In St Lucia you’ll find all you’d expect in a Caribbean island, a landscape covered by lush rainforest and plantations running down to a palm fringed shore. It’s a cultivated paradise where many of the hotels, such as East Winds where I stayed, are surrounded by botanical gardens and the rainforest is nature’s pharmacy. But there’s plenty to entice you from your sunlounger on St Lucia. Always up for a mini adventure, I was able to explore the island’s abundant natural beauty and discover the waterfalls, rainforest, volcanoes and hiking in St Lucia.
Hiking St Lucia – the Pitons
That image of the Pitons seems to catch you everywhere in St Lucia, the twin volcanic plugs rising starkly out of the sea, their image on every postcard of the island. Located in the south-west of St Lucia, you’ll get some great Piton views from the water if you take one of the popular boat trips around Soufriere. All the hotels in this part of St Lucia, like Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain make the most of those views, with terraces, rooms and balconies carefully positioned to frame the twin peaks like a painting. And of course for those who want to get active, there’s the chance of hiking the pitons in St Lucia.
Want to see the Pitons on a boat tour? Check out this St Lucia Full Day Scenic Boat tour
The Gros Pitons Hike – St Lucia
If you want to go hiking in St Lucia, the Pitons are definitely one of the most challenging hikes on the island. Most visitors start with hiking Gros Piton St Lucia, the more conical of the two and it’s easy to arrange this hike from the visitor’s centre in the village of Fond Gens Libre.
At a cost of $50 per person you’ll be allocated a guide on arrival who will take you up the trail, which normally takes 2 hours up and 2 hours down. If you are wondering whether you can hike Gros Piton without a guide, it’s not recommended. The trail is not always obvious and your guide will ensure you complete the trail safely as well as tell you the stories of the slave runaways and rebels who hid out on these forest slopes.
Although I didn’t try this hike myself, I heard that while the first half is on a relatively easy trail, the second half is much more challenging, requiring you to clamber over large boulders and slippery slopes aided by ropes. It’s not one that you should attempt in the rain or on a day when it’s previously been raining, as the path will be too slippery.
Although you can make the hike at any time of day, most people try to start early in the morning to beat the heat, so that you can be back down by lunchtime and spend the afternoon relaxing or swimming to soothe your aching muscles. Make sure that you have sturdy trainers or trail shoes, lots of water, snacks and mozzie spray, ideally also hiking poles which will support your ankles and knees.
More information is available from the Soufriere Foundation website
Hiking Petit Piton in St Lucia
It is also possible although not as common to climb Petit Piton, the more pointed of the two Pitons, which is much steeper. This hike is not officially sanctioned by the government as the trail is a lot more demanding, but you can find a guide if you ask locally. Here’s a useful account of hiking Petit Piton from Feel Good and Travel.
If you feel that hiking the Pitons isn’t for you, there are lots of other less demanding trails on St Lucia where you can enjoy fantastic views of the island.
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A walking trail in Tet Paul Nature Park St Lucia
For views of the Pitons, but without the 4 hour hike, an easy alternative is to visit Tet Paul Nature Park for an easy trail that will suit all ages and fitness levels. The circular trail takes 30-45 minutes with viewpoints along the way and plantings of different local plants and vegetables in a garden on the way down. It’s also the perfect spot to take a cheesy “pointing at the Pitons shot” to add to your “holding up the leaning tower of Pisa” and “Eiffel tower on the palm of my hand” collection.
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A guide to accompany you is included in your entrance fee of $10 and although not necessary to find the way, you get some useful information about the flora and fauna of St Lucia as well as a willing photographer to take your Pitons shot.
On the return loop we passed the organic vegetable garden that is cultivated by the local community where pineapples and papaya as well as other vegetables grow. It’s a nice way to familiarise yourself with some of the local fruit and veg that you may later spot in Castries Market.
Back at the start you’ll see the Traditional House, a small wooden house that has been restored to show you how people lived in days gone by, with a few simple furnishings and the clay cooking pots and objects of daily life. The Tet Paul Nature trail is a good one to stretch your legs if you’re travelling with the family or with those that don’t want a long hike.
