Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica and St. Lucia Alive!

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Overview

Book rights: Hunter Publishing, the publisher of this eBook, is granting readers the right to print this book as well as the right to lend/give this eBook to other Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader users.

Printing: Users can print eBook pages as needed. To print, click on the menu button in the Acrobat eBook Reader and select the print option.

Copying: Users can copy selections of their eBooks. To copy, click on the Menu button, and then choose copy.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
This detailed guide to four northern Windward islands includes a general introduction to the region's history, features, and travel details, followed by coverage of hotels, entertainment, and what to see, purchase, and consume in each town and area. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556508578
  • Publisher: Hunter Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Series: Alive Guides Series
  • Pages: 656
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.22 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction
The Islands 2
Reasons to Visit 4
Location 4
Language 5
Lifestyle 6
A Capsule History 7
Climate 10
The Land 12
Plant Life 13
Birds 14
Mammals, Reptiles & Amphibians 15
Travel to the Islands 17
Getting Around 20
Places to Stay 22
Food & Drink 23
Money Matters 28
Entry Requirements 29
Health & Safety 30
The Best Attractions & Activities 32
Going Metric - Quick & Painless 33
Customs Regulations 34
Electricity 35
Time Zones 36
Martinique
Overview 37
A Brief History 38
Discovery by Columbus 38
Arrival of The French 39
Sugar, Slavery & The British 40
The 20th Century 41
Getting to Martinique 44
Arriving By Air 44
Arriving By Sea 46
Getting Around 47
Car Rentals 47
Buses 48
Taxis 49
Ferries 49
Festivals, Events & Holidays 50
Exploring the Island 53
Fort-de-France 53
Southwestern Tour 59
North Caribbean Coast Tour 64
Route de la Trace 72
West Coast Tour 79
The Best Rum in the World 83
Organized Tours 86
Sunup to Sundown 88
Fun in the Sun 88
Beaches 89
Diving & Snorkeling 96
Boating 100
Fishing 103
Windsurfing & Other Watersports 104
Hiking 105
Biking 112
Motorcycling 113
Golfing 113
Tennis 114
Horseback Riding 114
One-of-a-Kind Tours 115
Shop Til You Drop 116
After Dark 122
Casinos 122
Island Shows 123
Discos, Nightclubs & Live Music 123
Best Places to Stay 126
Fort-de-France 130
Schoelcher 131
Trois-Ilets Resort Area 132
Sainte-Anne 139
Sainte-Luce 141
Le Francois 143
Caravelle Peninsula 144
Marigot 145
Basse-Pointe 146
Camping 147
Best Places to Eat 147
Fort-de-France 150
Fort-de-France Suburbs 154
Southern Martinique 157
Northeastern Martinique 170
Northwestern Martinique 174
Martinique A-Z 176
Guadeloupe & The Outer Islands
Overview 183
A Brief History 185
Discovery by Columbus 185
Arrival of The Spanish & The French 186
The 20th Century 188
Getting to Guadeloupe 188
Arriving By Air 188
Arriving By Sea 190
Getting Around 191
Car Rentals 191
Buses 193
Taxis 194
Festivals, Events & Holidays 195
Grande-Terre & Basse-Terre
Exploring the Islands 199
Pointe-a-Pitre, Grande-Terre 202
Southern Tour, Grande-Terre 210
Northern Tour, Grande-Terre 217
Southern Tour, Basse-Terre 222
West Coast Tour, Basse-Terre 230
The Northern Loop, Basse-Terre 236
Organized Tours 241
Sunup to Sundown 242
The Very Best Attractions 242
Beaches 242
Diving & Snorkeling 253
Sailing 255
Boat Excursions 257
Fishing 259
Windsurfing & Other Watesports 260
Hiking 261
Biking 268
Golfing 269
Tennis 269
Horseback Riding 270
Spa & Fitness Services 270
Shop Til You Drop 271
After Dark 275
Casinos 275
Theater & Music 275
Bars, Nightclubs & Discos 276
Best Places to Stay 278
Grande-Terre 281
Point-a-Pitre 282
Bas-du-Fort/Gosier 282
Pointe de la Verdure/Gosier 284
Downtown Gosier & Surrounding Area 288
Between Gosier & Ste.-Anne 290
Sainte-Anne 291
Between Sainte-Anne & Saint-Francois 294
Saint-Francois 295
Le Moule 301
Basse-Terre 302
Petit-Bourg & La Route de la Traversee 302
Trois-Rivieres 303
Saint-Claude 305
Deshaies 307
Sainte-Rose 309
Camping 310
Best Places to Eat 310
Grande-Terre 314
Pointe-a-Pitre 314
Bas-du-Fort Marina & Gosier 318
Sainte-Anne 323
Saint-Francois 325
Le Moule 328
Campeche 329
Basse-Terre 330
Chutes du Carbet 330
Saint-Claude 331
Bouillante 332
Deshaies 333
Pointe-Noire 334
Sainte-Rose 335
Vieux-Fort 336
Trois-Rivieres 336
Guadeloupe A-Z 337
La Desirade
Overview 341
A Brief History 342
Getting to La Desirade 343
Getting Around 344
Exploring the Island 344
Grande-Anse 344
Inland Trails 345
Coastal Treats 345
Adventures 346
Best Places to Stay 346
Best Places to Eat 348
Les Saintes
Overview 349
A Brief History 350
Getting to Les Saintes 351
Getting Around 353
Exploring the Island 354
Le Bourg 354
Hiking Trails 355
Coastal Treats 355
Adventures 356
Shop Til You Drop 357
After Dark 358
Best Places to Stay 359
Best Places to Eat 362
Marie-Galante
Overview 365
A Brief History 366
Getting to Marie-Galante 367
Getting Around 368
Exploring the Island 370
Grand-Bourg 370
Touring Les Bas 371
Touring Les Hauts 373
Adventures 374
Best Places to Stay 375
Best Places to Eat 377
Dominica
Overview 379
A Brief History 382
Early Residents 383
Christopher Columbus 383
Europeans 384
Slavery & The Maroons 385
Independence 385
Getting to Dominica 386
Arrival By Air 386
Arrival By Sea 388
Getting Around 389
Car Rentals 389
Boats 390
Buses 391
Taxis 391
Festivals, Events & Holidays 392
Exploring the Island 399
Roseau 399
Touring the Southern Tip 405
West Coast Tour 409
East Coast Tour 419
Inland Tours 425
Organized Tours 430
Sunup to Sundown 431
Beaches 432
Rivers & Natural Pools 435
Diving & Snorkeling 437
Whale- & Dolphin-Watching 441
Fishing 443
Windsurfing, Sailing & Kayaking 444
Hiking 446
Biking 453
Tennis 453
Shop Til You Drop 453
After Dark 461
Clubs, Pubs & Bars 462
Best Places to Stay 463
In & Around Roseau 466
Castle Comfort 469
Mid-West Coast 472
In & Around Portsmouth 474
Scotts Head & Soufriere 475
Way Off the Beaten Track 477
Along the East Coast 478
Mountain Lodges, Hotels & Inns 481
Camping 487
Best Places to Eat 488
Roseau 492
Castle Comfort 498
Scotts Head & Soufriere 500
In & Around Portsmouth 502
Elsewhere on the Island 505
Dominica A-Z 507
St. Lucia
Overview 513
A Brief History 517
Discovery By Christopher Columbus 517
The French, Dutch & English 517
African Influences 519
Modern Times 519
Getting to St. Lucia 520
Arrival By Air 520
Arrival By Sea 522
Getting Around 524
Car & Motorcycle Rentals 524
Buses 525
Taxis 526
Festivals, Events & Holidays 527
Exploring the Island 531
Castries 533
Northwestern Tour 536
The Southern Loop 540
Organized Tours 548
Sunup to Sundown 549
Beaches 551
Diving & Snorkeling 556
Boating 560
Fishing 563
Windsurfing 564
Hiking 564
Golfing 568
Tennis 568
Horseback Riding 568
Shop Til You Drop 570
After Dark 579
Live Entertainment 579
Best Places to Stay 581
Northern Saint Lucia 586
Southern Saint Lucia 601
Camping 607
Best Places to Eat 607
Castries 608
North of Castries 612
Marigot Bay 615
Soufriere 618
Saint Lucia A-Z 621
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

St. Lucia

Overview

The 2,600-foot twin peaks of the Pitons on Saint Lucia's southwest coast are among the most beautiful sights in the Caribbean. They soar above picturesque fishing villages, stunning beaches, bubbling sulphur springs, towering waterfalls and a dense rain forest. Hidden on the hills, among the wild, lush greenery, are world-class resorts, ultra-romantic inns and cozy lodges.

Still untamed and relatively unknown as a tourist destination, Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles. It sits midway down the Eastern Caribbean chain between Martinique and Saint Vincent, north of Barbados. From one end to the other, Saint Lucia measures only 27 miles long, and is 14 miles across its widest section. One main road twists down the entire west coast, swings around the southern tip, then heads north up the eastern shoreline, making most of the 238-square-mile pear-shaped island easily accessible. Occasionally, this loop road branches off across mountains and cuts through the dense rain forest to remote sites, but it's virtually impossible to get lost.

Most of the population lives in the north around Castries, the contemporary capital and main port. Inland, the mountainous land is covered by a thick jungle-like rain forest that gives way to sprawling banana plantations. The gorgeous southern coast is sparsely populated and is dominated by the volcanic Pitons that rise straight up out of the ocean.

DID YOU KNOW?

A 19,000-acre national forest protects most of the island and is home to the endangered, but recovering, bright green jacquot parrot.

Since the early 1990s tourism has slowly, but decisively, taken a firm hold on the island. Luxury resorts and first-rate marinas line much of the coast, but Saint Lucia has learned from its neighbors that over-development can be worse than no development. High-rise hotels are not permitted, eco-tourism is encouraged, and most natural resources are strictly protected.

Castries is the bustling modern capital and main seaport. Fires have destroyed many historic sites, but a few landmarks and attractive colonial buildings remain. Morne Fortuné, the hill of good fortune, rises over the south side of the city, offering panoramic views of the town and harbor. The town of Soufrière is quite a contrast to Castries. It is a sleepy fishing village, engagingly out of step with modern times, that sits on the southwestern coast in a dormant volcanic crater.

Mount Soufrière, a dormant volcano near the town of Soufrière, is called the "drive-in volcano" because it is actually possible to drive a vehicle into the crater. Natural sulfur springs that flow there are rumored to have therapeutic properties, and people often bathe in the waters. Farther south, the twin peaks of the Pitons loom on the horizon, dwarfing everything around them. Gros Piton is shorter, but wider, and rises to 2,460 feet. The leaner Petit Piton stands 2,619 feet above sea level. Vieux Fort, at the southernmost point of the island, is one of the oldest settlements. Miles of palm-lined white-sand beaches extend along the coast just outside the colonial town.

North of Castries, well-known Rodney Bay sits in a protected lagoon. The 83-acre man-made harbor is the largest and best-equipped marina south of Saint Thomas, and serves as host to many boating events. It is also a popular shopping area and the site of some of the island's best restaurants.

Off the southern coast, the Maria Islands form a nature reserve and bird sanctuary that protects two indigenous species found nowhere else in the world: the innocuous Couresse grass snake and the Maria Islands ground lizard. The small Frigate Islands, off the Atlantic coast, are home to the magnificient frigate bird and are a favorite hangout for nature lovers and wildlife photographers.

Sand on Saint Lucian beaches ranges from jet-black to pristine white, and the island has a plethora of breathtakingly beautiful sites. Choc Bay is a long, sandy stretch shaded by coconut palms along the northwestern coast. Its calm waters attract swimmers from the hotels located near Castries. Marigot Bay, midway down the Caribbean coast, is a dream come true. It's secluded, surrounded on three sides by steep hills and shaded by swaying palms. Beaches don't come any better than this.

Pigeon Island National Park is reached by a causeway from the island and draws curious explorers. Indians lived there before it became a hideout for pirates, then a British military base. Now, it's a recreation area with picnic sites and sandy beaches. Anse des Pitons, lies in a dramatic location between the Pitons. Anse Couchon, a striking black-sand beach, must be reached by boat, and is therefore a famous retreat for romantic couples. Cas en Bas is the best beach for windsurfing, and divers find schools of colorful fish near Anse Chastanet.

