From a drive-in volcano, making chocolate and trekking amongst caterpillars, Mike Pickup discovers a plethora of things to do in St Lucia, the only country named after a woman.
“There are no straight roads in St Lucia,” said George as we drove away from St Lucia’s Hewanorra airport. He could have added that there are hardly any level ones either. Roads on this Caribbean island, with mountains rising to over three thousand feet, are more like those in the Alps. It takes over two hours to get from one end of the twenty-six-mile-long island to the other.
Earlier that morning, thanks to the ultra-efficient I Love Meet and Greet, I had boarded the British Airways flight from Gatwick, relaxed and ready to go. Since the flight was over eight hours I enjoyed the extra leg-room and service of World Traveller Plus and I was just settling into my seat when I was offered a glass of champagne. It was only breakfast time but it seemed rude to refuse.
St Lucia was originally settled by the French in 1660, but as a result of battles with the British, it swapped hands fourteen times until 1814 when it ended up British. As a result, the official language is English but French-based Creole is widely spoken; cars drive on the left but the town names are in French.
St Lucia Windjammer Landing
Home for my stay was Windjammer Landing, comprising hotel rooms and villas built up a steep hill that led down to a sheltered sandy beach. The hotel offered a choice of self catering with breakfast, or all-inclusive. I’d chosen all-inclusive and been allocated a luxurious two-bedroom villa at the top of the hill. As well as two spacious bedrooms, the accommodation included two bathrooms plus a large, comfortable lounge and a huge kitchen diner with American-size cooker, microwave, fridge freezer, washing machine and tumble drier. Outside there was a neat patio with recliners, and a pool with stunning views over the sea.
I could easily have moved in on a permanent basis.
A fleet of air-conditioned shuttle vehicles were always available on demand to ferry guests up and down the hill’s twisting roads.
Several restaurants close to the beach offered a wide selection of food from light bites to multi-course feasts. There was also a well-equipped gym, beauty spa and a children’s recreation area as well as several pools, and a water sports area away from the swimming area.
Travelling to Central America? Read Mark Bibby Jackson’s: Roatan Honduras and Banana Republics, or Central American Travel : Papusas and the Garifuna Beat.
Making St Lucia Chocolate
It would have been easy to stay put but I wanted to explore this unusual island.
Cocoa trees abound, and it was interesting to discover that the fresh beans in the pod were white and very sweet, changing colour and taste as they dried. No wonder the most popular visitor attraction is chocolate making, and on a visit to the 120-year-old Howelton Estate I gave it a try.
Grinding the coffee beans in a mortar and pestle was energetic but satisfying and soon the chocolate mix was liquid and shiny. I decided to add a little mint before it was poured into a mould and popped into the fridge. After enjoying a cold Piton beer, my now solid home-made chocolate bar was expertly wrapped for me to take home.
St Lucia Hiking
The island has a huge variety of vegetation and wild life. I enjoyed the Lushan Country Life trail where an expert guide pointed out herbs and plants and explained their medicinal and culinary uses. He also showed me early cooking devices known as coal pots, and scooped up a huge, friendly black and yellow caterpillar with orange feet and a tiny black tail who happened to pass by.
The Tet Paul nature trail offered more information on plant life and, at the top, a stunning view of the sea and the twin Pitons for which the island is famous. They were formed by lava erupting from the sea bed and cooling to form the characteristically steep sided domes.
Drive-In Volcano and Bird-spotters Paradise
Just outside Soufriere, I visited the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano, an area with steaming sulphur springs and bubbling, hot grey pools. Visitors can also enjoy the mud baths where, having been artistically covered in volcanic mud, they can soak in naturally heated pools – a process designed to leave the skin fresh and smooth.
Another interesting trip was on an aerial tram through the pleasantly cool mountain rain forest. A guide explained the vegetation as well as spotting a few humming birds along the way. In fact the island is a bird-spotters paradise with over 180 species to be found, including six species that can be found only on the island.
My visit was over far too soon as George drove me back to the airport. I was left with memories of a unique Caribbean island, mountains, lush greenery, winding roads and, above all, genuinely friendly people who were always ready to help and chat. Just don’t get them started on cricket.
If St Lucia doesn’t seem your thing, then how about trying a Caribbean Getaway : Trinidad or Tobago?
Things to Do in St Lucia Photo Gallery
For more information on things to do in St Lucia
Visit the St Lucia Tourism website.