This leaf-shaped island of rain forests, plantation resorts, sandy beaches, and hidden coves has one main highway circling it. Only the west coast was ever fully developed, with a mountainous interior separating the western ports and resorts from the scattered fishing villages on the eastern shore. At the southern tip of the island is the town of Vieux Fort and Hewanorra International Airport, the main point of entry for visitors. From here, the former French port of Soufrière is an hour's drive north up the west coast, just past Val de Pitons, St. Lucia's twin iconic mountains that rise from the sea. The fishing village of Anse la Ray and the capital Castries are mid-coast. Ritzy Rodney Bay lies to the north along with the coves of the Pigeon Island peninsula, which rounds the upper tip of the island with gated beachfront resorts that have a more British sensibility than the Caribbean–Creole heritage of the south.
WHEN TO GO
St. Lucia's subtropical climate is cooled by trade winds, making it comfortable year-round. It's one of the wetter islands (during rainy season, June to November) and has been hit, though not too seriously, by several tropical storms and hurricanes in the past decade. However, there's generally plenty of warning for major storms, and regular rainstorms tend to pass quickly.
HOW TO GET THERE
Hewanorra International Airport is 40 miles south of the capital, Castries, at Vieux-Fort. If you're staying in the north and your hotel doesn't provide transfers, a taxi to Castries or Rodney Bay costs between $50 and $70. Helicopters can also be chartered. George F.L. Charles Inter Island Airport is just outside Castries. All passengers over 12 pay a departure tax of $25 on leaving the island.
St. Lucia Tourist Board
Tel: 800 456 3984 (toll-free)
Tel: 758 452 4094
NEED TO KNOW
Language: English, French Creole
Capital City: Castries
Area: 238 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 1
Electricity: 240V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Dec 30, 2008:
1 East Caribbean Dollars = $0.37 US Calculate Other Amounts
St. Lucia does not require visas for citizens of the United States. A valid passport is sufficient for a three-month stay.
GOOD TO KNOW
St. Lucia has built up a deserved reputation as a gastronomic paradise. Most restaurants offer playful European menus enlivened with island flavors. But excellent ethnic restaurants—Chinese, Creole, French, Indian, West Indian, and beyond—seem to pop up at every turn. Local (West Indian) delicacies include roast suckling pig, spiny lobster, crab, and curries. Restaurants catering predominantly to locals offer soused conch, turtle stews, and goat prepared any way imaginable.
Duty-free shopping is the requisite pastime in St. Lucia's capital, bustling with cruise-ship passengers. Elsewhere on the island, Fridays and Saturdays are busy market days, when visitors can stock up on wood carvings, batik, and leather work.
January: 1, New Year's Day
February: 22, Independence Day
May: 1, Labor Day
August: 1, Emancipation Day
October: First Monday, Thanksgiving Day
December: 13, National Day; 25, Christmas Day; 26, Boxing Day
Spring: Friday before Easter, Good Friday; Easter; day after Easter, Easter Monday; eighth Monday after Easter, Pentecost Monday
Summer: Ninth Thursday after Easter, Corpus Christi