It takes about an hour and a half to travel from one end of tropical St Lucia to the other – maybe one hour with light traffic.
But don’t be fooled by the limited real estate. A trip to this idyllic Caribbean island will keep you busy with activities from dawn till dusk, whether your taste runs to cacao estate tours or jungle hikes.
Beyond the bone-white sands and turquoise waters, St Lucia offers an abundance of nature trails, family-friendly experiences and mouthwatering cuisine, plus overall good vibes. To help you plan your itinerary, here’s our guide to the best things to do in St Lucia.
1. Go hiking on St Lucia’s pitons
As you might expect from an island with such mountainous terrain, St Lucia is a hikers’ paradise. Most walkers start the adventure on the twin volcanic plugs known as the Pitons. Gros Piton is the larger of the two, and the ascent gets progressively more taxing as you get closer to the summit. Though the climb is shorter, the trek up Petit Piton is unforgiving from the get-go.
The payoff is a panoramic, unobstructed view of the island that will leave you breathless. Wildlife enthusiasts should tackle the Piton Flore Trail that loops through lush rainforest to the top of Piton Flore near Castries; endemic St Lucia parrots are often spotted along the trail.
Planning tip: If you’re just after a leisurely stroll against a brilliant backdrop, the Tet Paul Nature Trail climbs through an organic farm to a lofty lookout near Soufrière. The route is achievable for hikers of all ages and fitness levels, but an early morning start is best for keeping cool and avoiding the midday sun.
2. Take a cruise to admire the St Lucia sunset
There are few more romantic experiences than watching the Caribbean sun dip below the horizon and feeling its orange glow kiss your skin while you sip on a cold drink and nibble on hors d’oeuvres. A sunset cruise will be a highlight of any trip to the island described as the “Helen of the West Indies.” Most cruises offer two relaxed hours at sea, with the perfect trifecta of good drinks, good food and Caribbean music.
Planning tip: For a novel twist on the typical St Lucia sunset cruise, Mystic Man offers a sunset cruise that sails along the inner bay of the Pitons, serving up dramatic coastal views. Increase the intimacy factor with a private cruise or rent a catamaran for an evening sail with just your nearest and dearest. You might even catch that elusive phenomenon known as the green flash, an optical illusion caused by the refraction of the sun’s light.
3. Indulge in St Lucia chocolate
St Lucia’s long history of cacao production can be traced back to the 1700s when plantations were established to supply beans to Europe to be transformed into premium chocolate. Today, the industry is thriving once again with the growth of premium chocolate brands, and the entire month of August is dedicated to events celebrating the confection.
The Rabot Hotel is the centerpiece of a 250-year-old cocoa farm, the oldest on the island, and it supplies beans to the Hotel Chocolat brand. Beyond the cocoa-inspired decor, the property’s meals are also chocolate-infused. Standouts at lunchtime include cacao nib-marinated chicken rotis and watermelon salad; for dinner, the beef tenderloin is paired with seasonal vegetables, cacao nibs and garden mint.
For a sweet addition to an intimate getaway, try a revitalizing “Chocolate Delight” spa treatment at the innovative Jade Mountain resort, or a sensuous “Sweet Surrender Chocolate Wrap” at Kai Koko Spa inside the tranquil Ti Kaye Resort.
For a more immersive experience, take a heritage tour with Fond Doux Eco Resort for a deep dive into all things cacao, including the cocoa-rina dance traditionally used to polish the beans. Cacao Sainte Lucie, in the village of Belvedere near Canaries, takes visitors through the slow roasting and stone grinding process that forms the foundation of its handcrafted small-batch chocolate. You can even try your hand at making a bar.
4. Enjoy natural spa treatments at St Lucia’s Sulphur Springs
One oft-quoted piece of St Lucian trivia is the fact that the island boasts the world’s only drive-in volcano. It’s not quite a Bond villain’s lair, but arriving at this steaming natural volcanic spa is certainly an experience, with four pools fed by volcano-heated water where you can soak.
The dormant volcano that produces all this geothermal heat last erupted in the 1700s, but its mud baths, hot springs and waterfalls continue to draw a global crowd. The mud baths are believed to contain detoxifying properties that soothe sunburn, joint soreness, arthritis and skin conditions like eczema.
Planning tip: Try to nab a spot in the first mud bath – the water flows from one to the next and gets a bit mucky by the fourth bath.
5. Get wet at Splash Island Water Park
Splash Island is the Caribbean’s first floating water park, and it’s a firm favorite with families in St Lucia. The inflatable water park sits just off of Reduit Beach on the island’s northwest coast, and it features a kid- and adult-friendly obstacle course with hurdles, monkey bars, a slide, swing and climbing wall, a trampoline, water volleyball and more. Lifeguards are stationed close by to ensure a safe aquatic adventure.
