Why I’m Glad I Gave Saint Lucia a Second Chance
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To be completely honest, I swore I would never visit Saint Lucia again.
My first visit (roughly 10 years ago) wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring. It was a 7-day Caribbean cruise with my girlfriends, visiting half a dozen islands.
Our afternoon in Castries, Saint Lucia was marred by the aggressive vendors at the souvenir stands lining the path back to the ship. Despite our polite “no, thank you’s” as we passed by, more than one yelled insults after us because we wouldn’t stop to look.
It was such a different experience from the lovely vendors on the other islands we visited. And sadly, that lasting impression of Saint Lucia stuck with me for more than a decade.
The Route to Saint Vincent
My return visit to Saint Lucia is more of a travel convenience than an actual desire to return.
In order to get to St. Vincent for our upcoming sailing course, we have to fly through either Barbados or Saint Lucia. Since my airline of choice (Delta) doesn’t fly to Barbados from Atlanta and they do fly to St. Lucia, it’s an easy choice.
And truly, it’s probably time to give Saint Lucia another shot. Perhaps it’s not fair to judge an entire country on a few rude vendors.
And to be fair, on that trip I didn’t have the chance to see the best of the Saint Lucia’s natural wonders. Our limited time on the island meant we never made it south of Marigot Bay. And most of the island’s main attractions are much farther south from there.
So, Dave and I decide to spend three nights on Saint Lucia on the way to St. Vincent and give this popular Caribbean island another chance.
Saint Lucia’s Hotel Options
Once we decide to stay, it’s time to find a hotel.
The Saint Lucia hotel choices are completely overwhelming. I quickly realize that the options are limited to:
- Uber-luxe resorts like Sugar Beach, Jade Mountain, Sandals Halcyon and Ladera Resort
- Mid-range hotels
- Budget hotels
Since the fancy hotels on Saint Lucia can cost more than $1,000 a night (not in our budget) and the mid-range and budget hotels are somewhat uninspiring, we need another option.
A great Airbnb find in Saint Lucia
We’ve rented apartments through Airbnb all over the world (including our wedding villa in Tuscany), why not Saint Lucia?
After a quick search, I’m feeling much more optimistic about our options. There are so many terrific choices!
Ultimately, we settle on the Sapphire Apartments in Soufriere. There are 4 in the same building (Sapphire 1-4) and they all look like they have great views and are brand new. We select Sapphire 1 for our 3-night stay and it turns out to be fabulous.
If you haven’t booked with Airbnb before, click here for my discount code: (You’ll get $40 off your first booking, and when you book I’ll get a $20 credit toward my next Airbnb stay, that’s a win-win!)
Driving in Saint Lucia
Since we are arriving at the international airport on the south end of the island and departing from the domestic airport in Castries for our flights to St. Vincent, we decide that we need a car for our stay on the island.
I’d read that for many of the roads in Saint Lucia (including the one up to our apartment), an SUV or 4WD is needed, so that’s what we rent.
After a 4-hour flight from Atlanta, we land in Saint Lucia and pick up our car (a small SUV) for the hour-long drive to our apartment in Soufriere.
Dave pays $22 USD for a local driver’s license which is easily obtained at the rental car counter. In Saint Lucia, they drive on the left (not my husband’s favorite – see Ireland trip last summer). But luckily, we find the main road that rings the island to be very good.
The road up to our apartment, however, is a different story. Unpaved and full of potholes, there are several times we question whether we are actually supposed to be driving on this road.
Can this really be the right way to the apartment?
Luckily, once we find the apartment, the road is immediately forgotten. The apartment is spacious and has everything we need. Including a spectacular view over Soufriere and the Petit Piton.
It’s our own private sanctuary for the next few days.
Dinner in Soufriere
It’s nearly time for dinner by the time we arrive so after settling in, the first order of business is sunset (naturally) and finding dinner.
Thanks to a recommendation from our Airbnb host, we stopped at a large supermarket near the airport for kitchen provisions. But for dinner each night we plan to eat out.
After navigating the road up, Dave is not eager to go back down to town. So we settle on Ruby’s Pizzeria, which comes highly recommended in the apartment’s guest book and is just a short distance down the hill.
Unfortunately, they are out of pizza (???) when we arrive, but we find other good options on the menu and it ends up being a great meal.
The Beaches of Saint Lucia
For day two on the island, we’re ready to check out some of Saint Lucia’s beaches.
Again, we refer to our apartment’s helpful guest book for a few recommendations from previous guests.
We decide on the two-for-one combo of Anse Chastanet and Anse Mamin. The two beaches are connected by a short walking trail.
The mile-long road to the beaches is pretty rough (very similar to the rocky, pothole-riddled road up to the apartment). However, the views over the pitons and the town of Soufriere are simply spectacular along the drive.
Anse Chastanet Beach
Anse Chastanet Beach belongs mostly to the luxurious Anse Chastanet Beach Resort. But since all beaches in Saint Lucia are public, there are signs indicating which part of the beach is available for anyone to enjoy.
