This Spring we had the most epic family vacation, visiting Saint Lucia, a small sovereign island country in the West Indies, way down in the eastern Caribbean Sea. If you have never been to Saint Lucia, you are in for a treat! This beauty is one of my very favorite Caribbean islands. It is a lush, green paradise and the perfect destination for an absolutely amazing family adventure.
As we kick off the summer here in the Barry house, I can’t help but crave tropical sunshine. So as the weather heats up here in the Inland-Northwest, I am sharing our treasured memories and our favorite picks for families visiting this beautiful little island.
If you are new to my blog, then you may not know that we have been traveling the US for 39 months in an RV! We have loved seeing so many miles of the U.S. and living in our tiny home on wheels, but staying in a villa, near a tropical rain forest, for 10 nights, was an absolutely delightful change!
As a family of 5, we love to sprawl out a bit when we are not in our cozy RV. We found a lovely villa, through an online rental site, that became our vacation home for this trip. For the husband and I, nothing says “vacation” quite like coffee on the lanai or a glass of wine at sunset!
Here is a summary of our very favorite ways to enjoy St. Lucia…
Our Favorite Family-Fun Activities In St. Lucia
1 – A Day At Sugar Beach
We snorkeled in several different spots while on St. Lucia. One of our favorite spots to snorkel was at Sugar Beach. The water is pristine, there is a beautiful reef and a sandy beach.
I think we found the perfect way to do Sugar Beach…this mama made an appointment at the Rainforest Spa, within The Viceroy Resort on Sugar Beach, and from there everything fell into place. It is my understanding that you either have to be a guest of the hotel or take a boat tour/water taxi to visit this beach. The boat rides are pricey for a family, if your only goal is to visit the beach. By booking an appointment at the spa, we received access to the resort. We descended on the beach and enjoyed the best snorkeling this island offers.
Some of the best fruit we found on the island, was right there on that little beach. A local man rows a kayak, filled with local fruits, right up onto the beach and serves you the very best mango your mouth will ever taste.
Then, while Chris enjoyed the beach and continued snorkeling with the kids, I enjoyed the spa!
My very first massage in a private tree house. Hello! The ambiance was as wonderful as the treatment. This was probably one of the best birthday presents I have received from my husband. Gentlemen, take note!
After being pampered, I wandered down to the restaurant and
waited for my crew found beachside bliss.
2 – Tour A Historic Chocolate Plantation
There are several chocolate plantations on the island to choose from. We visited the historic Fond Doux Plantation and it was a sensational visit!
We opted to take a tour of the plantation and have lunch in the restaurant, so we purchased combo tickets ($40 per adult and $20 per child USD$).
With my husband selling couverture chocolate for the last eight years, he had visited factories in Vietnam and witnessed the stages of cocoa production. The kids and I had never seen cocoa in its original form though, so this was a must for my bucket list! Not only did we see cocoa, but we had a fabulous nature walk, took gorgeous photos and ate a lovely meal.
This young guy, with fascinating botanical knowledge, gave us a tour of the grounds.
He identified so many unique plants for us, as well as entertained us with fun local facts and ways to use the local flora….certain flowers interlock to form a chain…apparently white begonia is edible and tastes like green apples….and supposedly the sap from the rubber plant will make you blind if it gets in your eyes. He warned us that too much nutmeg can kill you! Are any of my readers in botany? I am super curious as to wether these statements are true!
The plantation is stunning, and we especially enjoyed learning about the local fruits. I would of never guessed how amazing fresh cinnamon leaves could smell.
And of course…the chocolate. St. Lucia is known for its chocolate. And Lucians will argue that they grow the best cocoa in the world.
My kids were fascinated to find that the cocoa pod looks like this:
And the cocoa beans are slathered in this mushy white goo that looks like this:
Perhaps even more fun than tasting the different forms of chocolate, was when our guide showed Brendan how they moistened the dried cocoa nibs and spun it around with their feet.
Brendan then had a turn to try his own version of a tribal dance, as he swirled the cocoa nibs around with his soles. It so reminded me of the I Love Lucy episode where she was crushing the grapes with her feet to make wine. It was quite a sight.
And yes, these were his feet at the end. So reminiscent of the dirty, dangling pirate feet on the Pirates Of The Caribbean ride at Disneyland. Do you remember that dirty old foot swinging from the bridge?
After cleaning up my boy, we were delighted to see what our lunch package included at the Bamboo Restaurant.
The best rum punch on the island for mom and dad and amazing fresh fruit juice for the kids. A super cute restaurant and a truly delicious meal were so welcoming!
This plantation visit was fabulous and our crew definitely recommends it!
3 – Enjoy The Beach At Ti Kaye Resort
We are so glad that we spent a day here! I was not sure about this spot from the beginning. The owner of our villa suggested that we venture down to this beach, if we did not mind driving a car “down the horribly long rutted road.” I read many reviews on the TripAdvisor Forums that almost convinced me to avoid this spot, but my
chauffeur husband, felt ambitious that day. What a phenomenal beach experience!
Ti Kaye Resort is on a remote beach and it has amazing snorkeling! We drove our rental car to the resort, paid $10 (USD) per adult to use their beach and then they gave us that amount in credit, to use at their beachside restaurant. We rented two chairs, snorkeled all day and had a blast.
There is a server that works on the beach, so we opted to eat lunch right on the sand. If you want great snorkeling and fewer crowds, this is the place!
Have some fresh coconut water.
Treat yourself to a customary souvenir.
This was truly one of the most relaxing days we had on the island. And did I mention how great the snorkeling was?
4 – Lunch At Dasheene
The centerpiece of the Ladera Resort, is this lovely restaurant with the most stunning view in the entire Caribbean! Dasheene overlooks the infamous Sugar Beach and has a backdrop featuring the Pitons. I would imagine that this restaurant truly shines at sunset. Since the resort was a two-hour drive from our villa, we opted to visit over lunch. We were blessed with gorgeous weather on this lovely day, which happened to be my birthday! I celebrated perfectly with my favorite people, wine and a view. The food was lovely and the trio of chocolate desserts was pure decadence. With a husband in the dessert industry and a palette favoring the finer things in life…let me tell you, that dessert was sublime!
5 – Zip Line Through The Rainforest
St. Lucia is a beautiful, lush, tropical oasis. I still remember my first visit at age 20 and I will never forget driving through a tropical rain forest for the first time. What better way for our kids to experience the jungle…then zip-lining through the tree tops!
The guides were great and the location is beautiful. We visited before lunch and the kids zip lined, while Chris and I sat on the patio and relaxed. I gave the guides my phone and they followed the kids around and took about 5,000,000 pictures for me.
The kids had a blast! I was super relaxed and then we had the most affordable, kid friendly lunch on the island afterwards (great priced burger and fries).
6 – Visit Sulphur Springs & The Drive-In Volcano
The town of Soufriere hosts the worlds only “drive through” volcano….known as La Soufriere. The locals consider this a pretty big attraction. You drive your vehicle up to the crater and park.
You then walk along the caldera and take a guided tour, and then drive out.
We found the volcano tour to be pretty touristy…and after a couple of trips to Yellowstone National Park, honestly, my kids were not super impressed on a hot day. They were impressed with the mud bath though!
Really…what could be more fun for a family than slathering warm volcanic mud all over each other? A certain little boy thought he was so funny to write “kick me” on my back…little stinker!
The mud is loaded with minerals and is really great for your skin. We found the baths to be crazy hot, but so worth it, even on a warm day! Our guide were helpful and took pics with my phone to document the entire thing.
And really, the entire experience is worth it…just to have the fun memories and a crazy family photo. Plus I’m pretty sure that showing your kids how to camouflage and blend-in like a chameleon is a life skill, right?
You won’t need reservations for the mud baths, but you can find information HERE. I should also note that you can choose to visit just the mud bath or just the volcano tour…we did both on our visit ($10 USD per person for combo tickets).
7 – Local Cuisine In Gros Islet
We headed up to Gros Islet for a delicious sampling of what the locals eat. Gros Islet is known for its Friday Night Street Party. A little perusing online, quickly revealed that this legendary party, was not where I wanted to take my kids. We opted instead to visit this town during lunch, eat an amazing meal at Flavours Of The Grill, walk along the beach and watch the kids snorkel. This tiny little restaurant is filled with locals and visitors alike and was impressively clean. We actually loved the fact that lunch was served buffet style, with a very sweet server dishing and describing each item. I do believe that each one of us tried at least three incredibly unique items, including goat (don’t freak out, it tastes like chicken)!
8 – A Secret Adventure
On every trip I try to find at least one place that is off the beaten path, a place that only the locals know of. We travel to so many fabulous destinations and are often around people…that it always soothes my soul to hop on a backroad and get away. I also love the thrill of following someone elses clever directions of where to go, when what you are looking for is not on a map….it is kind of like a treasure hunt.
I had read about a secret waterfall, just up the road from the zip lining location. We navigated our way there and found some lovely spots.
Unfortunately, when we arrived at the waterfall, there was a local tour guide that had a small group there. Apparently the group had paid for a private waterfall tour. It was so funny, she accused me of following her to the spot! If you decide to search for this waterfall, park by the little shack on the side of the road, about 10 minutes past the park. You will need water shoes, or a little sister to carry you!
Thankfully they left quickly and we finished our hike.
9 – Drive Along The Coast
There is really just one main road that goes around the perimeter of the island, I don’t even believe that it has a name. In fact, Google Maps has yet to truly map out the island, so driving anywhere is really an adventure in itself! You will find a ton of spots to pull over and admire the views. There are public beaches everywhere and plenty of beautiful resorts to provide the amenities you want. (Note: we thought the Rodney Bay area was super easy to navigate with kids on our first day, while we were still acclimating to the scene)
We mixed it up and tried a little of everything…busy beaches, quite resort spots and everything in between.
10 – Sunset At Marigot Bay
Marigot Bay is a beautiful spot to pause and watch the sunset. It is worth a visit for a snack or a meal…and the photo opp of course.
11 – Shop The Castries Market
We loved staying in a villa, as it really allowed us to be submerged into the culture of the island. This did mean that we cooked many of our meals. To do so, we shopped at the local grocery store and the Castries Market. This is basically a farmers market on a grand scale. At first glance it may appear to be a tourist trap for those disembarking the cruise ships. You find hundreds of stalls with way too many tchotchkes. Take your time though, wander around the corner, through the tourists, past the alleys and into the streets behind the big buildings and you will find local produce, everyday products, fresh fish and garage sale items. And that is where we separated from all the daytime tourists and saw the real marketplace.
The locals showed me new foods, helped me find the perfect papayas and explained why St. Lucia bananas are the best I will ever eat.
We always leave with bags of fresh produce and plenty of fresh, local fish.
What We Did Not Do
Fish Fry in Anse La Raye: We had heard that this was a family friendly alternative to the street party up north, but after driving through the town on multiple day trips, we were just not into this towns scene. This area is basically a crowding of crude dwellings that is quite poverty stricken. It was heartbreaking to see some of these living conditions and some of the women trying to make a dime by any means necessary. Needless to say, this was not where we wanted to gather for a meal.
Hike Gros Piton: I had really wanted to hike this peak! We packed our hiking gear and everything, but once we were there we found other things to do (like enjoying a pampering spa day). I will do this hike one day and I found this great blog post with tips for when we do. Perhaps I was not super excited to pay $50 US per person for a guided hike…yep, I know that was part of the problem!
Scuba Diving: St. Lucia is a world class diving destination. Chris and I have dove here twice and it is amazing. I did not feel comfortable diving and leaving the kids by themselves in a different country, so we nixed that idea for this trip. Chris was actually going to take Lexi on an “intro to scuba” dive, but the weather was lousy that day, so my poor girl missed out. St. Lucia is a beautiful place to dive though!
Rainforest Cycling Adventure: This was another item that was at the top of my bucket list for this trip. However, once we did the cocoa plantation tour, I decided that this would be a bit redundant (though the cycling would of been fun), as we had just received a mini botany lesson at Fond Doux Plantation. I had initially researched the Cycling Tour offered by Treetop Adventures and was intrigued by having a tour, while the guide points out the local plants and then allows us to taste fruits growing right from the trees.
Balenbouche Estate: I think this would be a fabulous day trip, however it was just a little too far from where we were staying. Here is some good information for anyone interested in visiting.
Our Tips For St. Lucia
- Adventurous Driving: Expect to be challenged if you drive on the island. The roads are narrow, winding, deeply rutted and the speed limits are up to your own interpretation (we only saw four posted speed limit signs on the island). There are also a bazillion blind corners and curves that will induce motion sickness. Driving here is not for the elderly or faint of heart. It takes a really great and adventurous driver to deal with this, thankfully, my husband is just that! As an RV’er who constantly notices the grade of the road, I was fascinated to constantly drive on a 15% grade and hear that the locals replace their tires and brakes each year.
- Car Rental: We love Andy’s Car Service! Driving on this island is…well, crazy. Believe it or not, most roads are not named. When someone gives you directions, they say things like “turn after the bakery” or “it’s across the street from the school.” When we arrived in St. Lucia we had two cars waiting for us. Andy and his assistant drove us across the island, giving us a guided history tour. They stopped at the grocery store for us and walked through the store with us, giving us valuable advice. They suggested that we buy food to make dinner so we would not have to navigate the roads on our first night in the dark. They then showed us two ways to access the house and pointed out landmarks. This was invaluable!!! I don’t know if we could of navigated the area surrounding the villa without this help, and it certainly would of been a very stressful start to our vacay. This small business is a huge blessing to any family on holiday. We give them our highest recommendation! I would not suggest planning to utilize taxi’s, unless you are not leaving your hotel/villa very much. The roads are slow and winding and it takes a long time to get from one place to another. You should plan to spend $100 per taxi ride, each way, if you plan to explore via taxi. We were so thankful that we rented the car! Do keep in mind though that you will be driving on the left side of the road.
- Take Cash. Most restaurants and established businesses will accept credit cards, but there are so many tiny places you will want to purchase from. Some of our favorite moments were purchasing a cold drink from a tiny hut, buying fresh fruit on the beach, simply the goods from tiny bakeries and shopping at the farmers market. You will also want cash to tip-out for services.
- Plan For Drive Time: Though the island is less than thirty miles across, it is a long slow drive and traffic can really back up in the north of the island. Be prepared for this when planning your trip. It is about a 1.5 hour drive from Castries to Sugar Beach. A drive from Castires to Rodney Bay can be 15 minutes or a one hour drive if it is on a Friday night. This might help explain the high taxi rates.
- You Will Need: Insect Repelling Candles, Insect Repellant for your body, Sunscreen, tons of bottled water (we were advised to only drink bottled water), and snorkeling gear. You can find everything but the snorkel gear in the local grocery stores. We advise bringing your own snorkel gear. We snorkeled on at least five days and with five people, the rental rates are ridiculous.
- Expect Jelly-Fish Stings at Anse Chastanet: If you snorkel or scuba dive there, you will get stung. My husband and I have gone diving at this location twice over the years, and both times we have been stung by jelly fish. We were recalling those stings when the kids went snorkeling there (this trip) and as soon as we mentioned the memory, my son came out of the water with painful stings. We then sat on the beach and watched an entire family hop off of a boat to snorkel, moments later all of their children were in tears from being stung. They were literally flailing and screaming in the water. The adults were mortified. Though this is a beautiful underwater destination, we will not return without a full wetsuit. Instead I would visit some of the other gorgeous spots that we snorkeled (see our favorites mentioned above). If you do snorkel here, take some white vinegar from the grocery store to help ease the sting.
We absolutely love St. Lucia and had a marvelous time! I hope you are inspired to visit one day and that our travel information and tips are helpful. Please let me know, if so!
Here’s to dreamy fruity drinks and sandy beaches. Cheers!