Rainforests with adventurous zip lines and single trails for bikers, steep volcanic cones, a colourful underwater world, an unbelievably hot street party and the finest cocoa invite you to active experiences. Six insider tips that go beyond the luxurious all-inclusive beach and pool routine
One of the southernmost islands in the Caribbean, Saint Lucia is part of the West Indies. In the 18th century, colonial planters made a fortune exporting high-grade cocoa and molasses, followed by bananas. In the mid-sixties, the tourism industry took off: Rendezvous opened the first “couples only” all-inclusive hotel in the Caribbean…
Saint Lucia is very special. It is one of the few countries in the world without an army. In addition to an active volcano that last erupted in 1766, it is home to one of the most architecturally eccentric luxury resorts in the Caribbean, Jade Mountain. The small island is also home to two Nobel Prize winners and internationally acclaimed artist Llewellyn Xavier, who welcomed us to his studio.
Saint Lucia’s national bird is the endemic and endangered Jacquot’s Parrot (Amazona Versicolor): green plumage, blue head. The bird, also known as the “Blue-fronted Amazon,” is one of five species of parrot native to the island. The Jacquot’s population is estimated at between 300 and 350 individuals.
Saint Lucia’s rainforests are also home to the endemic Saint Lucia boa, which can grow up to 250 centimetres in length, and the 15 centimetre long worm-like colubrid snake.
The first country in the world to be named after a woman, it is one of the 20 smallest countries in the world at 616 square kilometers. It is even smaller than the city-state of Singapore, but still has 158 kilometres of coastline.
Submerging on Saint Lucia:
Jesus walked on water. Visitors to Saint Lucia walk on the seabed, thanks to Anthony Leonce. The neoprene-clad muscleman greets us on the beach at Pigeon Island with a slap of his paw. A meticulous introduction and a lengthy disclaimer form later, the massive SeaTREK helmets, weighing over 30 kilos, are placed on our shoulders.
Fortunately, the helmets are much lighter under water due to the buoyancy. We then descend step by step to seven metres below the surface. Floating pods supply us with oxygen through pipes. The seabed walkers look like drowned Teletubbies and the walk is reminiscent of moon walks. Once you get used to the “weightlessness”, it’s fun.
Exploring the Caribbean Sea vertically rather than horizontally, and deeper than snorkelling, is an almost contemplative experience among lobsters, sea cucumbers, parrotfish and soft corals.
After half an hour, the fun is over and we’re hungry again. Time for chicken roti (€8) and a cold Piton beer (€2.50) at the cosy beach hut “Jambe de Bois” at Pigeon Island Beach. After lunch , climb up to Fort Rodney. You will have a great view over Rodney Bay.
SeaTREK 98 US- $
Pigeon Island National Landmark Ticket 10 US-$
Saint Lucia at Highspeed:
Ziplining in the Rainforest
How about a round of treetop stroking and hummingbird peeping? Ziplining involves shooting through the air between mighty trees on thumb-thick wire ropes up to 40 metres above the rainforest floor. You can’t get any closer to the canopy of the rainforest. And certainly not any faster.
Participants climb onto the platform’s wobbly steps. Two carabiners are hooked into the trolleys on wires. Then things really get going: depending on their body weight, the tightly strapped human packages quickly reach speeds of 30 or 40 kilometres per hour, even though there is only a slight incline from platform to platform.
The catch? You can’t regulate the speed yourself. At the end of the zipline, three, four metres before the platform and the metre-wide tree trunk, the impact brake activated by the guide slows down the zipliners with a loud bang. The adrenaline rush is quite high on the first of the eight “rides”. Those with a fear of heights should opt for a round of rainforest trekking.
Important: Always keep your hands on the harness handle. “Never, never touch the wire. Your fingers will be gone in no time,” the participants are told as they hang helplessly until the “Go!” comes over the walkie-talkie.
12 ziplines with a total length of 1.5 kilometres criss-cross the rainforest near Babonneau. Canopy ziplining at the top of the mountain involves eight “adrenaline lines” with a moderate gradient and a distance of up to 250 metres. After the eighth and final zipline, it’s a very sweat-inducing climb through tropical greenery back up to the gondola station.
The rainforest is surprisingly quiet apart from the joyful whooping of the zipliners hurtling through the air. Little can be heard of the 180 bird species counted on the island or the noisy small animals. It’s a different story in tropical forests, where things are noisy. The cicada-like, noisy, tree-dwelling Antillean whistling frogs, which provide the typical St Lucia soundtrack, prefer the coastal regions at night.
We don’t get to see the Saint Lucia boa or the rare Saint Lucia lance viper, whose English name would also suit us zipliners: Saint Lucia Racer. No wonder: according to Melissa, our nature and zipline guide, there are less than 100 of them left.
But there are glittering blue star hummingbirds, wild vanilla climbing 30 metres up jungle trees, giant ferns, lianas as thick as your leg and tree orchids. It is only on the return journey in the aerial tram after the two-hour tour that the call of the endemic Saint Lucia parrot can be heard. But it disappears into the rainforest as soon as it is spotted on the horizon.
Rain Forest Sky Rides Park Babonneau
Aerial Tram, Ziplining and Hike starting from 85 US-$
Saint Lucia and the Sea:
Hard on the Wind
Saint Lucia’s west coast is best explored by boat. Skipper Mario from Captain Mike’s takes us a good 20 nautical miles from Castries, where the large cruise ships dock, to Soufrière, the former island capital in the shadow of the iconic volcanic cones Gros Piton and Petit Piton.
A short shore leave in narrow Marigot Bay, protected by high mountain ridges, and an espresso at the bar of the colonial-style “Hurricane Hole”. Boatman Matthew explains the curious name: “The narrow bay is one of the few hideaways that has proven to be hurricane proof in the past.
In yachting parlance, such tropical storm loopholes are called “hurricane holes”. Marigot Bay is therefore very popular with yacht owners, as the palm tree covered headland weakens powerful waves.
Marigot Bay was the location for the filming of Doctor Doolittle and the action film Firepower, starring Sophia Loren and James Coburn. But Hollywood has left even more traces: “Up there on the hill,” says Matthew, “are the villas of Nicholas Cage and Samuel L. Jackson!” Mick Jagger and Oprah Winfrey, I’m told, also have villas overlooking the bay and the sea respectively “around the corner”.
If we had more time, we could kayak through the mangroves in the hinterland. But we have to move on. Unfortunately, we won’t see any dolphins or even pilot, sperm or humpback whales on the open sea. They give birth here between October and February. This makes these waters a top spot for whale watching with a high probability of sightings.
Dozens of frigate birds (with a wingspan of up to 2.20 metres, these elegant upwind sailors weigh just 1.6 kilos) circle in front of the rain-clouded Pitons. The smell of sulphur from the nearby Qualibou caldera matches the atmosphere. Its boiling hot mud pools bubble wearily away. The geyser only erupts at full moon when the seawater presses in from below, we learn. If you like, you can take a mud bath further down, which is said to be good for skin irritations.
During the sunset cruise on a 50-foot yacht from the sensationally located resort “Anse Chastenet”, skipper Kerwin makes the most of the four or five Beaufort. At the end of the day, a school of dolphins appears, accompanying us for a long time on the port and starboard side. Wonderful …
Captain Mike’s charges US$ 55 per person for 3.5 hours of whale watching
Saint Lucia for Party Animals:
Friday Night Jump-up
Partying hard until the doc arrives? Strictly speaking, one doctor might not be enough when, as has been the case for over three decades, the Caribbean’s hardest street party kicks off every Friday in Gros Islet.
Compared to the Friday Night Jump-Up, the hustle and bustle in Munich’s Oktoberfest tents is like the annual convention of sedated Jehovah’s Witnesses. Thousands of revelers squeeze through the streets between Bay Street and St Joseph the Worker Church.
Fish, chicken and spare ribs sizzle on barbecues on every corner. At the intersection in front of the Golden Apple, towering loudspeakers blast reggaeton and soca into the dancing crowd.
Thick clouds of marijuana hover over everything. Bounty rum is served in three-litre bottles. In the long run, the island’s hepatologists, ear specialists and pneumologists will have their work cut out…
Saint Lucia’s Best Trails :
Jungle Biking in Anse Mamin
The grey sandy beach of Anse Mamin Bay borders Anse Chastenet Bay. This is where the rich and famous arrive by helicopter at Nick Troubetzkoy’s iconic Jade Mountain luxury hotel. The steep, pot-holed road from Soufrière’s Cemetery up to the hotel would also be perfect for sliding all sorts of implants.
Behind the beach at Anse Mamin, a 240-hectare adventure playground stretches up to the ridge, complete with 18th-century colonial ruins, jungle streams and cooling pools. On this former plantation, the boys at Bike Saint Lucia have created a 12-kilometre network of mountain bike trails and single trails of varying degrees of difficulty.
Mangoes, guavas, cocoa, breadfruit and coconuts grow above the bikers’ heads and next to the trails. Wearing a helmet is therefore advisable. Super-light, new Scott Scale 940 carbon bikes with really powerful disc brakes are available for hire.
Before setting off into the terrain on your own, bike guide Joeven first gives a detailed introduction. Beginners learn how to brake without flying over the handlebars into the nearest palm tree. Just as well, because the young honeymooner couple from the USA never seem to have got much further than the tricycle phase.
The beach with its burger bar and the biker nirvana are separated by a massive, high wooden gate reminiscent of the one in Jurassic Park. Snorkelling is not worthwhile on Mamin Beach, but it is ideal for cooling off after a sweaty bike ride in the hot and humid climate.
