St. Lucia is best known as a romantic getaway. It’s a gorgeous tropical island with long sandy beaches and beautiful, natural surroundings that honeymooners love.
But you don’t have to be on a honeymoon to enjoy this paradise!
First known as “Louanalao” by the indigenous Arawak in 200 CE, the island is filled with beautiful birds, orchards full of banana, coconut, mango, and papaya trees, world-class diving, and crystalline blue waters. It’s part of the Lesser Antilles chain of volcanic islands and caters mostly to couples, families, and luxury tourists so it’s not the best island to visit if you’re traveling on a budget.
That said, it’s incredibly beautiful here so, for a short trip, it’s worth the cost.
No matter your budget or travel style, this St. Lucia travel guide has all the practical information you need to help you plan your visit so you can make the most of what this tropical utopia has to offer.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in St. Lucia
1. Go snorkeling and scuba diving
2. Experience Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens
3. Tour the Pitons
4. Visit Castries
5. See Pigeon Island
Other Things to See and Do in St. Lucia
1. Go birdwatching
St. Lucia offers numerous opportunities for birdwatching. The Bois D’Orange Swamp, the Rain Forest, and Boriel’s Pond are the best places to go to find species like the St. Lucian Parrot, the White Breasted Thrasher, the St. Lucia Peewee, the St. Lucia Oriole, and the St. Lucia Wren. On the Frigate Island Nature Reserve, you can see thousands of stunning migrant Frigate birds.
2. Explore the weekly market in Castries
This is the largest and most colorful open-air market in St. Lucia. Other than tropical fruits and veggies, the market sells handwoven baskets, mahogany statues and bowls, and other souvenirs. Come here to take in the local pace of life and pick up some St. Lucian coffee to bring home!
3. Hike the trails
St. Lucia has many scenic hiking trails, including the Barre de L’isle Rain Forest Trail, which takes you to the top of Morne la Combe. The hike takes three hours in total and it’s very steep — but you’re rewarded with views of Mount Gimie, deep valleys, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. Another favorite of mine away from the crowded resort areas is the Enbas Saut Trail, where you can immerse yourself in the island’s rainforest. It ends up at the Enbas Saut waterfall where you can cool off with a swim. Bring water and good hiking shoes no matter what trail you take!
4. Swim in Sulfur Springs
These hot springs are just south of Soufriere and one of the main attractions on the island. You can walk through the crater full of steaming, bubbling pools and hot springs, and there are warmer sulphuric pools where you can bathe. Admission to the springs is 25 XCD and includes access to the Black Water Pool (Mud Bath).
5. Go zip-lining
If you’re looking for something adventurous, try zip-lining through the rainforest canopy. Adventure Tours St. Lucia has a total of 12 lines, including the highest, longest, and fastest line on the island. There are also five net bridges and lots of opportunities to catch some gorgeous views over St. Lucia. Expect to pay 243 XCD for a full day of zip lining.
6. Visit Gros Islet
The village of Gros Islet has a huge party every Friday night. Vendors sell local food and drinks (including tasty barbecue), and a general carnival atmosphere turns the village into a giant street party. Listen to local bands and DJs crank out Caribbean music and spend the evening dancing in the steamy tropical heat.
7. Hang out on the beaches
St. Lucia’s beaches offer turquoise waters, powder-white sands, and plenty of opportunities to soak up the sun’s golden rays. Reduit Beach is one of the longest beaches on the island, with 5 miles (8km) of sand on Rodney Bay. If that’s too crowded, check out photogenic Jalousie Beach between Gros and Petit Piton, or Marigot Bay on the western coast with its scattered, secluded beaches.
8. Hike Tet Paul Nature Trail
Located near Soufrière Tet Paul Nature Trail is part of the World Heritage-listed Pitons Management Area. It’s an easy to moderate 1km hike. From the top of some steep steps called the “Stairway to Heaven,” it offers spectacular panoramic views of St. Lucia and, on clear days, of Martinique and St. Vincent. Admission is 27 XCD.
9. Visit Morne Coubaril Historical Adventure Park
Morne Coubaril Historical Adventure Park offers a combination of adventure and history. It has 8 zip lines, a historical plantation estate, and a traditional village tour. You can also take a horseback ride to the beach or volcano and hike to a mineral waterfall. The historical estate tour costs 30 XCD, the rum and chocolate tasting tour is 203 XCD, and the zip line canopy adventure costs 202 XCD.
