Caribbean / Mexico

St Lucia defines picturesque

Photo credit: St Lucia Tourist Board

St. Lucia is the sort of island that travellers to the Caribbean dream about – a small, lush tropical gem that is still relatively unknown. In natural beauty, St. Lucia seems like an island plucked from the South Pacific and set down in the Caribbean. Its dramatic twin coastal peaks, the Pitons, soar 2,000 feet up from the sea, sheltering magnificent rain forests where wild orchids, giant ferns and birds of paradise flourish. Brilliantly-plumed tropical birds abound, including endangered species like the indigenous St. Lucia parrot. The rainforest is broken only by verdant fields and orchards of banana, coconut, mango, and papaya trees.

One of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, St. Lucia is situated midway in the Caribbean between Martinique and St. Vincent, and north of Barbados. The island is only 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, with a shape that is said to resemble either a mango or an avocado (depending on your taste). The Atlantic Ocean kisses its eastern shore, while the beaches of the west coast owe their beauty to the calm Caribbean Sea.

St. Lucia has been inhabited since long before colonial times, and its cultural treasures are a fascinating melange of its rich past and its many different traditions. The island’s people have earned a well-deserved reputation for their warmth and charm, and the island itself is dotted with aged fortresses, small villages, and open-air markets.

The history of St. Lucia is quite a tale.

St. Lucia was first settled by Arawak Indians around 200 A.D., though by 800 their culture had been superseded by that of the Caribs. These early Amerindian cultures called the island “Iouanalao” and “Hewanorra,” meaning “Island of the Iguanas.”

It was long believed that Columbus had discovered St. Lucia in 1502, but recent evidence suggests that he merely sailed close by. An alternative discoverer is Juan de la Cosa, a lesser-known explorer who had served at one time as Columbus’ navigator. There was no European presence established on the island until its settlement in the 1550s by the notorious buccaneer Francois le Clerc.

Around 1600, the Dutch arrived, establishing a fortified base at Vieux Fort.

The first attempt at colonization occurred just a few years later, in 1605. An unfortunate party of English colonists, headed to Guyana on the good ship Olive Branch, landed on St. Lucia after having been blown off course. In all, sixty-seven colonists waded ashore, where they purchased land and huts from the resident Caribs. After a month, the party had been reduced to only nineteen, and those were soon forced to flee from the Caribs in a canoe. A few decades later, in 1639, a second party of English colonists under Sir Thomas Warner also failed in their settlement attempt.

By mid-century the French had arrived, and had even “purchased” the island for the French West India Company. Needless to say, the persevering British were less than enchanted with this idea, and Anglo-French rivalry for the island continued for more than a century and a half. The island’s first settlements and towns were all French, beginning with Soufriere in 1746. By 1780, twelve settlements and a large number of sugar plantations had been established. By 1814, after a prolonged series of enormously destructive battles, the island was finally British.

Over the next century St. Lucia settled into the stable democracy and multicultural society that it is today. The country remained under the British crown until it became independent within the British Commonwealth in 1979. Despite the length of British rule, the island’s French cultural legacy is still evident in its Creole dialect.

Saint Lucia is an idyllic destination. Whether you’re after romance, rejuvenation or adventure, St. Lucia is a genuine, natural landscape of stunning palm-fringed beaches, miles of unspoiled rainforest and the majestic Piton Mountains. Natural waterfalls, breath-taking views, friendly locals and authentic culture impress the most travelled individuals for a holiday with lasting memories.

There is an array of exciting and exotic activities available throughout the island.