Friday nights are for partying, and you'll want to join the fun at the weekly jump up at Gros Islet. Shortly after sunset, the streets are closed to traffic, bands set up their equipment on makeshift stages, and cooks fire up the barbecue grills on their front lawns. Locals show up to do some serious partying, and visitors soon feel right at home. The music continues during the week as hotels and clubs feature steel bands, jazz groups and zouk musicians (see page 396 for descriptions of all kinds of Caribbean music).

Shoppers will find plenty of attractive buys at stores, galleries and boutiques around Castries. Local arts and crafts, as well as a tempting selection of fresh herbs and spices, draw browsers into the Castries Market. Tourists also like the modern facilities at Pointe Seraphine, a large Spanish-style mall and duty-free shopping complex not far from the city.

Saint Lucia has a broad selection of exciting activities for every type of vacationer. Watersports are popular, and the large hotels have equipment for windsurfing, waterskiing and boating. Quick-drop coastlines and lovely reefs offer excellent snorkeling and scuba diving. The rain forest preserves in the mountainous interior feature some of the best hiking and bird-watching in the Caribbean. In addition, the island has top facilities for golf, tennis, sailing and horseback riding.

A Brief History

The first people to live on the paradise island of Saint Lucia were peaceful, artistic Arawak Indians, who were indigenous to the entire Caribbean. They most likely arrived around 200 AD and supported themselves by hunting, fishing and farming. About 800 AD, the Caribs made an aggressive appearance, conquered the Arawaks, set up villages, and named the island Hewanorra, Land Where the Iguana is Found.

Discovery By Christopher Columbus

Many historians believe the island was first sighted by Europeans when Juan de la Cosa, one of Christopher Columbus's navigators, spotted land in that area in 1499. However, others allege that Christopher Columbus himself landed on Saint Lucia on December 13, 1502. Records show that the island is not within the routes known to be explored by Columbus, and some scholars credit Spanish explorers with discovering the island later in the 16th century.

The French, Dutch & English

By 1520, Saint Lucia was marked on a Vatican globe, but at that time it was merely a hideout for pirates and other bad chaps who wreaked havoc on legitimate businessmen trading in the islands. The most infamous was François de Clerc, whom the Spanish called Pie de Palo and the French labeled Jambe de Bois because of his wooden leg.

Old Peg-Leg le Clerc and his cohorts were joined on the island in 1600 when the Dutch military arrived and built a bastion at Vieux Fort. Europeans didn't try to actually colonize Saint Lucia until a few years later, and even that was an accident. In 1605 a British ship called Olive Blossom blew off course, and her 67 passengers came ashore to seek refuge. For some reason, the Caribs sold some land and huts to the English refugees, allowed them time to settle in, then turned inhospitable. Most of the new colonists were killed by their hosts, and the rest were forced off the island.

A larger British group came over from Saint Kitts in 1638, but they didn't fare much better, and were driven off Saint Lucia within two years. No one tried again until the French arrived early in the 18th century. With characteristic diplomacy, they worked a deal with the natives and established the town of Soufrière in 1746.

The English found it unacceptable that the French were safely living it up on this island they had failed to control, and decided to make another claim on the land. The Caribs were no match for genuine European aggression, and soon the natives were wiped out or resettled elsewhere. With the indigenous people out of the way, the scene was set for almost 200 years of French-English battles, treaties, retreats, advances and, in between, rampant development. Saint Lucia was volleyed back and forth between France and England an absurd total of 14 times until the Treaty of Paris put a stop to competition and officially granted Britain controlling power in 1814.

Over the next century, Saint Lucia settled into a stable, multi-cultural democracy. Once the English had official authority, they were indifferent about changing French customs. Thus, language, religious preference, place names and cultural traditions remained decidedly French for the first half of the 19th century. Even today, the citizens of this English island speak a French-based patois that flows like thick honey from the back of the throat. They celebrate Catholic saints' days, and live in villages named Soufrière, Vieux Fort and Gros Islet.

African Influences

A third culture also played a significant role in the island's character, that of Africa. Europeans brought African slaves onto the island by the boatload to work their plantations. While French and English customs were mingling among one segment of society, African traditions established a stronghold in another. Descendants of former slaves constitute the largest percentage of the island's present population, and their proud heritage has survived to become the basis of St. Lucian culture today.

When slavery ended in 1834, plantation owners brought East Indians to the island as indentured servants. Their numbers were small compared to other nationalities, and their culture has almost disappeared. However, a significant East Indian community still lives in the area around Vieux Fort, and their foods and cooking methods are a popular addition to the island's cuisine.

Modern Times

Since February 22, 1979, Saint Lucia has been an independent state within the British Commonwealth. Currently, Queen Elizabeth II, as head of state, designates a resident governor-general to head the island's democratic government.

Getting to St. Lucia

Citizens of the United States and Canada can visit Saint Lucia for up to six months with a valid passport or some other form of official identification, such as a driver's license. A return ticket off the island is also required.

Arrival By Air

Saint Lucia has two airports and good air links from North America. International jet flights arrive at Hewanorra Airport (% 454-6249) in Vieux Fort on the remote south coast. Inter-island prop planes land on the shorter runway at George Charles Airport, % 452-2596 (formerly Vigie), in Castries. Both airports have tourist information counters offering maps and brochures. In addition, taxi stands and car rental booths are at both locations. Neither airport has an official currency exchange office or bank.

n TIP

The bookshop will give you EC$ for US$, though the rate may not be as good as at a bank in town.

Visitors from North American have a wide choice of flights to Saint Lucia. BWIA has twice-a-week flights from Miami and New York, and Air Jamaica flies from New York four times each week. In addition, American Eagle Airlines has daily turboprop service from San Juan, Puerto Rico to both airports on Saint Lucia. Various carriers provide jet service to San Juan from gateway cities in North America. Travelers from Canada can take Air Canada from Toronto to Hewanorra on Saturdays.

Within the Caribbean, LIAT offers daily flights to George Charles Airport from Dominica, Martinique, Antigua, Barbados, Saint Vincent and Trinidad. They also provide connecting flights for many other islands in the Caribbean. Air Martinique connects Lamen- tin Airport with George Charles Airport.

TOUR OPERATORS

Barefoot Holidays % 450-0507; fax 450-0661

E-mail barefoot@candw.lc

Joseph Touring % 450-8619; fax 450-8619

E-mail josephts@candw.lc

Solar Tours and Travel % 452-5898; fax 452-5428

E-mail solartours@candw.lc

Sunlink Tours % 452-8232; fax 452-0459

E-mail slurep@candw.lc

Explorer Adventure Tours % 450-8356; fax 450-8392

Express Touring % 451-0205; fax 451-0205

Fletchers Touring % 452-2516; fax 452-7192

E-mail fletcherj@candw.lc

Indigenous Tropical Tours % 452-7491

Jungle Tours % 450-0434; fax 450-0434

Trail Blazers % 450-0998; fax 450-8252

Barnards Travel % 452-2214

Carib Touring % 452-1141

Cox & Co. % 452-2211; fax 453-1868

E-mail coxco@candw.lc

Minivelle & Chastanet % 452-2811

An EC$27 departure tax fee, which must be paid in EC$, is charged when you leave the island.

n TIP

If you plan to do some island hopping, ask LIAT about the possibility of free stopovers on islands where the airplane makes intermediary landings.

AIRLINE INFORMATION

Air Canada % 452-3051

In the US, % 800-776-3000

Air Jamaica % 454-6263

Air Martinique % 452-2463; fax 453-6869

American Eagle % 454-6777

In the US, % 800-443-7300

British Airways % 452-7444

In the UK, % 0181-897-4000

Helenair % 452-1958

LIAT % 452-3051 or 452-2348

In the US, % 800-253-5011;

fax 212-545-8474

Arrival By Sea

Ferry Service

Inter-island ferries operate between Castries and Fort-de-France, Martinique. The trip takes about 1½ hours and costs approximately US$40, EC$104. From Martinique, you can continue to Dominica, Guadeloupe and Les Saintes. Contact Caribbean Express, % 452-6802; or L'Express des Iles (Cox & Co.), % 452-2211.

Cruise Ships

Cruise ships dock at the harbors in Castries and Soufrière. Taxis and tour operators meet the ships with offers to guide visitors to the major sights.

~ WARNING

Be sure you agree on a tour fee and what it includes before you accept an offer. Guides have been known to charge when tour participants want to take pictures or take detours down interesting roads.

Private Boats

Visitors who arrive in private boats can dock at Rodney Bay, Castries, Marigot Bay and Vieux Fort. Saint Lucia has made great improvements at all the marinas, and major charter centers are located at Rodney Bay and Marigot Bay. At Marigot Bay, you must anchor in the harbor and dinghy to the Customs office. Boats may also anchor off Reduit Beach, Pigeon Point, Anse Chastanet, Anse Cochon and Soufrière Bay.

Rodney Bay Marina % 452-0324

Castries Yacht Center % 452-6334

Getting Around

Car & Motorcycle Rentals

Driving is on the left in Saint Lucia. It's worth paying extra for automatic transmission, because shifting with your left hand on unfamiliar roads can be difficult. You must be at least 25 years old, hold a valid license from your state, and purchase a local license for about US$11 in order to rent a car.

Roads are fairly well maintained, if you judge by Caribbean standards. However, most are narrow, and you'll come across hairpin bends in the mountains and kidney-pounding ruts along the coast and in the forest. All the secondary roads are challenging, and even the nicest resorts and out-of-the-way restaurants are often reached by unpaved lanes.

n TIP

If you plan to explore isolated areas, consider renting a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

CAR RENTAL COMPANIES

North American Companies

Avis % 800-331-1084

local % 454-6325 or 451-6976

Hertz % 800-654-3001

local % 451-7351

Budget % 800-472-3325

local % 452-0233 or 454-5311

National % 800-227-7368

local % 454-6699 or 452-3050

Local Companies

Cool Breeze Jeep Rental % 459-7729 (Soufrière)

Courtesy % 452-8140 (Gros Islet)

Guy's Cars % 451-7147 (Castries)

C.T.L. % 452-0732; fax 452-0401 (Rodney Bay Marina)

You can rent a motorcycle from Wayne's Motorcycle Centre, % 452-2059.

Buses

There is no scheduled bus service on Saint Lucia. Private minivans provide inexpensive public transportation. However, they are usually crowded with locals playing loud music, their routes don't cover all the island, and schedules can be erratic. If you want to give it a try, stands are located on Darling and Jeremy Streets near the public market in Castries. All vans are marked with their route number and destination point. Outside the city, you can flag down a van along the main roads. These minivans cover the main routes between the capital of Castries and Gros Islets (route 1A), Soufrière (route 3D), and Vieux Fort (route 2H).

Most service to the south stops late in the afternoon. Buses run more frequently and later in the north, and on Friday nights they usually transport partygoers to and from Gros Islet until 10 or 11 o'clock.

The typical fare from Castries to Gros Islet is EC$2/US 75¢ and from Castries to Vieux Fort around EC$6/US$2.20. Pay the drivers directly, and try to have correct change.



Taxis

Private taxis wait outside the airport, cruise ship terminal and major hotels. They don't have meters, so negotiate a fee before you get into the cab. Most drivers belong to a reputable cooperative that regulates fares and, with few exceptions, all are knowledgeable and polite. Expect to pay about EC$12 to go from Charles Airport to Castries and EC$120 to go from Hewanorra Airport to Castries, a 40-mile, one-hour trip.

TAXI COMPANIES

The following companies are members of the Hotel and Tourism Association:

Courtesy Taxi % 452-1733

Gros Islet Taxi Association % 452-0913

Holiday Taxi % 452-3081

N. Lime Taxi Association % 452-8563

N. Club Taxi % 450-0431

Soufrière Taxi Association % 459-7419

Southern Taxi % 454-6136

George Charles Airport Taxi % 452-1599

n TIP

Consider asking your concierge to call a cab for you so there will be no misunderstanding about the fare, pick-up point or destination.

Festivals, Events & Holidays

Like all islands in the Caribbean, Saint Lucia fills its calendar with a multitude of festive events. Visitors can count on being around for some type of exposition or celebration. Party animals will enjoy the annual Carnival and weekly jump-ups (street dances). For music lovers, the best event is the Jazz Festival, a four-day extravaganza in May.

