If you thought sunbathing and spa treatments were your only itinerary options on the island of St. Lucia, think again. This Caribbean destination boasts nature trails, rainforest zip-lining, interactive volcano experiences and a developing food scene with serious potential. Headed there soon? Consider including the following activities and venues on your St. Lucia tourism itinerary.
Adventure: Gazing upon the majestic Pitons from the balcony of your hotel room may be a serene experience, but hiking them is no joke. Gros Piton is particularly challenging. Those who feel confident enough to attempt climbing this UNESCO world heritage site may do so, although you will be required to go with a guide. The $30 entry ticket available at the trail head does include the guide cost however, so cost-conscious travelers need not worry about potential price spiraling. If you choose this activity as your day trip of choice, you should begin early in the day and know that the difficulty level will progress from moderate to Mother-of-GOD-what-have-I-done rather quickly. Ample water and adequate footwear are absolute necessities.
Feel the need for speed? Try a jungle biking tour through the forest with Bike St. Lucia. You can pedal to your heartís content past historic sugar mill ruins and impressive plant life. Various trails exist at the venue to allow a customized experience, so those biking with children and teens can rest as necessary while those wanting a more serious trail experience can veer off at their discretion. Rates start at $45, although repeat rides can be had for a reduced cost of $25. Certain surcharges may apply.
Activities: If cruising rustic tourist stalls is your cup of travel tea, then youíll definitely want to make a stop at Castries Market to cruise for travel souvenirs and fun photo opportunities. The market also boasts a large section of local food stalls, allowing the purchase of inexpensive lunch meals and a wide range of produce. Those opting for a vacation rental during their trip to St. Lucia will find it a great resource for stocking the kitchen. A popular attraction is Sulphur Springs Park. It can be reached by vehicle and the bubbling springs are visible from the road, creating what locals refer to as a drive-through volcano. Access to the boardwalk trails and viewing platforms via guided tour is only $8.
While the bubbling mud pools in the main area of the park are much too hot to be safe for dipping, those who prefer a more hands-on experience can drive or walk a short distance down the road to the mud baths. Popular with families in search of the ultimate muddy tourist photo, the experience comes with an affordable $5 price tag. Two savings opportunities exist at this venue. First, if seeing the steaming pools from the road is enough for you, you can skip the tour portion and head straight for the mud baths. Second, if youíre sure you want to incorporate both portions of the park, combo tickets are available for $11 each.
Appetites: Fun food options abound throughout the Caribbean, but on this particular island vegetarians and vegans are actually offered a seat at the table, so to speak. Restaurant menus in St. Lucia typically include more than a basic side salad as their veg-friendly option. This is particularly evident in the dining options available at Anse Chastanet, a seaside resort with what is arguably the best view of the Pitons on the entire island. Although all on-site eateries offer vegetarian selections, Apsara takes the step of including Indian-inspired cuisine as well, so you can put your feet in the sand while enjoying chatpati tofu chat and spicy veggie samosas along with the view. Dinner prices at Apsara are on the higher end of mid-range, with the majority of menu selections costing less than $30. Also on site is Emeraldís, which offers an exclusively vegetarian menu boasting entrees such as sweet potato gnocchi, grilled vegetable moussaka, miso-glazed eggplant and three-bean pepper pots served with coconut rice. Small plate prices start at $12.
For the ultimate dinner splurge, head just a little further up the hill to the Jade Mountain Club. This open-air venue offers a rotating daily menu created by Chef Allen Susser, a James Beard Award winner. Produce selections come from the on-site organic farm and compliment a wide variety of main courses. At a set menu price of $85, this is an affordable way to enjoy a spectacular view in a sexy venue where hotel rooms ring in at an easy couple of grand a pop. While most of the tables are reserved for guests of the Jade Mountain resort, there are typically a few slots open for same-day reservations by outside visitors, according to restaurant staff.
Accommodations: Windjammer Landing is an all-inclusive family resort with an extensive private beach, numerous on-location eateries and free use of a long list of activity equipment. Complimentary-to-use items include kayaks, pedal boats, flotation devices, tennis courts with rackets and more. The daily per-person resort fee of $150 also covers meals, cocktails and a number of cost-free scheduled events such as water skiing, Caribbean dance classes, tube rides, water aerobics, stretching classes, a sunset champagne walk for couples and more. Resort fees for teens and children are less, ringing in at $75 and $40 respectively.
Even excursions that are available for an extra charge are relatively inexpensive. For example, if you want to journey further away from shore than the free snorkeling sessions allow, thereís a daily boat trip to an alternative location. At a cost of just $5 per person, itís definitely an affordable upgrade. This venue also offers vegetarian menu selections at the majority of its restaurants. A favorite of mine is the curried vegetable roti served at Jammerís, which pairs nicely with a frosty local beer.
Photo Credit: MyschaTheriault.com
Myscha Theriault is a syndicated columnist with Tribune News Service. Her work has been featured in the Boston Herald, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Dallas Morning News and many more publications around the world.