The term ‘paradise’ is overused in modern tourism, but for the Eastern Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, it’s no overstatement. Ridged with high and improbably green hills – the tallest of which are twin volcanic peaks the Pitons, which rise from the west coast like a pair of mythical horns – Saint Lucia’s diverse environmental makeup takes its shape in geothermal sulphur springs, clean white sand beaches kissed by turquoise waters, cascading waterfalls and acres of rainforest.
Small wonder, then, that this eye-pleasing island, also known as the ‘Helen of the West Indies’ after the Greek mythology ‘Helen of Troy’, is the world’s leading honeymoon destination, and dotted with couple-focused luxury resorts. Yet, there’s infinitely more to Saint Lucia than romance. In reality, its variety of landscapes allow visitors to experience multiple holidays rolled into one.
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Thrill-seekers will adore navigating mountain trails and treetop zipwire adventures, while foodies can feast on the freshest seafood and seek out locally grown superfoods and spices at the markets. Saint Lucia is a nature lover’s dream, too, blessed with reef-diving sites, a multitude of indigenous plants and the biggest diversity of birdlife in the Caribbean.
Whether you want to explore the military forts and bunkers of Pigeon Island National Park, or party with locals at Gros Islet’s weekly Friday Night Jump Up, Saint Lucia delivers. Here’s our guide to maximising on the joys of this idyllic island with conscious tourism in mind.
Where to stay in Saint Lucia?
Stonefield Villas, Soufriere : the first Saint Lucian resort to join Kind Traveller
Waking up to the sun breaking on the soaring Petit Piton, with tangled green jungle to the left and the glittering Caribbean Sea to the right, borders on the transcendental.
This is the vista from the private terrace of my one-bedroom villa at family-run luxury resort Stonefield Villas. The history of the site is as rich as its vegetation – originally a cocoa plantation, it’s home to a number of rock carvings, or petroglyphs, said to have been drawn by the Carib Indians to identify the area as a birthing site and place of fertility. From mango and papaya trees to root vegetables and herbs, an abundance of fresh produce is grown onsite.
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Aesthetically, Stonefield blends authentic design with upscale amenities. The spacious outdoor terraces, surrounded by mature greenery and equipped with private pools, hammocks and outdoor dining areas, sing luxury. Venture inside and the interiors are rustic in style, taking inspiration from the old West Indies with locally handmade wooden furniture, rattan rugs and lampshades, and exposed beams.
My canopy King bed is blissfully comfy, while the outdoor stone-tiled shower is stocked with cruelty-free toiletries. A homely kitchen area has everything needed for meal prep, including a stove, fridge-freezer, coffee-maker, glassware and silverware.
In February 2019, Stonefield became the first Saint Lucian resort to join Kind Traveller, the first socially conscious ‘Give + Get’ hotel booking engine that connects travellers to hotels with charitable affiliations. Kind Traveller’s partners are selected based on ‘kindness factors’; Stonefield’s being an organic farm-to-table menu at onsite sea-facing restaurant The Mango Tree, a no plastic straw policy, composting of organic waste and a bee programme. A US$10 nightly donation from every booking is made to Pawasol Pour Ti Mami, which provides education and healthcare services to underprivileged Saint Lucian children.
Before leaving, a visit to Stonefield’s tranquil onsite spa is a must – sound-tracked by birdsong, it boasts breathtaking ocean views from its yoga deck.
Rooms from £250 per night.
What to do in Saint Lucia?
Diamond Botanical Gardens and Waterfall, Soufrière
My Sunday visit to these historic award-winning gardens is unexpectedly quiet, giving me the feeling that I have the place all to myself. The site forms part of 2000 acres of land granted to 3 Devaux brothers by King Louis XIV of France in 1713, and legend has it that as a child Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, bathed in the original baths.
Mr Andre du Boulay developed the site from the 1920s onwards, and passed it to his daughter Joan Devaux in 1983, who restored it with care. Here you can spend a tranquil hour or so meandering through overhanging palms and coconut groves, admiring bulbous pink torch ginger flowers, smelling fragrant jasmine and listening to the Diamond Waterfall cascade down from above.
Entry EC$17.50. More info
Sulphur Springs Park
Dubbed ‘the world’s only drive-in volcano’, the Soufrière Sulphur Springs is most active geothermal area in the Lesser Antilles and takes the form of a series of mud baths, which are the result of a weak spot in the crust of a collapsed crater caused by volcanic movements 410,000 years ago. The warming effect of the spring pools, nestled in craggy clay rock formations, is incredibly soothing. Visitors can bathe, then slather the sulphur-rich mud all over the skin, allowing it to dry in the sun before rinsing it off. The mud’s natural healing benefits can help treat virtually any skin concern, from sunburn to acne and mosquito bites.
Entry EC$20. More info
Tet Paul Nature Trail
This popular, easy-to-moderate hillside trail can be completed in around 45 minutes and is easily accessed from Soufriere. The route begins in a working organic farm and ascends to viewpoints offering panoramas of southern Saint Lucia, from the Pitons and Jalousie Bay, to Vieux Fort, and the islands of Martinique and St. Vincent on the horizon.
$10 per person. More info
Buy local spices and superfoods at the market
For a true picture of local life in Saint Lucia, there’s no better place than the bustle of the weekly markets. The biggest selection of produce can be found at the historic Castries’ Central Farmer’s Market – one of the oldest running markets in the Caribbean, it’s still held on its original site and runs every day of the week except Sundays, but its popularity means that it draws in big crowds. Soufriere Farmer’s Market, situated on the waterfront at the Fisheries Complex, takes place every Saturday morning and has a more intimate, local feel.
Respectively known as Fish Friday, Fish Fiesta or the Jump Up, these weekly Friday night street parties, held in a number of locations around Saint Lucia, are a bedrock of Island life, where locals and visitors come together for dancing, ice-cold Piton beers and a fish fry up. If you’re staying in Soufriere, head north to nearby fishing village Anse la Raye (6.30pm-10pm, free entry). In the north, join the crowds at Rodney Bay for the Gros Islet Fish Fry (8pm till late, free entry).
Snorkel below the Pitons at Asne Chastanet
Anse Chastanet beach and reef, located slightly north of Soufriere, is blessed with some of the best snorkelling and diving in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean, with easy access from the shoreline and over 150 species of fish. Expect to see needle, parrot and trumpet varieties of fish, and huge schools of stripey sergeant majors.
Words: Mary-Jane Wiltsher