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St. Lucia Pitons from Airplane

If you believe in love at first sight, then sit yourself on the left side of any plane coming from North America to St. Lucia and prepare to be smitten. Because with the very first views of this tropical island’s signature landmarks, the twin volcanic spires known as the Pitons, you’ll know that this Caribbean island is something special. Add in its lush scenery, sunset-facing boutique luxury properties and sultry evening serenades sung by tree frogs and crickets, and it’s no wonder St. Lucia is so popular with honeymooners and couples.

But St. Lucia isn’t just about canoodling couples: I challenge any visitor not to fall in love with this island paradise, especially when you get to know the beautiful and adventurous heart of this island: the area all around the Pitons in the district of Soufrière which is home to some of the best attractions in St. Lucia.

The Heart of St. Lucia: the Pitons

2 pitons and soufriere St. Lucia overlook
The twin Pitons with the town of Soufrière in the valley

Castries in the northwest of St. Lucia may be the capital city of this island nation, but it is Soufrière, the district that is home to their signature Pitons, that most visitors will identify as St. Lucia’s heart. The Pitons are two remnants of St. Lucia’s tumultuous volcanic past and are as synonymous with the island as the local beer named after them.

Henk Piton Beer sign
St. Lucia’s twin Pitons are the island’s signature landmark (and goofy tourist photo op!)

The mountains are actually two volcanic plugs that were once the vents of active volcanoes, and when the magma eventually cooled and hardened inside these ‘necks’, and the rest of the volcano around them eroded, only these spires were left. Today they stand like forested sentinels watching over the rest of the island, and although not the tallest peaks on St. Lucia, they are definitely the most recognizable.

Gros Piton (the larger) of St. Lucia’s spires is over 2600 feet high (almost 800 metres), and only a short distance away sits its shorter sister, Petit Piton at around 2400 feet (743 metres). Both green mini-mountains appear even more impressive because they rise directly out of the ocean, making their height and stature even more dominant. It’s because of this exceptional natural beauty and their significant geologic features that the Pitons made the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2003.

rainbow over piton from catamaran
A rainbow appears over Petit Piton in St Lucia

But it’s not just these two peaks that makes this part of St. Lucia the draw for most of the people who come here: this is also the part of St. Lucia where adventure awaits, whether you like your adventure hard-core or more laid back.

Fall in Love with Adventure in the Soufrière Area

Main plaza Soufriere St. Lucia
The main plaza in the small town of Soufrière, St. Lucia

Every local we asked said that their favourite place in St. Lucia was Soufrière, and by this, they meant the district, not just the town of around 8000 people. This is probably because many of the most popular attractions in St. Lucia happen to be in this particular part of the island. But don’t overlook the town of Soufrière, either. The town does have its charms, including the brightly coloured houses that are typical of Caribbean destinations, and a pretty town square and waterfront.

Colourful houses Soufriere St. Lucia
The colourful houses of Soufrière, St. Lucia
View of Piton from Soufriere waterfront park St. Lucia
View of Petit Piton from Soufrière waterfront park

But the real appeal of this area is the opportunity to explore some of St. Lucia’s more adventurous activities and locations.

Love a Hiking Challenge? Gros Piton It Is!

If you’re looking for a relaxing nature walk, you should probably NOT consider hiking the Gros Piton Trail! This challenging trail is guaranteed to get the hearts of even the most fit athletes pumping, because it’s pretty much a climb, not a hike, as there isn’t anywhere to go but up. Until it’s time to come back down which can be even harder on your knees. However, for those who do hike Gros Piton, [we hear] the views are stunning and the sense of accomplishment far outweighs the huffing and puffing.

Tet rouge resort St. Lucia with Gros Piton
Gros Piton rises behind the boutique Têt Rouge resort which is very close to the Gros Piton trailhead

Twin Views of the Twin Peaks: the Tet Paul Nature Trail

Henk and I were looking for more of a pretty nature walk than a cardio workout, and we found that in the Tet Paul Nature Trail, about 10 minutes from Soufrière.

Stairway to heaven Tet Paul Trail St. Lucia
Henk and I found our Stairway to Heaven on the Tet Paul trail

This was definitely more of a walk than a hike, difficulty-wise, but because we were accompanied by a local guide, we learned a lot about the local plants and trees, how they are prepared as food and even their medicinal properties. There was a replica of an historic cabin on the route as well, where you could see how life was lived back in the day.

But of course the pièce de résistance came at the end of our walk where we emerged to a 180-degree view of not just one but both Pitons! It may be the only place on St. Lucia where you can get both Pitons in the same wide-angle photo.

Twin pitons from Tet Paul Trail St. Lucia
The twin pitons from Tet Paul Nature Trail St. Lucia

And with a little panoramic magic, you can get to be in two places at once yourself!

Twin tourists from Tet Paul Trail St. Lucia
Worth a double take!

Drive Into a Volcano. No, Really.

There aren’t a lot of places in the world where you can literally drive into the caldera of a volcano. Certainly not one that is still burping up scalding hot water and mud. But you can do this in St. Lucia, at Sulphur Springs Park, home to the Qualibou caldera, probably the most popular of all the attractions in St. Lucia.

Sulphur Springs drive through volcano
The Qualibou caldera at Sulphur Springs Park near the town of Soufrière, St. Lucia

Here, although the volcano itself is dormant (last eruption was in 1766), the magma below the surface still heats rainwater and sea water that seeps through the rock, causing pools of bubbling mud and water to form on the surface of the basin.

Sulphur Springs park waterfall
Water bubbles up through the earth’s crust at Sulphur Springs Park

Park your car and head to the observation platforms where you can get a great overview of the bubbling pools and gassy fumaroles. However, the basin itself is strictly off limits to visitors as the crust here is unstable and dangerous, and a guide was seriously burned when part of the surface he was walking on collapsed and he fell into the scalding waters.

TIP: Be prepared: these springs and fumaroles do smell like rotten eggs because of the sulphur in the earth here, but the intensity of the odour changes. We happened to visit on a day when the odour wasn’t very strong at all.

Mud-Baths Are a Must-Do Here

All that liquid bubbling up through the earth’s crust does come with some benefits, and the mineral-rich water that flows out of the caldera at Sulphur Springs is actually believed to be quite therapeutic. For that reason, the Park has built a series of terraced pools where the water and clay from the volcano collect in what are basically natural, rustic hot tubs (minus the jets, of course).

Sulphur Springs mud baths St. Lucia
The mud baths are one of the must-do attractions in St. Lucia

There’s no need to worry about being scalded, however: the water has cooled down considerably during its journey from the basin, but it is still around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, just hot enough for a pleasant soak. Don’t forget to use the clay as an exfoliating mud-scrub that will leave your skin baby-soft and surprisingly moisturized.

visitors having fun in mud baths St. Lucia
Visitors having fun in the mud baths at Sulphur Springs Park

TIP: If you are visiting the mud baths, wear a bathing suit that isn’t too precious because the grey mud may stain. There are change rooms on site and open shelves to stow your bags, but don’t bring anything valuable with you, and be sure to bring a towel, as none are provided. Also, if you are wearing any silver jewellery, remove it, as the chemical reaction with the sulphur will tarnish it. Gold jewellery isn’t affected.

Love Snorkelling?

Snorkelling split screen with coral head

If you an avid snorkeller, or even a casual one, you will probably want to head to the beach of Anse Cochon near the settlement of Ti Kaye, which offers some of the best snorkelling on St. Lucia. It’s no Great Barrier Reef (but then, what is?), but the advantage here is that you can easily swim to the reef from the beach without having to book a dive excursion.

Overhead of reef anse cochons St. Lucia
It’s a short swim to decent snorkelling at the rocky edge of Anse Cochon beach

The waters are Caribbean-clear and there are tons of fish and some brightly-coloured coral worthy of bringing your waterproof camera.

Snorkelling yellow coral anse cochon
Yellow coral near the rocks at Anse Cochon beach

The snorkelling is good enough to attract people from across the island, and since all the beaches in St. Lucia are public, you will likely see other boats and even catamaran excursions from cruise ships pull into shore. But there are plenty of fish in the sea for all, and they don’t seem to mind the additional visitors, so you probably won’t either.

St. Lucia Anse Cochon with catamaran
Catamaran excursions often anchor at Anse Cochon just for the snorkelling here

You’ll Love St. Lucia’s Lushness

Malgretoute Beach near Paradise Hotel with Jane
Malgretoute Beach St. Lucia

You don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie or adventure-seeker to appreciate the tropical beauty of St. Lucia. One of the island’s most distinctive characteristics is just how green and lush it is everywhere you look, especially in the deep ravines and valleys that dominate most of the island’s interior.

Anse l'Ivrogne beach near Tet rouge
St. Lucia is blanketed in lush greenery

Driving the narrow, winding roads offers plenty of places where you can appreciate the island’s beauty, and you’ll often find a small bar at the most scenic overlooks where locals and visitors can admire the views with a Bounty rum and cola cocktail in hand.

St. Lucia Marigot Bay
Marigot Bay is a pretty little cove where the original movie Dr. Doolittle with Rex Harrison was filmed

If you visit anytime around the rainy season, you’ll get to see the island’s waterfalls at their best, too. Some of these, like the popular one at Toraille Falls charges an admission fee to visit, but for that small charge you can swim under the cascade in the small pool at the base. It’s the ultimate natural ‘plunge pool’ under a 40-foot tall waterfall, so if you’ve always wanted to swim under a waterfall, this is your chance.

Toraille Waterfall St. Lucia
You can swim under the Toraille Waterfall in St. Lucia (but it’s cool water, not from the heated spring!)

TIP: Toraille Falls is only a short distance off the road, so there’s no need to hike far to get to it. It’s quite a small site overall but there are change rooms and washroom facilities and a little bar if you want to top off your plunge with a Piton beer or snack. This place can get very busy in high season, so you will probably want to get here earlier in the day to avoid bus tours.

