Saint Lucia

Consider spending your next winter vacation on the Eastern Caribbean Island of Saint Lucia. That is the easy decision. The hard part comes when you have to select from all of its idyllic beaches with pristine sand and calm, aquamarine water.

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1 Approaching Capital City of Castries, Saint Lucia

You are approaching Castries, the capital city of Saint Lucia. Over one million people a year visit this West Indies island and contribute 65% to this sovereign country’s GDP. Tourists primarily come from December through May (the dry season) in order to savor the tropical climate (averages 70°F to 90°F), volcanic mountain scenery, lush rainforest (19,000 acres) and 100 miles of coastline along the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

St Lucia Cruise Ship Terminal, Castries, St Lucia
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2 Best Beaches North of Castries, Saint Lucia

Beaches are the primary tourist attraction on Saint Lucia. There are three types. The east coast faces the rough Atlantic surf so most areas on the windward side are great for sunning but not for swimming. The beaches along the southwest tend to be isolated except by boat with black sand from neighboring dormant volcanoes. The prime stretches of golden shore are in the northwest along the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea. So grab a pen and paper. You are going on a tour of Saint Lucia’s best beaches starting at Castries and heading to the island’s northern tip.

St. Lucia School of Music, Tapion Road, Saint Lucia
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3 Vigie Beach, First of Northwest Coast Beaches Near Castries, Saint Lucia

Vigie Beach is the first of the northwest coast beaches to consider when looking for a place to spend your day. Despite being within two miles of Castries, it attracts more locals than tourists. It offers a tree-lined shoreline with gorgeous sand. There is also a snack shack on the beach and a few restaurants within walking distance. Its only demerit comes from the lack of a public restroom.

Peninsular Rd, Castries, St Lucia
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4 Vigie Beach Adjacent to Airport Near Castries, Saint Lucia

As you fly into Saint Lucia for the start of your winter vacation, the first tropical shoreline you may see out your window is Vigie Beach. It is adjacent to the George F. L. Charles Airport just north of the capital city of Castries. However, there is also a chance your flight will arrive at the larger Hewanorra International Airport. It is located in the southeast edge of the island.

Peninsular Rd, Castries, St Lucia
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5 Sandals Resort at Choc Beach Near Castries, Saint Lucia

This couple strolling on Choch Beach was probably enjoying their vacation at the couples-only Sandals Halcyon Beach Saint Lucia seen in the background. It is one of three Sandals resorts on the island. Their guests are welcome to use the amenities at all of their properties. Eight other hotels on Saint Lucia have earned a five-star rating so you have plenty of options for booking luxury accommodations.

Sandals Halycon, Castries-Gros Islet Hwy, Castries, St Lucia
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6 Secluded Feeling of Choc Beach Near Castries, Saint Lucia

You would expect a picturesque beach that is close to a city, just off a main highway and flanked by two resorts would be jammed with people. Delightfully, that is not the case at Choc Breach. It was practically deserted. If you want more than solitude in your paradise, you can also rent a windsurfing board or sailboat to float in the Caribbean Sea.

Sandals Halycon, Castries-Gros Islet Hwy, Castries, St Lucia
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7 Rat Island Offshore of Choc Beach Near Castries, Saint Lucia

There is a mysterious island offshore of Choc Beach. When tourists are warned by local hotels to stay away from Rat Island, they become more curious. Apparently this government-owned island was a quarantine center for small pox victims. Then it was abandoned until 1994 when a foundation was formed to convert the land into an artist retreat. This was done to honor Derek Walcott, a Saint Lucian who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. He is currently a professor at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. The island remains undeveloped.

Sandals Halycon, Castries-Gros Islet Hwy, Castries, St Lucia
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8 Calm Surf at Choc Beach Near Castries, Saint Lucia

The next beach to consider along the northwest coastline is Choc Beach. Again it is a short distance from Castries and easily accessible along the Gros Islet Highway. This is a favorite among families because the water is clear, calm and shallow. It is an ideal place for children to swim and cool off on a hot day.

Sandals Halycon, Castries-Gros Islet Hwy, Castries, St Lucia
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9 Reduit Beach at Rodney Bay Village, Saint Lucia

One look at this gorgeous scenery and it is easy to see why Reduit Beach is considered to be the best stretch of golden sand on the island of Saint Lucia. It is the majestic crown of the northwest coastline. But with beauty comes popularity among vacationers. There are numerous places to stay nearby in Rodney Bay Village and Gors Islet – from large, all-inclusive resorts to small boutique hotels. Plus there are plenty of restaurants, taverns, shops and entertainment including the new Treasure Bay Casino with over 250 slot machines.

Reduit Beach Ave & Flamboyant Dr, Rodney Bay, St Lucia
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10 Rodney Bay Shaped by Pigeon Island at Rodney Bay Village, Saint Lucia

This crescent-shaped Rodney Bay is defined in the north by Pigeon Island seen in the background. In between these points are the calm, aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea. This location is THE spot for an ideal vacation on St. Lucia. It is also the source of glorious dreams before you arrive and wonderful memories when you return home.