Planning tip: After working up an appetite, visitors can tuck into a meal from one of the small, cozy restaurants lining the nearby Rodney Bay strip.
6. Get above the rainforest on the aerial tram
A dense stretch of emerald rainforest covers the interior of the island, providing shelter for the national bird, the St Lucia parrot (Amazona versicolor), found only on this tiny Caribbean island. In local parlance, it’s called the Jacquot, and you may be lucky enough to spot one from the aerial tram that crosses the jungle at Rainforest Adventures, inland from Castries.
The open, cage-like gondolas soar 37m (120ft) above the rainforest canopy, providing an incomparable overhead view of the lush flora and fauna. Each gondola holds eight people, and a nature interpreter accompanies each group to point out noteworthy plants and wildlife along the way. At ground level, you can search for flourishing animal life, waterfalls and tree orchids on the fern nature trail.
7. Join the fun at the Gros Islet Friday Night Street Party
St Lucia’s most famous party is not its annual carnival but the Gros Islet Friday Night Street Party, which has been a staple on the island’s nightlife scene for more than 50 years.
Held in St Lucia’s northernmost town, the weekly jump-up and jam session starts as soon as the sun sets. Residents pile up their coolers with ice, local fruit juice and Piton beers, and it’s not long before the telltale scent of barbecues and garlicky fish and chicken starts wafting through the air.
Add in a few hundred revelers and DJs spinning records ranging from groovy soca to the “riddim-driven” sounds of Caribbean dancehall, and you have a shindig lasting well into the wee hours on Saturday morning. If you want to party like a true Lucian, there’s no better place to strut your stuff.
8. Shop for crafts and tropical fruit at the Castries Market
Since 1894, the Castries Market on Jeremie Street in Castries has been the island’s main hub for the sale of fresh fish and meat, produce, herbs and spices. It’s a great place to browse for fresh, sun-sweetened fruit and vegetables, displayed in neat piles.
Nearby, the covered section of the market features rows of colorful stalls selling handcrafted trinkets, decorated calabashes, woven baskets, straw hats, art, spicy island condiments and locally produced beachwear. It’s also a fine spot to sample authentic St Lucian treats such as bakes (fried dough), cocoa tea and cow heel soup.
Planning tip: The market operates daily, but Saturday is the busiest day of the week – locals gather before 7am to have the pick of the fresh produce.
9. Watch a cricket match at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground
One of the holdovers from St Lucia’s time under British colonial rule is the national obsession with cricket. This British pastime is tied with football (soccer for you Americans) as the most popular sport on the island. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, ask a local to talk you through the rules.
St Lucians, like most West Indians, are passionate about cricket, so don’t be surprised if you see locals walking along holding small transistor radios to their ears to follow matches. The best place to see a match is the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground at Gros Islet, named after the first St Lucian to be called up to the West Indies Cricket Team.
Planning tip: For the ultimate Caribbean cricket-watching experience, grab a seat in the party stands, where the drinks are always free-flowing and the celebrations spirited and uninhibited.
10. Take a rum tour to sample St Lucia’s spirit
Rum is the rockstar ingredient in some of St Lucia’s best-loved culinary traditions, from the island’s famous rum punch to the local fruitcake. Locally produced Bounty Rum has even been described as the spirit of St Lucia in every way!
Planning tip: Bounty Rum is manufactured and bottled by St Lucia Distillers, which also produces the award-winning premium rum, Chairman’s Reserve. You can follow its production process on a Rhythm of Rum tour, which also includes tastings of its extensive collection of rums and rum-based liqueurs.
11. Eat like a local in St Lucia
St Lucia’s cuisine is a mélange of Amerindian, British, French, African and Creole influences, boiling down to a dizzying array of flavorful local fare. Starchy sides such as yam, sweet potato and dasheen (a kind of taro) are typically accompanied by stewed meats or fish broth and vegetables. Legumes are a popular accompaniment, particularly lentils or red (kidney) beans.
A traditional breakfast starts with cocoa tea made from cacao sticks and aromatic spices, with fried dough “bakes,” stewed saltfish and cucumber salad.
Planning tip: You can sample any of these dishes and many more at local restaurants around the island. During Jounen Kwéyòl – a festival dedicated to Creole culture held annually in October – you can find many authentic local meals served in towns and villages, including the national dish: saltfish and green fig (unripened banana). Also, look out for bouyon (meat stew) and breadfruit with smoked herring.