Three Things to Try in St Lucia:
It’s all too easy when you arrive in somewhere like St Lucia to just stay put. Stunning beaches, crystal clear waters and elegant resorts are just so tempting.
But, this pretty Caribbean island has a lot more to offer. Can I tempt you with chocolate perhaps?
St Lucia is home to Boucan, Hotel Chocolat‘s cocoa estate and boutique hotel. We went along to try their bean to bar experience and to learn more.
It’s the kind of place where might you arrive with no particular expectations. But then, you have so much fun discovering how to make chocolate and perhaps drinking the odd cocktail or three that you never want to leave.
The bean to bar chocolate experience takes an hour or so and involves, literally, pounding your cocoa beans into submission, adding sugar and cocoa butter till you get the right consistency and then just waiting while the whole thing sets.
The resulting chocolate isn’t quite like the stuff we buy in the shops, but for that, you’d need to pound for more than 20 hours to get a really, really smooth mixture.
I loved wandering around the estate and seeing the cacao growing. And, I had a fit of ‘destination envy’ despite the fact that both the places I stayed in St Lucia were idyllic.
The boutique hotel has just 14 rooms and offers an infinity pool with stunning views out over the pitons, a restaurant that serves a chocolate-themed menu which I am sure will surprise and delight in the same way that its UK cousin Rabot 1745 in Borough Market does.
And, there are some wonderful cocktails too.
Definitely a memorable place to visit – I’d love to have had the chance to stay but, whether you are a resident or not, don’t miss trying the bean to bar experience – even if the fermenting cocoa beans do smell a little strong!
If for some reason, you don’t want to try making chocolate how about a rainforest experience?
With Rainforest Adventure you get the option of a sedate tour in their open sky-tram where the guide will tell you about the wildlife, birds and plant life of St Lucia.
If that’s not your cup of tea, then there’s a zip-line from the top of the mountain back down to the main station – 18 platforms connecting zip wires to get your adrenaline going.
It’s a fascinating place with a stream which at one point provided water for Castries. Apparently, the mountain was also home to a community of Rastafarians who arrived on the island and were shunned by the local people. They lived peacefully in isolation there for several years. Then, fearing contamination of the town’s water supply from upstream, the local police arrived to remove them.
For me, the highlight was seeing two St Lucian parrots – and any number of beautiful hummingbirds. Sadly my photographic skills didn’t quite match the location – I’ve got some lovely shots of the trees
And one of a slow-moving but rather shy crab – but not a sign of the parrots to prove we DID see them!
For those interested in botany, there’s a chance to see some rare plants, including the Lansan tree (from l’encens) – a tree with sap that makes a kind of frankincense.
Too much tapping of the resin and conversion of the rainforest to agriculture has meant this tree has almost disappeared from the Eastern Caribbean…here, in the park of The Rainforest Experience, St Lucia, they are protected and flourishing
Finally, since St Lucia is a volcanic island, it’s well worth checking out the crater of what makes this island unique
Make your way to the coastal town of Soufriere (literally, sulphur), then up into the mountain. You can relax in the sulphur springs and wash away any stress and angst or try the mud baths for beautifully soft skin or relief from mosquito bites, eczema and more. The sulphur baths currently in use are situated in a stunning botanical garden, where you can learn more about the plants of St Lucia too.
I was fascinated just watching the bubbling ‘dormant’ crater of the volcano. Until a few years ago you could walk right up to the edge of the crater, but in the mid-1990s, a local guide fell through a crust into the volcano, suffering second-degree burns. Luckily he was pulled out, but for safety reasons viewing is now restricted to a nearby platform.
Adjacent to the crater you’ll find some of the original sulphur baths (obviously no longer in use), which were built when the French first settled on St Lucia. These, built by Baron-de-Laborie, the French Governor of St. Lucia (1784 to 1789), Diamond Baths were destroyed during the Brigand War that followed the French Revolution.
There’s also a pretty waterfall, laced with minerals from the volcano.
If you want to see more than just your resort when you are staying on St Lucia, there are certainly plenty of options to choose from. My short stay meant that I’ve still got plenty more to explore when I go back again. I’ve been promised that the Saturday Market at Castries is definitely worth doing and one enthusiastic local told me that the best way to do that is to stay late at Anse le Raye Fish Friday and arrive early at the market the next morning.
There are Rum distillery tours at Roseau where you can find out more about St Lucia’s award-winning Chairman’s Reserve Rum. Or, how about touring the island in an open top mini? Water babies may enjoy travelling around the island by sea on one of the many tour boats. Some of them will stop to let you go snorkelling or just cooling off in the crystal clear waters.
And there’s plenty of history on St Lucia too – Pigeon Island, the location for the Rum and Food Festival final event is a site that is full of history as well as being a beautiful place with beaches and white sands.
Whatever your preference, make sure you make the time to explore St Lucia a little – and let her inspire you more!
I travelled as a guest of the St Lucia Tourism Authority. For more information about where to stay and what to do, check their website.
I stayed at The Royalton St Lucia and at Serenity at Coconut Bay
I flew to St Lucia with British Airways. Non-stop flights from London Gatwick take around eight and half hours. British Airways flies to St Lucia seven times a week.