Known as a favorite among the honeymoon set, low-key St. Lucia also appeals to cruisers. Most ships make a nine-hour stop in the northwest capital, Castries, which is made up of duty-free stores, banks, and a few markets. In other words, there’s not much to see here. Many travelers spend an hour or two in town and then head out to explore the island. That means heading south to Soufrière to see the monkey-filled rain forests, up to the island’s famous Piton mountains, or down to the beautiful beaches. The hardest decision you’ll make: Which of these beautiful areas should get your precious time in port?
Breakfast: Castries Market – Head to Castries’ open-air market in the early morning and sample St. Lucia’s national dish of green fig (unripe bananas) and salt fish pie, or a salt fish sandwich. Wash it down with the local favorite: rich, spiced cocoa tea. It puts traditional hot chocolate to shame. Grated cocoa sticks are boiled down, then steeped with bay leaves, cinnamon, and nutmeg for a warming treat, even during the summer. Walk off your meal by shopping for spices and taking in the busy scene as locals — and the area’s top chefs — scoop up fresh ingredients for dinner.
Lunch: Chef Orlando’s – Those who’ve visited the famous Ladera Resort will recognize the name Orlando Satchell, who put the hotel’s restaurant, Dasheene, on the map. In December 2012, he opened his own place in Soufrière. His dedication to supporting local farmers and fishermen, many of whom he has long relationships with, remains. At the restaurant, expect upscale Caribbean dishes; we suggest the five-course tasting menu that includes pumpkin soup and cocoa-seasoned beef.
Dinner: The Coal Pot – Most ships leave St. Lucia by 6 pm, so dinner is not an option. But if you want to have a substantial lunch that feels more like a supper, The Coal Pot at Castries’ Vigie Marina, is the best choice. This celebrated seafood restaurant is known for preparing fish in a multitude of ways. Start with callaloo soup (made from a spinach-like green), followed by Creole dorado — served with a hearty portion of peas and rice, as well as roasted yams or cassava — which is known to the locals as “ground provisions.”
Dessert: Jacques Waterfront Dining – At this outdoor restaurant overlooking Vigie Cove, you can — during the winter months — eat your fruit gratin by candlelight and watch the sunset before heading back onboard.
Tip: For the best deal on local Piton beers and rum punches, head to the informal rum shacks along Vigie Beach, just a few minutes’ walk from the cruise pier. There’s a small beach there and, if you skip the shore excursions, you can hang out for a few hours and soak up the sun with a cold drink.
For Everyone: Mystic Man Tours – The best way to see St. Lucia's famous Piton mountain peaks: on a catamaran cruise down the island’s west coast. Mystic Man Tours include an opportunity to snorkel and stop in the fishing villages of Canaries and Anse La Raye — as well as lunch and drinks — for $75 per person.
For Couples: Rainforest Spa at Sugar Beach – There are a handful of luxurious resorts on St. Lucia, but if you’re looking for a spa treatment, we suggest the Romantic Renaissance treatment for two in the Rainforest Spa treehouse cabanas at Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort, near Soufrière. For $325, you’ll get a couples’ massage, lunch, and sparkling wine to sip in your private pool.
For Families: Rainforest Adventures – This zip line park is just 25 minutes from Castries and, since there are no age restrictions, the whole group can explore the rain forest together. For $85 per person, you can start with an open-air aerial tram ride, and then follow it up with a hike through the rain forest to begin a swinging, ziplining experience with 18 platforms.
For the Adventurous: Gros Piton Mountain Hike – The two- to five-hour climb (depending on your fitness level) up the Gros Piton Mountain to an elevation of 3,000 feet above sea level is a heart-pounding hike. Sign up for this one, led by a tour guide, and begin the trek early to avoid the hottest hours of the day.
Prone to motion sickness? Take medication before setting off on a ride to Soufrière or Marigot. The roads are notoriously windy and full of hairpin turns, and the rides from Castries take at least an hour.