Here are our author’s picks for making the most of the island:
Since the Beausejour Cricket Ground was built in 2002, St Lucia has hosted a number of Test and international matches, including the World Cup in 2007. The 15,000-seater stadium was renamed the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in 2016, after St Lucian Darren Sammy who captained the West Indies side when they won the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 in India.
There are dedicated mountain biking trails through the forest above Anse Mamin Beach, part of the Anse Chastanet Estate in the southwest, and on the Errard Estate on the east coast of St Lucia. St Lucia Cycling Association organizes road races, time trials and public fun rides with BMX, mountain bikes and road bikes and competitors of all ages. Visitors will have to negotiate to borrow a bike.
Diving and snorkelling
There is some very good diving off the west coast off St Lucia, although this is somewhat dependent on the weather, as heavy rain tends to create high sediment loads in the rivers and sea. Diving off the east coast is not so good and can be risky unless you are a competent diver.
One of the best snorkelling and beach entry dive locations in the Caribbean is directly off Anse Chastanet, where an underwater shelf drops off from about 3 m down to 20 m and there is a good dive over Turtle Reef in the bay, where there are over 25 different types of coral.
The area in front of the Anse Chastanet Resort is buoyed-off, and a roped-off area by the jetty is used by snorkellers and beginner divers. Just south and below the Petit Piton are impressive sponge and coral communities on a drop to 70 m of spectacular wall and, at the northern entrance to Sourfrière Bay, the Keyhole Pinnacles is an impressive site where four pinnacles are grouped within a radius of 150 m and rise to within 3 m of the surface; there are gorgonians, black coral trees, huge barrel sponges and plenty of other beautiful reef life.
This whole area is part of a marine reserve administered by the Soufrière Marine Management Area, and it stretches between Anse Jambon, north of Anse Chastanet, and Anse L’Ivrogne to the south.
There are other popular dive sites off Anse L’Ivrogne, Anse La Raye and Anse Cochon, not forgetting the wrecks, such as the Volga (in 6 m of water north of Castries harbour, well broken up, subject to swell, requires caution), and the 55-m Lesleen M (deliberately sunk in 1986 off Anse Cochon Bay in 20 m of water).
On St Lucia, fishing trips for barracuda, blue marlin, yellowfin, white marlin, sailfish, wahoo and dolphin fish (mahi mahi) can be arranged, and fishing is particularly good February-May when most of these game fish are in season (August-December for blue marlin).
One of the most popular places to head out from is Rodney Bay Marina, where there are a number of fishing charter boats, and where the annual five-day St Lucia International Billfish Tournament is held at the end of October.
Unlike some of the other flatter Caribbean islands where golf is very popular, St Lucia’s rugged and hilly terrain means there are only two golf courses on the island: a nine-hole course at the Sandals Regency La Toc resort near Castries (Sandals guests only), and the 18-hole course at the St Lucia Golf Club, located at Cap Estate on the northern end of the island.
It may not be as glamourous as other golf clubs in the Caribbean, but has fantastic views of both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea from its greens.
Hiking and birdwatching
St Lucia has an extensive network of hiking trails in the interior of the island managed and maintained by the Forestry Department. Permits are usually available at the rangers’ stations at the start of the trails, where you can also pick up a guide – particularly useful if you are birdwatching.
On a couple of trails guides are mandatory and you will have to pre-organize one with the Forestry Department or go with a tour operator.
Trails that are particularly good for birdwatching, with the chance of seeing the St Lucian parrot and other endemic birds such as the St Lucia oreole and St Lucia warbler, include the Forestiere Trail in the north of the island; the Barre le l’Isle Rainforest Trail at the high point of the transinsular road; the Des Cartiers Rainforest Trail on the east coast; and the Millet Bird Sanctuary Trail on the west coast.
There are numerous other opportunities for hiking: for example, along the coast around Cas-en-Bas Beach; the Tet Paul Nature Trail in the southwest, which offers extraordinary views of the Pitons; and the Gros Piton Nature Trail itself for the tremendous 360-degree view of the southern part of the island.
Remember that hiking in the forests can be wet and muddy, so bring appropriate clothing and footwear as well as hat, sun protection and insect repellent.
As some of the best views are from the sea, it is recommended to take at least one boat trip.
One of the most popular day excursions on St Lucia is to sail down the west coast to Soufrière, where you can admire the Pitons from the sea and alight at the town’s jetty to visit some local sights such as the Sulphur Springs, Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens and Mineral Baths or Anse Chastanet Beach for swimming and snorkelling.
Other possibilities include two- to three-hour sunset cruises and day trips to Martinique.
Whales generally visit the waters aound St Lucia between December and April. Sperm and short-finned pilot whales are the most commonly seen, but humpbacks, Bryde’s whales and orcas are also occasionally sighted. Dolphins include spinner, spotted, Fraser and bottlenose, usually in pods of 30-60 family members, but sometimes they can be seen in their hundreds.
In season, boat trips for whale and dolphin watching are operated by the same charter companies that operate fishing trips. A good vantage point for land-based whale watching on the west coast is from the top of the hills at the Pigeon Island National Landmark overlooking Rodney Bay.
Windsurfing and kiteboarding
The winds off Anse de Sables in the extreme south of St Lucia are very good for both windsurfing and kiteboarding, with the latter taking place off a cove slightly to the north. January, February, May and June are the best months, with winds blowing unobstructed crossonshore from the left.
The sickle-shaped beach is bordered on the leeward side by the Moule à Chique Peninsula, so you won’t drift off into the Atlantic. Windsurfing and kiteboarding are also good at Cas-en-Bas in the northeast, where the winds come in off the Atlantic. On the Caribbean side of the island several resorts offer equipment for lazy windsurfing and Reduit Beach in Rodney Bay is good for beginners.