Tucked between Barbados and Martinique, Saint Lucia might not be the first Caribbean island you think of for a family holiday. But when you find out this little dot of lush greenery is the only place in the world with a ‘drive-in’ volcano and its chocolate is the stuff of legend, you might want to think again.
Saint Lucia packs a lot into a very small space and does everything with enough enthusiasm to fill a country three times its size. The island loves to celebrate and any occasion from Mardi Gras to Christmas is an excuse for music, dancing, cooking and all-welcome partying. Saint Lucians are warm and welcoming, delighted to have children making full use of their wild and beautiful home for everything from sailing and diving to rainforest zip-lining and whale watching.
Direct flights from London to Saint Lucia all year round with flying time of just under nine hours.
Tropical island, close to the equator with average temperatures of 29˚C. Wettest between June and November but mainly in the mountain rainforests.
One of the greenest and most mountainous Caribbean islands, Saint Lucia’s ringed by white sand beaches which are all public.
Saint Lucia’s definitive landmarks, Gros Piton and Petit Piton, have UNESCO World Heritage status.
The country’s culture and customs are a mix of Caribbean, African, French and British. English and French Creole are the main languages.
The Festival of Light and Renewal on December 13th each year is lovely and marks the start of Saint Lucia’s colourful Christmas celebrations.
Sulphur Springs on the island’s south west is a natural wonder and the only volcano on earth you can drive through.
Natural beauty and glorious weather are irresistible here but, miraculously, Saint Lucia’s very unspoiled. Rodney Bay Village is the only holiday town, and most of the island hotels are beach front and quietly luxurious or exquisite villas tucked into dense tropical gardens. Several lovely areas have family resorts with imaginative seaside clubs to keep younger kids happy and outstanding water sports, activities and wild outdoor adventure for teenagers.
The island capital is about as close to a heaving metropolis as it gets on Saint Lucia. The majority of islanders live and work in the city and it’s also the main cruise port, shopping centre and home to the all-important post office: Saint Lucia doesn’t really go in for street addresses so most people pick up the mail at their PO Box in Castries.
Home to most of the island’s family resort hotels, good restaurants and a very pretty marina, which prides itself on tales of past piracy, Rodney Bay Village is the holiday heart of Saint Lucia.
Flawless and particularly peaceful sands on the island’s north east coast are a favoured nesting site for Leatherback Turtles from early spring to late summer. You can arrange to camp overnight on the beach between March and August and, possibly, witness the miracle under the watchful gaze of friendly, local turtle experts.
No landmarks identify Saint Lucia more clearly than the twin pitons, Gros and Petit. Sitting the island’s south west at Soufrière, they can be admired all along the coast. Or you and the kids can strap on your boots and climb the larger of the two cones. Gros Piton trail takes about 4 hours and the view from the top is worth every minute.
Pigeon Island is small by comparison to most national parks and loved immediately by anyone who sets foot here. It’s utterly tranquil, green and enchanting making it hard to believe it was once military stronghold when the French and English were tussling over ownership of Saint Lucia in the 18th century. Visit the little museum and have a look at the forts and bunkers if you need proof. Alternatively you could just bring a picnic and admire the ocean or come along in May when Pigeon hosts the annual Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival.
The south coast town of Soufrière is where you’ll find the start of the Gros Piton trail. It’s sleepy and quaint, completely dwarfed by extravagant natural grandeur but interesting to explore for the 18th century French plantations and associations with Joséphine de Beauharnais, future first Empress of France, who lived here as a child.
Small island and filled with things to see and do, so hiring a car is a good idea – at least for some of your holiday. Bus services around the island and in Castries are excellent and taxis are best in the evening. Water taxis run right round the coast and to most resorts from Castries Harbour.