Things to do in St Lucia on a Caribbean Cruise
Earlier this year we went on a Southern Caribbean cruise that stopped at 6 different islands, including the island nation of Saint Lucia. One of the things we like most about cruising is that it gives us the ability to see a lot of places in a short period of time. Of course, the downside to this style of travel is that you only get a little taste of each island. Because of this, you need to be selective with the activities you choose to do on your day trip.
Today, we’re sharing our brief, but jam packed, experience on the lush island of St Lucia, located in the eastern Caribbean between Martinique and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
We’ve visited a lot of islands in the Caribbean and St. Lucia ranks right at the top.
There’s no shortage of things to do in St Lucia. From hiking through rainforests to snorkeling and sailing, you’ve got plenty of options that fit all travel styles and preferences. If you google ‘things to do in St Lucia’ you’ll find hundreds of tour packages and custom itineraries that include everything from booze cruises to helicopter tours to scuba diving. You can even check out the world’s only drive-in volcano!
Given that we had limited time on St Lucia, we decided to hire a private driver to take us around the island and show us its attractions.
We chose a 2 hour tour that departed from the cruise ship port in Castries, the capital and largest city on St Lucia, and looped down to Marigot Bay and back again.
Prior to boarding the cruise ship in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, we did a little research on each of the islands that was on the itinerary. After researching things to do in St Lucia, it became clear that the island’s star attraction is the Pitons, two lush volcanic spires that rise a half-mile above the coastline. The Pitons are located near the town of Soufriere, on the southwest coast, and are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While we would have loved to hike to the peak of Gros Piton, we were traveling with two young children and their grandparents, which meant finding compromise. At the time of the cruise, Connor was still taking afternoon naps, so we really only had about 4 hours to explore the island before it was time to return to the ship.
The cruise ship docked at the port in Castries. How great is this parking spot?!
You can book island excursions directly on the cruise ship, but this approach will likely be more expensive than booking an excursion on land.
If you plan to take a long excursion, like a loop around the island or a catamaran tour to the Pitons, you might want to book the excursion from the ship to ensure that your tour returns on time. It will likely cost a little more but you’re paying for peace of mind. The best way to screw up your vacation is to miss the ship, like this women. Don’t be late, the boat will NOT wait!
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We disembarked the cruise ship at around 9:00 AM and walked to the tourist info center. Dozens of hungry tour agents shouted their packages and transportation options at the tourists that passed through the info center. It was a little chaotic and reminded us of our time in third world countries, where sun-burnt tourists are viewed as nothing more than a dollar bill.
Once we began talking with a tour agent the vultures magically disappeared. I suppose it’s the unspoken code of the tour operators – once they have a hook in the mouth of a tourist, the others move along to new opportunities.
I can’t remember the exact name of the tour we took, but it appeared to be the most popular sightseeing tour on the menu. Because there was six of us, we were able to secure a private vehicle for the short sightseeing trip.
If I remember correctly, I believe it cost us $ 30 per person for this 2-hour tour.
The first stop on the tour is to the lookout at Morne Fortuné, a hill and residential area located south of Castries (pictured above). The views of Castries Harbour are great, but it’s a bit of a tourist trap with far too many energetic merchants pushing their handmade souvenirs and bottled water on disinterested tourists.
After we snapped a few photos we hopped back in the van and toured around the Morne Fortuné area. Our driver, Pat, informed us that the name Morne Fortuné means “Hill of Good luck”. He explained that this name could not be further from the truth because the hill was a constant battleground between the French and the English. The small island changed hands 14 times between the French and English.
We drove around Fort Charlotte and Pat pointed out a few of the historical sites, including the old Powder Magazine & Guard Cells, the Morne Battery and the French & British Cemeteries.
We passed through an old military barracks that have since been converted into a school. Class was in session that day, so we caught a glimpse of school life on a Caribbean island. It’s fascinating to think that those classrooms once served as a military facility.
The next stop on the tour was to a wood working artist studio. While the art was nice, the prices were not. It felt like another tourist trap. We did our quick stop and moved on. I get the feeling each of the tour operators get a commission for bringing tourists to the store.