Family Vacations to Saint Lucia
|PEAK EXPERIENCES: Saint Lucia's Jalousie Beach and Gros Piton (courtesy, Saint Lucia Tourism)|
Saint Lucia Highlights
Glistening black-sand beaches and lush woods are the norm on Saint Lucia, an island dominated by the Pitons, two tall and verdant volcanic peaks. Often called the "Emerald Isle," Saint Lucia's interior is covered by thousands of acres of mountainous rainforest.
Located near Soufrière, the island's oldest town, is Mount Soufrière, billed as Saint Lucia's "drive-in volcano." Cars enter near the caldera, the basin-like depression created by the explosion 40,000 years ago. A guide leads the way up a short walk to a viewing platform overlooking numerous bubbling vents that still spew hydrogen sulfide.
At nearby Diamond Botanical Gardens, Waterfall and Mineral Baths, follow the soft gurgle of the waterfall to two outdoor plunge pools. Set in a garden filled with orchids, ferns, birds of paradise, and other tropical plants, the healing mineral baths were first built in 1785 with money from France's King Louis XVI. For more flowers, stroll Mamiku Gardens, part of a banana and tropical fruit plantation near Vieux Fort, where 12-acres bloom with hibiscus, oleander, pink and white roses, and many other colorful flowers.
Honduran mahogany trees, Caribbean pines, ferns, and stands of 25-foot-tall bamboo line the trail of the cool and feathery Edmund Forest Reserve. Hiking the full trail can take hours and is difficult, but you can walk the first part. Nearby, the 2.5-mile moderate-to-difficult Enbas Saut Waterfall Trail rewards the diligent with a series of cascading falls and pools suitable for swimming. Since you need permission to hike Saint Lucia's trails, it's best to go with a guide. Call ahead to the Forest and Lands Department (758.450.2231 or 758.450.2078). Various outfitters also offer rainforest hikes and adventures.
Pigeon Island National Landmark, a 40-acre islet on the northwest coast connected to the mainland by a causeway, is dotted with the ruins of an 18th-century British naval garrison, a small museum, a beach, and a half-mile trail leading up to Signal Peak. After hiking to the top, kids will want to cool off at the tiny beach.
All the beaches in Saint Lucia are open to the public, but non-resort guests are not entitled to any resort amenities such as towels, so bring your own. Reduit Beach in the northwest is one of the best, as is the stretch at Anse Chastanet, an upscale resort on the southwest. Anse Chastanet is also known for its superb snorkeling and shore diving. Explore colorful corals, sea fans, schooling fish, and caves, but beware: the current can be strong. Other popular dive sites are the Pinnacles and the Lesleen M shipwreck.
To live out your kids' cinematic Caribbean dreams, board the pirate ship used in Pirates of the Caribbean I and II. One day a week, typically Thursdays, the Brig Unicorn offers a family sail, with pirate costumes for kids, treasure hunts, and snorkeling and swimming stops.
Tip: When exploring the island, allow extra time to travel, as many roads wind around mountains. Especially with kids, limit your daily excursions to one or two places near each other. That way you'll cut down on car sickness.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication