- St. Lucia
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Gros Islet, St. Lucia
This quiet fishing village just north of Rodney Bay undergoes a radical metamorphosis each Friday night for Gros Islet Night—a jump-up that half the island seems to attend, tourists and residents alike. What's a jump-up? A party where you just can't help but jump up to dance! Several blocks are closed to car traffic, speakers blare soca and Caribbean music, and street vendors sell food and drinks. Things usually get grooving around 9 p.m. and last until after midnight.
Boatyard, St. Lucia
Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
Tel: 758 452 9940
Friday night is the night in St. Lucia. And for those in the know, the Boatyard is where to go. Not easy to find after dark, it's a left turn off the main road running from Castries to Rodney Bay (if you're driving, it's best to stop and ask at the Shell gas station). Once there, this inauspicious pub on the water's edge is where the island's wealthy elite mix it up with Rastas and world-wise yachtys. Perfect for sundowner drinks and way after. There are also numerous nightclubs nearby, including Charlos, Aqua, Indies, and Rumours, but in St. Lucia it's always better to follow than to leadwhat's jammed and jumping one week can, for reasons unknown, be dead the next.
Open Mondays through Saturdays, 9 am to 11 pm.
See + Do
Sulfur Springs, St. Lucia
Soufrière, St. Lucia
Tel: 758 459 5500
Billed as "the world's only drive-in volcano" (tell that to Big Island, Hawaii), you will smell these springs long before you glimpse them. The volcano, about eight miles in diameter, collapsed 40,000 years ago. Seven cones within the old crater still exist, as well as the two plugs that are the Pitons, but this is the only remaining active spring. From the viewing platform—to which you walk—you see a mass of ashy gray mud with rocks streaked black, yellow, and white. It bubbles and steams and stinks, and it's curiously affecting. Do not—we repeat—do not walk on the gray part. But do come at dusk to join the locals at the springs. Slather yourself in mud scooped out from the riverbed, then immerse yourself in the heat of the waters while surrounded by the glow of fireflies.
Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.
See + Do
Rainforest Sky Rides, St. Lucia
Tel: 866 759 8726 (toll-free), Tel: 758 458 5151
This is a chance to experience a part of St. Lucia that would otherwise be inaccessible to anyone but the most intrepid hiker. Located in the mountainous region of Chassin, the eight-seat gondolas begin their journey 2,000 feet up, gliding smoothly above the trees and vines of old-growth forest. For those who want a bit more excitement, strap on your helmet, get into your harness, and zip along 500-foot runs through the tree line. You will feel like a contestant on The Amazing Race as you soar across ravines, rivers, and lush gullies. Though there is no age restriction, it's not particularly suitable for children under ten—but the kid in all of us will love it.
Open Sundays and Tuesdays through Fridays, 9 am to 2 pm.
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Hiking the Pitons, St. Lucia
These craggy peaks rise 2,600 feet into the air on the south part of the island known as the Val de Pitons. Sure, you can view the mountains from the comfort of your cruise boat or hotel room while idly drinking a beer that bears their name, but to truly experience the Pitons, lace up your hiking boots. The smaller (and steeper) Petit Piton is the more difficult, and is best suited to experienced climbers. Scaling the taller Gross Piton will take two hours each way, winding up a rain forest trail of boulders and twisted tree roots that circle the mountain. There's no point pretending it's easy, but most make it up, thanks in good part to the knowledgeable and patient guides from the Rastafarian community at the mountain's base (whom you can hire on-site or book through your hotel). Right when you think you can go no farther, your guide will stop and tell you about foliage or history, choosing strategic times to give ambitious but exhausted climbers a break. The reward is magnificent views to the south and north, with the neighboring islands of St. Vincent and Martinique clearly visible. The best time to start is between 7 and 9 am, to beat the heat and crowds.—Update by Douglas Wright
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Castries, St. Lucia
With a population of some 66,000, lively Castries is no great beauty, but it's worth a visit for its daily market of handmade crafts, dried spices, and island produce. On Saturdays, the market extends into a crowded open-air bazaar, with locals selling tropical fruits such as sour orange and star fruit, nuts, vegetables, whole fish, and goat butchered on the grounds. Check out Derek Walcott Square, with its Roman Catholic Cathedral and 400-year-old samaan tree in the center of town. Or drive up to Morne Fortune, "Hill of Good Luck," which has magnificent views over the city and the surrounding hills. Do try to avoid the cruise-ship exoduses—keeping a wide berth from the Pointe Seraphine tax-free Shopping Centre in the harbor is a good start.—Update by Douglas Wright
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Beaches in St. Lucia
Most of St. Lucia's beaches are on the island's west coast. Reduit, at the island's northwestern tip, is one of the best: long, sandy, and sheltered by tropical greenery. South of Gros Islet, it's absolutely packed with tourists, restaurants, and bars, but the northern part stretching to Pigeon Island (interrupted near Gros Islet by the waterway to the marina) is quieter and preferred by St. Lucians on weekends. Labrelotte Bay, which lies just south of Reduit and stretches between the East Winds Inn and Windjammer Landing resort, is also lovely.
South of Labrelotte Bay is Choc Bay, overlooking Rat Island. It's where some of the island's largest hotels are located, and has water-sports facilities. South of Choc Bay is Vigie, which runs parallel to the landing strip of George F.L. Charles Airport. It is fairly popular with St. Lucians, but it isn't the cleanest beach.
Marigot Bay, which lies about halfway down the west coast, is the beautiful sheltered bay was where Dr. Doolittle was filmed (the original one, with Rex Harrison rather than Eddie Murphy). Construction of a new resort, Discovery Marigot Bay, has recently been completed here. The small beach isn't great for swimming, but it's a good spot for water sports and has a sizeable marina.
Further south is Anse Chastanet—a gorgeous sweep of sand with spectacular views of the Pitons, which also boasts St. Lucia's best snorkeling. The beach is used by guests from the eponymous hotel above it, as well as those from other neighboring properties like Ladera and several smaller hotels. Just south is Soufrière: A long stretch of dark sand edged with palm trees through which you can see one of the Pitons. This is mostly a local haunt.
Rainforest Hideaway, St. Lucia
Tel: 758 286 0511
A three-minute boat ride across the placid waters of Marigot Bay leads to a private dock set among the mangroves. If it's evening, a man with a flashlight will await you, and in a scene reminiscent of The Phantom of the Opera, will guide you to the Champagne bar, where you can enjoy an aperitif at the water's edge before dinner. Start with locally caught mahi mahi; clean the palate with coconut, lime, and ginger sorbet; and then move on to the perfectly cooked risotto, which, for the Caribbean, is almost as much of a surprise as finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Service is equally flawless in what is one of St. Lucia's finest restaurants.
Open Wednesdays through Mondays, from 6 pm.
Lime, St. Lucia
Gros Islet, St. Lucia
Tel: 758 452 0761
Opposite the St. Lucian Resort, this casual and cozy place has been around forever—and nobody's complaining. Certainly not the tourists liming (i.e., hanging) here in the afternoons, or the locals for whom it's a favorite neighborhood joint. Everyone comes in for a cold Carib beer, some jerk chicken, char-grilled fish, or salads at distinctly non rip-off prices. Upstairs is the Late Lime, which is exactly what it sounds like: a club.
Open Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 11 am to 12:30 am; Fridays 11 am to 1:30 am; Saturdays 11 am to 2 am.
JJ's Palétuvier, St. Lucia
Marigot Bay, St. Lucia
Tel: 758 451 4076
In sheltered, perfectly picturesque Marigot Bay is this beloved hot spot to which people—people with access to boats, at least—flock just for the scene. The atmosphere is gemütlich, especially on special nights like Creole Crab Wednesdays (with vast quantities of local fish and shellfish and a live band) and the Friday jump-up. Order the perfectly grilled lobster and you'll be in heaven.
