Caribbean

St. Lucia Beyond the Pitons

written by | Posted on March 1st, 2011

You’ve heard about its majestic Pitons and the world’s only drive-in volcano – and yes, there certainly are impressive attractions. But visitors returning to St. Lucia will be even more impressed with the island – and your travel planning skills – if they experience the “off the beaten path” wonders that many tourists miss.

The Saint Lucia Tourist Board’s Ian Herman, marketing manager for niche markets, maps out his home’s most exciting (and least visited) events, activities and attractions.

go local To get the true St. Lucian experience, Herman says, go where the locals are. Exploring outside of the tourist hub of Soufriere will bring clients to “villages like Laborie, which are unique attractions,” he explains. “You can see traditional crafts being made—see the weaving of the baskets, and other craft items.” Because of Laborie’s location in the south, he continues, Soufriere resorts like Anse Chastanet are your best bet for arranging tours, meeting the artisans and even, in some cases, learning their skills. “That,” he says, “is uniquely St. Lucian.”

In fact, Anse Chastanet is a great hub for island explorers of any kind, with excursions ranging from whale watching and deep-sea fishing to day trips to the Grenadine islands by plane. Guests here can also tour the ruins of a plantation within the resort grounds, or go ziplining through the treetops. And foodies can see exactly where their meals come from during visits to the resort’s organic farm in the Soufriere hills.

Anse Chastanet’s Amazing Adventure package includes meals, airport transfers, accommodations and a variety of activities including scuba diving, jungle biking, boat snorkeling trips, guided walks and hikes throughout the resort’s estate, and a hike in the rainforest. The 7-night package starts at $6,149 per room dbl.

Nearby Ladera offers guests a spectacular view in addition to convenient access to undiscovered treasures. Set high in the mountains, its rooms are built in 3-wall style, with an open “fourth wall” looking out between the peaks of the Pitons—truly one of the most spectacular vistas on the island. From here, clients can take a tour of a local Saturday morning market; stroll through a botanical garden with the resort’s expert gardener; and even learn a new recipe alongside the resort’s culinary team. (Ladera’s Dasheene restaurant is itself an unmissable off-the-beaten-path attraction, serving up succulent Caribbean specialties on a balcony offering the same stunning view as its rooms.)

The resort is offering a 3-night A Great Escape package that includes a tour of the sulphur springs, the volcano, botanical gardens and Toraille waterfall, among other amenities. Rates from April 10 to June 30, start at $2,695 sgl/dbl for a Petit Piton Suite with Plunge Pool.

And yes, viewing the Pitons in the south are a must, but, Herman points out, the north has its own treasures. At Grande Anse Beach, Herman describes, “there is a tremendous opportunity for turtle watching. During the months of July to November, greenback turtles are coming up at night.… They come ashore to lay their eggs.” Visitors can witness the phenomenon on tours through St. Lucia Heritage Tours, which organizes small group overnight camping on the undeveloped beach near the village of Desbarras. It’s a rustic, unforgettable experience, Herman says, made even more convenient with a stay in the northern tourist town of Rodney Bay Village. Set in the heart of the village, the Coco Palm offers clients even more island experiences with its Explore St. Lucia package, including four nights in a garden-view room; breakfast for two; dinner and wine for two; a trip to the nearby Anse La Raye Fish Fry; a tour of Soufriere via catamaran, including the drive-in volcano and botanical gardens; a snorkeling day trip; and a rum factory tour. Rates start at $3,035 per room dbl. Regular room rates start at $125 per room per night.

And that’s just one way to experience the island’s hidden natural attractions, Herman continues. Though the Pitons have made hiking one of St. Lucia’s most popular sports, it’s but one of a handful of ways to immerse yourself in nature here. “There are also the ATV trails, which take you along some of the more secluded beaches in the south,” Herman describes, noting that horseback riding tours through the trails are also popular. “Either way, you’re hardly likely to see more than three or four persons on any of the beaches they take you to,” he explains.