Think soft white sand, clear blue waters, palm trees, friendly people, cool vibes, bananas, coconuts, mangos, cocktails, street parties, lush rainforest, active volcanos, sunsets, waterfalls, even more coconuts….
And you have Saint Lucia.
A small island of 179,093 friendly happy people situated in the Eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary of the Atlantic Ocean. Saint Lucia’s neighbours include St Vincent and Barbados to the South and Martinique to the north.
Having spent the past month exploring Saint Lucia, with our children at school here, we are struggling to prepare ourselves to leave next week and feel as though there is still so much to see and do in this amazing little island nation. We are travelling with our three young daughters and on a fairly tight budget. Saint Lucia appealed to us for it’s friendly people, relaxed way of life, good vibes, great weather, stunning beaches and fresh food.
You can be in foodie heaven here. A lot of what is on the shelves in the supermarket is imported, you can get anything from Greek Feta, Marmite, Milo powder and Cadbury chocolate to many of the big brand American foods but it all comes at a cost. We soon learnt to buy and cook local. A staple in our home now is the national dish of salt fish and green figs (green bananas) and plantain. Coconuts are plentiful, an obligatory stop on our morning school run is for a bottle of fresh coconut water from the guys on the side of the road, at only $5 ECD you can’t go wrong.
It’s much cheaper and far more interesting to buy fresh food at the local markets, produce from the roadside stands and fish at the port rather than spend a fortune in the supermarket. The local vendors are super friendly and will give you all the tips you need to prepare and cook a great meal.
If you need to dine out, you can eat really well on a budget, but you’ve got to know where to look for it. Again go local. There are a few ‘tourist traps’, especially along the main beach, we fell victim to these a couple of times when we first arrived. But if you go beyond the waterfront there are loads of great food trucks and small restaurants cooking up a gourmet storm.
To work off all the amazing food you’ve consumed head into the lush rainforest in the centre of the island where hikes are plentiful and fascinating, keep your eyes out and your mind open to the people you meet along the way. We are yet to venture up the world famous Pitons, apparently it’s a challenging climb and children won’t be allowed access, but we hear the view from the top is amazing.
Pigeon Island is a nice easy hike with children, just along from Gros Islet, in Rodney Bay it’s a national reserve with beautiful beaches and interesting historical sights -also with one of my favourite local restaurants, serving fantastic Saint Lucian cuisine and a banana crumble (with coconut ice cream) you won’t want to share.
Another fantastic trip we did with the children was to the world’s only drive in volcano at Sulphur Springs, just South of Soufriere. Drive right up to the bubbling mud and take a guided tour around the collapsed crater. After the tour go to the thermal pools where water running off from the rainforest meets the volcano. Our girls had a wonderful time smothering themselves in the thermal mud, so good for your skin it’s said to make you look ten years younger – family spa day!
A trip to Saint Lucia is not complete without at least one night at the Gros Islet ‘Jump-Up’ street party. Every Friday locals and visitors alike join to dance the night away in the streets of Gros Islet village. With live DJ’s and a sound system to put many night clubs to shame, you can’t help but jump along with the beat. Again the food available is fresh, plentiful and decent value. Join the queue for fresh lobster, BBQ’ed cod or red snapper at Dukes, wash it down with the ever present Piton beer and if it’s your thing call into sample some local ganga sold over the counter at the Irie Bar around the corner.
There are loads of activities to keep you busy in Saint Lucia and of course some come at a cost; scuba diving, sailing trips, zip-lining over the rainforest or touring the historic plantation houses, but there are loads of free things to see and do too. As we are on a tight budget we have had to limit the costly activities, but one thing our girls were really keen to do was a family horse ride. There are several riding options on the island but we decided to travel South to Vieux Fort to ride with Atlantic Shores Riding Stables. A private 2 hour ride will set you back about $70 USD per adult & $55 USD per child, but it’s so worth it. Taking our ponies onto the beach and into the surf for a swim, was a truly memorable day out for us all.
Of course what most people think of when they think of an island holiday in the Caribbean is the pristine beaches, if that’s what you travel for, Saint Lucia won’t disappoint. The sand is white and the water is clear and so warm. You are spoilt for choice here as every beach on the island is open to the public, even those of the five star resorts. We have spent several days and early evenings lounging on the plush loungers of the bourgeois for a fraction of the price. We often head down to our local, Windjammer Landing Resort for their evening happy hour -you’ll soon discover the Saint Lucians love a good happy hour. The staff at Windjammers are so kind and accommodating and don’t seem to mind our three tearaways running from the beach and bombing into their pool while we sip discounted Pitons, snack on the complementary hors d’oeuvres and admire the stunning sunset.
The Saint Lucian sunset could be another blog post in it’s own right, it’s simply stunning.
By boat or fly into:
Hewanorra in the South
George FL in the North
Currency: 2.70 Eastern Caribbean dollars = $1USD
Language: Officially English, most people also speak Saint Lucian Creole French (Patois)
Drive on the left & look out for pot holes & wandering livestock.