Looking for somewhere to stay? Read my review of East Winds St Lucia, an authentic luxury boutique hotel
Hiking on Pigeon Island St Lucia
For a slightly more demanding hike that is fine for those with an average level of fitness, head to Pigeon Island which is located at the north west tip of St Lucia, close to East Winds Hotel where I stayed. Once used as a naval base and surrounded on three sides by sea, it’s no longer an island and can be easily reached by road on a man made causeway. The 44 acre site is run by the St Lucia National Trust as a heritage site and as well as the chance for hiking, there are a couple of nice beaches and two cafes overlooking the sea.
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Admiral Rodney created a naval base for the English on Pigeon island in 1779 and it remained a military base throughout the 18th century, alternating between the French and English who vied for control of St Lucia. On entering the heritage site you’ll see the ruins of Admiral Rodney’s officer’s mess and barracks, with the high ground and two peaks rising ahead of you.
The path leads round towards the beach and then takes you up to Fort Rodney at 225ft, where the canons point out to sea and you can peer into the powder magazine. It’s an easy path of gravel and stone paving, with just a short steeper section of stone paving and metal steps to take you up to the fort. From here you have a panoramic view over the island and towards Martinique where Admiral Rodney would keep his eye on the French fleet.
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Coming down from Fort Rodney, you can walk across the grassy saddle and climb up Signal Peak which is the higher of the two at 330ft. I didn’t hike this myself as I ran out of time, but I gather there is less of a defined path at the top and you may need to scramble over rocks and gravel to be rewarded by fantastic views from the top.
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Both of these hikes are easy enough for an average fitness level and are best done in trainers that have a good grip on gravel and rocky pavement. The sun can be deceptively hot so if you are planning to climb both, a hat and a bottle of water which you can easily buy from one of the two cafes, are a good idea. On the way back you could stop for lunch or a drink at the seafront cafe Jambe de Bois or drive the short distance to The Landings, a luxurious resort with an excellent restaurant overlooking their beach and marina.
More information on the Pigeon Island National Trust Website – entrance is $8US
Exploring the rainforest in St Lucia
Much of St Lucia is covered in rainforest and plantations, the volcanic slopes covered with a lush green landscape wherever you look. At Babboneau in the north of the island, you can discover more about the rainforest at Rainforest Adventures, where there are ziplines, hiking trails and an aerial tram which takes you high above the forest canopy.
I opted for the most gentle of the options – the aerial tram, which lasted around 2.5 hours seated in an open sided cable car that took us slowly up through the treetops. The guide pointed out the different forest trees; the heliconias whose brightly coloured bracts make a champagne glass for the hummingbirds to drink and the liana creepers that wind their way around the tree trunks reaching from the dark forest floor into the light above the canopy.
From time to time, we would glimpse a hummingbird flitting past and hear the sound of birds in the canopy. For those looking for birding in St Lucia, you can join one of the early morning bird watching tours to see them feeding in the cooler part of the day.
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The forest forms a natural medicine chest, with the bark of the Cinchona tree used to extract quinnine to treat malaria and the hibiscus leaves used to make a traditional shampoo and drunk as a medicinal tea.
If you’d like to make a rainforest hike in St Lucia, there’s a guided walk which leads you up the highest point at 1500ft on the Jacquot trail, named after the green and blue parrot that is endemic to St Lucia. This trail takes around 3.5 hours and although the path is not especially difficult, you need a reasonable level of fitness to hike up to the top station of the aerial tram and back down again.
Looking for a tour? Check out this St Lucia Rainforest Nature Walk
At the end of the aerial tram ride, there’s also a shorter trail that takes around 25 minutes, as the guide leads you on a circular route back to the base camp, pointing out the flaura and fauna along the way.
The 2.5 hour aerial tram experience including a short forest walk costs $80| Zipline $80 | hiking the Jacquot trail with a guide $45 (prices may vary if you book as part of an excursion that includes transport) More info: Rainforest Adventures website
Waterfalls in St Lucia
A landscape shaped by volcanic activity combined with plenty of tropical rainfall through the summer months, adds up to some pretty impressive waterfalls in St Lucia. At the Toraille waterfall, I stood under the waterfall and allowed my head to take a bit of a battering, feeling the force of the water and the power of nature.
The water falls from 50 ft into the pool below and is stronger than it appears once you get right underneath. The pool is shallow so you can easily wade through the water which is thigh deep towards the white water where the stream crashes down.
