A Caribbean cruise to Castries, St. Lucia offers a different side of the Caribbean than you’ve ever seen before. Castries itself is the capital of St. Lucia, and a walkable, bustling town. Head to Derek Walcott Square to relax after exploring the town, and don’t miss the historic cathedrals in the heart of the city. Of course, you have to try traditional St. Lucian food, including saltfish and green banana, the region’s signature dish.
St. Lucia itself is sprawling and mountainous, protected yet easily explorable. Downtown Castries can certainly take up your day in port, but you could also venture further inland for thrills and outdoor adventures, like hiking one of the volcanic Pitons, a spire-like mountain promising incredible views of St. Lucia from the summit. Take a mud bath at Sulphur Spring Park, or simply swim and snorkel at Pigeon Island National Park or the beautiful Reduit Beach.
Connected to the island of St. Lucia by a causeway built in the 1970s, Pigeon Island National Park is a perfect day trip while on your Castries cruise. Pigeon Island is a mish-mash of historic landmarks juxtaposed with the tranquility of a Caribbean island. Snorkeling and diving the clear waters are must-do activities on Pigeon Island, but so are tours of the museum and military ruins within the park.
Head south by car, and in a little over an hour you’ll be at Sulphur Springs, where you can drive right past an active volcano. They call it the “drive-in volcano,” and it’s one of the most unique sites in St. Lucia. Bathe in the warm sulfuric pools—also called mud baths—while you’re there, which supposedly have healing and relaxing properties.
This small park in the center of Castries is a historic square honoring Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott. Watch as people go by from one of the shaded benches, resting up before or after your shopping trip at Castries Market. Check out the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception nearby.
Nestled right between the two Pitons outside of Soufriere is Sugar Beach, which is a luxurious Viceroy resort area, but also boasts some of the best views of any of the beaches on the island. Lounging is freely available to the public; you don’t have to be staying at the resort to enjoy the imported sandy beach. After exploring a bit, have lunch or dinner at the resort’s restaurant.
On a cruise to Castries, It’s an hour’s southbound drive to Soufriere, which is where most excursions will take you to get to the massive Pitons nearby. Once the capital city of the island, today a visit to Soufriere is one of the best ways to understand the island’s history. Head to Diamond Falls Botanical Garden to surround yourself with the area’s tropical plant life, or bathe in the thermal springs at Sulphur Springs Park.
For an unforgettable hike in St. Lucia, your best bet is to climb one of the two Pitons. The Pitons are two pyramid-like mountains with volcanic properties. They’re also a UNESCO World Heritage site as of 2004. Your views of the rest of St. Lucia will be unmatched from the top of a Piton, and the four-hour hike is a genuine challenge for outdoors enthusiasts.
On your way to Pigeon Island, get your fix of swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving at Reduit Beach, which is only a 20 minute drive north from Castries just past Rodney Bay. You’ll find beach bars and standard fare just beyond the beach. Take the kids to Splash Island for water activities and a playground including monkey bars and slides.
Restaurants in St. Lucia are a blend of Creole and Caribbean influence, and the coastal setting means lots of fresh catches rule the menus. The local delicacy is saltfish and green banana (called figs in St. Lucia). Plantains and coconuts feature heavily in St. Lucian dishes, too.
Spinnaker’s Beach Bar & Grill
Address: Reduit Beach, Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
While you enjoy Reduit Beach, take a walk to Spinnaker’s for the quintessential beach bar experience in St. Lucia. They serve American and Caribbean food, with classic bar foods like hot wings, deep fried calamari, catch-of-the-day mains, pan-fried mahi mahi, and burgers. Their bar is also famous for its rum punch and a variety of martinis.
Dasheene Restaurant & Bar
Address: Jalousie, St. Lucia
This resort restaurant overlooks the two Pitons, so a seat outside offers the best views. Dasheene places their focus on lobster, offering everything from grilled lobster to lobster pasta and bisque. They also serve tuna sandwiches featuring local tuna, as well as jerk chicken sandwiches and other classics.
Pink Plantation House
Address: The Morne Fortune | Chef Harry Drive, Castries, St. Lucia
While you’re walking around Derek Walcott Square and the city center of Castries, stop in this joint art gallery and restaurant where you can sit and enjoy lunch on the terrace overlooking Castries. Note that the restaurant is closed on Saturday, but they’re known for their fixed rate Sunday brunch. Dishes have a Caribbean and Creole influence, from salted codfish to shrimp and coconut sauce, curried lamb or simple sauteed vegetables.
Indigenous Arawaks and then the Carib were the first to inhabit this part of the world, and remained undisturbed here until European colonization efforts began in the early 17th century. Indigenous peoples called St. Lucia “Island of the iguana” for its massive iguana population. Both the British and French laid claim to the island, and the territory passed hands a dozen or so times in the course of two centuries. British and French influence on the area is still evident today from the architecture to the languages spoken. Eventually, the British took control of St. Lucia in 1814. Eventually, in the mid-20th century, St. Lucia received independence from Great Britain.
Today, English, French, and African influence heavily shaped the island. English is the first language of St. Lucia, but while on a cruise to Castries you can expect hearing mostly a French-based creole. St. Lucia also celebrates its culture during various festivals throughout the year, like the St. Lucia Jazz Festival in May, and a celebration called Creole Day each October which celebrates Creole food, culture, and customs.
Your ship will dock in one of two places: Pointe Seraphine or La Place Carenage in the center of Castries. If you dock at Pointe Seraphine, you can take a water taxi into the city center, or stretch your legs with a 20 minute walk there. Arrange a private car in advance if you can, and taxi drivers are almost always willing to arrange a tour with you where you can get picked up and dropped off at multiple sights on your Castries cruise.
Taxi and group excursions are the two best ways to see sights beyond the center of Castries. Walking around the city center is common for cruise passengers who wish to stay in Castries during their stop in St. Lucia. Coordinate a multi-stop tour with a taxi driver, but agree on a fare before leaving. Boat rides are also a popular method to getting to Soufriere, and are quicker than taking the route via car. On a cruise to Castries, car rentals are available too for those who would like to drive to the winding roads of St. Lucia.
Fans of open air markets will find plenty to see at Castries Market, where over 300 vendors sell their goods every day but Sunday. Saturdays are the busiest day to visit the market. The Castries Market is known for its variety of spices for sale, and the place to stock up on locally sourced spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and cocoa. Pointe Seraphine, one of the places where your Castries cruise ship may be docked, is home to duty-free shopping where you can purchase art, gifts, and souvenirs very conveniently near the terminal.
Saint Lucia uses the East Caribbean dollar, and local ATMs will spit out this currency when you withdraw funds. U.S. dollars are generally accepted at most establishments, but it’s always good to ask. The fixed exchange rate is that $1 USD is equal to $2.70 East Caribbean dollars. You’ll receive East Caribbean currency back whenever you need change. In terms of tipping, be sure to leave a small tip for a tour guide or taxi driver. In St. Lucia, a 10% service charge is usually already included in your bill at restaurants, and you can choose how much to tip additionally from there.