St. Lucia’s Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens

Flamingo Flowers Botanical Gardens St. Lucia
It’s easy to see why these beauties in the Botanical Gardens are called flamingo flowers.

St. Lucia’s lusciousness is on full display at Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens and Mineral Baths near the town of Soufrière. The gardens were originally part of 2000 acres of land given by King Louis XIV to the Devaux family in 1713 for their ‘service to the Crown’. The property was highly valued in part for its mineral waters that flow here from the same Sulphur Springs source upstream. For this reason, baths were built here in the late 1700s to allow people to ‘take the waters’ and have remained here in one form or another ever since.

Baths at Botanical Gardens St. Lucia
These baths are filled from the hot springs for visitors to enjoy a soak at Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens

FUN FACT: It’s claimed that Empress Josephine herself bathed in the original baths on this site. Ooh la la!

Today, even if you choose not to enjoy the baths, the Botanical Gardens offer 6 acres of planted gardens where you can admire beautiful flowers and tropical plants, stroll the quiet paths and look for some of the island’s bird life (including the bird of paradise flower, if not the other kind!).

Bird of Paradise flower at Botanical Gardens St. Lucia
Yellow Bird of Paradise
raindrops on giant leaf
Raindrops on a giant leaf in the Botanical Gardens

It’s a peaceful oasis and if you time your visit towards the end of the day, you’ll find fewer people and more opportunity to admire the jewel of the park, Diamond Falls.

Diamond Falls: One of the Top Attractions in St Lucia

Henk walking towards Diamond Falls at Botanical Gardens St. Lucia

Diamond Falls is one of the most picturesque waterfalls on St. Lucia because of its unique coloration: the water itself isn’t actually tinted, but the rocky surface over which it flows reveals its mineral-rich compounds in ribbons of red, gold and purple behind the cascade. It’s definitely a beauty and one of St. Lucia’s most photographed attractions, even if there’s no swimming allowed here. Situated at the end of the garden’s paths, it’s the crowning glory of the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens and definitely deserves its headliner status.

Diamond Falls horiz Botanical Gardens St. Lucia
Diamond Falls is the jewel in the crown of the Botanical Gardens in St. Lucia

Luxury Lovers will Love St. Lucia

St. Lucia Ti Kaye resort pool reflections

If your vision of luxury includes unique, boutique properties with private plunge pools, stunning ocean views and sunsets that are second to none, St. Lucia is an island that over-delivers, its Soufrière district in particular. Here the hilly coastline near the Pitons provides the perfect location for private villa-style properties that cascade down the hillsides, allowing for unobstructed views of both the ocean and the Pitons. And being almost directly west-facing, the location is perfect for front-and-centre spectacular sunsets.

Ti Kaye resort St. Lucia from the air
Ti Kaye resort’s villas all offer amazing ocean views from their hillside perch

Many of these boutique properties offer inclusive packages that allow you to experience excellent dining right on-site as well, so you never have to go far to enjoy the best of St. Lucian cuisine. The boutique Ti Kaye resort is one of these, where guests also have the opportunity to enjoy wines from their impressively well-stocked wine cellar. Or book a wine tasting experience to dive deeper into their collection of top-notch global vintages.

Wine Cellar at Ti Kaye Resort
The wine Cellar at Ti Kaye Resort offers wine tastings and private dinners in the cellar

If indulgence and luxury mean spa treatments to you, there’s no shortage of those at St. Lucia’s properties, either. Stonefield Villa Resort takes aesthetics seriously, not just in the spa services it offers, but with the gorgeous views from its treatment rooms.

daytime Piton view from room at Stonefield Villas
Stonefield Villa Resort boasts private plunge pools and Petit Piton views to die for even from their spa

Or maybe you’d love a private sunset cruise, including a little snorkelling time beforehand and a dinner onboard, before watching the sun dip below the horizon?

sunset from boat on fire-2

The management of the exclusive Tet Rouge property will be happy to accommodate you on their 40-foot catamaran and, with a little help from Mother Nature, make it a sunset you aren’t soon to forget.

jane on catamaran cruise toasting
Cruise on board Têt Rouge’s private 40-foot catamaran

Love at First Sight

It’s easy to fall hard for St. Lucia. Whether it’s the natural beauty of the island and its famous Pitons that inspire love at first sight, the one-of-a-kind adventures and attractions you can only find here, or the intimate, luxurious properties where every guest feels like a VIP, St. Lucia fits my definition of a Caribbean paradise perfectly.

And it’s the kind of holiday romance that every visitor can experience – no honeymoon required.

Sunset with palm tree Tet rouge_-2

Special thanks to Tourism St. Lucia and Total Public Relations who hosted Henk and I on our visit to St. Lucia.


Jane with Hat Tanzania

Jane Canapini is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada and the North American Travel Journalists Association. She established in 2014 to share information and tips based on personal experience so her readers could get the most out of their travels.

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