South Pacific Island in the Caribbean Sea
By Linda Thompkins
St Lucia would be just at home in the South Pacific, but it resides in the southeastern Caribbean Sea, and is part of the Windward Islands.
Just north of Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago lies a tropical paradise equal to the Pacific islands of Tahiti and Fiji. The calm waters of the Caribbean Sea which is usually compared to the color turquoise, appears to be royal blue around the island of St Lucia. No doubt this is due to the fact this is a volcanic island unlike the coral islands of the Caribbean basin.
Old ship records speak of how captains and sailors alike were awed by the sighting of St Lucia. Perhaps this is why the island was fought over and changed hands 14 times in its history. Two countries, England and France fought 14 battles back and forth to gain control of the island. The English eventually won the war, but France won the battle since the island is definitely French in culture.
The most photographed scene in the Caribbean and landmark of St Lucia are Petit Piton and Gros Piton. These two enormous volcanic mountains are covered with lush green vegetation and rise over 2,600 feet above the sea, and 1,000 feet below. Soufriere, located at the base, is where the jungle meets the royal blue sea. The majestic twin Pitons greet you at every turn while on the island - such an awesome sight!
As a comparison among its Caribbean neighbors, the only two that come close to St Lucia's beauty is Dominica (the nature island), and the interior of the island of Jamaica. St Lucia boasts a variety of exotic black sand beaches, tropical birds, plants and flowers. Everywhere you turn, and on each island adventure there is just more beauty to be seen. I attempted to capture the island on picture, but the color intensity and depth was lacking more than often. While family and friends remarked at how beautiful our vacation pictures were, I knew the true essence of the island needs to be seen in person.
This is an island to be explored with nature walks, mountain hikes, visits to the natural reserves, boat trips to nearby island sanctuaries, drive through the world's only "drive through volcano, and a trip to the interior rainforest is a must! About the drive through volcano - you literally drive through the crater to over 15 pools of thick black bubbling lava. The smell is a bit overwhelming. In this region you will also find green and yellow sulfur steam coming up out of the ground, and pools of hissing steam - You can definitely feel the heat from the ground, and guides lead you around the hot stones.
Another interesting site outside of Soufriere is Diamond Waterfall and the Mineral Baths. Louis XVI sent a sample of the mineral water to France back in the late 1700's to be tested, and it was deemed beneficial. We had a lovely time at the Mineral Baths, and admit I felt quite invigorated afterwards. Diamond Waterfall is near the baths, and this rivals many of the waterfalls on the island of Jamaica - simply beautiful!
The lush mountainous region is home to the rain forest which offers lush and colorful foliage. As you venture into the northern part of the island, mountains turn into lush hills, and orchards of banana, coconut, mango, citrus and papaya trees.
Aside from land tours, a half day or one-day sail around the island is recommended. From a small peninsula that extends from the southern tip of the island you can view where the rough Atlantic Ocean meets the calm Caribbean Sea. On a clear day you can even spot the tiny island of St Vincent. Another location advantage is you easily island hop to the islands of Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe.
The Eastern or Windward side of the island is on the Atlantic coast, and has big waves and surf, and swimming is not recommended, but the ocean views will be remembered far after your vacation is over.
The Western, or Leeward island side, is located on the Caribbean Sea, and the waves and waters are quite calm, and most of the beachfront resorts on located on this side of the island.
No matter which side of the island you choose, you will find the constant cooling trade wind breezes coming off the coast of Africa.
Getting to St Lucia can be challenging time wise depending on where you are starting from. Expect a minimum 5-6 hour trip from North America. One important aspect in booking your vacation is the proximity of the hotel to the airport. St Lucia has two airports, and the major airport (Hewanorra) on the southern tip of the island is where most of the air traffic from North America is directed. The smaller airport (George Charles) to the north of the island serves most of the smaller Caribbean air carriers. Of course the majority of the best known hotels are located on the north of the island.
Flying into Hewanorra airport on the southern end, and booking a hotel or resort on the northern end can result in a long 2 hour trip. Rather than look at the travel time to the hotel with dread, consider it a prime opportunity for an enjoyable island tour. The mountain route offers a more scenic view of the magnificent Pitons. The eastern route is faster, and you wind through hundreds of banana groves, and beautiful scenery. Take your pick, but I recommend the longer western route.
St Lucia is home to some of the most unique resorts, charming inns, guesthouses and romantic hideaways in the Caribbean. Two of the most unique are Ladera and Anse Chastanet.
Ladera offers an open wall concept with your own private pool. The western side of each unit is open to the view of the Pitons. It's like staying in a luxury tree house, and as they said "the only thing separating you from nature is the netting on your bed".
Anse Chastanet is a luxury mountaintop retreat where every room offers something different - no two are alike. Most rooms are scattered in the lush hillside, and a few more expensive rooms are located on the beach. Be forewarned there are nearly 100 steps to the beach from the hillside.
Jalousie Plantation is located beneath the Pitons, and offers a very romantic, private location that is hard to match anywhere in the Caribbean. Another choice is the Windjammer Landing with your own secluded villa in a Mediterranean styled village setting.
The smaller hotels of Rodney Bay which are Caribbean Jewell, Coco Kreole, and Coco Palm offer a location that is within walking distance to shopping, restaurants and nightlife. Reduit beach is one of the prime attractions of Rodney Bay, which is also home to the European yachting community. Each of these smaller hotels has a unique charm, excellent service and moderate prices.
There are approximately eight all inclusive on this small island. Many Caribbean islands offer all inclusive properties where visitors are isolated and spend most of their time. St Lucia all inclusive celebrate the islands beauty and attractions, and make every effort to promote the islands beauty and culture. The most popular all inclusive are Sandals - which offers three different resorts, the Body Holiday Spa Resort, and Rendezvous - a popular, romantic couples only resort.
The beaches of St Lucia offer as much variety as the lush vegetation. There are black sand beaches where the sand is courser, soft white sand beaches, beaches of beige-grey and brown. One thing to remember - black sand heats up much faster than white sand, and your feet can get burned and blistered.
While the island is French in culture, English is widely spoken in the business and tourist areas. Elsewhere you will hear Creole, along with a French patois. The Creole spoken on the island is derived from the original slaves mixing their African language, along with French words. There is even a national holiday where every St Lucian is encouraged to speak Creole, and prepare Creole food dishes.
If you're used to the typical steel drums and calypso of the Caribbean, you will find the French Caribbean has a taste for Zouk, African drumming, and also Soca. The French Caribbean is not as reserved as the islands with a British influence, and the English lyrics are quite explicit about current social norms - in other words you may be a little shocked at what you hear.
Zouk is a Creole word for "party", and is upbeat tempo with layered percussions and loud brass. You'll hear Zouk mostly in the French Caribbean islands of St Lucia, Martinique and Guadeloupe. The beat is infectious, and you can't help but dance or at least tap your feet.
Soca is a combination of calypso with a more up-tempo beat, and interestingly enough has its origins in a combination of calypso mixed with Indian rhythms from Trinidad and Tobago.
Not your typical Caribbean island! If I had to sum up what's special about St Lucia, I would conclude the following - An exotic island paradise with unique resorts and romantic hideaways, great beaches, hiking, sailing and deep sea fishing. Also the island's steep coastlines and excellent reef system offers world class snorkeling and scuba diving.
About The Author
Linda Thompkins is a Caribbean Travel Consultant, and owner of Travel 2 the Caribbean Online Agency. Linda has been in business for over seven years, has traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean, and also manages two travel blogs.
Visit the site at: http://www.travel2thecaribbean.com
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