If France, Britain and West Africa somehow collided on a Caribbean island, it would feel a lot like St. Lucia. Here, towering mountains and fern-frilled jungles meet a cosmopolitan food-and-beverage scene in Castries, the capital. Here are the best things to do in St. Lucia over a long weekend getaway.
The Sweet South: Check in to Boucan by Hotel Chocolat, a lush property on the southeast shore, with 14 individual villas that all sport sweeping views of Petit Piton, one of the island’s two iconic pyramid-shaped mountains. The hotel is owned by the British chocolatier, so it makes sense that the spa offers a cocoa-infused massage treatment, and a tree-to-bar chocolate-making class is on the agenda. The theme continues at the hotel’s restaurant, which serves cacao-spiked delights — cacao gazpacho, chili-cacao hummus and a cacao-pod burger.
Hot, Hot, Hot: Saint Lucia boasts its own version of a drive-in — a drive-in volcano. The only attraction of its kind on the planet, the Sulphur Springs volcano features a tour on foot through the steamy caldera. Park your car on the edge of the crater and walk in — that sulfur smell is just part of the experience — while learning the geological history from a guide.
Daily Bread: Meander north, where the road winds its way through a verdant landscape crammed with ferns and lansan trees. There you’ll find Plas Kassav, just north of the hamlet of Anse-la-Verdure, where owner Marina Roberts has been selling her homemade cassava bread, made from yucca, since 1992. The bread — crispy on the outside and pleasantly gooey on the inside — comes in flavors like banana, mango, peach, cherry, raisin and, of course, chocolate.
Make a Pit Stop: To get a sense of authentic island life, stop by Canaries, a fishing village on the west coast that was accessible only by boat until the 1960s. Have lunch at one of the handful of restaurants, chat with friendly locals, and stroll by the water to see colorful fishing boats called pirogues.
Raise a Glass: About 10 miles up the coast, pause near Roseau to lift your spirits: St. Lucia Distillers has produced fine rums since 1931. They’re so proud of their heritage, in fact, that they’ve named their main brand “1931” to commemorate the origination. Learn how the liquor is made, and sample a selection of rums, including the ultra-smooth Chairman’s Reserve, which matures in American oak whiskey casks for seven to 12 years.
Shopper’s Delight: In the laid-back capital of Castries, wander the late-19th-century open-air Castries Market. More than 300 vendors hawk sundries from wood carvings to spices to crispy roti stuffed with chicken curry.
See a Shrine: Continue a few blocks to Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The interior of this Catholic basilica, the largest in the Caribbean, is a riot of colors punctuated by steel arches — a stunning combination of traditional architecture and island flair.
Hike to Heaven: Pigeon Island doesn’t look like much — the 44-acre swath of craggy land was joined with the mainland in 1972 — but with its blend of history and nature, the reserve is a good way to sneak in some exercise while traveling. Climb the two peaks, one higher and more treacherous than the other, to get a bird’s-eye view of the sea and the rest of the island. History buffs will enjoy the remnants of embattlements from colonial days when British and French forces fought over the territory in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Fish Fry-Day: Trust us: Be sure you’re on Saint Lucia on a Friday. You won’t want to miss the best party on the island — the Jump Up, also known as the Friday night fish fry, in the seaside village of Gros Islet. It’s a street soiree for the senses: Starting around 8, follow the soca music or the smell of street-food fare, freshly grilled and fried. Buy a bottle of the local brew, Piton, and some fish, then stroll the streets (they’re roped off for pedestrians only), mingling with locals along the way.
What to Bring Back from St. Lucia
Here are three made-in-St.-Lucia mementos to bring home from your trip.
Find these bottles on almost every table. The West Indian Hot Sauce (left) is packed with heat from Scotch bonnet peppers, and the Green Seasoning (right) pumps up the flavor without the fire factor.
Nick Troubetzkoy’s Emerald Estate Chocolate
James Beard award-winning chef Allen Susser created the signature taste of these organic, handmade bars, in flavors like cinnamon, cashew and chipotle.
Lucian women deck themselves in colorful fabrics named for their origins on the Indian subcontinent, like Scots wearing plaids on special occasions. Learn to tie the headpiece when you go to pick a pattern.