Major Annual Events

Carnival

Carnival tops the island's cultural activities. Colorful costumes, dance contests, music concerts and parades highlight the activities. In 1999, Saint Lucian officials decided to move Carnival from its traditional date, just before Ash Wednesday, to July, so that it wouldn't conflict with Trinidad's popular Carnival. It is an experiment that will be reevaluated yearly, so check with the tourist bureau for the exact dates if you want to either attend or avoid it.

Carnival is the ultimate bash. Most official activities take place around Castries, but warm-up parties and concerts are held all over the island. Various camps are set up for the production of costumes for the many shows and street parades, and calypso tents go into action. Each tent has a team of dancers who organize a series of shows leading up to the main calypso competition. It introduces the public to current songs, and the audience is encouraged to participate by showing their approval or rejection of the performance.

Jazz Festival

Saint Lucia's Jazz Festival in May is similar to Jamaica's Sunsplash, except the music is jazz instead of reggae. Renowned musicians from all over the world perform during this internationally-recognized event. Large outdoor concerts take place on picturesque Pigeon Island, where performers are showcased on a sand stage with historic buildings and the ocean in the background. Smaller shows are held at clubs and on open-air stages throughout the island. In addition to famous stars playing jazz at scheduled times, you may hear zouk, steel drums, salsa and reggae performed by local and international bands at informal public shows throughout the festival. For more details call the tourist office or check the Internet at www.stluciajazz.com.

Country Music Festival

This outdoor music festival met with great success when it kicked off in 1998. Stars from Nashville showed up for the three-day event that took place the first week in December, and the festival is expected to become an annual toe-tapping happenin' on Pigeon Island. You can get updated information and a schedule of this year's activities by contacting the tourist office, % 800-456-3984; fax 212-867-2795.



Jounen Kweyol or Créole Day

On the last Sunday in October, five selected rural communities host a gala featuring island food, crafts, music and cultural displays. It's a great day of partying and fun, but the traffic is horrendous. Everyone tries to hop from village to village to visit their friends and participate in all the activities, so the roads become hopelessly gridlocked. You may have a better time if you can be on the island the first Sunday in October when groups from each community give a sample review of their shows in Pigeon Point Park. It's not as much fun as the real thing, but you'll enjoy the entertainment and get a chance to try local foods and drinks.

National Day & St. Lucy Day

December 13th is National Day as well as Saint Lucy Day. For many years, the islanders referred to this date as Discovery Day in the belief that Christopher Columbus landed on their island December 13th, 1502. However, logs show that Columbus was nowhere near the area on that date, and details about the actual discovery by anyone other than native Indians are vague. But a celebration is still appropriate, and the patron saint is celebrated in style. Lantern-lighted processions, traditional music, cultural activities, sporting events and a bounteous feast of local food is dedicated to Saint Lucy and the nation. You can get details about this year's scheduled events by contacting Castries City Council, % 452-2611, ext 7071.

Holy Week

Holy Week is observed solemnly and reverently with established Catholic traditions. On Good Friday, islanders go to church services and avoid pleasurable things. The foods that are eaten on this holy day include akwa, fish cakes, and pain d'espices, a thin biscuit. When Easter arrives, there are more church services and everyone exchanges gifts and enjoys large meals with friends and family.

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If you want to be on Saint Lucia for one of the big annual events, contact the tourist board in the States, % 800-456-3984; E-mail slutour@candw.lc, or check the Internet at www.st-lucia.com.lc.

Public Holidays

Banks and most businesses close on these days:

New Year's Day January 1

New Year's Holiday January 2

Independence Day February 22

Labor Day May 1

Emancipation Day August 3

Thanksgiving Day October 5

National Day December 13

Christmas Day December 25

Boxing Day December 26





Variable religious holidays observed by public closings include:

Good Friday Late March or early April

Easter Late March or early April

Whit Monday Eighth Monday after Easter

Corpus Christi Ninth Thursday after Easter

Exploring the Island

Several spots on Saint Lucia must be seen from the water to capture their true magnificence. Consider renting a small boat and touring along the coast, or sign up for a guided group cruise. Most large hotels and resorts arrange full-day and half-day boating excursions, or you can contact one of the companies listed on page 561. Another possibility is to ask at the tourism office about fishermen who are willing to take paying passengers out on their boats. Their rates are negotiable and reasonable, and their impromptu stories often are more entertaining than those of professional guides.

Whether you're on your own or in a group, be sure your water tour includes Marigot Bay, one of the most beautiful coves in the Caribbean. This pristine blue-green lagoon lies at the end of a long, narrow inlet that cuts into the hilly coast south of Castries. It's completely sheltered and features a palm-shaded white-sand beach. From land it is stunningly gorgeous but, from the water, it is even more sensational.







Many day-trip boats make a stop at Anse Cochon, three miles south of Marigot, on the opposite side of the rocky headland at Anse La Raye. It's popular with divers and snorkelers because colorful corals and fish are found around the boulders just offshore and on the underwater ship (deliberately sunk) in the middle of the bay. You probably will have the beach all to yourself, because it can't be reached by car. This area is part of the protected marine reserve, so you must be with a guide to dive.

At the southern end of the island, Soufrière, Anse Chastanet, and the twin Pitons are in the Marine Management Area, so you must know the regulations or be with someone who does, if you intend to boat, dive, or fish here. Unless you're an experienced yachtsman, consider joining a group or hiring a guide to take you out to view this part of the island from the water. Looking back at the Pitons is especially awesome.

Castries

Be forewarned that the capital is not a beautiful city. Fires have destroyed most historical buildings, so your first impression will be that Castries is a concrete commercial center without character. However, the setting between rolling green hills and a turquoise sea is lovely, and residents radiate an infectious exuberance that puts visitors into an adventurous vacation mood.

Morne Fortuné

Start with a trip to the top of 835-foot Morne Fortuné, south of the city, for a panoramic view of all the action. This hill was coveted by French and English troops during the 18th and 19th centuries because of its high vantage point over the coast. Fort Charlotte was started at the summit by the French and expanded by the British over years of back-and-forth rule by both countries. Today, surviving buildings have been renovated to serve as a community college, and you can walk around the grounds. Go to the back of the college, where you'll find some old cannons, for a good view north to Pigeon Point and south to the Pitons. On a clear day, Martinique is visible far to the north. From here, it's easy to understand why the morne was so heavily fought over. On the way down the hill, stop across the street from the Victorian-style Government House for a good view of Castries and the natural harbor.

In Town

Back in the city, seek out Derek Walcott Square on Brazil Street, south of the bay. The park is named for one of Saint Lucia's two Nobel Prize winners. Derek Walcott won the award for literature in 1992, and Sir W. Arthur Lewis won the prize for Economics in 1979. Castries' oldest French-style wooden buildings surround the green park, and a 400-year-old tree sits on the eastern side.

Across the street from the tree, you'll see the stone Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built between 1895 and 1899. Go inside the church to see Biblical scenes painted by internationally renowned Saint Lucian artist Dustan Saint-Omer. (Notice his trademark black Christ.) Fresh flowers sit on side altars and candles emit a soft light. If you attend mass on Sunday, you will be in the company of parishioners decked out in their multicolored best.

A Family of Artists

Saint-Omer and his sons also painted the mural depicting scenes of island life on Manoel Street, near the Banana Growers Association building. Alwyn, the eldest son, now manages the Saint-Omer Ad Agency and Art Gallery in Castries, and his delightful, brilliantly colored paintings are featured on the map handed out by the tourist office.

Another colorful sight is the Castries Market and Vendors' Arcade on Jeremie and Peynier streets. A bright orange-red roof covers one area, but stalls spill out of the buildings and spread along both sides of the road. You can't help getting caught up in the vibrant excitement as countless merchants invite you to sample their wares. This is the place to pick up picnic supplies, T-shirts, straw baskets and local crafts. If you're looking for duty-free goods, head to Pointe Seraphine, a small Spanish-style shopping mall on the north side of the harbor. Here, about 20 upscale businesses are laid out around the pleasant courtyard, including a tourist information office and car rental agency. You can take a ferry from the dock near the Castries Market or drive over on the John Compton Highway.

Northwestern Tour

From Castries to Pointe du Cap

HIGHLIGHTS: The marina at Rodney Bay; Gros Islet (site of Friday night jump-ups); Pigeon Point and the National Park; Point du Cap.

Take the well-maintained Gros Islet Highway north out of Castries, past the airport alongside two-mile-long Vigie Beach, to Rodney Bay (P). This 80-acre protected lagoon opens to the sea through a man-made channel cut between Reduit Beach and the village of Gros Islet. The large, modern marina here is a popular stop for yachtsmen, and the bay itself is surrounded by restaurants, bars, watersports centers and shops.

Gros Islet, on the north side of the harbor, is a charming little fishing village with a few narrow streets lined with brightly-painted wooden island-style houses. Not much goes on here — until Friday night. Then, you won't be able to get near the place. Streets are blocked off, rum shops expand onto the sidewalks, grills are set up on front lawns and street corners sizzle with enticing aromas, and soca blares from huge speakers on the main strip. Residents from all over the island join tourists for this weekly blowout, known as jump-up (P), which lasts long into Saturday morning. Do not miss this incredible transformation. It's a lot of fun even if you don't like to dance, hate current music trends, detest alcohol and never eat street-vendor food.

p Take a cab to and from jump-up, because parking and traffic is a nightmare.

p Dress casually and conservatively in cool clothing.

p Bring just enough Eastern Caribbean cash to see you through the evening, and leave all other valuables locked up at your hotel.

p Stick to the main streets, and be sensible about what you eat and drink.

Pigeon Island is no longer an island, and is now officially called Pigeon Point National Park. The tiny historic islet was connected to the main island by a causeway back in the 1970s, but the 40-acre site at the tip of the man-made peninsula still is known as Pigeon Island. Drive out to explore the scattered remains of Fort Rodney. The one-time island has an interesting history, and fabulous views.

The History of Fort Rodney

Well before legitimate Europeans settled on Saint Lucia, corrupt Frenchman François le Clerc, nicknamed Jambe de Bois because of his wooden leg, hid out on Pigeon Island with the booty he collected from raids on Spanish ships. Two hundred years later, English troops, under the command of Admiral George Rodney, built fortresses on the small island so they could safely spy on French forces stationed on nearby Martinique. After England and France settled their multi-year battle for control of the eastern Caribbean, everyone lost interest in Pigeon Island, and the fort slowly disintegrated to ruins.

) DID YOU KNOW?

Admiral Rodney is most often remembered for leading English troops stationed on Pigeon Island in a victory over French Admiral Comte de Grasse at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782.

Now that a causeway connects Pigeon to the main island, the Saint Lucia National Trust has restored some of the buildings and developed the entire area into an attractive park. Allow plenty of time to wander along the winding paths, explore the ruins that are scattered over 40 acres, linger on the two beaches and visit the museum. You will have wonderful panoramic views from many places inside the park, but one of the most spectacular is the same one English troops had of Martinique from the well-preserved fort at the top of Rodney Hill (P). From there, you can walk less than a mile up to Signal Peak for another sensational view back at Saint Lucia and across both the Atlantic and Caribbean waters.

The national park is open daily 9am-5pm. The EC$10 entrance fee includes admission to the museum and interpretive center.

Back on the main highway, continue north of Pigeon Island to the elegant residential area known as Cap Estate. Look at the beautiful homes built among the picturesque rolling hills. Some of the island's most exclusive resorts are here (LeSport and Club Saint Lucia Resort) along with the Saint Lucia Golf and Country Club. In addition, the Derek Walcott Theatre and The Great House, an exquisite 18th-century colonial manor that is now a restaurant, are located on the grounds of the former Longueville Estate (see Best Places to Eat).

Art lovers will want to stop at the studio and gallery of internationally-known artist, Llewelyn Xavier. It's housed in a white building on your left just past the second traffic circle, as you drive in from the south. The gallery also shows a selection of works by other Saint Lucian artists, including Derek Walcott (his Nobel Prize is for literature, but he is a man of many talents) and Roy Lawaetz.

When you've finished your tour of Cap Estate, you'll have to retrace your route back to Castries. There are no paved roads around the northern cape to the east coast.

The Southern Loop

HIGHLIGHTS: Marigot Bay; the Pitons; Diamond Falls and Botanical Gardens; Sulphur Springs and the drive-in volcano crater; panoramic views from the southernmost tip of the island; Mamiku Gardens.