Reduit Beach Ave & Flamboyant Dr, Rodney Bay, St Lucia
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11 Rodney Bay at Rodney Bay Village, Saint Lucia

The namesake for Rodney Bay is George Brydges Rodney. He was an 18th century British admiral who repeatedly engaged the French in naval battles during the American War of Independence. He used this bay and the fort at Pigeon Island to monitor the French ship movements at the nearby island of Martinique.

Reduit Beach Ave & Flamboyant Dr, Rodney Bay, St Lucia
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12 Rodney Bay Marina at Rodney Bay Village, Saint Lucia

The Rodney Bay Mariana was a swamp before being dredged out to create a protected harbor. The 4.5 acre boatyard has over 250 berths. They primarily serve sailboats and other small watercraft but can accommodate superyachts up to 285 feet. You will also see additional boats anchored outside of the lagoon in Rodney Bay.

IGY Rodney Bay Marina, Castries - Gros Islet Highway, Rodney Bay, St Lucia
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13 Fishing Near Rodney Bay Marina at Rodney Bay Village, Saint Lucia

The Rodney Bay Marina harbors boats big and small, from luxury cruise ships to these humble and weathered fishing boats. If these wooden dinghies are not your style, you can charter a sports fishing trip. Frequent catches during deep sea adventures include tuna, dorado, marlin, king fish and snapper.

IGY Rodney Bay Marina, Castries - Gros Islet Highway, Rodney Bay, St Lucia
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14 Pirate Ship in Rodney Bay Marina at Rodney Bay Village, Saint Lucia

Rodney Bay was frequented by swashbuckling buccaneers during the Golden Age of Piracy (1650s to 1730s). In modern times, The Brig Unicorn was the most famous pirate ship at St. Lucia. It was featured as The Henrietta and The Terrashaw in different “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. Unfortunately, that 1948 ship sank off the coast of St. Vincent in May of 2014. The Pearl is now a popular schooner for sunset cruises while listening to calypso bands.

IGY Rodney Bay Marina, Castries - Gros Islet Highway, Rodney Bay, St Lucia
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15 Wild Horse Grazing at Gros Islet, Saint Lucia

You might be lucky to see a herd of wild horses gazing along the roadside at Gros Islet. Although they act tame, you are cautioned not to pet, feed or try to ride them. But if the sighting rekindles your dream of galloping along a tropical beach at sunset, there are local companies who offer a guided riding adventure.

Pigeon Island National Park, Gros Islet, St Lucia
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16 Causeway to Pigeon Island from Gros Islet, Saint Lucia

Gros Islet, which means Large Island, is a 39 square mile district adjacent to Rodney Bay Village. Together these communities comprise one of the most popular tourist destinations on Saint Lucia. At the southern portion of Gros Island you will find a road leading from the mainland to Pigeon Island. This causeway was built in 1972. As you drive towards Signal Hill in the background, the Atlantic Ocean waves pound the breakwater causing roaring splashes.

Pigeon Island National Park, Gros Islet, St Lucia
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17 Pigeon Island Beach at Gros Islet, Saint Lucia

A large share of Pigeon Island Beach is dedicated to the Sandals Grande resort. However, a perfect sliver of while sand between the five-star hotel and the Pigeon Island National Park is reserved for your private paradise. So if your idea of perfection is solitude in the tropics, then skip the busy Reduit Beach and enjoy your view of Rodney Bay beneath these colorful umbrellas.

Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort Pigeon Island, Gros Islet, St Lucia
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18 Pigeon Island National Park at Gros Islet, Saint Lucia

If you want some historic adventure after swimming, sunning and sleeping along Rodney Bay at Pigeon Island Beach, then go explore the 44 acre national park on the horizon. This island was the home for the Arawaks and then the Caribs before becoming a lookout point for François le Clerc. Jambe de Bois was a 16th century French pirate and the first buccaneer known to have a peg leg. This earned him the nickname Pie de Palo. On the top left are the ruins of Fort Rodney. Learn this history and more at the Interpretation Centre housed in an 1803 British Officers Mess.

Pigeon Island National Park, Gros Islet, St Lucia
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19 Fort Rodney on Pigeon Island at Gros Islet, Saint Lucia

From 1650 until the late 18th century, the French controlled Pigeon Island. They were expelled by the British during the Battle of Cul-de-Sac in 1778. Then Admiral Sir George Rodney built a fortification on the smaller of the two island’s peaks. From here he launched his fleet of ships in several attacks against the French. The most famous and decisive was the Battle of the Saintes in 1782. It is worth visiting the ruins of Fort Rodeny to see the old cannons, stone walls and panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

Pigeon Island National Park, Gros Islet, St Lucia
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20 Derek Walcott Square in Castries, Saint Lucia

This public square in the center of Castries, Saint Lucia, was formerly called Columbus Square. Now it is named in honor of Dereck Walcott, a native of Saint Lucia and the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. Above the bandstand are a few branches of a giant albizia saman tree. Called the Massav tree by the locals, some people claim its massive canopy has been growing for over 400 years old. Others suggest it was planted in 1833.

Brazil St & Laborie St, Castries, Saint Lucia
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21 Pastel Painted Buildings on Bourbon Street in Castries, Saint Lucia

Castries suffered several major fires from 1796 through 1948. Fortunately, some of its pastel colored, wooden structures with delicate lattice balconies survived. These Victorian buildings, including the Ministry of Legal Affairs, are located along Bourbon Street in the city’s center.

Bourbon St & Micoud St, Castries, St Lucia
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22 Clock Tower of Cathedral Immaculate Conception in Castries, Saint Lucia

This is the clock tower of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in the center of Castries, Saint Lucia. Measuring 200 by 100 feet, it is the largest church in the Caribbean. The minor basilica was constructed in 1897. Over 60% of Saint Lucians are of the Roman Catholic faith.

Micoud St & Laborie St, Castries, St. Lucia
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23 Inside the Cathedral Immaculate Conception in Castries, Saint Lucia

Behind the Cathedral Immaculate Conception’s main altar is an arched mural by local artist Dunstan St. Omer. Directly above it is the image of Saint Lucia, the patron saint of the island. Lucia of Syracuse was martyred for her Christian faith by Roman Emperor Diocletian in 304 AD. Saint Lucy’s feast day is recognized on December 13.

Micoud St & Laborie St, Castries, St. Lucia
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24 Central Library in Castries, Saint Lucia

This Andrew Carnegie Public Library was built along the western edge of the central square in downtown Castries in 1924 thanks to a grant by the Carnegie Foundation. During a fire in 1948 it was heavily damaged and most of its collection of 20,000 books was destroyed. The Central Library was refurbished to its original appearance but inside its shelves seem sparse.

Bourbon St & Micoud St, Castries, St Lucia
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25 Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Castries, Saint Lucia

Anglicanism is a Christian religion that began as part of the Church of England. The faith was introduced to Saint Lucia when the British took control during the 18th century. Religious freedom was granted to the island in 1783. The cornerstone for this beautiful Holy Trinity Anglican Church was laid in 1894. Less than 2% of Saint Lucians practice the Anglican faith.

Darling Rd & Baptiste St, Castries, St Lucia
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26 Colorful Downtown Building in Castries, Saint Lucia

Except for an occasional colorful building like this one at the intersection of Monigiraud and Micoud Streets, most of downtown Castries does not offer much to maintain the interest of tourists. The capital city of about 20,000 people seems tired and worn compared to so many other Caribbean ports of call. Consequently, most visitors to Saint Lucia focus on the islands exquisite beaches and resort centers.

Monigiraud St & Micoud St, Castries, St Lucia
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27 Duty Free Shops at Cruise Port Near Cruise, Saint Lucia

I have never been a fan of shops at cruise ship ports. Their offerings tend to be over-priced souvenirs and duty-free items. However, unlike many Caribbean destinations, there is not much quality shopping in the capital city of Castries. And the 40 shops at Pointe Seraphine are better than average. So if you need your fix before getting back onto your ship, these stores are worth exploring. But save a few minutes to grab a beer and relax.

Pointe Seraphine Duty Free Shopping, Castries, St Lucia
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28 Vigie Lighthouse Near Castries, Saint Lucia

The Vigie Lighthouse was established in 1883. The current white, cylindrical tower with a red lantern was rebuilt in 1915. This light still serves a critical role in managing the harbor at the capital city of Castries. The keeper coordinates the arrival and departure of major ships and dispatches the assistance of tug boats when needed.

Vigie Lighthouse Beacon Rd, St Lucia
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29 Saint Lucia, the Second Largest Windward Island

Saint Lucia is in the Eastern Caribbean located south of Martinique and north of Saint Vincent. Measuring 27 by 14 miles, it is the second largest of the Windward Islands. It became an independent state in 1979 but still reflects the influence of the French and British. They exchange control of the island fourteen times, earning it the nickname, “Helen of the West Indies.” Most Saint Lucians speak Creole and their currency is the East Caribbean Dollar. But you will find the English language and the U.S. dollar are always welcome.

St. Lucia School of Music, Tapion Road, Saint Lucia
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30 Five-masted Sailing Ship Floating Pass Pitons Near Soufrière, Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia’s most famous landmark is The Pitons (French for peaks). These dormant volcanic plugs are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and located along the southwest coast near Soufrière. On the right is Gros Piton (2,530 feet). Bridged by the Piton Mitan Range is the twin mountain called Petit Piton (2,438 feet). Leaving the Piton Bay is the five-masted Royal Clipper. This magnificent 439 foot sailing ship is listed by the Guinness Book of World Record’s as the largest square-rigged ship in service. Owned by Star Clippers, it offers cruises through the Mediterranean and Caribbean for up to 227 passengers.

Jade Mountain Club Bridge St, St Lucia
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