For information about other Caribbean destinations, check out these guides:
St. Lucia Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Unfortunately, St. Lucia currently doesn’t have any hostels. Camping is also unavailable.
Budget hotel prices – A room with a private bathroom in a two-star hotel starts at around 216 XCD per night. Most hotels include free Wi-Fi though sometimes it’s only available in the common areas. For a hotel that includes breakfast, expect to pay upwards of 600 XCD per night.
Airbnb is available everywhere in St. Lucia, with a private room starting at 93 XCD per night but averaging closer to 175 XCD. A full apartment averages 340 XCD per night.
Average cost of food – Like its neighbors, St. Lucia is home to typical Caribbean food, including rice and beans, plantains, sweet potatoes, coconut, chicken, and fish. The island’s national dish is fig greens and saltfish, a dish made from green bananas and cod (it tastes better than it sounds!). Bouyon, a meat stew; and lambi, a dish made with conch and spices, are two other popular staples on the island.
For a cheap meal at a casual restaurant, expect to pay around 15 XCD. If you want to splash out for a three-course meal and drinks, you’re looking to spend closer to 80-100 XCD.
Fast food (burger and fries) costs about 21 XCD. A large pizza is about 40 XCD. Beer is 5-8 XCD while a latte/cappuccino costs around 7 XCD. Bottled water is around 2 XCD.
If you want to try St. Lucia’s national dish of salt fish and green figs, you can splash out at The Coal Pot for 54 XCD.
Avoid restaurants near cruise ports and resorts, as this is where the biggest influx of tourist crowds come through and prices are much more expensive than elsewhere.
If you plan on cooking your food, basic groceries for the week cost around 195 XCD. This gets you staples like rice, beans, pasta, produce, and some meat or fish.
Backpacking St. Lucia Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking St. Lucia, my suggested budget is around 185 XCD per day. This budget covers staying in a private Airbnb room, taking the bus to get around, cooking all of your meals, limiting your drinking, and doing mostly free activities like hiking and enjoying the beach. If you plan on drinking, add 10-15 XCD to your daily budget.
A mid-range budget of 385 XCD covers staying in a private Airbnb apartment, eating out for most of your meals, enjoying a few drinks, taking the occasional taxi to get around, and doing more tours and activities like diving or snorkeling.
For a “luxury” budget of about 770 XCD per day or more, you can stay in a hotel, eat out for all your meals, drink more, rent a car to get around, and do whatever tours and activities you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you spend more, some days you spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in XCD.
St. Lucia Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Although St. Lucia caters to vacationers and resort goers, there are lots of ways to explore the island on a budget. Here are a few ways to save money in St. Lucia:
- Shop duty-free – St. Lucia has a wealth of duty-free shops where you can pick up discounted designer goods such as perfumes and jewelry, clothing, etc. If you’re going to shop, do it here.
- Book online – If you’re planning on going diving, or doing any other expensive excursions, be sure to check online with tour companies for discounts beforehand. You can usually find some deals if you do a bit of research.
- Look for discounts and deals – The tourism board for St. Lucia has a whole section dedicated to seasonal discounts and deals on their website (mostly for accommodations). Check stlucia.org for more info.
- Enjoy nature – Relax on the beach, go for a hike, or take in a sunset. St. Lucia’s natural beauty is breathtaking and (mostly) free!
- Stay with a local – Use hospitality networks like Couchsurfing to stay with locals for free. There plenty of hosts on the island and people are very welcoming!
- Bring a water bottle – The tap water here is not safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle with a filter to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.
Where to Stay in St. Lucia
There are currently no hostels in St. Lucia, but there are plenty of budget-friendly hotels. My suggested places to stay in St. Lucia are:
How to Get Around St. Lucia
Minibus – Minibuses are the primary transportation means for getting around St. Lucia, including for residents. Routes form a loop around the main towns. They can get you just about anywhere you need to go for 2.50-8 XCD.
