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The Adventurous Side of St. Lucia

Beautiful white sand beaches, crystal clear water, all-inclusive hotels and honeymooners. This is often people’s initial impression of St Lucia. And whilst this special island has all of these in abundance (and wonderful they are too), there is another, more adventurous side to St. Lucia. Perfect for families who struggle to sit still for too long and like exploring.

We primarily chose St Lucia because the children were desperate to complete their PADI Open Water diving certificate. Researching the reviews, this looked to be a very safe place to do the qualification combined with having a stunning underwater world to discover. I’ve been lucky enough to dive in some of the remotest and most pristine reefs in the world, and St. Lucia certainly measured up. Plus, the reefs were very easy to access, either directly from the beach or a short boat ride away.

But if diving is not your thing, there are plenty of other adventures to be had in this lush island, with the friendliest of locals. This post looks at our experience of exploring the adventurous side of St Lucia. Below are fun activities for all the family, all planned out for us by my adventurous-spirited 12-year-old! But, as my good people are always encouraging me to do, make sure you leave enough time for lazing on the beautiful beaches or splashing in the stunning sea.

Snorkelling or SCUBA Diving

St. Lucia is the perfect place to learn to dive. Many reefs are sheltered, easily accessible, with good visibility, no strong currents and warm water. And its underwater world is truly a wonder to behold. Think turtles, iridescent beauties like this flying gurnard, moray eels, lobsters, towering pinnacles enveloped in an array of vibrantly coloured coral, trumpetfish, frogfish, seahorses and so much more. Fish were in such abundance that we felt as if we were swimming in a warm tropical fish tank!


But for the expert diver, St. Lucia can also provide. There are deeper dives such as Superman’s Flight (named after a scene in Superman 2), whose reef wall starts at the base of the Petit Piton and extends as deep as 1500ft! Drift dives with stronger currents and wreck dives, such as the purposely sunken Lesleen M cargo ship, whose engine rooms and cabins you can explore, cater for the more advanced diver.

I wrote a separate post (here) about the children’s adventures in learning to dive, so I won’t dwell on the detail here. But in the space of three intense and magical days, they completed their PADI Open Water qualification (all theory elements were completed before our arrival). Diving with Action Adventure Divers, in Soufriere, they experienced four spectacular dive locations, such as the Keyhole Pinnacles and Devil’s Hole. And in the process, guided by the excellent Chester, fell head of heels in love with this special sport!

If you don’t have time or the inclination for diving, the snorkelling in St. Lucia is a truly stunning alternative. The many fringing shallow and sheltered reefs make for the perfect snorkelling conditions. With crystal clear waters, snorkellers can spend hours marvelling at the rich ocean life hidden beneath the surface. Not to be missed!

Climbing the Gros Piton

Majestically soaring steeply out of the ground, the two enormous volcanic spires of the Petit and Gros Piton look, at first glance, impossible to climb. Staring up at them from the town of Soufriere, where the heat and humidity are so intense that it was a struggle to keep cool just standing, I wondered if my body could cope with such a serious hike.

But it was a conversation with another couple over dinner that night (in the awesome Orlando’s restaurant), which swung it for us. A young couple had scaled it the day before and got engaged at the summit! The man was somewhat incredulous that we would even consider doing it with the kids. Apparently, it was “brutal” (he repeated this a lot…). He told us that he’d struggled with the climb, despite working out regularly… I’m sure anyone with an understanding of kids will appreciate that his doubt in their ability made my children absolutely determined to nail it!

And so, we found ourselves setting out super early to the start of the Gros Piton trail. Despite being taller at 2,619ft, it’s by far the easier climb of the two Pitons. We arrived to start our hike just before 7am. I would highly recommend starting at this time. It meant the trail was in shade for all of our ascent and most of our descent.

Immediately, a guide greeted us to offer his services. Guides are mandatory when climbing the piton and are included in the fairly steep entrance fee (50$/person). Ours was lovely. And also extremely fit, so he could keep up with Harry’s relentless pace.

The Hike

We set off at quite a lick. All of us were motivated to do the difficult part of the climb in the (relative) coolness of the morning. There are rest points ¼, ½ and ¾ of the way up the route. But although we used them to take a literal 2-min breather and water break, we continued to power on up the mountainside. Even at this early, I was soon soaked to the skin in sweat. For me, the heat was the hardest part.

Very quickly, I remembered that I’m the least proficient mountain climber in our family, so I positioned myself at the rear. Harry practically ran up the steep slope with the guide, with Rosie and James just behind them. The vast majority of the climb required you to scramble over rocks, requiring use of both hands to pull yourself up the vertiginous incline.

It was a hard hike/scramble but fortunately not a long one. After an hour of intense climbing, I was amazed to find us at the summit. An average time for the hike is two hours, so the kids were thrilled to have done it in half this estimate! The views from the top were utterly breathtaking – a wonderful reward for all our exertions. And we had it all to ourselves. So so special.

After drinking in the panorama and replenishing with sweets, we headed back down. The descent was as difficult thanks to the steepness of the gradient. We had to carefully lower ourselves down in some parts, so it took as another hour to get back to the bottom. Now with wobbly legs but a full heart. And a happy guide to be finished by 9am!

Although an intense morning, this was absolutely one of the highlights of our trip.

The Tet Paul Hike

If you’re not up for such a serious hike, I would recommend the Tet Paul Nature Trail as a much easier, but still stunningly beautiful, alternative. This is a 45-min round trip with a gentle climb to another gorgeous viewing point over the Pitons.

Zip Lining through the Rainforest!

If you’ve read much of this website, you’ll realise we love a good zipline! Although I’m terrified of heights, the kids and James are adrenaline junkies! They like nothing better than throwing themselves off a high platform to hurtle at pace through a jungle canopy with the wind rushing through their hair!

I’ve always joined them on these high-octane adventures as I believe it’s important to face your fears. Particularly as we age and become more cautious. I also think it’s good for your children to witness you confronting your anxieties head on and not letting them control you. And, for the first time, I genuinely LOVED the experience! When we reached the end, I wished we could run back around to the start and do it all again!

There are several places that offer ziplining in St. Lucia. For this part of our holiday, we were staying in a lovely Air BnB property near Micoud, so the closest option was the Treetop Adventure Park. Even the drive to get to there was a joy as, once you leave the main highway, the tiny road twists and turns through the most spectacularly wild and striking scenery, deep into the jungle.

Once there, 12 high and exciting ziplines catapult you through the top of a stunning rainforest. Little trails weave through the bush taking you from one zipline to the next, with colourful wildlife all around. The whole experience was just a delight.

Although adrenaline-fuelled, it also felt very safe. We had two guides with our little group of 4 throughout, ensuring we were safely attached. One of them kindly took some fantastic photos/videos for us.

Without doubt, one of the highlights of our trip!

Beach Horse Riding

Thanks to a wonderful experience in Crete (see this post), we were lucky enough to tick ‘horse riding along a beach’ off our bucket list a couple of years ago. It was such a special encounter that we were all keen to repeat the experience on the stunning island of St Lucia.

Atlantic Shores Riding Stables provides a 2-hour beach ride for all abilities. With our gorgeous and clearly well-cared for horses, the four of us rode through gentle meadows before arriving at the rugged beauty of the Atlantic coast. The hillside views across the ocean were magnificent.

All four of us had huge grins plastered to our faces as the wind swept through our hair whilst we trotted and then cantered along the top. The latter was a little scary for the kids who’ve had no formal horse-riding training but who are always game to give everything a go!!

Then we dropped down to not one but two picturesque and isolated white-sand beaches. As I write this from my car (waiting for Rosie to finish her last Maths GCSE paper…), I can vividly recall the tranquillity and sheer joy of walking horseback alongside the sparkling sea, with not another soul in sight. Oh, how I wish I could transport us back there now!

Learning to Kite Surf

Rosie is our water baby! She loves any water sports and despite on land being sometimes a tiny bit clumsy, she’s a natural on the water. From surfing to waterskiing to wakeboarding, she seems to master the skills scarily quickly.

Kite surfing was something she’d never done and was keen to try. So, James and she booked in for a 3-hour initial lesson with the Reef Kitesurfing School. Located on Sandy Beach, the south-east of the island, it is the best place to kitesurf in St. Lucia. This is thanks to the strong winds that whip up the Atlantic waves on this tip of the island.

The winds were wild!! The guidebook talks about it being “a magnet for experienced and adventurous windsurfers and kitesurfers,” so I was a little concerned it might be too much for her. But the two of them loved the experience!!

The instructor was excellent. The three of them spent a lot of time on land initially, talking through and practising the techniques. And then, all strapped together in a line with the front one attached to the kite, they ventured out into the tempestuous ocean. They couldn’t use a board yet as they needed more experience, and the conditions were so extreme. But James and Rosie took turns being at the front and controlling the kite’s movements. It dragged them a long way from shore, whipping through the waves.

As I watched from the beach, I felt a knot of anxiety as I desperately tried to keep a track of the kite, which was now a speck in the distance. But I needn’t have worried. They came back in utterly exhilarated and with a commitment to continue with this awesome sport back in the UK.

Other Options

The Reef Kitesurfing school was outstanding with a high emphasis on safety. You can also learn to windsurf with their fantastic instructors. Or for something more sedate, they have paddleboards or kayaks for hire, so you could pootle out to the reefs surrounding the neighbouring protected Maria islands.

Mud Baths and Volcanoes

As we were staying in Soufriere for our first week, and could see the smoking behemoth from our Airbnb, it felt remiss not to check out the ‘world’s only drive in volcano!’ To avoid the crowds, we arrived for opening at 9am.

First up, we headed to the mud baths! Here was a series of hot springs of varying degrees of heat, where you can bathe and cover yourself from head to toe in the glorious mud, rich in minerals such as sulfur, magnesium and zinc. These minerals have wonderful exfoliating and healing properties. They can help with sore joints, inflammation, eczema, acne or any other skin irritation or infection.

But more than that, there’s just something so satisfying in covering yourself in this soft substance and wallowing in the warmth of the waters! Rosie absolutely loved the experience!

It was good to go early before the tour buses arrived. There were mostly only locals enjoying the restorative properties of the springs, sitting under the shade of the trees in this stunning setting. The only downside was the incredibly pungent and all-pervading sulfur smell! If you can cope with that, I’d highly recommend the experience.

We finally dragged ourselves away, showered the mud away and drove up towards the top of the volcano. Your entrance ticket includes a short tour, walking up to the viewing point over the bubbling springs and steaming fumaroles. It’s a beautiful and impressive site.

And the perfect relaxing morning activity!

Fond Doux Estate Tour – Chocolate and Fruit Galore!

Making Chocolate

One morning, we spent a glorious few hours on a tour of the Fond Doux Estate – a working plantation. This was their Heritage Tour but as we were early, our wonderful guide also gave us a quick version of the chocolate tour!  

Initially, he guided us through the chocolate making process. First the chocolate pods are collected. He let us try the white flesh surrounding each cocoa bean after you first open the pod. It tastes kind of like Starbursts! Super sweet and tasty. You have to be careful not to swallow the beans though because at this point, they would be toxic to humans.

The cocoa beans are then left to ferment for a couple of weeks and then laid out on a rolling tray. These are wheeled out to dry the beans in the sun, but if it rains, they’re easy to push back into the warehouse. Once dried, the bean shell is removed, and the interior cocoa nibs collected.

He even showed us the traditional “cocoa dance” in a large concrete bowl. Dancing on cocoa beans is a Caribbean tradition done to smooth and polish the beans. This is said to increase the quality of the chocolate and thus they can sell their product for higher prices! Clearly, we all had to have a go at the famous cocoa dance!!

Chocolate made here is shipped to the US for use in Hershey chocolate products.

Plantation Tour

After our foray into chocolate, we had a lovely amble through the grounds of the estate (which extend over 55 hectares!). As we walked, the guide introduced us to the brightly coloured array of tropical flowers, such as stunning crab and lobster claws and this spectacular red torch ginger flower!

He also showed us the vast number of fruits and spices grown here. We smelled bark from the cinnamon tree, looked at nutmeg seeds, sniffed lime leaves and touched the soft chenille cattails.

He pulled us down several fresh coconuts. Then using his machete to open them, we drunk the refreshing liquid inside. Rosie was allowed to pick and break open a chocolate pod. We shared the cocoa beans inside, sucking off the sweet white flesh.

We also saw breadfruit, pineapple, bananas, love apples, guavas, grapefruit, coffee, mangoes, apricots, and limes growing. He even showed us which flowers were safe and tasty to eat, such as the apple-flavoured begonia flowers. Delicious!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this tour. But it was one of those moments were reality surpassed your expectations. It turned out to be a real highlight in our trip, enjoyed by all. Highly recommended.

A Hidden Waterfall

Wanting to explore the adventurous side of the east of St. Lucia, we took a trip to the Latille Waterfall. This little haven was hidden amongst the rainforest, with 6m cascades into a small pool below. There is a small entry fee, but it’s worth it as it’s extremely quiet spot with a very special energy.

We had the place to ourselves for most of our time there. The children loved exploring the waterfall and jumping from the rocks into the pool below. I mostly floated on my back watching the sunshine filtering through the large leaves of the trees all around and feeling exceptionally blessed to be there!

Beach Cricket

Although not really an adventurous St Lucian activity, my cricket obsessed son had brought an old bat to play some beach cricket. Given the West Indies obsession with the game, I’d expected to see more local cricket happening amongst the towns and villages. But despite exploring the country from tip to toe, we only saw one cricket match!

However, the cricket bat proved a strong draw! Only moments after pulling it out, we were approached by some local children keen to join in! Two joined initially and helped to set up some makeshift stumps and later others couldn’t resist getting involved. All of varying ability but the joy of playing together united everyone. There is nothing like a game of sport to break down barriers and make friends! We continued to bump into Pappy and his mates throughout our stay in Soufriere.

Rosie and I watched all the excitement with a fresh coconut to enjoy!

Exploring the Island’s Fortress at Pigeon Island

Having spent most of our trip in the south, we decided to venture north for a day to explore Pigeon Island. This was once a separate island, now joined to the mainland by a man-made causeway. The hilly island has historical significance due to its vantage point and strategic position.

It’s a lovely walk up the hill to Signal Peak, the lookout point, and then to Fort Rodney and the Two-Gun Battery. At the top, it started to absolutely hammer down with rain. So, we tried to shelter in what looked like a little room in the fort. But it turned out to be a sheer drop down into the hillside… Not sure it would pass UK health and safety regulations!

The view from the top was gorgeous though. In one direction, you could see the island of Martinique, and looking south, you could see the striking colours of the sea in Rodney Bay. Just glorious and well worth the climb. Made me feel better for spending the rest of the afternoon lazing on the beach!

Jet Skiing

Whilst up in the north of the island, my two adrenaline junkies wanted to check out the adventurous side of this part of St. Lucia. They hired a jet ski at the Sandals resort and set out to explore the bay at scarily high speeds, racing across the waves. Rosie held on so tight to the jet ski with her legs, that big red marks were left behind which didn’t heal for two weeks! But she thoroughly loved this high-octane adventure with her papa!

Waiting, Harry and I tried to subtly join the hotel, sitting on one of their loungers and enjoying a dip in the crystal-clear sea. We got away with it for a while, but then I noticed there were no other children anywhere to be seen… Clearly an adult only resort then! Harry does look a lot older than his 12 years, but an adult is pushing it. So, I wasn’t surprised when soon after, we were kindly asked to leave the hotel! Oh well, worth a try!! Luckily the neighbour beach was just as beautiful, just with less comfortable loungers!

Meeting the Locals

One thing I love about staying in local guest houses rather than the big hotels, is the opportunity to meet local people. Be that in the supermarkets, the local restaurants, on the public beaches (as opposed to the ones sectioned off for the exclusive use of hotel guests) and in church. The St. Lucians were super friendly and openhearted.

We went to mass in Soufriere and Mon Repos on the east coast. Both were very welcoming to new members of their congregation. The latter service in Mon Repos lasted for two hours, but it was so joyful and uplifting, with exceptional singers in the choir set to drums, guitars and shakers, that the time flew by! Even in the heat!

In our guest house in Canaries, we were opposite the wonderful Adeline’s art cafe. She was such a beautiful soul and wonderful chef. We had our breakfast and dinner served for us on her terrace whilst we chatted away to her about life in St. Lucia. And her fresh smoothies were to die for!

At the more expensive end of the price range, if you’re looking for a special meal out, I would recommend Orlando’s in Soufriere. He does a tasting menu with fresh local ingredients and all courses were divine! And he loves a chat about his special country.

We also discovered the innocuous looking Plas Kassav bakery just outside of Canaries. They use traditional methods to make the most delicious cassava-bread in a variety of flavours, such cherry chocolate or cinnamon. An extremely tasty and filling snack. Worth a stop if you’re over that way.

The Adventurous Side of St. Lucia

Hopefully this has persuaded any exploratory souls that this island is not just for honeymooners. You only have to scratch the surface to discover the adventurous side of St. Lucia. And set against its sheer rugged beauty on land and under its seas, with kindly people to boot, it makes for the perfect holiday. What are you waiting for?

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