St. Lucia: Cross-Island Rainforest Trek
The beaches sizzle, but it's St. Lucia's interior rainforest that stamps the senses with striking natural images. A trek inland will reward with man-sized ferns and bromeliad-laden tree trunks swelling from a dense forest floor. Both wild and tame, the rainforest is a side of this small Caribbean island that many, including St. Lucians, rarely visit.
Several trails cut through the thick forests. The Barre de L'Isle (Island Ridge) trail wends along the large north-south central ridge that divides the island's east and west sides. Key vantage points offer views of both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic coast. A favorite trail is the path from the Edmund Forest Reserve in the west to the Des Cartiers Rainforest in the east; follow in the literal footsteps of colonials and slaves on walking paths used to traverse the island. Give yourself half a day and you can hike coast to coast.
This is the domain of the St. Lucia parrot, or jacquot in Creole. The brilliant bird, with a scarlet breast and turquoise head, is endemic to the island, and was endangered through the 1970s. It's protected now, but still very rare. If you catch a glimpse of one of the estimated 350 alive today, consider yourself ready to go back to the beach.
You must contact the Forestry Division before heading out on these trails; the agency needs to ensure that they are used properly and that no one becomes lost. They also offer customized nature hikes, and will provide guides. Kids may not be able to tag along the more rigorous hikes. Rangers are found at the trail heads from 9 a.m. until 3 or 4 p.m., and the cost of entering the trails is $10, with or without guides. For information, call the Forest and Lands Department, phone (758) 450-2231.
For rainforest exploration, set yourself up in Soufrière, an old plantation port on the island's southwest coast, or near Vieux Fort on the south coast. Accommodation ranges from small guesthouses at $20 per night to luxe resorts starting at $200 per night.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication