The impossibly beautiful St. Lucia
lives up to most people's expectations
of a Caribbean island. Yet it's important to realize that its beauty lies in the panoramic views and lush
vegetation of a mountainous volcanic island, rather than in the pure white sands and clear turquoise
waters of a flat coral one.
Indeed, although the island is just 27-miles long by 14-miles wide, St. Lucia gives every impression
of being twice that size - undoubtedly because its hilly interiors, serpentine highways and steep slopes
make a journey from top to bottom a matter of at least ninety minutes.
That's why it's particularly important to choose your resort carefully here, as do-it-yourself island
exploration is not as easy as it can be elsewhere in the Caribbean. The best hotels are located either in
the south near the old town of Soufrière or in the north near the capital of Castries and
where you choose tends to greatly impact your stay.
If you opt for the former, you're slap-bang in the middle of the island's celebrated tropical beauty -
all its famous natural attractions are nearby, including the 2,000 ft. high Pitons, the National
Rain Forest with its wild orchids, the mineral-rich falls at Diamond Falls, not to mention the
drive-in volcano at Sulphur Springs and the Anse Chastanet Reef in the Marine Park. Nature
hikes, scuba-diving and bird watching will probably feature on your menu here, although there's absolutely
nothing to stop you spending your days on the palm-fringed beaches or swimming in the crystal clear waters!
If you prefer to opt for the north of the island, you'll probably enjoy a more traditional resort
experience - there's the duty-free shopping complex of Pointe Seraphine, the 18-hole St. Lucia
Golf & Country Club and the lively nightlife of Rodney Bay, all within a 15-minute drive.
And whilst the island's prime beauty spots are not right on the doorstep, they can of course be easily
accessed courtesy of island tours, boat trips, car hire and even helicopter tours.
Easier to reach from this part of the island is Marigot Bay, a picturesque cove that is now a
yacht haven and was once showcased in the Dr. Doolittle film with Rex Harrison. Pigeon Island is
a 40-acre islet connected to the mainland by a causeway and here visitors will find a beautiful nature
park with marked trails and historical remains - it's also a major venue for St. Lucia's famous Jazz Festival
that takes place annually at the end of April.
St. Lucia also boasts a rich cultural heritage courtesy of its strong connections with countries as
diverse as England, France and Africa. The British and the French fought fiercely over the island for
150 years and whilst the French were finally ousted in 1814, that country's influence remains very strong
and can be seen in the names of its towns, as well as the widely-used Creole patois language.
Of course, nowadays the island enjoys its independence and revels in its ethnic diversity. Weekly
jump-ups at places like Gros Islet show off the islanders appreciation for soca and reggae music,
whilst its jazz festival is one of the most successful anywhere in the Caribbean. St. Lucia is also
particularly proud of the fact that it has produced two Nobel prizewinners, most notably the poet,
Derek Walcott, who won the prize for literature in 1992.