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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 vendors on the other islands we had visited. And sadly, that lasting impression of Saint Lucia has stuck with me for more than a decade.
The Route to Saint Vincent
My return visit to Saint Lucia was more of a travel convenience than an actual desire to return. In order to get to St. Vincent for our upcoming sailing course, we had 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 was an easy choice.
And truly, I felt it was 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, we hadn’t even had the chance to see the best of the island’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 further south from there.
So, Dave and I decided to spend three nights on Saint Lucia on the way to St. Vincent and give the island another chance.
Saint Lucia’s Hotel Options
Once we decided to stay, it was time to find a hotel.
The Saint Lucia hotel choices turned out to be completely overwhelming. I quickly realized that the options were 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 were somewhat uninspiring, we needed another option.
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 was feeling much more optimistic about our options. There were so many terrific choices!
Ultimately, we settled on the Sapphire Apartments in Soufriere. There were 4 in the same building (Sapphire 1-4) and they all looked like they had great views and were brand new. We selected Sapphire 1 for our 3-night stay and it turned 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 were 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 decided that we needed 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.
After a 4-hour flight from Atlanta, we landed in Saint Lucia and picked up our car (a small SUV) for the hour-long drive to our apartment in Soufriere. Dave had to pay $22 USD for a local driver’s license which was 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 we found the main road that rings the island to be very good.
The road up to our apartment, however, was a different story. Unpaved and full of potholes, there were several times we questioned whether we were actually supposed to be driving on this road. Can this really be the right way to the apartment?
Luckily, once we found the apartment, the road was immediately forgotten. The apartment was spacious and had everything we needed, including a spectacular view over Soufriere and the Petit Piton. It would be our own private sanctuary for the next few days.
It was nearly time for dinner by the time we arrived so after settling in, the first order of business was sunset and finding dinner. Thanks to a recommendation from our Airbnb host, we had stopped at a large supermarket near the airport for kitchen provisions but for dinner each night we planned to eat out.
After navigating the road up, Dave was not eager to go back down so we settled on Ruby’s Pizzeria, which came highly recommended in the apartment’s guest book and was just a short distance down the hill. Unfortunately, they were out of pizza (???) when we arrived, but we found other good options on the menu and it was a great meal.
The Beaches of Saint Lucia
The next day we were ready to check out some of Saint Lucia’s beaches. Again, we referred to our apartment’s guest book for a few recommendations from previous guests. We decided on the two-for-one combo of Anse Chastanet and Anse Mamin. Two beaches connected by a short walking trail.
The mile-long road to the beaches was 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 were spectacular along the drive.
Anse Chastanet Beach belongs mostly to the luxurious Anse Chastanet Beach Resort but since all beaches in Saint Lucia are public, there were signs indicating which part of the beach was available for anyone to enjoy.
It was a lovely beach, but our guest book had indicated that most everyone preferred smaller, quieter Anse Mamin, the beach used by guests of the exclusive Jade Mountain Resort. So, we sought out the small trail along the water that lead around the corner to Anse Mamin.
Like Anse Chastanet, there were a few palapas reserved for resort guests and signs indicating the public portion of the beach. Luckily, we had arrived late enough in the afternoon that a few of the palapas with comfy lounge chairs had already been vacated for the day by Jade Mountain guests.
We were able to rent 2 chairs under a palapa for $30 total and ordered a couple of fruity drinks from the bar. Again, we paid “resort” prices for those but a few hours spent feeling like guests of a fancy resort (without the $1,000/night price tag) was well worth it!
We passed a few hours reading and luxuriating in the soothing tropical breezes and the sound of the waves before packing up and heading back to the car before sunset (Dave was not keen on navigating the narrow road back after dark).
That night we tried to walk the waterfront in downtown Soufriere to watch the sunset but couldn’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 gave up on the walk and settled on the waterfront Petit Peak restaurant for dinner. Like the previous night’s restaurant, they were also out of half of the items listed on their menu (a theme with Saint Lucia restaurants, apparently), but we each selected a delicious pasta dish and the accompanying beautiful sunset views made it a great night overall.
Sulphur Springs Park
The next day we spent most of the day 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 was involved). But we knew we had to make the effort to see something else of Saint Lucia while we were here so by mid-afternoon we packed up the books and headed over to the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano.
We arrived about two hours before closing and were pleased to see most of the vans full of cruise ship passengers departing as we pulled in. Perfect timing! 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.
Since time was short, we opted for the mud bath only ($5.50 USD per person). We purchased our tickets and were directed down a flight of stairs to a muddy geothermal pool in the middle of a rocky stream. The guide explained 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, you let the mud dry completely before re-entering the warm pool to relax and rinse it off. (Tip: wear an old bathing suit you won’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 might have been a bit of a stretch, we did have incredibly soft skin afterward. And the warm pool was divinely relaxing. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed it!
Note: 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 arrived shortly after opening at 9am. Again, we were rewarded with a minimal crowd, just a handful of locals enjoying a morning beauty regiment. We slathered 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 was nearly 4pm by the time we left the Sulphur Springs Park but we still had time to check out the nearby Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens before it closed at 5pm. We had the gardens all to ourselves this close to closing time and it was a gorgeous 5-10 minute stroll down the foliage-lined path to the Diamond Waterfall.
After seeing the waterfall we still had plenty of time to try out the healing waters of the mineral baths. We decided to try the private bath for two since it was only $7 each. Before heading into our private cabana, we grabbed a couple of rum punches from the gift shop café and relaxed in the thermal hot springs for half an hour before closing.
It was the perfect way to end the day and we were really starting to appreciate the beauty and natural wonders of Saint Lucia.
For our last night on the island, we opted to head back to Ruby’s to grab a take-out pizza and have 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 glad I gave it 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.