This island may be the world’s top honeymoon destination, but whether you’re travelling solo, with a friend, or even a partner… there are tons of non-romantic things to do in St Lucia!
You may have seen my Facebook post where I talked about my best friend coming to visit me in Martinique. Would you believe that we’ve been friends for 14 years and have never travelled together?! It’s quite remarkable actually: she’s backpacked Southeast Asia and driven a camper van through Australia; I’m always jetting off to live in some random country or making my way around Europe or Morocco. What I’m saying is travel is pretty important in both of our lives, yet we’d never done it together.
Naturally, I was excited to show her Martinique — it’s been such a huge part of my life over the last half-decade. There are so many beautiful things to see here and we could have easily filled a week-long itinerary… but she was flying into and out of St. Lucia so we thought… Why not do a bit of island-hopping?!
Friday Night Jump Up
As much as I love Martinique for its natural beauty, it’s not the first place I think of when you want to spend a weekend on the lash. I looked to St. Lucia for this part of the experience… and s’éclater we did. Every Friday night in Gros Islet the streets are pedestrianized, DJs set up sound systems, and food stalls open up on every corner. This small scale Carnival that happens every weekend until 2am is one of the top things to do in St Lucia on TripAdvisor.
We drank punch and Pitons — St. Lucia’s local brew — made new friends, and danced the night away. I even broke my cardinal party rule: Never stay until the lights go on. There is the main soundsystem at the crossroads where the bacchanal happens; the reggae and the rastas by the pier (a great place to cool down because the main area gets hot); and the music by Irie Bar where people drink and chill.
Where to Eat: Duke’s Fish Restaurant and Bar. Last time I was at the Jump Up, we ate at random stalls — bakes, peanut punch, barbecued plantains — but this time we went to Duke’s for a huge helping of the juciest, most flavourful grilled tuna I’ve ever eaten. It’s right by the beach and people line up around the block to eat there. At $15 EC, served with rice and garlic sauce, it was the best meal I had in St. Lucia!
An alternative to the Jump Up is the Fish Fry in Anse La Raye — the focus is more on the food than the party and you’ll eat very well here!
Tips for Friday Night Jump Up
- It’s “tourist time” until about 11:30pm. They play old school/commercial dancehall, the men are less aggressive about dancing with you, you’ll see families and tourists. If it gets to midnight and you don’t want to cock up yuh bumpa, it may be time to head home or stay out of the centre of the main soundsystem.
- Book a taxi to drop you off and pick you up. We stayed in Reduit Beach and had an arrangement with a taxi driver from our hotel. It was $60 EC (USD 22) for the return trip. We set a place to meet up and exchanged numbers so we could call when we were ready to leave.
- Leave the valuables at home, bring only the money you need. I felt very safe in St. Lucia but it’s still a huge crowd of people drinking the night away. Drinks cost about $5-6 EC and small snacks about the same.
- Ladies, a firm no should do. Let me first say that I’m not down harassment of any kind BUT be aware that Caribbean dancehall culture is different than clubbing in the US or Canada. You may be there ‘just to dance with your girls’ as you might say at a club; however, in the Caribbean it is assumed that you are in the crowd because you want to dutty wine.* Men (and women) may grab, pull, and/or start grinding on you without notice. If you’re not into it, head to the periphery of the crowd and give any potential suitors a firm no.
* What is up with the ‘vulgar,’ ‘sexual’ dancing anyways? Without writing a treatise on the topic (and I did on Martinique), let me start by saying that, despite what you see on TV, much of the Caribbean is very conservative place with deeply Christian values. It’s also very patriarchal — one thing my friend noticed is how men dominate public space in Martinique with large groups outside ready to catcall. (Meanwhile I’ve found that it seems more acceptable for men to be open and outgoing while women tend to be more reserved with strangers). For scholars like Donna P. Hope and Carolyn Cooper, the dancehall became a space of creation where women could perform, create a presence in the public sphere, and take ownership of their bodies and sexuality. In short, dancehall and its associated dance style is resistance not degradation.
Lunch at Castries Market
Castries Market was voted one of National Geographic’s Top 10 food markets and I enjoyed tasting all of the goodies from the different stalls. The market has been open since 1894 and walking around here, you’re sure to meet up with tourists, locals haggling in Creole, and fruits and spices you’ve never heard of or seen before.
If you’re cooking for yourself, come here and speak to the merchants to learn how to make some typical St. Lucian dishes likes bakes (fried bread), chicken roti, or the St. Lucian national dish: green fig and salt fish. If you just want to extend your Caribbean holiday into your kitchen, stock up on spices like fresh cinnamon, star anise, and hot scotch bonnet sauce. Personally, I took home a bottle of banana ketchup!
Head Down to Soufrière
When St. Lucia was under French rule Soufrière was the capital of the country. Today it’s home to one of the Caribbean’s foremost diving sites, sulfur springs, and the Pitons — a World Heritage Site and one of Oprah’s favourite things to do in the world.
The two Pitons are volcanic plugs – hardened lava – called Petit Piton and Gros Piton. Gros Piton can be climbed where you’ll get to see some of the fascinating flora that grows in volcanic position. At 786m, this is the second highest peak on the island and provides beautiful views of the south of the island and beyond.
She’s a pretty darn good Instagram photographer too!
From our hotel we had two options: Soufrière by land or by sea. We opted for the catamaran trip, which included a tour of the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens, lunch at Fond Doux Cocoa Plantation, a dip in the sulfur springs, a snorkelling stop, and drinks for the trip back. The day trip cost $115 US for the day with Carnival Tours.
As a result of sunburn (culprit: kayaking in Martinique) and a hangover (culprits: Stone’s Ginger Wine, Pitons, rum punch), we spent much of the time shocked at the racist comments these two grumpy men were making and throwing shade at an irritatingly perky young couple behind our sunglasses. Yes, we were those girls. By the afternoon we’d lightened up and still had a blast!
Tips for the Tourist Trail
- Everyone offers this tour or something like it. If I didn’t know any better I would think it’s the only thing to do in St. Lucia. But if you’re with a big group, you can hire a taxi driver for the day. It’s what we did my first time in St. Lucia, which involved a stop at Marigot Bay (where everyone kept saying was where Dr. Doolittle was filmed). It cost something like $80 US (which we split between 8 or so) and we paid when he dropped us back at our guest house. If you’re feeling even more intrepid, just take the island buses that run regularly around the whole island.
- Bring a dark bathing suit for the sulfur springs. I wore a white bikini the first time and it was grey for the rest of its lifespan. However, this time we couldn’t actually go in because the pools were too hot. We slathered ourselves with mud and splashed the water on ourselves instead. Regardless, I still ended up with super smooth and luscious skin!
- It’s tips and entry fees galore. National parks, botanical gardens, and plantation visits usually have some associated entry fee. These costs were covered in the price of our tour (be sure to check before you book) but there was the additional expectation of a tip from our tour guides.
Dinner at The Naked Fisherman
I initially got wind of The Naked Fisherman from a man who was on the day trip with us — he told me that the dinner he had at this restaurant was the best meal he’s ever eaten and it was at a stunning seaside location. At the last minute we called Groovy, one of our more spirited taxi drivers, to drop us off in Smugglers Cove at the north tip of the island.
We headed down a long, steep staircase and landed on the beach where the waves were rolling onto the sand. I’ve never been to a restaurant with such a beautiful location — it’s a patio built on a natural cove on the coastline. The sea came right under us and beyond the tiki lights (why do we love tiki lights so much?!) we could see the lights and houses of Martinique’s south coast.
I started with breadfruit and codfish fritters, crispy on the outside and smooth on the inside. We both had the grilled catch of the day, hers with a side of pumpkin curry and mine with macaroni and cheese. For dessert, a rich helping of chocolate ganache and vanilla ice cream.
Details for The Naked Fisherman
- Make a reservation. We arrived about an hour before closing so it wasn’t busy, but you’re meant to notify the hotel (Smugglers Cove Resort) before you go in.
- Opening hours: 12:00-4:00 daily and 6:30-9:30 Wednesday-Saturday
Explore Pigeon Island
We didn’t go to Pigeon Island this time around, but it was a short walk from the guesthouse I stayed at in Gros Islet the last time I was in St. Lucia.
Pigeon Island was inaccessible from St. Lucia until 1972 when a causeway was built to ease access. The island itself is a site with thousands of years of history: it was inhabited by the Arawaks and the Caribs until the colonial period when it became a British fort for fighting and spying. The remnants of the latter period are what you will find there — the ruins of the officer’s kitchen, the restored barracks, and views of St. Lucia’s and Martinique’s coast from the fort.
From Martinique, we took the Express Des Iles ferry to Castries. A return ticket costs €99 plus an exit tax of $33 EC that you pay at the port. We took a taxi from the port to Reduit Beach. It normally costs $65 EC but we paid $50 EC.
If you’re flying into Hewanorra International, a taxi to Castries costs $225 EC (though both of us have managed to negotiate down to $150 EC on separate occasions). You can also take an island taxi. They stop in front of the airport and will get you to Castries for a few dollars. You may have to pay for a place for your luggage and you’ll be crammed in with a bunch of other people.
A little bonus Martinique travel tip: If you’re travelling to Martinique from Toronto, you can get flights to St. Lucia for around $350 RT and a boat or flight to Martinique for €99 RT. That’s how I went home after my first year as a language assistant and started the second.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Blu Hotel in Reduit Beach. It offers an all-inclusive package, but we opted for the breakfast only option. The rooms were comfortable and the pool area was lovely. The cost was $250 US for two nights on Booking.com.
I’ve also stayed at Alexander’s Guesthouse in Gros Islet. It’s a simple accommodation but a short walk to the Jump Up, a beach, and Pigeon Island. Rooms start at around $20 US per night.