Travel blog written by an average traveler that focuses on "real" experiences. Not quite budget, not quite luxury. Real.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Good vibes in the beautiful St. Lucia!

Travelers/Trip Type: My Husband And I
Method Of Travel: Air, Cruise Ship
Would I Return: In A Hearbeat!

Whenever I travel to a new place I almost immediately pick up a vibe from the location, sometimes it puts me on edge (for no particular reason) and sometimes I am instantly put at ease. The latter was the case when I visited St. Lucia for the first time. It is for this reason, along with the fact that it's incredibly lush, the beaches are amazing, and the people are fantastic that I have classified St. Lucia as my favorite (overall) Caribbean island.

Many of the islands that dot the Caribbean are very poor and host a rougher crowd (away from the towering resorts and exquisite hotels) and it is in these particular areas that I tend to feel uneasy and sometimes downright scared. For example, when I visited the island of Dominica we were specifically told not to go into town (Roseau) and not to accept rides from any taxis without the appropriate sticker or we were at risk for kidnapping and/or robbery. Okay, this is not the type of place that makes me want to relax and enjoy my vacation. In Mexico, there are  guards with machine guns. Again, not very comforting. Additionally, even though I have never been to Jamaica, I have heard too many stories from friends and family about how unsafe they felt when they ventured away from the security of the resorts. I don't know about you but I don't want to be confined to a resort the entire trip,  regardless of how beautiful it is. I want the opportunity to integrate myself into the local scene so that I can absorb as much as possible about the true essence of the place that I am visiting (without fearing for my life). In St. Lucia, even though there were many areas of extreme poverty, I never once felt uncomfortable.

I have been to St. Lucia twice but unfortunately only for one day (on each trip) as our stops were part of a southern Caribbean cruise. On our first trip we wanted to get an overview of the island so we did a land and sea combo trip (booked through the cruise) to cover as much ground as possible in a short amount of time. We started off by snaking through the capital city of Castries, then we headed up the mountain and into the jungle, stopping at many scenic overlooks and towns such as Anse La Reye, Canary and then finally Soufriere. If curvy roads bother you then you definately do not want to make this drive!  It was crazy because we would be in the middle of nowhere and then someone would suddenly appear with goods to sell. My favorites were the man with the giant python around his neck (allowing you to take pictures with the snake for a small fee) and the local craftswomen who sold their hand sewn dolls through the windows of the bus (right). It's wierd because in other parts of the Caribbean you feel hassled by vendors coming up to you with their wares, but in St. Lucia you almost feel blessed that they gave you the opportunity to buy their stuff. They weren't pushy at all so maybe that's the difference.

As we approached Soufriere, we were blessed with a magnificant view of the pitons. Wow! We had to put our piton viewing on hold for a minute though as our next stop was Sulfer Springs. Supposedly it's the only active volcano that you can drive into. It was neat to see all of the bubbling water (above top)  but the stinkometer was on extreme high so if you are sensitive to smell you may want to avoid this attraction. Our final stop before driving into Soufriere was the Botanical Gardens where we were able to view all of the beautiful plants and trees of St. Lucia (above bottom). If you go, make sure you walk to the end of the trail to view the waterfall. Finally, we headed to Soufriere where we boarded our catamaran and indulged in a wonderful creole lunch with the glorious pitons as our backdrop. The highlight of the meal for me (along with the view) was the breadfruit cake salad. It was amazing! As we "cruised" the coast we were able to see all of the towns that we had previously driven through. It was neat to see them from a  different vantage point. We stopped at Anse Cochon (black sand beach) for a swim before continuing on to the beautiful Marigot Bay and then back to our ship.

On our second trip to St. Lucia we were celebrating our 10 year anniversary so we definately wanted to get away from the masses for a more intimate look at St. Lucia. We accomplished this by booking a tour through Serenity Tours called the "Day of Serenity Tour" which gave us a wonderful day at the Ti Kaye Village  Resort and Spa in the middle of the jungle. Our drive was 30-40 minutes through dense jungle, which included numerous switchback roads. I recalled this one town in particular called Anse La Raye (above and right top & bottom) from our former visit and knew I wanted to stop there along the way for some souvineer shopping (and our tour guide happily obliged). It's this quant little fishing village with a small row of local vendors selling their goods for really cheap prices. It's definately the best place to shop in St. Lucia if you are looking for something handcrafted to bring home. I have read that on friday nights they have a big fish fry there which I definately want to attend at some point in the future. Anse La Raye has the local flair that I love to experience and I was almost frustrated that we couldn't spend more time there.

Once at the "resort" we were able to relax the entire day. I say "resort" because it did not have the feel of a resort at all, in fact it felt very private, like our own private residence along the beach in the middle of the jungle (above). We were able to kayak to an even more private beach, followed by some amazing snorkeling and then sun tanning on comfortable chairs. The snorkeling was the best that I've ever seen, not so much because of the fish but because the coral was incredible looking with all different colors and shapes. I've never seen anything like it! It put Hanauma Bay (in Hawaii) to shame! It was a wonderful day to relax and enjoy each other's company in paradise.

After relaxing we were able to enjoy a lunch up in their restaurant on the top of the cliff looking down at the beach. It was super chic with white curtains blowing in the wind and we had the entire place to ourselves (above top). The food was outstanding! In particular, I remember the most amazing salad I've ever eaten and a wonderfully delicous banana split composed of various icecream flavors, including banana and pistaccio. Finally, we indulged ourselves with a couples massage in a private room overlooking the ocean (above bottom). We were able to pick our oils and then enjoy a delicious cold tea while they washed our feet and prepared us for our massage. It was the best spa experience I have ever had! They even had mirrors on the floor so that you could still see the ocean while you were laying down for your massage! The entire day was absolutely amazing and I would highly recommend this place to anyone. Couples, families, friends, you name it.... I will definately be returning, probably with my teenage daughters in tow (okay so it's gonna be a few years but they gotta be able to swim well enough to partake in all of the water activities). However, the next time that I return I will be staying for at least a week so that I can do it justice. The locals are amazingly friendly and there's so much more that I want to explore. These two short trips have only wet my appetite for discovering the wonderful St. Lucia!

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