Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in St Lucia shore excursion edition. February is the time of year when a young lady’s thoughts turn to cruises. The weather in New York City is completely depressing and disgusting. I have a week off from work for Presidents’ Day. Basically I want to go and drink pina coladas on a boat and have someone else do all my planning for me.
But being a beach bunny alone isn’t enough to satisfy me. Life is short and I don’t want to spend it napping. On my most recent February trip to the Caribbean with Royal Caribbean, I packed more adventure into my 24 hours in St Lucia shore excursion tours than some people pack in a lifetime.
Really, this adventure was thanks to our tour guide Aidan and the company that put together the shore excursion The Island’s Delights. I’ve almost never gotten so much done in one day. You think I exaggerate, Internet Stranger?
Well, just peruse my itinerary for 24 hours in St Lucia and you’ll feel exhausted just reading it. (Even if you’re not traveling with Royal Caribbean, many tour companies in St Lucia offer a similar itinerary. But I’m not sure they can pack quite so much into one day.)
24 Hours in St Lucia Shore Excursion Tours
What to Pack and Where to Stay
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
The Caribbean can get very hot, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
And if you’re not visiting St Lucia on a cruise and you want to find great deals on hotels in St Lucia, just click here.
24 Hours in St Lucia: Shore Excursion Tours
Morning: Scenic Drive
The 24 Hours in St Lucia begins in the capital, Castries. Castries is also where the cruise ship port, the charmingly named Pointe Seraphine, is located. The island was originally a French colony, but control passed to the British in 1814. Both English and St. Lucian French creole are widely spoken on the island. I’ve already taken you through some other Caribbean nations that were former British colonies like St Kitts and Antigua. But St Lucia is unique in certain ways, as you’ll see with…
Approximately top 5: 24 hours in st lucia shore excursion tours
1) Derek Walcott Square
St Lucia gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979, and it has a strong sense of national identity. One of the sources of national pride is the fact that more than one Nobel Prize winner has come from St Lucia. The most famous of these is Sir Derek Walcott, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His most famous work is an epic poem called Omeros, which is in large part about St Lucia.
Some people have a hard time admitted they’ve never read a famous work of literature. Not me! I believe in owning up to one’s failings. I’ve never read Omeros, but it sounds completely fascinating. Anyone who’d have the guts to write an epic poem in the 1990s is all right by me.
2) Sir Arthur Lewis Community College
This was one of my favorite stops during my 24 hours in St Lucia. A lot of shore excursions just take you to the obvious places, but I always want a chance to see how the locals live. Sir Arthur Lewis Community College is the only community college in St Lucia. It was named after St Lucia’s other Nobel Prize winner, economist Arthur Lewis. (Lewis is actually buried on the grounds of the community college.)
Aidan an expert on the college because it was his alma mater. He had taken classes in tourism and passed his examination to be a tour guide here. Tourism is a big part of the St Lucian economy, so it makes sense that tour guides are supposed to be certified. Aidan also said that some of the classes actually take place in 19th century military barracks that have been converted into classrooms. I heartily approve of the change in purpose!
3) Marigot Bay
Our first scenic viewing point during the 24 hours in St Lucia was at the Great View Souvenir Shop for a glimpse of Marigot Bay. It has been called the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean, and I think my photo only does it maybe 40% justice. The colors of the water, vegetation, and surrounding buildings are in such technicolor that you feel as if you’re stepping out from Kansas into Oz when you gaze at it.
But even better than the brilliant blues and greens was the spicy banana sauce at Great View. St Lucia is famous for its bananas (more on this later). Banana sauce, sometimes known as banana ketchup, is a slightly spicy yellow viscous liquid that tastes about a million times more delicious than it sounds. It can turn any meat or vegetable sweet and sour, and everyone knows sweet and sour is one of the top three taste combinations. I bought a bottle home to zazzle up my lunch, and my only regret is that I didn’t get two.
4) Banana Time
Unlike St Kitts and Antigua, St Lucia still has a good deal of active agricultural production. One of their biggest exports is the St Lucian banana. These bananas are exported almost exclusively to the United Kingdom. (St Lucia is a Commonwealth nation, though it is independent from the UK.) As we drove past a banana field, Aiden stopped and bought enough bananas for each of us to try one. (He communicated with the banana seller in St Lucian Creole, which is close enough to French that I could understand them.)
St Lucian bananas are smaller, sweeter, and more pleasantly textured than the bananas I’m used to finding in the supermarket. And of course you can use them to make banana ketchup! I’m super bummed that you can’t get St Lucian bananas in the United States. I think I’ll make a big sign and protest in my local supermarket until they bring in some St Lucian bananas for me. I’m sure that will have no impact whatsoever.
5) Anse La Raye
Anse La Raye is a still-operating fishing village of about 6,000 people. We got out for a short walk here to get a feel for the close-knit community. It’s right on the beach, so you can watch the fishermen work if the timing is right. If not, you can dip your toes in the water. The time is always right for wet toes, as my grandmother used to say.
There are shopkeepers and small craftspeople selling their work on the beach. My favorite was a young lady who made decorated bowls and jewelry out of calabash. I thought calabash was the name of the marquis in Puss in Boots but it turns out that I was wrong and I don’t even know what a marquis is.
Calabash is the national tree of St Lucia. The tree produces a gourd that is shaped vaguely like a bottle which can be hollowed out and dried. The young artist who made my bowl wrote my name on the inside, which I appreciated. I suppose this will make it harder for a thief to steal the bowl and pass it off as his own. And now I have a souvenir from St Lucia that will last forever, unlike my banana sauce!
6) View of Pitons
Our last stop on the scenic drive was a viewing of St Lucia’s World Heritage Site, the Pitons. Those are the two spiky peaks you can see in the right part of my photo. They’re actually volcanic plugs, which means they’re actually made from magma. St Lucia is home to the only drive-in volcano in the world. (We’re going to visit that really soon. Be patient, Internet Stranger.)
Aidan told us you can hike both the Pitons, but the Grand Piton is easier to hike. He didn’t recommend that we try the Petit Piton. I don’t recommend that you try to say Petit Piton together five times fast, although perhaps it’s easier if you’re a native French speaker.
24 Hours in St Lucia: Shore Excursion Tours
Afternoon: Explore the Soufrière Area
Soufrière is a town on St Lucia’s west coast. The word Soufrière comes from sulfur in French, and once you get out of the car in Sulphur Springs, you won’t have to ask why. Love is in the air, and so is the stench of rotten eggs. But on the plus side, you can pass gas as much as you want and no one will notice. (Don’t worry though because aside from the actual volcano, Soufrière doesn’t really smell like sulphur.)
There are two main attractions we are going to explore in the Soufrière area: the world’s only drive-in volcano and Mourne Coubaril. I choose not to explain what Mourne Coubaril is at the moment. I will leave you in suspense.
Approximately top 5: soufrière area
1) Sulphur Springs
Sulphur Springs is the official name for St Lucia’s drive-in volcano. It has become a popular tourist attraction because how often do you get to be up close and personal with a lava monster? Spoiler alert: the volcano erupted while I was visiting and this blog post is now being written by my ghost. BOOOOOO!
(For the humorless among you, the volcano hasn’t actually erupted since the 1700s.) There are other tours that will take you for a mud bath in Sulphur Springs, but we didn’t have time for that. I feel like this itinerary is jam-packed enough, Internet Stranger! Don’t be so demanding.
Ayden booked us a tour with one of the volcano’s local guides so she could show us around in more detail. She explained to us that you used to be able to get closer to the tar pits, until Gabriel happened. Gabriel was a local guide who apparently wanted to show how safe the tar pit area was with great enthusiasm. He started tapping around until finally…he fell into a big hole. Now you can still see the hole when you visit. (It’s rather prosaically called Gabriel’s Hole. Please note that under no circumstances do I ever want a big hole named after me. A museum, yes. A big hole, no.)
I’d make a joke about Gabriel here, but as he was badly burned (but not killed) from the accident, I think he has suffered enough.
2) Mourne Coubaril Estate
Our next stop was at the Mourne Coubaril estate where our knowledge of the agriculture and industry of St Lucia was deepened. Also we got to stare at some pretty flowers. Mourne Coubaril was the home of Philippe de Vaux, a wealthy Frenchman who moved to St Lucia in the 1700s. The plantation was originally used as a coffee plantation before it turned to sugar production.
Nowadays sugar cane juice is still made on the estate, with the help of this adorable mule who drives the press. But the estate is primarily devoted to a different kind of production…
3) Chocolate Production
That’s right! Chocolate bars are still made on the island. You actually get to taste a ripe cocoa bean before going into the cocoa house. (It is kind of slimy and tastes more like lychee than chocolate.) Much like a fine wine, the cocoa bean actually has to get fermented before it is dried and polished. Then it is ready to turn into delicious chocolate!
Fortunately for us, the chocolate is available at the store. That way we’re not left with the idea that the only sweets this place produces is a kind of slimy pseudo-lychee. I was warned by the lady at the store that the Mourne Coubaril chocolate is not too sweet, and that’s true. But that’s how you know it’s a classy kind of chocolate bar. You should eat this stuff one square at a time and truly savor it on the tongue.
4) Coconut husking
Sweet, sweet chocolate isn’t the only thing they make on this estate. You also get the chance to watch some expert coconut husking in action. This is basically a dude with a giant, scary knife who cuts open coconuts with an alarming skill and expertise. Basically I’m glad this man went into the coconut industry and not the head-chopping industry. Normally the coconut meat gets dried in the estate’s ovens, but tour guests get a special treat. You can actually drink the water straight out of the freshly butchered coconut.
Some of the other guests on my tour group didn’t want the coconut water, and I don’t understand that. It’s free and it’s healthy! Also you get to stand and drink your coconut with this amazing view!
Just ignore the man with the giant knife standing behind you and it’s super relaxing!
5) Lunch at Villa Des Pitons
After all that adventure, it was time for an extremely late lunch. But we had sort of been filling up on bananas, chocolate, banana sauce, and coconut, so it wasn’t a problem. Our restaurant of choice was a buffet at the hotel Villa des Pitons. The nice thing about a buffet is that you can provide options for adventurous eaters who want to try the local cuisine, and also sad bowls of white bread and plain rice for people who hate flavor.
I tried a little bit of everything: local fish, jerk chicken, and local root vegetables like dasheen (taro) and cassava. After the heavy food you get on most cruises, this buffet was quite light and refreshing. Also refreshing? These views!
This was literally the view we got while we were eating. It was probably the best view during all our 24 hours in St Lucia. I can certainly see why the hotel is called Villa des Pitons. The only way you could have a better view is if you were in the Pitons. (Actually your view would be terrible there because you wouldn’t be able to see anything but the Pitons. Sometimes I speak without thinking.
24 Hours in St Lucia: Shore Excursion Tours
Evening: Ship Time!
Once again, the evening is yours to do with as you please. Take in the evening’s entertainment, which may be a magician who can read your thoughts. Or join in on Trivia nights. I made friends with a couple at my dinner table, and they convinced me to join their trivia team. We ended up developed a sort of heated mock competition with a group of traveling Canadians. I guess it’s not as hard to rile up Canadians as I had previously thought.
Whether or not you enjoy trivia, everyone can agree that this towel frog is a thing of beauty. I wanted to bring him home in my suitcase, but I didn’t think he’d last. Also it’s not nice to steal towels from a cruise line, no matter how enticing the towel sculptures are.
That’s 24 Hours in St Lucia: Shore Excursion Tours
What would you do with 24 hours in St Lucia? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in St Lucia right now? Have you ever eaten a ripe cocoa bean before? And is that a man with a giant knife and a bunch of coconuts standing right behind you? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in St Lucia. If you want to see some of the other itineraries from my cruise, check out St Thomas, St Kitts, Barbados, and Antigua.