St. Lucia Offers Incomparable Caribbean Beauty
Posted February 18, 2008 2:54 p.m. EST
It’s impossible not to be awed by St. Lucia’s beauty. Bathed in the brilliance of the intense Caribbean sun, the island’s vibrant colors explode in a dazzling array of blues, greens, yellows and reds. Here, nature’s artistry is the envy of any mere mortal.
Though volcanic in origin, the only visible evidence of its chaotic birth is the occasional black sand beach, the steaming sulfur springs of the walk-in volcano and the signature twin green peaks of the Pitons, all located on the southern end of the island near Soufriere.
The Pitons – Gros Piton at 2,619 feet and Petit Piton at 2,461 feet – are regal and possess a charming, rugged splendor. Some of the most astonishing views of the spires are from the Ladera Resort inside Soufriere Bay and almost 1,000 feet up the verdant hillside, and from the Anse Chastanet, a boutique resort a stone’s throw up the coast offering a seaside vista.
Ladera and Anse Chastanet, like most of the tourism properties located on St. Lucia, blend in with the landscape, ever mindful not to intrude on the tranquil surroundings. They also are designed to take full advantage of the dense vegetation that layers the 238-square-mile windward island. The undulating hills, pristine beaches and azure sea draw a significant number of visitors each year, many of them newlyweds searching for that idyllic setting where they relish a romantic interlude before returning to the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
Honeymooners indulge themselves in places like Sandals, Rendezvous, Beaches, Jalousie Hilton and, of course, Ladera and Anse Chastanet, among others. Beaches are alluring, and many border small bays that tempt swimmers and divers to explore colorful reefs hidden beneath gentle waves. A strenuous environmental policy protects the reefs and fish.
Inland, there are waterfalls, botanical gardens that showcase the abundant flora and fauna, and old plantations that offer a glimpse of the rich history of this island still called “The Helen of the West Indies” because of its matchless beauty.
You can travel the coastline on the Caribbean side along a well-defined and well-maintained road, even by U.S. standards. It is a breathtaking, sometimes harrowing, ride and affords heavenly views of the splendid coastline. From Soufriere Bay in the south to Rodney Bay in the north, you’ll be tempted to stop at every bay or village.
Certainly meriting a visit are Marigot Bay, virtually midway between Soufriere and Rodney Bay, and Castries, the popular capital city named after a famous pirate. Marigot Bay is so pretty and so captivating it has been the setting for several films, including the original “Dr. Dolittle,” starring Rex Harrison.
To get from one side of the bay to the other, you have the option of taking the ferry, though that’s a generous description of the African Queen-like vessel that can transport about six small to medium-sized individuals across the 200-yard expanse of bay.
There is still not much at Marigot, save The Moorings yacht basin, a couple of quaint little pubs and two well-established hotels. There is a plan afoot to build a residential resort called Discovery, and designers are working to create another secluded hideaway.
Castries, the capital city, is one of the most modern capitals in the Caribbean and a frequent port of call for many cruise lines, which moor at the Port Seraphin dock. Between 1796 and 1948, the city was ravaged by a series of fires that destroyed much of the early architecture, though many historic French houses can still be found, identifiable through their white latticework and ornate balconies.
The French maintained a presence on the island from 1650 on, but between 1660 and 1814, the island changed hands 14 times, with the British finally assuming control. The other remnant of French occupation is the Creole dialect, a mixture of French, a tiny smattering of English and Amerindian.
Heritage is celebrated every October when Creole Day is held in various communities. As always, food is at the heart of the festival and features souse, bouillon (a combination of salted beef, onions, beans, potatoes and dumplings), acras or fishcakes, roasted breadfruit, and the national dish, greenfig and saltfish, most of it cooked the old way – in a coal pot.
Castries is noted for shopping, anchored by La Place Carenage Shopping Plaza. But for real St. Lucia atmosphere, visit the local market and marvel at the assortment of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, herbal medicines, plants, flowers and fish caught in local waters. When a cruise ship is in port, the wharf area is buzzing with activity, and the ships are usually in town long enough to take advantage of day trips.
One of those trips should be to Rodney Bay, just a few miles north of Castries, where you’ll find many trans-Atlantic yachts anchored, but also historic Pigeon Island, connected to St. Lucia by a causeway.
At Pigeon Island, you’ll find stone and brick ruins of Admiral Rodney’s naval station, as well as a striking park full of tropical trees and flowers. Explore the ruins, sunbathe on two bone-white beaches or share an intimate moment in the Captain’s Cellar Olde English Pub.
If you’re feeling adventurous, book passage on the Brig Unicorn, a tall ship based in Rodney Bay that served as the pirate ship in the popular Disney movie “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
The Unicorn, capitalizing on its newly found fame, offers an all-day buccaneer adventure cruise that includes a hunt for treasure, a raid on the Botanical Gardens and live cannon fire. But best of all, you’ll sail the entire length of the west coast of St. Lucia and be convinced that Helen of Troy didn’t age this well.