles but after an eight hour flight, you end up a little stiff and in need of a beer! This is made easier with the driver providing a good commentary with a friendly demeanour.
As a first time visitor to the lush island, you will be captivated and want to return over and over again. There is always something to see and do, the local festivals are frequent and the locals really encourage you to take part. The local beer, Piton is probably one of the nicest beers in the region, always drunk ice cold!
Book a holiday in St Lucia, you will not be disappointed, I have already booked to return next year!
Please visit the St Lucia national trust website https://www.slunatrust.org/sites/pigeon-island-national-landmark/ to see the sites under their care. St Lucia helicopters can be found at https://www.stluciahelicopters.com/ Check out the tours and the very useful helicopter transfer from Hewanorra. The tourist authority can be found at https://www.stlucia.org/en_UK/ Finally please check out the Sandals website, the deals for next years are coming on line now, we home to see you there soon! https://www.sandals.co.uk/saint-lucia/
Please consider this lovely island for your getaway in paradise sometime soon! I can thoroughly recommend the island for a wedding or renewal of your marriage vows, which we did last year!