The island also provides excellent facilities for golf, tennis, sailing, and a host of other leisure pursuits. Golfers need not worry while vacationing on St. Lucia, as there are several courses on the island where one can practice their swing in this wonderful Caribbean paradise. Because of the mountainous areas and rainforests on the island, there are only a few places where golf courses could be built. There are two golf courses on St. Lucia: Sandals Regency St. Lucia Golf Resort & Spa and St. Lucia Golf and Country Club. Although the island courses aren’t as glamorous as other golf greens in the Caribbean, the courses in St. Lucia feature postcard perfect views of both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

Sandals St. Lucia Golf Course

Photo credit: Sandals & Beaches Resorts

One of the major highlights of staying at  Sandals in St. Lucia is its wonderful 9-hole golf course. Golfers of all skill levels will enjoy the gorgeous greens and fairways. The course features a plantation-style clubhouse and is located on picturesque island property in a lush valley. The layout of the course is short at only 3,141 yards, but challenging.

St Lucia Golf & Country Club

St. Lucia Golf & Country Club features the only 18-hole golf course on the island. Located on the Cap Estates, this course is set in the green rolling hills of the island, with a stunning panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and the sapphire waters of the Caribbean. Also, this 6,829, Yard Par 71 course has a complete Pro Golf Shop

The island’s steep coastlines and lovely reefs offer excellent snorkeling and scuba diving. Voted one of the ‘top five’ shore dives in the Caribbean by Rodale’s Scuba Diving Magazine, and just feet away from the dive center is the Anse Chastanet Reef, one of St. Lucia’s top dive sites, located in the heart of St. Lucia’s world renowned Marine Park, the Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA).

The Anse Chastanet Reef, which is home to more than 150 different species of fish, is comprised of a marine plateau and dramatic slopes that fall away to a depth of more than 140ft.

If you care to dive further offshore, you can dive along dramatic walls beneath the majestic Piton Mountains, Superman’s Flight, a drift dive in the shadow of the Petit Piton, Coral Gardens and Jalousie under the Gross Piton, Piton Wall, the wreck of the “Lesleen M”, Anse La Raye and Anse Cochon.

The wreck of the Lesleen M is located to the north of the dive center and dive boats take approximately 15 minutes to reach this site. The 165 foot freighter was sunk in October 1986 as part of a project by the Department of Fisheries to provide artificial reefs.

And you can also night dive. After a briefing at dusk you enter the warm, clear water in search of eels, octopus, lobsters and sleeping parrot fish.

Deep in Saint Lucia’s mountainous, tropical islands interior almost 1,800 feet above sea level, lies 19,000 acres of Rainforest and the 29 miles of trails that run through it.

The rainforest preserves of St. Lucia’s mountainous interior are one of the Caribbean’s finest locales for hiking and bird watching. The legendary beauty of Saint Lucia provides a beautiful backdrop for adventure: mountains to climb and forests to explore. The ancients revered Saint Lucia — Ioüanalao or Hewanorra, as it was called — and fought to preserve it. Forests hold a place of esteem in our collective memory. It is where ordinary life stories are transformed into mythic tales. It is the primitive space of Robin Hood, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood. The forest trails of Saint Lucia, some well travelled, some secret, are no less magical. Their thick trees and shrubbery, their steep or gently rounded hillrocks are a hideaway for wildlife. But they were just as protective for the ancient Indians and later runaway Coramantee slaves who wanted to establish villages far from the madding crowd and rewrite their own stories. These major forest trails have all the magic …

Not to be missed is St. Lucia’s Soufriere volcano, the world’s only drive-in volcanic crater.

As evidenced above, if you are looking for more than a beach vacation, you may want to consider St. Lucia. And … as anyone who has been there will tell you, the best tip is: bring a good camera!

Sandals Resorts

Three Sandals resorts grace this “simply beautiful” island.

Sandals Grande St. Lucia is set on its own spectacular peninsula surrounded by the sea on both sides, while Sandals Regency La Toc boasts coral bluffs, a secluded half-mile beach and lush rolling fairways, and Sandals Halcyon is a lush tropical paradise.

Guests of any of these resorts enjoy exchange privileges with the other two, including a total of 21 restaurants, a nine-hole golf course, and two Red Lane® spas. Accommodation ranges from “rondovals” suites in the round, to swim-up rooms from a lagoon pool, to two-story villa suites with private plunge pools.

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