The loop road from Castries through the southern section of the island passes through some of the most attractive scenery in the eastern Caribbean. Allow an entire day to explore this region, and expect to encounter narrow, bumpy roads along the way. Heading south out of the capital, you will wind up in forested mountains and dip into river valleys thick with banana trees.

Make your first stop Marigot Bay (P), a gorgeous natural harbor and among the most outstanding anchorages in all the Caribbean. When you see the secluded cove, you will understand why pirates considered it an ideal hideout. Boats passing by in open water often miss the narrow opening that leads to the bay, which is tucked deep into the mountainous coast. A sandy, palm-shaded beach lies at the foot of the green hills, and a pontoon boat carries passengers from one side of the harbor to the other.

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Consider returning late one afternoon for sunset happy hour at Doolittle's waterside restaurant and bar. Marigot Bay was the filming site of the 1967 movie Doctor Doolittle, starring Rex Harrison.

As you leave Marigot Bay heading south, you'll have wonderful views of the valley surrounding the Roseau River. Just before the little fishing village of Anse La Raye you'll pass by large banana plantations with more spectacular views. If you have time, stop in town (or drive slowly along the narrow streets) to see the colorful wooden houses and observe the women washing clothes and bathing kids in the river. The residents will return your smiles and waves, and offer to help you find the road to Soufrière, because surely you are lost and do not intend to be in their ordinary little village. You'll find a similar scene at Canaries, nestled in a cove at the base of steep hills that offer superb vistas of the sea and countryside.

The Saint Lucia National Trust has recently established campsites and hiking trails at Anse La Liberté, where you will also find a pleasant beach. Continuing south, the road heads up into the fringes of the rain forest, then breaks out with breathtaking views of the Pitons as you drive to Soufrière (P).

The second most important town on Saint Lucia is actually older and, in many ways, more interesting than the capital. Soufrière was founded by the French in 1746 and named for the sulphurous springs that flow in the collapsed volcanic crater located a couple of miles away. In its prime, the city was an important port that bustled with businesses engaged in the export of coffee and cocoa. When the market for these products dropped, Soufrière rapidly declined as well. Today, the village shows obvious signs of age and poverty, but improvements are being made, especially around the waterfront.

Try to visit on Saturday morning when the local market takes over the colorful site north side of the seafront. Residents display a large variety of produce and homemade items for sale. Another interesting area is Elizabeth Square, bordered by Sir Arthur Lewis Street (Lewis is one of two Saint Lucian Nobel Prize winners) in the center of town, where you can peek into the old stone church. Take the time to wander along the narrow streets adjacent to the square to see the ancient weathered façades and gingerbread-trimmed wooden houses that have survived since the French governed the island. Chances are, you'll be enchanted by this sleepy fishing village that quite obviously marches to the beat of an out-of-date drummer.

Walk down a dirt road along the coast to a little undeveloped beach (Malgre Tout) and waterfall (P) just south of town. Chances are you'll have the idyllic place to yourself, but you may run into boaters anchored at the south end of the beach. The waterfall is back from the sea in the direction of Petit Piton, and a sign points the way. It's on land owned by Jah I, and you must find him in his little wooden home to get the okay and pay about EC$3 to visit and bathe in the warm water.

Back in town, children and teens probably will offer to guide you to the nearby sulphur springs and botanical gardens. Hire the charmers if you wish, but it is entirely possible to find and visit these sites on your own.

The Diamond Botanical Gardens are about a mile east of town on the Soufrière Estate. Follow the signs up Sir Arthur Lewis Street from Elizabeth Square to the site that encompasses the gardens, waterfall and mineral baths. A path leads through the shaded garden planted with flowering bird-of-paradise, hibiscus and ginger lily. At the end of the trail a waterfall pours from a fissure into a rocky pool. The water begins its passage 1,000 feet up and comes down the rock face in six stages through sulphur springs. Sulphur colors the water bright shades of green, blue, and purple, and stains the rocks a deep, rusty orange.

The Soufrière Estate won a preservation award from American Express and is one of the historic plantations involved in the government-sponsored program called Nature Heritage Tourism.

) DID YOU KNOW?

King Louis XVI ordered the construction of baths over the springs in 1785 so that his troops could benefit from the curative powers of the waters.

The water comes from the ground at 106°F, and has a mineral content similar to the famous healing baths at Aix-les-Bains, France. Today, you can soak in the warm mineral baths that have been built among the ruins of the original French structures.

Diamond Botanical Gardens and the mineral baths at Diamond Falls are open daily 10am-5pm. % 454-7565 in Soufrière; % 452-4759 in Castries. The entrance fee is EC$7 for adults and EC$3.50 for children. There is an additional charge of EC$6.50 for use of the communal baths, and EC$10 for the private baths.

Nearby, off the road from Soufrière to Vieux Fort, the over-hyped Sulphur Springs at the drive-in volcano on Mount Soufrière are a must-see, simply because they're there.

You park on the hillside, quite close to all the action, then walk among the dormant but bubbling gaseous pits that smell and look like a scene from hell. Guides will take you on a tour of the lunar-like landscape.

~ WARNING

Be sure to stay on designated paths and overlooks. The ground is soft, and you don't want to step off into the hissing, boiling mud.

Theoretically, guides are required and included in the EC$3 entrance fee. However, you will be approached by islanders who offer their individual services. While their services are not at all necessary, their stories and embellishments are entertaining. Sulphur Springs is open daily 9am-5pm.

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Be sure to agree on a price before you consent to a guided tour. Even the official guides expect a tip.

When you leave the Springs, drive a short distance north on the Vieux Fort road to Morne Coubaril Estate, a magnificent plantation with fantastic views of the sea and the Pitons. You easily can spend the afternoon on the estate that is part of a 2,000-acre land grant given to the Deveaux family by French King Louis XIV in 1713. This 250-acre plantation was developed by one of the three original Deveaux brothers, and it remained in the family until 1960, when the last descendant sold it to Donald Monplaisir, who died in 1993. In 1995, Monplaisir's son opened the working estate to the public as a cultural and historical center. The 90-minute tour will give you a good idea of Saint Lucia's past. You will travel down the old mule path to ruins of the 18th-century sugar mill and a recreated village where slaves once lived. Morne Coubaril is open daily 9am-5pm. % 459-7340.

You will have a dazzling view of the Pitons as you drive south on the Soufrière-Vieux Fort road. These twin volcanic peaks soar straight out of the Caribbean. It's possible to hike Gros Piton, the shorter but wider mountain, but you must have permission from the Forest and Lands Department (% 450-2231 or 450-2078) and be accompanied by an authorized guide.

~ WARNING

This is a tough hike with steep ascents through thick vegetation, so only experienced hikers in good condition should consider it.

On your way to Vieux Fort, stop in the pleasant fishing village of Choiseul (named for a duke who served under King Louis XV) to visit the Art & Craft Center, % 459-3226. Prices are good, and there's a large selection of traditional Caribbean handicrafts, including wood carvings, pottery, and baskets. Recently, tourists have reported unfriendly treatment by the sales staff, but there's no reason to stay away or assume you will encounter disagreeable people. Avoid the temptation to haggle about prices, and you shouldn't have any problems.

The next fishing village to the south, Laborie, is a giant step back to the past. Walk around the waterfront to see the colorful boats and chat with the friendly fishermen. Then, buy some fresh bread and drinks and hike (or drive) up Morne Le Blanc for a picnic. You'll have majestic views of Saint Vincent and the southern plains of Saint Lucia from the shaded rest area at the summit.

Vieux Fort, at the southern tip of the island, sits on a flat plain that extends out into the water where the clear-turquoise Caribbean meets the deep-blue Atlantic. It's a large port city and site of Hewanorra International Airport. Its charm lies in the fact that it is out of the line of most tourist traffic. You'll see some quaint wooden buildings in town and a fleet of fishing boats anchored in the bay, but the real attraction is the lighthouse view from Moule-à-Chique (P). After a moderate hike to the top of the 730-foot hill, you'll be able to see the Maria Islands to the east, all of Saint Lucia's interior mountains to the north and, on a clear day, Saint Vincent 20 miles to the south.

Soon after you leave Vieux Fort, driving north up the east coast, you'll come to Mankote Mangrove, which serves as a source of nutrients for the fish nursery protected by a living reef in Savannes Bay. The shallow bay is an active fishing area and excellent breeding ground for conch and other sea creatures. From the observation tower you'll have great views of the bay and mangrove.

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If you want to tour Mankote Mangrove or visit the nature reserves on the offshore Maria Islands or Frigate Islands, you must arrange a guided tour through the Saint Lucia National Trust, % 452-5005.

The Maria Islands consist of two tiny islets called Maria Major and Maria Minor. Here, two rare species of reptile live in protected harmony with several other types of wildlife. This nature reserve is inhabited by the extremely scarce and harmless kouwes snake and the colorful zandoli te lizard (or Maria Island ground lizard). The two islands also provide safety for seabirds, and people aren't allowed to visit during the nesting season from May 15 to July 31. At other times, you can go by boat with an approved guide and spend the day in the forest, swimming from the beach and exploring the underwater coral reefs.

Another nature reserve is located on the Frigate Islands. These two rocky chunks of land are named Frigate Major and Frigate Minor for the thieving, fork-tailed magnificient frigate birds that live there. Again, you must go by boat with an approved guide, and visiting is prohibited during the early summer nesting season. At other times you can picnic, swim, watch for indigenous rare birds and explore the rocky terrain. Boa constrictors and fer-de-lance snakes live in the tall grass on the islands, but they are rarely seen.

The Frigate Islands are off the east-coast fishing village of Praslin, which is between the main towns of Micoud and Dennery. The road is good, but unexceptional for the most part. However, make time to tour the windward side of the island to see the beautiful countryside carpeted by banana plantations and stop for views of the stunning Atlantic coast.

South of Praslin, you'll see signs for Mamiku Gardens, an 18th-century estate that has been restored and is open to visitors. You can walk along flagstone paths through 12 acres of wild woodlands to manicured areas with names such as Secret Garden and Mystic Garden. There are benches made of tree branches where you can sit and look out on fabulous views of the Atlantic and the Frigate Islands. The Shingleton-Smith family has owned the property since 1906, but the main estate house was built in 1796 by Baron de Micoud, a French aristocrat and former governor of Saint Lucia. Brigand's Bar and Garden Gate gift shop now occupy the renovated house.

Mamiku Gardens are open daily, 9am-5pm. % 455-3729.

In the handsome town of Dennery you can watch fishermen arriving in their colorful, creatively-named boats. If you have time, follow the road at the south end of town inland along the Dennery River until you run out of pavement. This detour offers some interesting scenery. Driving back through town to the cross-island highway that cuts through the interior will bring you back to Castries and the west-coast resorts.

Continuing, you'll ascend to Grande Rivière then climb steeply over the Barre de l'Isle, a ridge that divides the island, where you'll have good views of the forest and Roseau Valley. As you approach L'Abbayée, you can branch off toward Sarot for some splendid views as you veer right and drive over the ridge going toward La Croix and the Cul-de-Sac River valley. Alternately, continue directly through Bexon, veer left at Deglos, then on into Castries.

Organized Tours

If you want to see the island with someone who knows it well, consider taking a half-day or full-day tour with an enthusiastic and informative guide. Saint Lucia's strict conservation policies prohibit unaccompanied exploration of some sites, but a trained guide can get you into almost any area. Half-day tours run about US$35-40 per person, while full-day excursions range from US$70-100 per person and usually include lunch.

TOUR COMPANIES

Sunlink International

% 800-SUNLINK; fax 452-0459 E-mail slurep@candw.lc Offers an extensive list of land and sea tours.

Jeep Safari Explorer

% 452-8232 Specializes in exploring the rain forest by jeep with a stop at the beach for snorkeling.

Joseph's Touring

% 450-0132; fax 450-8619

E-mail josephts@candw.lc Sailboat trips to sites along the west coast. Also offers excursions to Martinique, Dominica & the Grenadines.

Jungle Tours

% 450-0434 Offers three rain forest adventures rated for hikers of all level. All include transportation in an open Land Rover and a buffet lunch.

St. Lucia Helicopters

% 453-6950; fax 452-1553 Helicopter tours of the island.

Eastern Caribbean

Helicopter Service

% 452-6952 Offers helicopters trips all over St. Lucia.