It’s a lovely beach. But our guest book indicated that most everyone preferred smaller, quieter Anse Mamin, the beach used by guests of the exclusive Jade Mountain Resort.
So, we seek out the small trail along the water that leads around the corner to Anse Mamin.
Anse Mamin Beach
Like Anse Chastanet, there are a few palapas reserved for resort guests and signs indicating the public portion of the beach.
Luckily, we’ve arrived late enough in the afternoon that a few of the palapas with comfy lounge chairs have already been vacated for the day by Jade Mountain guests.
We’re able to rent 2 chairs under a palapa for $30 total and order a couple of fruity drinks from the bar. Again, we pay “resort” prices for those but a few hours spent feeling like guests of a fancy resort (without the $1,000/night price tag) is well worth it!
We pass a few hours reading and luxuriating in the soothing tropical breezes and the sound of the waves. Then we pack up and head back to the car before sunset (Dave is not keen on navigating the narrow road back after dark).
That night we attempt to walk the waterfront in downtown Soufriere to watch the sunset. But we don’t get 10 steps without someone trying to sell us a tour for the next day. (My advice: book your tours before you arrive in Saint Lucia so you have a better chance to avoid this).
Frustrated, we give up on the walk and settle on the waterfront Petit Peak restaurant for dinner.
Like last night’s restaurant, they are also out of half of the items listed on their menu (a theme with Saint Lucia restaurants, apparently). But we each select a delicious pasta dish and the accompanying beautiful sunset views make it a great night overall.
Sulphur Springs Park
We spend most of day three savoring the view from the apartment and studying for our upcoming 6-day sailing course (more on that in the next post but, trust me, a LOT of studying is involved).
But we know we have to get out and see something else of Saint Lucia while we’re here. So, by mid-afternoon we pack up the books and head over to the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano.
We arrive about two hours before closing and are pleased to see most of the vans full of cruise ship passengers departing as we pull in.
You have the option to drive through the volcano with a guide, relax in the rejuvenating mud baths or purchase a combo ticket for both.
A St Lucia mud bath
Since time is short, we opt for the mud bath only ($5.50 USD per person). We purchase our tickets and are directed down a flight of stairs to a muddy geothermal pool in the middle of a rocky stream.
The guide explains that we should rinse off in the pool first and then begin to dip our hands in the buckets of volcanic mud (brought down from the volcano each morning) and paint it all over our bodies.
Next, we let the mud dry completely before re-entering the warm pool to relax and rinse it off. (Tip: wear an old bathing suit you don’t mind throwing out after this because the mud can stain and the sulphur smell is difficult to get rid of).
They claim the sulphuric mud will make you look 10 years younger. While that may be a bit of a stretch, we do notice that we have incredibly soft skin afterward. And the warm pool is divinely relaxing.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoy the mud bath experience!
St Lucia mud bath, Part 2
On our one day back on the island after St. Vincent, we went back for more!
This time instead of arriving just before closing, we arrive shortly after opening at 9am. Again, we are rewarded with a minimal crowd, just a handful of locals enjoying a morning beauty regiment. We slather on the mud and patiently let it dry longer than the first time before getting back in the pool.
The mud baths were probably our favorite experience in St. Lucia and I’d definitely recommend them. Just avoid the mid-day crowds.
Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens, Waterfall & Mineral Baths
It’s nearly 4pm by the time we leave the Sulphur Springs Park. But we still have time to check out the nearby Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens before it closes at 5pm.
We have the gardens all to ourselves this close to closing time and it’s a gorgeous 5-10 minute stroll down the foliage-lined path to the Diamond Waterfall.
After seeing the waterfall we still have plenty of time to try out the healing waters of the mineral baths.
A dip in the mineral baths
We decide to try the private bath for two since it’s only $7 each. Before heading into our private cabana, we grab a couple of rum punches from the gift shop café. Then, we spend the next 30 minutes relaxing in the thermal hot springs before closing.
It’s the perfect way to end the day and we’re finally starting to truly appreciate the beauty and natural wonders of Saint Lucia.
For our last night on the island, we opt to head back to Ruby’s to grab a take-out pizza (which they actually have this time). We enjoy dinner and unwind with one last magnificent sunset from the privacy of our terrace.
Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in Saint Lucia and I’m so glad I gave the island a second chance.
Yes, you’ll meet plenty of people on the island who want to sell you something. But you’ll also meet so many wonderful people and have the opportunity to experience the unique natural beauty of this Caribbean island paradise.
Next up, we attempt to become certified sailors in St. Vincent & the Grenadines!
Looking for more incredible Caribbean destinations? Start here:
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Kokomo, Kuanidup & the Kuna Yala: The San Blas Islands, Panama
The Best Caribbean Islands You’ve Never Heard Of: Nicaragua’s Corn Islands
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A trip to the Carribean is always a special one.The fun and adventure there is never ending and I guarantee that If you are stressed then there is no other better place than Carribean Island to get relax.
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