If you want to round off your jungle biking experience with observing colourful reef fish, it is best to enter the water off Grand Caille Point. Chastenet Reef starts just a few metres from the Scuba Centre and is considered the best snorkelling area on the island close to land. In addition to reef fish, octopus, seahorses and sea turtles await you there.
Bike, entrance fee, boat transfers 54 US-$
More infos on bikestlucia.com
Saint Lucia for Chocoholics:
Cocoa only thrives in the company of coconut palms, mango, papaya, citrus trees and banana trees. The sensitive little plant needs the shade of these “cocoa mothers”. This is what we learn at the 55-hectare Rabot estate. The oldest cocoa plantation on the island, it sits opposite the iconic Petit Piton volcanic cone.
Cocoa is a real superfood, has more antioxidants than green tea, lots of phenylethylamine, which triggers the production of the happiness hormone dopamine, many unsaturated fatty acids, magnesium and vitamins.
For good reason, the islanders are reluctant to give up their morning cocoa tea with milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and star anise. A must for every visitor to St Lucia, especially if they are Kaba-conditioned.
You can learn how to turn cocoa into chocolate yourself in the “Bean to Bar” course organised by Project Chocolat. This emphasises sustainability, including with the independent cocoa farmers from the surrounding area. They supply the healthy beans, which thrive particularly well in the rich volcanic soil. And receive fair prices in return. Through the non-profit organisation Helen’s Daughters, Project Chocolate supports the island’s female farmers in particular. The cocoa beans from St Lucia have been considered the best in the world since the early 18th century.
Project Chocolat is one of the few chocolate manufacturers in the world that is directly involved in cocoa cultivation. The cocoa is still “only” grown, fermented and dried on the plantation, which was founded in 1745, before being sent to the UK for processing. The completion of the factory on site has been tangled up in bureaucratic red tape for years, we are told.
How do you turn a handful of fermented and roasted cocoa bean pieces, some cocoa butter and a little sugar into a wonderful chocolate? The key is to pound the pod pieces in a mortar and pestle until a homogeneous, viscous mass is formed. Then grind in the coconut butter and a little sugar. Leave to cool et voilà: it tastes very good! After the second bite, the endorphins will start to kick in.
Rabot Estate, or rather its Project Chocolat, prides itself on being the first chocolatier in the world to produce a single origin chocolate. The Trinitario beans of the “Marcial 70%” all come from the Côtes Marcial vineyard. So not just “single origin” (from one country) or “single estate”, but “single côte”. Trinitario, a hybrid of the common Forastero and Criollo, is known for its full-bodied flavour of Shiraz wine and dried plums.
The restaurant attached to Project Chocolat, which is made from several food truck-style containers, serves cocoa cuisine, as does the “Rabot” terrace restaurant, which not only boasts a magnificent view of the Petit Piton. Cacao linguine, Black Angus fillet or mahi mahi marinated for hours in cocoa or tuna tartare with cocoa croutons. Either you love chocolate or you’re wrong …
Bean to Bar 69 US-$
More Infos on Rabot Estate’s Website
Getting to Saint Lucia
No direct flights. With British Airways to London Heathrow, onwards from London Gatwick to St Lucia (UVF). Tickets from 1,000 euros. britishairways.com
Without changing airports with Air France via Paris to Martinique, from 1,150 euros and with ferry (90 min.) from Fort de France to St Lucia (from 99 euros).
December to mid-May Virgin Atlantic flies from London Heathrow to St Lucia (UVF), from 680 euros, feeder flight on the same day with BA. virginatlantic.com
Reporter’s Hotel Tips
„Calabash Cove Resort & Spa“
26 rooms and beautiful vintage-style pool cottages right by the sea, with “Unconditional All-Inclusive” on request, including daily seasonal lobster and high-quality wines and spirits. Minimum age: 16 years. Great location in a sheltered bay just five minutes by car from Castries and Rodney Bay. Very good cuisine. Cottage AI from 1,100 euros. calabashcove.com
Pretty resort with 26 cottages in a large tropical garden with mature trees. Open yoga room and spa. AI from 700 euros. eastwinds.com
194 rooms, suites and cottages (some with butlers), 6 restaurants, 7 bars on a long, well-kept beach. Unfortunately only one outdoor restaurant. 110% geared to US travellers. Europeans are an absolute minority. Minimum stay 7 days. Double room/AI from 630 euros.sandalsresorts.eu.
„Cap Maison Resort & Spa“
Moorish-Andalusian design, top cuisine and an exclusively accessible beach with the popular restaurant “The Naked Fisherman”. Restaurant and bar cling dramatically to the cliff. Recently became a member of Relais & Châteaux. Double room with breakfast from 550 euros. capmaison.com
If you prefer to sleep in B&Bs or guesthouses to be closer to “normal” island life, book through stlucia.org/de/collectiondepepites
Information and details about Saint Lucia: stlucia.org
This article was originally written in German. It was translated into English with the help of Artificial Intelligence