Taxi – Taxis are readily available around St. Lucia (authorized taxis have a light blue number plate with a TX prefix). A taxi from Hewanorra airport to Castries costs about 215 XCD, while Castries to Soufriere is about 250 XCD. Rodney Bay to Gros Islet is about 30 XCD, while Rodney Bay to Pigeon Island is about the same price.
Car Rental – A small economy-sized car can cost from 130 XCD per day, making this a much more economical and efficient way to get around than taxis. ACE Rent a Car and SIXT usually have some of the best rates.
Bicycles – You can rent a city bike for as little as 12 XCD per day and a full day of mountain bike hire costs from 90 XCD per day.
Hitchhiking – Although St. Lucia is safe for hitchhiking, it’s difficult finding a lift as it’s just not that common here. Hitchwiki is the best website for additional hitchhiking info and tips so check there if you want to give it a try.
When to Go to St. Lucia
December to April is peak season in St. Lucia, with room rates spiking as the island experiences the highest numbers of tourists. The weather is pleasant and breezy during this time, with temperatures averaging between the low to high 20s°C (mid-70s° to mid-80s°F). There isn’t much rainfall during this time either.
The shoulder season of May to June is a good time to visit for more affordable room prices and lovely temperatures still in the high 20s°C (mid-80s°F) range. The island isn’t as busy either.
If you want to take a chance on hurricane season between July and November, you can find the cheapest rates during this time. Just get cancellation insurance just in case of a hurricane!
How to Stay Safe in St. Lucia
St. Lucia is very safe. It’s a small island with a low crime rate. There have been a few physical assaults against tourists reported in the Rodney Bay Village area over the past few years, but the St Lucian authorities have since opened a new police station there. Just to be cautious; you may want to avoid this area alone after dark.
As in any destination, it’s best to not leave your valuables out in the open at the beach (or anywhere) to avoid petty theft. Keep your valuables secure and out of sight on the bus too.
When out at the bar, never leave your drink unattended. Also, avoid walking home alone at night if you’re intoxicated.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about common travel scams to avoid right here.
If you experience a medical emergency, dial 911. If you need police, dial 999.
Hurricane season is from June through November. Avoid visiting during this time if you can. If you do visit, make sure you have travel insurance and that you keep an eye on the weather.
Remember to always trust your gut instinct. Avoid isolated areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in St. Lucia! Follow that rule, and you’ll be fine.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
St. Lucia Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do group tours, go with Intrepid. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts with them too!
- Grassroots Volunteering – For volunteering, Grassroots Volunteering compiles a list of good local volunteer organizations that keep the money within the community.
- Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
- SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
St. Lucia Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
St. Lucia Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Under a Blue Flag, by Daniel Putkowski
Fifteen years ago, Luz Revilla, a young sex worker, sent her son off to be raised by a tugboat captain. Now he is coming back to San Nicolas, Aruba and Revilla’s life has become ruled by worry and the anticipation of reuniting with her son. This is the darker side of Aruba but it’s an easy beach read.
Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
This book was released a few years after Jamaican independence in 1962. It’s set in the 1830s and brings to life the fictional “madwoman in the attic” from the novel Jane Eyre. The book is about the woman’s backstory as it explores inequality of race, culture, and gender. It’s heavy reading and explores postcolonial issues, but it’s a beautiful book.
An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude, by Ann Vanderhoof
In the mid-1990s, the author and her husband decided to take a break from their soul-sucking corporate jobs in publishing and sail from Toronto down to the Caribbean. During the trip, they traveled more than 7,000 nautical miles, dropped anchor in 16 countries, and adapted to “island time.” What I loved about this book was the noticeable change in the author: how she and her husband went from workaholics with rigid schedules to learning to go with the flow as they realize they don’t need a lot of stuff to be content. This book is well-written, smart, inquisitive, and paints a vivid picture of the Caribbean. Highly recommended!
Out From Nassau, by Fia B. Scheyer
Out From Nassau takes you back to the Bahamas in the 1920s, when Prohibition was happening in the United States and much of its illegal booze was being smuggled in from here. The book focuses on the lives of people in Nassau and the Out Islands, including the McKenzie family, as they become entangled in this dangerous trade. It’s a real page-turner, and although it’s fiction, much of the story is rooted in reality.
St. Lucia Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling the Caribbean and continue planning your trip: