My family and I lived in Soufriere, St. Lucia for 4 months last year. A friend just emailed and said his parents are on a Caribbean cruise and will be stopping in St. Lucia for a day. What should they do? Here's how I replied...

St. Lucia is not Hawaii. It can be raw and gritty and pretty unforgiving.

A couple of things to NOT do:

  • Don't go shopping -- there's no selection and everything is overpriced.
  • Don't go to the Castries market. The people working the market are very aggressive, and they're mostly selling made-in-China stuff.
I think there are two options for a day in St. Lucia: stay in the Castries area, or go south to Soufriere.

Option 1: Stay in Castries area

I'd hire your own taxi to do this. Taxis are everywhere, and if you go with a group you're herded like cattle and it costs almost as much. Discuss the price up front, and pay in U.S. dollars. You can hire a taxi for the day for about $100 U.S. if you stay in the north part of the island (Castries & Gros Islet).

  • Go to Pigeon Island in Gros Islet. 30 minute drive from where the ships dock. I've never actually been, but most of my friends who visited us when we were in St. Lucia did, and they all said they really enjoyed it.
  • Go to Cas en Bas (a little past Gros Islet). 10 minute drive past Pigeon Island. It's a raw, natural beach on the Atlantic side. Not groomed or maintained and no services, so pee first and bring your own water. Nice place to see the power of the ocean and to pick up some souvenir natural sponges washed up on the beach.
Option 2: Go to Soufriere

Soufriere is where most of the natural beauty is.

You can get there by hiring your own taxi. Expect to pay about $120 U.S. to have your own taxi for the day that drives you there and back. Negotiate up front. The drive is absolutely nauseating. It takes 90 minutes to 2 hours, and we almost always have one of our kids throwing up on the trip. If you're not the kind to get car sick, the drive can be interesting because of how ridiculous the road is. There are also several vantage points to see the coast, the little fishing villages, and the mountains.

You can also get there by boat if you go as part of a tour. The boat ride is faster and much more pleasant, and affords beautiful views of the island from the sea. On the downside, you may not be free to set your own agenda, and you get herded like cattle everywhere you go.

People either love or hate Soufriere town itself. It's very "real". It's dirty, smelly and run-down. But it lets you see what life in the Caribbean is like for the average islander.

Once you're in Soufriere, there are several options I like:

  1. For an expensive lunch or cocktail with incredible views: take a taxi to Ladera Resort. www.ladera.com. About 10 minutes outside Soufriere.
  2. For snorkeling: take a water taxi to Jalousie resort. About $40 US roundtrip, and you get a spectacular view of the Pitons both in the boat and at the resort. Also has an overpriced but excellent restaurant right on the water. www.jalousieplantation.com
  3. Soak in hot muddy water at Sulfur Springs. It's best if you can get there at a time when there aren't another 100 tourists arriving at the exact moment -- try before 10am or after 4pm.
  4. Ask a local taxi driver to take you to Jerusalem Falls. It's a little-known, natural hot springs, about 5 minutes from downtown Soufriere. I like it because you get to hike through the jungle for 5 minutes to get there, and you often have the place to yourself. It costs $2 US and it's a small, family-run place. They keep the pools extremely clean. It sounds funny to go to hot springs when you're in the tropics, but it's actually very enjoyable and soothing.
Taxis in Soufriere cost less than in Castries. Christopher's Taxi is always very fair with prices: 484-1927.