Open daily October through August, 8 am to 11 pm; September, Tuesdays through Sundays 8 am to 11 pm.
Green Parrot, St. Lucia
Castries, St. Lucia
Tel: 758 452 3399
Perched above Castries on Morne Fortune (which means "Hill of Good Luck") is the must-visit restaurant for anyone staying in the north. It's not just the food—which is excellent, slightly French, and particularly strong on seafood (do yourself a favor and try the "Fish a la la," grilled with garlic and lemon butter and served with a tomato sauce). No, an equal draw here is the host, Harry Edwards, better known as Chef Harry. This guy loves to have—and to show his guests—a good time, which is why there's always something fun going on: belly or limbo dancing; fire dancing; impromptu singing. The place itself has a sprawl of tables on a landscaped patio, the twinkling lights of Castries far below, and the promised parrots contributing their squawks to the general hilarity. Prices are fine, reservations essential, jacket required.
Open daily 7 am to 10:30 pm.
Dasheene, St. Lucia
Soufrière, St. Lucia
Tel: 758 459 7323
Down Soufrière way, the essential reservation is a table at Ladera's restaurant, with its über-romantic Piton vista accompanied by the giggling of honeymooners and the chirrup of tree frogs (also by a reggae band, depending on the night). Though chef Nigel Mitchel (sometimes aided by visiting star toques) has a penchant for silly names ("rhythm of rasta pasta," "seventh-heaven carrot soup") his food is perfectly unpretentious—the fresh, delicious, inventive dishes include fried green-tomato-and-plantain tart; saltfish with green-fig salad; lime-pepper-marinated seared steak with fries; or the day's catch, grilled in butter seasoned with jerk spices, local flowers, or lemon and caviar. The space isn't overtly fancy—there are plain wood tables, white tablecloths and flowers on the patio and in the dining room—but it feels elegant and civilized, and many people dress for dinner here.
Open daily 7 to 10 am, 11:30 am to 3 pm, and 6:30 to 9:30 pm.
Coal Pot, St. Lucia
Castries, St. Lucia
Tel: 758 452 5566
More than 40 years old, this tiny place on the water in Vigie is still adored by everyone who manages to score one of the ten tables. Its second-generation owners, Michelle Elliott (artist daughter of the founder) and her French chef husband Xavier take great care to make sure their guests are happy. That's usually not a problem, thanks to choices like grilled or sautéed steak, chicken, or fish with a variety of sauces—red-wine peppercorn, ginger, Creole, and coconut-curry are just a few. Start off with the lobster bisque or pumpkin soup—both are served in hand-thrown pots, and delicious. On a fine night, a table outside can't be beat, though you'd miss seeing Michelle's paintings on the semi-open wood walls. Don't forget to call ahead.
Open Mondays through Fridays, noon to 2:30 pm and 6:30 to 10:30 pm; Saturdays 7 to 11 pm.
Stonefield Estate Villa Resort, St. Lucia
Tel: 758 459 7037
Owned, built, and managed by second-generation members of the Brown family, all of whom grew up here, Stonefields is not only one of the more affordable luxury properties in Soufrière, it is also one of the most private—and popular with couples. With 19 cottages overlooking the ethereal beauty of Petit Piton, you'll be tempted to spend your time lounging in the hammock by your private pool, just staring up at the view. Each of the cottages has a peaked wooden roof, four-poster beds, jalousie windows, and outdoor showers shared only by the resident hummingbirds. There are no TVs, no phones, and no air conditioners (unless you ask for one), as most guests prefer the breeze and mysterious sounds of the rain forest at night. The restaurant serves local dishes based on Mrs. Brown's St. Lucian recipes, and the menu changes every night depending on what is fresh that day. A path will soon be cut down to the rocky beach below; otherwise, it's a quick shuttle drive to Jalousie beach.