The Toraille waterfall is one of the most popular for tourists to visit, due to its proximity to the road and there are changing rooms and picnic benches here in return for the entrance charge of around $2US. The Torille waterfall is often combined with a visit to the Sulphur Springs and Drive in Volcano, but probably best visited after your mud bath so you can wash off any last traces of the mineral mud.
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The Diamond Waterfall and Botanical Garden
The Diamond Waterfall and Botanical garden are also popular to visit although you’re not allowed to swim in the waterfall. The botanic gardens were established here in the 1980s and have been developed with a nature trail, restaurant in the old mill house and mineral baths as well as the waterfall that is within the gardens. More info: Diamond Falls Botanic Garden website
Looking for a tour? This 6 hour land and sea tour of St Lucia includes the Diamond Botanical Gardens
If you’re looking for St Lucia waterfalls you can swim in, visit the Pitons waterfall which is also nearby, close to Morne Coubaril plantation. On the eastern side of the island there are more waterfalls at the Sault Falls near Dennery and La Tille waterfall but you may need a guide to take you to some of these.
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The Sulphur springs on St Lucia
A visitor attraction that’s based around being slathered in mud with the smell of rotten eggs seems an unlikely one, yet there are a couple of things that work in the favour of the Sulphur Springs near Soufriere. The volcanic mud is rich in minerals that are reputed to soften you skin and take 10 years off your age with just one application – an attractive prospect for most of us! The other factor is that in this social media age everyone wants to get some fun images to share with their friends back home, and covering yourself with black muddy handprints for a photo seems to tick that box perfectly.
The sulphur springs are fed by the boiling pools of mud from the volcanic lava field just up the road, which you can visit after your mud bath. There are changing rooms and lockers to leave your clothes before you walk through channels of water and are handed buckets of the mineral mud to rub into your skin.
Looking for a tour? Check out this St Lucia Hot Springs and Mud bath night tour
This is not the place to wear your light coloured or most delicate bikini which will probably get stained or ruined by the mud. And funnily enough, most of the visitors don’t seem to take the health giving benefits of the mud too seriously but are more interested in having a laugh and applying a few muddy handprints for the photos!
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Once you’ve covered yourself in mud you can wallow for a little while in the warm, shallow water before you move back into the waist deep bath to wash it all off again – and hopefully come out looking 10 years younger. The baths cost $5.50 US or $12.10 US for a combo ticket to see the baths and volcano.
Visit the Volcano in St Lucia
After you’ve tried out the sulphur springs and mud bath (or given it a miss if you prefer) you can walk or drive just up the road ‘Drive in Volcano”. In the lava field of the fallen-in volcano jets of steam are rising and pools of boiling mud bubble furiously.
The nearby town of Soufriere is actually named after the French word for sulphur, and you’ll quickly realise why as you breathe in the rotten-eggs smell of sulphur. You are not allowed to walk on the lava field but follow the path of a walkway, with a guide to take you up the steps to the best vantage points overlooking the volcano, explaining about all the volcanic activity. The volcano costs $8.80 US or $12.10 US for a combo ticket to see the baths and volcano.
As you’ll have realised by now, there’s much more to St Lucia than beautiful beaches! This lush island that’s shaped by volcanic activity, offers boundless opportunities to explore the rainforest, waterfalls and hiking in St Lucia, enchanting the visitor with its natural beauty.
Looking for a Tour of St Lucia? Check out these St Lucia tours from Get Your Guide
Where to Stay on St Lucia – East Winds Hotel
For my week in St Lucia I stayed at East Winds, a luxury boutique hotel by the sea that’s set within a botanical garden. The hotel has just 30 rooms in pretty painted cottages, which are furnished in elegant Caribbean style, to give you an authentic but luxurious experience. I love the laid back charm of the hotel surrounded by nature with pigeons cooing and the sound of the waves in the distance. Read my review of East Winds Hotel.
The hotel offers an all-inclusive experience and the delicious food is international in style with a nod to the spices, flavours and produce of St Lucia that are used in the dishes. Despite being tucked away in a valley that leads down to the sea, there are a surprising amount of activity on offer such as yoga, garden tours, rum tastings and watersports, with additional excursions to places of interest organised by the hotel.
The staff here are incredibly friendly and attentive, creating a club-like atmosphere that makes guests feel part of the East Winds family, so it’s no surprise that many guests return here year after year to enjoy the seductive East Winds experience.
To book for East Winds
To book for East Winds check their rates and offers page for more details. Many guests from the UK book a package that includes the flight with companies such as British Airways Holidays, Virgin Atlantic Holidays or Caribbean specialist Tropical Breeze, or check with your favourite Caribbean specialist travel agent.
While on St Lucia I also visited some other hotels which I can recommend if you’re looking for other options of places to stay;
Stay at Marigot Bay Resort and Marina in St Lucia
This resort hotel is built on the hillside overlooking beautiful Marigot Bay, an idyllic location where you can watch the yachts coming and going in this sheltered cove. The mangrove trees run around the bay but below the hotel there’s a boardwalk where the yachts are moored and a marina area where I had lunch in the Hurricane Hole restaurant. The suites and rooms are set in different buildings on the hillside, with two swimming pools on different levels and access to the beach across the bay on the hotel’s private ferry. This is a lovely luxurious 5 star resort that will suit all ages and tastes, in one of the most beautiful bays on the island. More info: Marigot Bay Resort and Marina website| Check Prices and Book for Marigot Bay
Stay at Anse Chastanet in St Lucia
For many years my parents would holiday at Anse Chastanet to escape the English winter and as I’d heard how much they loved it, I was pleased to be able to visit on my trip to St Lucia. The rooms are set in cottages on the hillside, with views towards the Pitons and there’s a colourful, artistic theme, with the paintings and wood carvings of local artists and sculptors scattered throughout the hotel. The dining rooms and terraces lead down to the beach restaurant, where there’s an art gallery to see many of these artworks as well as a dive centre and great snorkelling off the beach. The hotel is popular with all ages and I saw families and couples enjoying their stay there. More info: Anse Chastanet Website| Check prices and book for Anse Chastanet
Stay at Jade Mountain in St Lucia
Built on the side of the mountain above Anse Chastanet, the sister hotel Jade Mountain is a truly stunning luxury hotel that reminded me of a castle in the air. All the suites face towards the sea and the magnificent view of the Pitons, with their own private plunge pool and a rooftop restaurant for the use of guests. This place has romance written all over it and it’s a place to treat yourself to a magical luxurious experience. More info: Jade Mountain Website| Check prices and book for Jade Mountain
Plan your visit to St Lucia
If you are planning a visit to beautiful St Lucia you’ll find plenty more information on the St Lucia official UK Tourism website and their social channels; Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
Check out options for more hotels in St Lucia
If you’re travelling independently check out these tours of St Lucia with plenty of different ways to see the island.
If you need a guidebook to St Lucia we recommend the Insights Guide to St Lucia
Getting around St Lucia
To get around St Lucia the best ways are by taxi or by local mini-bus. The taxis are plentiful and most convenient when you are travelling from hotel to hotel or to locations that are away from the main road. There are set rates for each journey and the taxi driver can let you know the cost of each trip. You’ll find taxi ranks in Castries and other towns and your hotel can always arrange a taxi for you.
The bus is a cheaper alternative, and works well if you are travelling on routes along the main highways as they pass by very frequently. They are small minibuses that are privately run and there are set fares – expect to pay around $2-3 EC per journey. It’s a fun local experience to travel on local buses and I enjoyed squeezing in with chattering schoolgirls travelling into Castries. You can ask any local where to get the bus and which one to catch – there are bus stops but the buses may also drop you off or pick you up at other places if you ask.
Money in St Lucia
The currency is St Lucia is Eastern Caribbean Dollars, referred to as $EC but US Dollars are generally accepted in shops and visitor attractions that attract a lot of tourists. If you pay in $US cash you may be given change in $EC. The rate of exchange that was in general use at the time of my visit was $1US = $2.5 EC or £1 = $3EC although you may get better rates at banks. At the major visitor attractions or for hotel excursions, rates are often quoted in $US so be sure you know which currency you are paying. It works best if you arrive in St Lucia with some $US in cash which can be easily changed in $EC locally and there are ATMs at banks in Castries and other centres around the island where you can also withdraw money as you need it. Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and larger shops, especially those that cater for tourists, but you will need $EC for smaller shops and in the markets.
This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here
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