Sunup to Sundown

Since many visitors opt for all-inclusive vacations on Saint Lucia, days often include programed activities, group tours to the island's main attractions and lots of time on the resort beach. Not a bad way to spend a few days.

Still, a time may come when you want to strike out on your own for a bit of freelance adventure, and you'll find the island has natural and historical features that make it one of the most superb destinations in the Caribbean.

Saint Lucia's signature twin Piton peaks reign over 19,000 protected acres of wild green mountains, thick rain forest, medicinal hot springs and coral reefs. Miles of trails offer hikers unlimited opportunities to discover exotic flowers and rare wildlife as they explore the diverse countryside. Those who prefer water to land will enjoy snorkeling or diving in the warm, clear Caribbean Sea, where incredible natural treasures remain undisturbed.

Along the coast, long stretches of soft sand offer swimmers and sunbathers a virtual paradise. Natural harbors and protected bays provide ideal anchorages for yachts, and an abundance of fish lure anglers out to the deep sea. Several tour operators run popular around-the-island excursions stopping at sites that cannot be reached by land.

Saint Lucia, Naturally

The Saint Lucia Tourist Board recently launched an innovative program aimed at protecting the island's natural and historical assets while promoting diversified tourism. What that means to visitors is more developed attractions, especially in rural areas, and increased regulation of activities that impact the environment. The intention is to generate more tourism without disturbing nature, which will result in additional money flowing from tourists to local businesses and residents. This in turn will guarantee a beautiful and desirable vacation destination for future tourists.

Expect entrance fees (usually small) at almost all attractions, and mandatory guides in protected areas, including the underwater reserves. In addition, anticipate more small inns and environmentally friendly luxury resorts throughout the island, especially in the underdeveloped south and along the east coast. The Department of Forestry and Lands is working with the National Trust to create more nature trails and develop full-facility campgrounds. Already, tourists are noticing increased vigilance among local authorities toward protecting and managing attractions in their communities.

Saint Lucians are becoming more educated about their delicate environment and what it means to their livelihoods. They want you to visit and enjoy their island, but they expect you to respect it and contribute to its preservation.

Beaches

Saint Lucia's best beaches are along the western coast, where warm Caribbean waters and soft sand provide perfect conditions for swimming and sunning. On the northern end, around Castries and the big resorts, you'll find white or golden sand. To the south, where there are numerous isolated coves at the foot of steep mountains, you find black volcanic sand. The rugged Atlantic coast has marvelous isolated beaches with heavy surf that makes them too dangerous for swimming, but perfect for getting away from the main tourist areas. Nature lovers will want to arrange a boat tour to the small offshore islands that serve as habitats and nesting spots for indigenous wildlife.

Certified divers can explore the coral reefs off the southwest coast, and there are two sunken ships near Anse Cochon. Other popular sites include the waters around Pigeon Point and at the foot of the Pitons. Most resorts provide complimentary introductory dive instruction and snorkel equipment, and there are several well-equipped dive centers with PADI-certified instructors and guides.

Northern Beaches

Choc Bay is perhaps the best-known stretch of golden sand on the island. Located between Castries and Gros Islet, it has palm-shaded sand and calm waters, which make it particularly popular with families. Vigie Beach is at the southern end, about a mile north of Castries. While it's shady and clean, it is often shunned by tourists because it sits near the runway at George Charles Airport. Its only hotel is the Rendezvous Resort for couples only.

Sandals Halcyon Resort is around Vide Bouteille Point at the southern end of Choc Beach, and the Wyndham Morgan Bay Resort is just north, across the inlet to Choc River. East Winds Inn and Windjammer Landing Resort are at Labrellotte Point on the northern end of the bay. You can rent watersports equipment from the sports center at Windjammer and arrange diving excursions through Frogs, % 452-0913, also at Windjammer.

Choc Bay covers a large area of shoreline, and all the resorts located on beaches there are separated by wide undeveloped spaces. Each hotel has its own signed entrance and drive off the main highway.

Reduit Beach faces the Caribbean and forms the eastern arm of sheltered Rodney Bay lagoon. It's a spectacular beach with soft, deep, beige sand and tranquil water that draws tourists from three ultra-chic resorts nearby (Rex St. Lucian, Rex Papillon, and Royal St. Lucian). You can get a drink at the resorts' waterside bars and rent equipment from their sports centers. The Rex St. Lucian offers parasailing, and the water there is ideal for anyone learning to windsurf. The entrance into Rodney Bay is cut through the north end of the beach, so you must walk or drive around the bay to reach Gros Islet.

The causeway out to Pigeon Point has a large sandy beach within walking distance of Gros Islet. There are no facilities here, but you'll likely have the place to yourself during the week — unless some resident farm animals decide to join you.

Inside Pigeon Island National Park is a pleasant sand beach near the pier, as well as several rocky waterfront areas for relaxing and enjoying the views.

South of Castries, La Toc Bay is the crescent-shaped home of Sandals St. Lucia Resort. The beach is lovely, but strong currents sometimes make swimming a chore. You'll find more placid spots farther south.

Tourists feel right at home at Marigot Bay, which is simply too stunning for words. It's secluded, surrounded by tall green hills and shaded by palm trees. While it's a popular anchorage for yachts, the cove is partially divided by a coral bar and large enough to accommodate deserted beaches and well-camouflaged facilities. A little water taxi provides rides from one side of the bay to the other, and you can get drinks and lunch at one of the restaurants or bars.

Anse La Raye is a shady beach that is popular with village residents. If you want to try it, bring a picnic and a snorkeling equipment. There are no facilities, but the water is clear and ideal for snorkeling. Anse Couchon's magnificent black-sand beach can be reached only by boat. Ask around in Anse La Raye for the name of a fisherman who will take you there for a reasonable fee. (Be sure he also will come back for you at a specific time.)

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Rosemond's Trench Divers at Mar-igot Bay offers snorkeling and diving trips to Anse Couchon, % 451-4761. Again, bring your snorkeling equipment so you can observe the colorful fish in the crystal-clear water.

A short distance south of Couchon, park your car and walk down a steep hill to another black-sand beach at Jambette Point, just before the town of Canaries.

Southwestern Beaches

Anse Chastanet (pronounce this nasally as ohns-shas-tin-ay) isn't for everyone, and that's what makes it so incredibly fabulous for some. From its gritty black-sand beach you have a breathtaking view of the Pitons. A sudden steep drop-off close to shore leads to an underwater world that's protected as a marine reserve, so snorkeling and diving are excellent directly from the beach. Children and less confident swimmers may feel uncomfortable here, but anyone who enjoys the ocean and its remarkable creatures will be captivated. The Anse Chastanet Resort is located here, along with Scuba St. Lucia Dive Center. You can enjoy a meal, rent equipment and schedule a boat excursion right on the beach.

Around Grand Caille Point from Anse Chastanet, and reached by the same rutty road, you'll find little Trou au Diable. Snorkeling is especially good here. The black-sand beach in front of the Hummingbird Resort and the Still Plantation Resort also offers calm waters and good snorkeling with breathtaking views of the Pitons.

The crescent-shaped bay of Anse des Pitons is south of Soufrière in a dramatic setting between Petit Piton and Gros Piton. Glamourous Jalousie Hilton Resort and Spa is here. You can rent sports equipment or arrange scuba excursions through Frogs Dive Center. The Bang Restaurant and Bar is located nearby, offering inexpensive meals and drinks.

~ WARNING

The current is sometimes strong at Anse des Pitons, but snorkeling and diving are excellent below both the Pitons.

Windsurfers will find good conditions at Anse de Sables in the eastern curve of the peninsula near Vieux Fort on the south end of the island. If you don't mind the sound of jet engines, consider Honeymoon Beach on the west side of Hewanorra Airport.

Northeastern Beaches

Unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and a terrific map, you can't drive to the beautiful beaches along the isolated northeastern coast. However, you can hike there. Cas-en-Bas is only a 45-minute hike from Gros Islet. When you get there, you'll find excellent windsurfing conditions and a bar. Other untamed windy beaches are within walking distance, both to the north and south.

Another option for seeing this area is to drive the interior road south of Gros Islet to Mochy, then follow the river east to Dauphin Beach. From there you can continue north all the way to Anse Lavoutte or go south to Marquis Bay and Grande Anse. Roads are being improved on this remote part of the island, but check with the tourist bureau or your hotel for current conditions.

Diving & Snorkeling

Veteran divers say Saint Lucia's underwater world equals or surpasses other Caribbean sites, and new environmental regulations insure that the pristine coral reefs and abundant sea life remain as undisturbed as possible.

Soaring mountains that captivate visitors on land continue below the sea and provide shelter for a tremendous variety of creatures and plants. One of the most popular dives in the West Indies is off the beach at Anse Chastanet, which is part of the Soufrière Marine Management Area, where an underwater plateau starts near shore. This shallow dive, from five to 25 feet deep, is great for novice divers and snorkelers, offering brightly colored sponges, soft corals, large brain corals, goatfish, parrotfish, chromis and wrasse. Frogfish live in a cave at the base of the reef.

As you dive deeper, the reef drops quickly from 20 to 140 feet in a solid wall of mixed corals surrounded by schools of fish, crabs, lobsters and eels. At around 100 feet, layers of porcelain-like plate coral are stacked one on top of another. The massive coral reef continues all the way to the bay at Soufrière in water that habitually offers 80 to 100 feet of visibility.

Marine photographers often capture shots of Fairy Land, a current-cleaned coral plateau off the Anse Chastanet Point.

Other favorite areas include waters below Petit Piton, where there are incredible clusters of sponge and coral. This is the location of Superman's Flight, a wall that dr ops gently to 1,600 feet and was featured in a scene from the movie Superman II. Nearby, around the base of Gros Piton, five-finger coral grows solidly from a depth of 15 feet to 50 feet.

An excellent drift dive is along the wall off Anse La Raye, and wreck divers enjoy exploring Lesleen M, a 165-foot freighter that was deliberately sunk south of Marigot Bay. Perhaps the most talked about area is the Key Hole Pinnacles, which were voted one of the Ten Best Dive Sites by Caribbean Travel and Life. It's a remarkable site where four volcanic peaks rise sharply from the ocean floor to within a few feet of the surface.

Dive Centers

Anyone with a mask, tube and fins can snorkel in the waters off the western coast, but you must be a certified diver accompanied by an authorized dive guide to scuba in Saint Lucian waters. Resort courses and full-certification courses are offered for beginners by many dive operators.

The following dive centers offer excellent trips with knowledgeable, licensed instructors and guides. Expect to pay US$45-55 for a single dive, including equipment and entrance fee into the marine reserve (EC$8). Introductory resort courses are about US$70, and open-water certification courses run US$400.

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Two-tank dives and multi-dive packages work out to much less per dive, but prices depend on who you dive with and what is included. Serious divers will want to check into complete dive vacations offered by many of the large resorts.

SCUBA St. Lucia, located at Anse Chastanet just north of the Pitons, is the island's oldest and most internationally-recognized dive facility. It's an SSI Platinum Pro, PADI Dive Center and DAN (Divers Alert Network) Instructor training facility. The friendly staff of 20 multilingual divers is headed up by topnotch managers Michael, Karyn and Gordon. They go out daily on three large custom-designed deep V-Hull boats to the most outstanding sites around Saint Lucia, and offer shore dives in the marine reserve located directly in front of the center. Courses are available at all levels, and they feature night dives, photography dives and wreck dives. % 459-7755 or 459-7000; E-mail scubastlucia@candw.lc.

Frog's Diving has centers at Windjammer Landing Beach Resort and Jalousie Hilton Resort and Spa. They offer all levels of PADI instruction and dive excursions, including night dives. Their instructors and dive masters are relaxed professionals with an intense interest in preserving and showing off the underwater beauty found in the award-winning marine reserve between Petit and Gros Piton. Top-of-the-line Sherwood equipment is set up on modern motorboats, and divers are transported quickly to areas known for dramatic color and unusual wildlife. They are experienced in reef, cave, wall and drift diving all along the west coast, and know where to find shy eels, turtles and seahorses. % 452-1494 or 459-7666; fax 459-7667.

Dolphin Divers is located at Rodney Bay Marina and is popular with divers who enjoy a fast boat ride out to the best scuba sites. You can set your watch by the sound of their motors as they crank up each morning at 8:30 and head out to sea. PADI-certified instructors teach every type of course, including advanced and specialty ratings, and offer excursions to all types of sites, including wrecks and walls. They also fill tanks and meet up with divers arriving by private yacht. % 452-9485; fax 452-0802.

Buddies Scuba, in St. Lucia Yacht Services at Vigie Marina near Castries, is a small center that offers PADI open-water certification and two-tank dive trips to Anse Chastanet and Anse Cochon. They also provide camera rental, night dives and dive packages. % 452-5288; fax 452-5288. You get plenty of one-on-one attention here.

Mooring Scuba Center is a PADI dive shop at Club Mariner in Marigot Bay that runs a full training facility. They also take divers to many of the best sites around the island. % 451-4357.

Rosemond's Trench Divers is also at Marigot Bay in the Beach Resort complex. Rosemond Clery, a Saint Lucian who is considered one of the most qualified divers in the Windwards, owns and operates the center. He has a staff of five who help him with PADI instruction for all levels. Rosemond is also an expert underwater photographer, and he is enthusiastic about showing experienced divers the most interesting and photographic areas off Soufrière and Anse Cochon. % 451-4761; fax 453-7605.

Dive Fair Helen seems a strange name for a dive center until you remember that Saint Lucia is often called "the Helen of the West Indies" because of its natural splendor. The PADI-certified center, located at the Wyndham Morgan Bay Resort on Choc Bay, is owned and run by a Saint Lucian who is a dedicated environmentalist and marine researcher. The staff emphasizes marine preservation as they instruct certification courses and dives. % 450-1640 or 451-7716.

Boating

Take at least one around-the-island boat tour. Better yet, charter a boat and take your time exploring. Some of the sites, such as the volcanic Piton mountains, simply cannot be fully appreciated from land. Others, such as the isolated bay at Anse Cochon, cannot be reached by land.

Several companies run excellent day sails down the calm west coast. Most stop for land tours at places such as Diamond Falls and the drive-in volcano, then anchor offshore for swimming and snorkeling. The price usually includes transportation from your hotel, drinks, snacks and entertainment. At the marinas in Marigot Bay and Rodney Bay, you can hire your own boat — any size and type, with or without a crew. You can even live aboard or travel to other nearby islands.

The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers

December is an exciting time for sailing enthusiasts to be on Saint Lucia. This is when the world's largest ocean-crossing sailing event, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, finishes in Rodney Bay. Approximately 150 boats compete in the race across the Atlantic. For exact dates and other information, contact the Saint Lucia Tourist Board at % 888-4-STLUCIA.

Boat Rentals

Try one of the following for boat rentals.

Leisure

% 452-4484; fax 453-2885

E-mail degazonf@candw.lc.

A 50-foot luxury cruiser avilable for rent from Fred Degazon.

Oasis Marigot

% 800-263-4202; fax 819-326-3816

Seabird Charters

% 452-8294; fax 450-1296

Allison Marine

% 452-6811; E-mail richingsm@candw.lc

Cats, Inc

% 450 8651; fax 450-8651

E-mail catsltd@candw.lc

Jem Marine Co. Ltd.

% 451-8290

Tropical Dream Charter

% 450-8522; fax 452-9780

Capt. Mike

% 450-1216; fax 450-1296

E-mail slhta@candw.lc

Trade Winds Yachts, Rodney Bay

% 452-8424; fax 452-8442

Offers bareboat or crewed charters, live-aboard sailing school, and one-way or round-trip voyages to Martinique or St Vincent.

Sunsail, Rodney Bay

% 452-8648; fax 452-0839

In the US, % 800-327-2276; fax 410-280-2406

Rents bareboat or crewed charters, and runs one-way cruises to the Grenadines.

Destination St. Lucia, Rodney Bay

% 452-8531; fax 452-0183

E-mail destsll@candw.lc

Run by an Austrian couple, Ulrich and Sandra Meixner, who have a fleet of 15 sailing yachts of different makes and sizes. Their staff is multilingual.

Que Pasa, Rodney Bay

% 450-8315

Rents speedboats.

The Moorings, Marigot Bay

% 451-4357 or 451-4256

Has a bareboat rental fleet of Beneteaus ranging from 38 to 50 feet, and a crewed fleet of boats that are in 50- to 60-foot yachts. They also run the 45-room Marigot Bay Hotel.

Boat Tours

For boat trips around the island, try one of the following:

Endless Summer

% 450-8651; fax 452-0659

E-mail catsltd@candw.lc

Catamaran cruises, including a champagne sunset cruise.

Yes Man Speedboat Tours, Rodney Bay

% 452-8631; fax 452-8631

Operates full-day tours on a 22-foot Doral.

Brig Unicorn, Vigie Marina

% 452-6811

Conducts tours on a 140-foot replica of a 19th-century schooner that was used in the filming of the movie Roots.

Carnival Sailing

% 452-5586

Douglas Sailing Tours

% 457-7777

Captain Douglas Rapier takes passengers on full-day sailing trips to Martinique, with whale-watching on the way.

Vigie Cruises

% 452-9423; E-mail cruiseco@candw.lc

Departs from Rodney Bay Marina at 9am heading toward Soufrière and returns around 5pm. Stops for sightseeing tours, lunch at the Still Restaurant and snorkeling at Anse Cochon.

Fishing

Saint Lucia has outstanding sports fishing, and even novices often catch a whopper. Guides know the waters well and will take you to the optimum sites for sailfish, marlin, tuna, dorado, barracuda and wahoo. Expect to pay about US$750 for up to four people on a private full-day charter, and around US$350 for up to four people on a private half-day charter. You can join an organized group for about US$50 per half-day and US$100 per full-day.

Deep-Sea Charter Operators

Mako Water-Sports, Rodney Bay Marina

% 452-0412; fax 452-0952

Captain Ferdinand James will be your guide on Annie Baby, a fully-equipped 31-foot boat with a 240HP diesel engine.

Capt. Mike's Sportfishing Cruises, Vigie Marina

% 452-7044; fax 450-1296

Crewed 31- to 38-foot fully-equipped Bertrams.

Reel Affair, Rodney Bay Marina

% 452-0576

Run by Howard Otway, a veteran fisherman and director of Saint Lucia's fishing tournaments. You can join him on half-day or full-day group excursions for fishing, whale-watching or just cruising.

Windsurfing

Most of the large resorts have complimentary windsurfing equipment for their guests, and rentals are available from their beachside sports centers. There's a windsurfing center called Waves at Choc Bay, % 451-3000. Expect to pay about US$10 per hour for a basic rental and US$30 for lessons, which last two or three hours.

Experienced windsurfers will like the isolated areas on the Atlantic coast, but conditions can be dangerous. Cas-en-Bas can be reached from Gros Islet, and you can get to other east-coast beaches from the village of Mochy. The beaches around Vieux Fort on the south coast are safer and easier to reach by car. You'll find good trade winds blowing at Anse de Sables, and you can rent equipment there from Island Windsurfing, % 454-7400.

Hiking

Native guides who have explored Saint Lucia's thick forests and towering mountains since childhood designed the trails that cut through some of the island's most gorgeous countryside. As a result, hikers are guaranteed awesome sights and extraordinary experiences as they traverse isolated areas overseen by the Department of Forestry and Lands. This government department takes months to gather information so that each trail can be designed and developed to provide optimum hiking experiences with the least impact on the environment. Even inexperienced hikers can manage the gentle ups and downs of many of the paths. Overlooks and rest areas are spaced to encourage frequent stops, and some of the tracks have been divided into segments that allow easy access for short treks. Experienced hikers with plenty of energy can tackle steeper climbs and longer distances through more remote terrain.

If you want to hike on land protected by the National Trust, you must obtain permission from the Forestry Department at % 450-2231, ext. 308, or the National Trust, % 452-5005. If you hike with an organized group, the fee (EC$25) is usually included in rate.

You'll need a professional guide trained by the National Trust or forestry department to enter the reserves. This strictly enforced policy is meant to protect both the hiker and the environment, and the friendly, entertaining guides point out things that you'll miss if you try it on your own.

Arrange for hikes by contacting the National Trust, % 452-5005. You can also join an organized group coordinated by various tour operators.

The Union Nature Reserve is adjacent to the nursery of the Union Agricultural and Research Station, where baby trees are nurtured. The Department of Forest and Lands also is headquartered here along with a small but fascinating mini zoo. Don't underestimate the zoo because of its size or outward appearance. Inside, you're guaranteed a sighting of boa constrictors, iguanas, parrots, agoutis and other elusive critters.

You can pick up permits and arrange for hiking tours into the rain forest and other reserves at the Department of Forest and Lands, % 450-2231. The office is a bit tricky to find. Go past the Sandals Halcyon Resort, north of Castries, then turn inland on the road to Babonneau. You'll see the Union Agricultural Station on the right, about a mile from the main highway.

Two trails begin behind the zoo and forestry offices. The Hillside Trail loops through a mile of rough terrain and climbs to heights of 350 feet, so you'll need to be in good shape for this two-hour hike. The gentler Garden Trail is a pleasant half-mile walk along a gravel path with stops at a medicinal herb patch. Both trails are self-guided, and a brochure gives information about plants and wildlife encountered along the way.

The Barre de l'Isle Trail is one of the best hikes through the rain forest. You can take an easy one-hour hike or rigorous three-hour climb along this barre, or ridge, that divides the eastern and western parts of the island. There are fantastic views along the way, and you have a fair chance of spotting a Saint Lucian parrot. If you're in good shape, go for the longer trek up Mount La Combe, which tops out at 1,446 feet and offers the best panoramic vistas.

A new trail called Praslin Protected Landscape is a three-mile nature trail on the southeast coast between Dennery and Micoud. It's a fairly easy, but long trail with dramatic views of the Atlantic. In addition to seeing a wide range of plants and wildlife, you'll gather facts on the island's history, since this rugged coastline was the home of Amerindian tribes.

The 2½-mile Des Cartier Trail begins six miles inland from Micoud on the east coast and crosses the Quilesse Forest Reserve. If you're quiet, you have a good chance of seeing a rare Jacquot parrot or Saint Lucian oriole flying among the treetops deep in the rain forest.

) DID YOU KNOW?

Some of the Gommier trees grow to heights of more than 130 feet, and it's easy to understand how natives once carved boats from a single trunk.

Another rain forest hike begins seven miles inland from Soufrière on the west coast. In the Edmund Forest Reserve, hikers have the best views of the Pitons and 3,117-foot Mount Gimie. You'll see incredibly beautiful wild orchids and bromeliads growing among the trees, and you'll probably get wet since it's one of the rainiest parts of the island.

Day trips are organized out to the Maria Islands off the southeast coast. An easy walking path leads to an observation point visited by geckos and a large ground lizard called the zandoli te. The islands are relatively untouched, offering 120 different species of plants and several types of rare wildlife. A wide range of birds and butterflies thrive on all the tiny islets.

The Frigate Island Nature Trail is actually located in a national park on the main island. A mile-long trail runs along cliffs above the Atlantic at Preslin Bay between the towns of Micoud and Dennery. It offers scenic views of the offshore islands.

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Bring binoculars so you can get a good look at the magnificient frigate birds circling above.

The forestry department has laid out trails in most areas on Saint Lucia, and you can ask about hikes to the summits of Gros Piton (Petit Piton is off-limits because of erosion) and Piton Flore. Guides are also available for hikes along the remote northeastern coast, an area known for its marine turtles who come ashore to nest between February and October.

Golfing

The St. Lucia Golf and Country Club is open year-round at Cap Estate on the most northern part of the island. Recently expanded to 18 holes, the challenging course stretches across acres of rolling hills with incredible views. Facilities include a driving range, putting green, clubhouse and pro shop with club and cart rentals. Fees are US$49.50 for 18 holes, including a cart and clubs. For tee times, % 450-8523.

Tennis

Most visitors make use of resort courts. If you're staying at an inn without a court, you can play at St. Lucia Racquet Club, % 450-0551. This first-class facility is praised as the best in the Antilles and features nine lighted courts and a well-outfitted pro shop.

Horseback Riding

Some parts of the island are best seen on horseback, and Saint Lucia has several facilities that offers hourly rental and specialty riding tours. Expect to pay US$20-35 for a one-hour rental and around US$55 for longer meal-included tours.

) NOTE

Créole horses are available for rent at some stables. This indigenous breed is rather small, but strong and good-natured — especially good for beginners.

Trim's Stables, Cas-en-Bas, % 450-8273, has rides designed for beginners or experienced horsemen. One of their most popular trips is the picnic ride along the Atlantic coast. They also offer lessons and carriage tours.

Country Saddles, Marquis Estate, % 450-1231, is known for exciting trips through the scenic countryside and along the coast. They have horses appropriate for beginners as well as skilled riders, and their guides structure tours according to experience.

International Riding Stables, Gros Islet, % 452-8139, offers both English-style and western-style riding. The stables are located at the old Beausejour Estate, and riders have a choice of three tours geared to various skill levels. You can even take a swim with your horse.

North Point Riding Stables, % 450-8853, organizes group rides to the remote northeastern coast, Pigeon Point and Gros Islet.

Trekkers, Morne Coubaril Estate, % 459-7340, has nature trails to explore around the plantation, and riders may choose English or western saddles. They also arrange multi-day trips that cover the entire island.

Shop Til You Drop

Saint Lucia's shops are full of good buys. Look for handcrafted items such as batik, pottery, wood carvings, shell jewelry and straw products. Also, electronics, crystal, leather items and luxury jewelry often are bargains, especially at the duty-free shops.

Jewelry retailers are known to offer significantly lower prices than stores in the United States. Often, these shops purchase merchandise directly from the manufacturers and pay little or no import fees, so they can pass the savings on to customers. Expect to find a good selection of diamonds and other precious stones, gold chains, watches, and high-fashion jewelry.

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Larger stores with branches on multiple islands usually offer the best discounts due to the savings they derive from high-volume buying.

If you think you may want to buy jewelry, watches, crystal, or other luxury items while you're on vacation, visit a few stores before you leave home and write down prices of pieces that interest you. When you get to Saint Lucia, you'll be able to make informed decisions about prices and standard of quality.

We recommend that you shop in well-established stores with good reputations. If you aren't sure, ask for advice from the staff at your hotel or on your cruise ship. You also can judge by the appearance of the store and its sales staff. If it's a company with outlets on several islands, it's probably a reputable store. However, many local businesses with only one store are often equally reliable, so keep an open mind. If the shop offers a guarantee and a certified appraisal on its merchandise, you can buy with confidence.

Stores are open Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm and on Saturday from 9am-2pm. Some shops extend their hours when cruise ships are in port. Most accept major credit cards. The stores listed below are suggested for variety, quality and friendly service.

Castries

Castries' market occupies several buildings and adjacent outdoor spaces on Jeremie Street, near the waterfront. Saturday morning is the best time to visit. Good buys on coal pots, hot-pepper sauces, T-shirts, straw items, herbs, spices, cocoa sticks and picnic supplies.

POINTE SERAPHINE

This is a large duty-free mall located near the main cruise ship dock on the north side of Castries Bay.

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A ferry runs back and forth across the bay. If you have a car, park on either side and avoid driving through town.

The main office of the St. Lucia Tourist Board, % 452-4094, is located in the modern Spanish-style courtyard of Pointe Seraphine along with restaurants and the following shops:

Little Switzerland, % 451-6785, has a large selection of famous-name Swiss watches, crystal, china and jewelry. Their shops are well-known throughout the Caribbean Islands and they give guarantees and certified appraisals. Another store is located at La Place Carenage in town.

Colombian Emeralds, % 452-7233, sells fine gemstones and international watches. They offer significant savings, full guarantees, certified appraisals and US after-sales service.

Colombian Emeralds has other stores at Hewanorra Airport and on the waterfront in Castries, as well as on islands throughout the Caribbean. % 800-6-NODUTY.

Jewellers Warehouse claims to save you 50% on all merchandise. Other stores are located on islands throughout the Caribbean. % 800-661-JEWEL.

Diamonds in Paradise specializes in romantic diamond pieces. % 800-94-CARAT or 452-7223.

Essence, % 452-3028, sells designer clothing and accessories from around the world.

Benetton, % 452-7685, offers the familiar Italian fashions. You'll find a selection of unique stripes, prints and colors in the latest styles at duty-free prices.

The Beach Shop, % 452-6909, stocks T-shirts, swimsuits, snorkeling gear, suntan lotion and other beach necessities. In addition, they carry items by Jill Walker, including charming watercolor paintings, cookbooks, placemats and household items.

Natur Pur Designer Clothing is made from all natural fibers and designed by Sylvie Calderbank. You can choose from linen or cotton. % 452-4252.

PEER has co-ordinated cotton clothes with colorful prints and embroidery designs. Adult and children's sizes are available in T-shirts, shorts, caps and more. (No telephone.)

Noah's Arcade, % 452-7488, has several shops around the island. All carry a good selection of imaginative handcrafted items such as straw hats, steel pans, hammocks and jams, along with books, maps, film and suntan products.

Bagshaw Studios, % 452-2139, is an internationally known family-run silkscreen business that makes colorful cotton and linen fabrics and gifts. They have a working studio at La Toc Bay. Additional stores are at Rodney Bay and Hewanorra Airport.

Paramount Electronics and Musical Centre, % 453-0855, features a full range of brand name electronics, cameras and audio-visual products. They have other stores on the island.

Pickwick & Co. Ltd., % 459-0993, is a gorgeous shop with good buys on English imports. Prices are about half of those asked in the US for brands such as Aynsley, Dartington and Royal Edinburgh.

Studio Images, % 452-6883, promises a 30-50% discount on fragrances by Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior and many other well-known international designers. They also offer good buys on designer sunglasses, watches, leather goods and gifts. Other stores are located in Castries, Hewannora Airport and the Rex St. Lucian Resort.

Oasis has sports gear, men's casual wear, sandals and shoes. They also carry ladies' fashions, swim wear, fashion handbags and T-shirts. % 452-1185.

JQ's features international designer clothing, Caribbean souvenirs and gifts. % 452-0114.

St. Lucia Fine Art, % 459-0891, displays a large selection of fine local, Caribbean and international art. Be sure to look for works by internationally renowned Saint Lucian artist Llewellyn Xavier. Visitors are welcome to call for an appointment to see Llewellyn Xavier's collection at his studio in Cap Estate, % 450-9155.

LA PLACE CARENAGE

La Place Carenage (% 452-7325) is another duty-free center across the harbor from Pointe Seraphine, on Jeremie Street, west of the local market. Stores are open Monday-Friday, 9am to 5pm, and on Saturday from 9am-2pm, with extended hours when a cruise ship is in port. Some of the most interesting shops include:

Modern Art Gallery displays a superb collection of Caribbean avant-garde art. % 452-9079.

Y de Lima sells watches, cameras, clocks, jewelry, perfumes and souvenirs. % 452-2898.

Gold N'Gifts features brands such as Royal Worcester, Anynsely and Poole. There are also gift items, pottery and crystal. (No telephone.)

Noah's Arcade (see listing above). % 452-7488.

S&S Pricebusters is a variety store with clothing, shoes, cosmetics, household goods, souvenirs and other basic products. (No telephone.)

Bagshaw Studios (see listing above). % 451-6565.

Little Switzerland (see listing above). % 452-7587 or 451-6785.

GABLEWOODS MALL

Located on the Gros Islet Highway north of town, this mall has an assortment of shops that sell everything from local crafts to groceries and household products. Most stores are open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, and Saturday, 9am-2pm, but a few have extended hours. % 451-7167. Some of the shops of interest to tourists include:

Top Banana has locations all over the island and features fashion beachwear made by well-known companies such as Speedo, Hunza and La Blanca. They also carry diving gear, towels, caps and T-shirts. % 451-6389; Castries, 452-9294.

Peppermint Boutique features beachwear, women's fashions, men's clothing and local handmade gift items. (No telephone.)

Mi Casa is a housewares store with all types of accessories, china and gift items. (No telephone.)

Islanders carries pure cotton clothing such as T-shirts, shorts and vests. Designs are embroidered on your purchases while you wait. % 453-7309.

Sunshine Bookshop features work by the island's Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott, as well as international newspapers, magazines, novels and travel books. (No telephone.)

Jazzy Kex has good prices on the latest fun fashions from Europe and California. (No telephone.)

Ti Bagay is the place for unique gifts, unusual pottery and ceramics. % 451-6994.

Made In St. Lucia presents arts, crafts and gifts made by local artisans. % 453-2788.

The Sea Island Cotton Shop has sister stores at Windjammer and Rex St. Lucian Resorts. They all feature beachwear, T-shirts, fashion clothing and original handicrafts. % 452-3674.

Cards & Things, in the food court, carries a good selection of greeting cards, gift items and more. % 451-6977.

In & Around Castries

Shoppers will find many fine stores south of the harbor between Jeremie Street to the north, Brazil Street to the south, Bridge Street to the west, and Laborie Street to the east.

Artsibit Gallery, at the corner of Brazil and Mongiraud Streets, exhibits a large collection of well-priced pieces by local artists. In addition, you'll find pottery, sculpture, even postcards. Among the featured artists, don't miss the fantastic works of Derek Walcott, Arnold Toulon and Ron Savory. A smaller exhibit is displayed at the Artsibit Gallery on Rodney Bay. % 452-7865.

Caribelle Batik, 37 Old Victoria Road on Morne Fortuné, designs batik-art clothes and wall hangings. Visitors are welcome at the working studio and shop located in a charming old two-story Victorian-style home that's been beautifully renovated. You can watch the artisans at work on this ancient fabric art, enjoy a drink on the terrace overlooking the northern coast, and peak into the orchid nursery. Open Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4pm; and Saturday, 8:30am-12:30pm. % 452-3785.

Bagshaw Studios, overlooking the sea at La Toc, welcome visitors to their workshop where they turn out popular silkscreened creations. Shops are scattered around the Castries area, but watching the designs emerge from the studio is especially worthwhile. Drop in Monday-Friday from 8:30am-4:30pm or on Saturday from 8:30am-noon. % 452-2139.

Music lovers will find a good selection of island sounds at Jeremie's, 83 Brazil Street, % 452-5079, and Sights 'n Sounds, 46 Micoud Street, % 451-9600 (also at the Gablewood Mall).

Bryden and Partners Ltd., % 452-7591, on Jeremie Street, isn't duty-free, but they stock a well-priced assortment of Saint Lucian rums, Piton beer and other liquors.

The Perfumery, % 453-7249, at the Green Parrot Inn on Morne Fortuné above the city, sells the intoxicating scents called Caribbean Perfumes. They offer several fragrances for women and two aftershave lotions for men. Each aroma is blended from the flowers and tropical plants that grow on the island, and priced to fit most budgets. Caribbean Perfumes are available at many resort gift shops.

Eudovic Art Studio, south of the city in Goodlands, is the working studio of Saint Lucian artist Vincent Joseph Eudovic. He has been creating contemporary sculptures from the wood and roots of native trees since he won a national award at the age of 11. Over the years, he has won additional international awards, and his studio has expanded to include a restaurant, guesthouse gallery and souvenir store. Visitors are welcome at the outdoor workshop and indoor gallery and shop that feature art and crafts by Eudovic and other local artisans. % 452-2747.

The Heritage gift shop and boutique strives to be a one-stop shopping solution. Located at Rodney Bay across from the Lime Restaurant, they have souvenirs, art, T-shirts, swimsuits, maps, disposable cameras, pottery, spices and a long list of other items commonly needed by tourists. Their hours are 10am-10pm, % 452-8240.

If you're looking for Caribbean-born BASE fashions, you'll find an extensive collection at the boutique in the Rex St. Lucian Resort. These functional, easy-to-wear clothes are designed and made in the islands, and make an ideal souvenir.

Hot Sauce, downstairs at the Snooty Agouti Restaurant on Rodney Bay, stocks cool clothing, pottery, candles, maps, jewelry, Caribbean artwork, prints and other unique gifts.

Outside the Castries Area

At Marigot Bay, Bagshaw Studios, % 451-9249, has a store on the north shore, and you'll find assorted crafts at nearby Ocean Gift Shop. Doolittles Restaurant also runs a boutique with swimsuits, T-shirts, crafts and perfume, % 451-4974. If you're looking for fishing gear or boating equipment, try Captain Bravo.

Unfortunately, the local market on the waterfront at Soufrière is disappointing. However, stop at the Batik Studio, % 459-7232, connected to the Hummingbird Resort, on the beach just north of town. Here, owner Joan Alexander offers a collection of exquisite batik scarves, wall hangings and sarongs, which make wonderful gifts. You'll find other interesting handmade items farther south in the boutique at Bangs Restaurant and Bar, % 459-7864, at Jalousie Cove. The adjacent rum shop has a good selection of liquor and beer.

On your way south toward Vieux Fort, stop at the Art and Craft Center, % 454-3226, in the little village of Choiseul. The workshop isn't open to the public, but you can purchase baskets, wood carvings, pottery and other items made by residents from local materials. Prices are good, and the quality is excellent, but service is sometimes indifferent. Go for the unique buys.

After Dark

Don't miss the weekly Friday night street party in Gros Islet. The jump up starts at sundown when the streets are blocked off, bands set up on improvised stages, and residents set up barbeque grills and start cooking skewered conch, chicken, fish and beef. Streets are hung with strings of lights, and tourists and locals crowd in to eat, dance and listen to the drum-heavy beat of the island music. The festivities go on until early Saturday morning.

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Plan to take a taxi, because parking is a nightmare, and you don't want to drive home on the narrow roads after partying all night.

Live Entertainment

Music is an important part of Saint Lucia's culture, and live bands and individuals play all around the island. The large resorts schedule steel bands, reggae singers and jazz groups most nights of the week. In addition, there are karaoke bars, piano bars, discos and night clubs. Some restaurants host theme-night buffets with limbo dancers, fire eaters and dance bands.

Chef Harry hosts entertainment at The Green Parrot Restaurant, % 452-3399, on Morne Fortuné every Wednesday and Saturday. A variety of performances are held frequently at the open-air Derek Walcott Center for The Arts, % 450-0551, adjacent to the historic Great House Restaurant at Cap Estate. JJ's Restaurant, % 451-4076, north of Marigot Bay, runs a Friday Night Jam as an alternative to Gros Islet's street party. Out on Pigeon Point, jazz lovers will enjoy the cozy Captain's Cellar, % 450-0253.

You can attend an outdoor historical re-enactment of village life during the plantation era at the 150-year-old La Sikwi sugar mill at Anse la Raye, % 451-4245. The stage is built into the hills, and local bands and entertainers perform before and after the full-costume play.

In the little village of Grande Rivière, east of Choc Bay, an air-conditioned club called The Drive-In features Matchmaker nights and Caribbean-music nights (% 450-1397). Waves (% 451-3000), on the beach at Choc Bay, has a daily happy hour where locals and tourists hang out and get acquainted. They also have karaoke nights and bring in bands a couple of times each week.

Splash, at Rex St. Lucian Resort on Reduit Beach, is a popular disco (% 452-8351). On the southern tip of the island, The Reef (% 454-3418) on Anse de Sable Beach is the local meeting place. Locals and tourists enjoy drinks, shoot pool and enjoy occasional live entertainment on weekends. In Vieux Fort, everyone goes to Chak Chak (% 454-6260) to hear live bands.

You can depend on a lot of action at Rodney Bay most nights, and especially on the weekends. Here are a few hotspots:

Popular Caribbean and international music plays at Indies every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday night. % 452-0727. The action starts up around 11pm.

Back Door @ Indies (% 452-0727) is another popular spot, and women get in free on Wednesday nights. Also, on Wednesdays, The Lime Restaurant (% 452-0761) hosts live music and dancing late into the night. Shamrocks Pub is an Irish-style bar with pub food, beer, pool tables, dart boards and a live band each weekend. % 452-8725.

Best Places to Stay

Saint Lucia has excellent accommodations to suit any budget. The island is quickly becoming a top destination for vacationers who favor all-inclusive resorts or deluxe private villas, and the selection of upscale lodging is splendid. In addition, budget-minded travelers are drawn to the newly-organized group of locally-owned small inns that offer high standards at affordable rates.

One thing you won't find is high-rise hotels. Officials firmly restrict development to preserve Saint Lucia's natural and historical resources. Most accommodations are tucked into the lush landscape and well hidden.

) DID YOU KNOW?

Government restrictions state that hotels on Saint Lucia can be no taller than a coconut tree.

Surprisingly, the majority of hotels are clustered near the capital on the densely-populated northwestern coast, while the island's international airport and most beautiful natural sites are in the south. When you make reservations, be sure to ask which airport you will be flying into, and check to see how far it is from the place you're staying. By asking a few simple questions, you can save yourself hours of unnecessary driving. It's entirely possible to arrange flights into George Charles Airport in the north via San Juan or another Caribbean island. Alternately, you can choose to fly directly into Hewanorra International in the south, and stay in one of the excellent accommodations around Soufrière.

Tips on All-Inclusives & Private Villas

Many travelers find the all-inclusive concept the perfect solution when budgeting for a vacation. With one payment, you take care of lodging, food, and most activities and entertainment. However, all-inclusive does not necessarily mean less expensive. If you truly want to hold down costs while staying in luxury accommodations, consider renting a cottage with cooking facilities and preparing a couple of simple meals yourself each day.

When convenience and relaxation are more important than cost, an all-inclusive is definitely the way to go. Sink a few extra dollars into the one-price package, and be done with it. Once this decision is made, you have nothing to think about except having some fun and taking it easy.

Both private rentals and all-inclusives require careful investigation. Work with a knowledgeable agent (one who's actually been there) and be honest about your expectations. Or, do some sleuthing on your own.

Questions to Ask About All-Inclusives

p Are all meals buffet style?

p Does the menu change from day to day?

p Are all on-site restaurants are included?

p Does the price include snacks?

p Does the price include alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks? Is wine served with dinner?

p What activities are organized? Is entertainment scheduled?

p Do guests have unlimited complimentary use of sports equipment? What equipment is available?

p Is there an activities director on staff?

p Are off-site excursions included?

p Is complimentary transportation provided for trips into town or to tourist attractions?

p Are tips included?

p Is there a program for children? (If you're looking for a swinging-singles spot, stay away from resorts with kids' programs.)

Run through an ideal vacation day in your mind, and jot down typical costs. Then, be specific when you ask your questions. Nothing spoils an all-inclusive vacation faster than being asked to pay for a beach towel every time you go for a swim. If the total of the extras added to the base price is something you can live with, book it. If it seems out of line, consider other options.

Questions to Ask About Private Rentals

p Has the agent actually been to the property? (Pictures don't count.)

p Is it immaculately clean? Who does the cleaning? (Professional services tend to do a more thorough job than owners.)

p What personal articles are left at the property by the owner? (Must you squeeze your clothes into a closet already packed with the owner's stuff?)

p How many and what size beds are there?

p Does the bathroom have a tub and shower? Is hot water readily available at all times?

p Are all linens supplied? How about a change of sheets? Extra towels? Soap?

p Are laundry facilities available? Are guests expected to wash linens at departure?

p Are all rooms air-conditioned?

p Are ceiling or room fans available?

p Do windows have screens?

p What appliances are in the kitchen? What is their age and condition?

p Is the kitchen stocked with basic supplies? Where is the nearest store, and does it carry a wide range of imported as well as local products?

p How far is the nearest good beach, town, restaurant, nightspot, hospital and neighbor?

p Is there a restriction or charge for use of electricity or water?

p What insurance is carried in case of damage or an accident? Are renters required to leave a deposit to cover such things?

Some private properties are lavish weekend homes with all the modern conveniences and a staff of caretakers. Others are homey, well-used cottages that owners vacate when they have a renter. Most are something in-between.

Pricing

Price ranges are based on a double room during high season (excluding 8% government taxes and 10% service charges).

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Almost every property on the island gives a substantial discount between May and November unless a special event is taking place.

The following price scale will help you find accommodations within your budget. Remember, when a property is all-inclusive, the price range reflects the higher cost and will appear more expensive than comparable accommodations. All-inclusives are indicated as such.

Ask about package vacations that include airfare, ground transportation, golf, diving, sightseeing, wedding services, anniversary or honeymoon extras. These plans offer savings and sometimes insure a bit of added attention from the staff.

ALIVE! PRICE SCALE

Deluxe More than $350

Expensive $200-$350

Moderate $150-$250

Inexpensive $100-$150

Budget Less than $100





Islandwide Rental Agencies

TROPICAL VILLAS

PO Box 189, Castries

% 450-8240; fax 450-8089

The staff handles vacation villas with anything from one to six bedrooms. They will also arrange for cleaning, stocking and meal preparation.

INNS OF ST. LUCIA

20 Bridge Street, Castries

% 888-4-STLUCIA or 452-4599

With a portfolio of 31 small hotels and inns, this agency can help you find accommodations in either popular tourist areas or isolated locations.

Northern Saint Lucia

EAST WINDS INN

Labrelotte Bay, Gros Islet (Box 193, Castries)

30 rooms

All Inclusive

% 452-8212; fax 452-9941

E-mail: eastwinds@candw.lc

Internet: www.stluciatravel.com.lc/EASTWINDS.htm

In the US: E&M Assoc., % 800-223-9832 or 212-252-1818; fax 212-252-1991

Deluxe

A quiet, refined inn with five-star, European-style elegance and grace, East Winds is tucked away on a secluded beach just five miles from the capital. This property has been recently transformed by new owner Giuseppe Olivares into a romantic all-inclusive hideaway, and is expertly managed by Gareth Leach. While its amenities are first-class, its ambiance is best described as beachcomber-chic — unpretentious but genteel, hedonistic yet civilized.

Ideally located at the end of a long road off the main highway between Castries and Rodney Bay, the inn consists of 30 rooms in 15 duplex cottages. These are scattered over eight acres of lush gardens that ring with wild-bird songs and occasional squawks from Mac and Erik, the resident parrots. A central open-air lounge is furnished with comfortable seating and a selection of books and games that invite relaxation and impromptu gatherings.

A new gourmet kitchen is overseen by French chef Franck Chevrier, who creates imaginative meals to please even the most demanding guests. Returning guests, who sometimes stay for two weeks, never complain of a lack of variety. Each day, the kitchen receives freshly caught fish and lobster from local fisherman, and herbs, vegetables and fruits are selected at the market or purchased from nearby farms. Buffet breakfasts and lunches feature island fruits and vegetables along with cooked-to-order dishes and daily specialties. The best offerings are presented at a candlelight dinner, when haute cuisine meals are graciously served by an attentive staff that never lets a wine glass sit half-full.

Guests can order a cool drink from the thatched-roof bar and carry it down to the beach to watch the amazing technicolor Caribbean sunset. During the day, the long, palm-studded stretch of sand is popular with sun-worshipers. Swimmers head out to the small reef in the middle of the bay to snorkel. Others take one of the kayaks out for a spin on the calm water.

A large free-form pool with a wide deck lures guests in the afternoon. Swimmers can help themselves to a variety of refreshments — beer, wine and top-brand liquors — at the swim-up bar. At four o'clock, tea and fresh-baked treats are served poolside.

Guest rooms in the single-level moss-green cottages are spacious and cooled by gentle trade winds assisted by ceiling fans. The bedrooms feature lovely furniture and fabrics, and the large bathrooms have unusual stone indoor-outdoor showers that allow guests private-but-open bathing. Each room opens onto a private patio outfitted with a small refrigerator, sink, table and chairs.

WINDJAMMER LANDING BEACH RESORT

Labrelotte Bay, Gros Islet (Box 1504, Castries)

114 rooms and villas

% 452-0913; fax 452-9454

E-mail: windjammer@candw.lc

Internet: www.wlv-resort.com/

In the US: Villas St. Lucia, % 800-823-2002; fax 410-692-9579 or 800-613-7193 or 800-WLV-RESORT

Expensive

Driving down the steep road that leads through the village to the hotel, you pass these white stucco Mediterranean-style villas connected by brick pathways and partially hidden by flowering vines and tall trees. The villas have one to four bedrooms, a living/dining area and full kitchen. Each is decorated with bright Caribbean colors, and doors open onto a large private terrace with majestic ocean views. Some of the one-bedroom units and all larger villas also have splendid private plunge pools.

Standard rooms feature one queen or two twin beds, air-conditioning and ceiling fan, mini refrigerator, coffee maker, cable TV and a private terrace with a garden view. Deluxe rooms have a queen-size bed, all the amenities of a standard room, and a private terrace and sundeck with an ocean view.

On 55 acres of lushly landscaped hillside, the resort offers four dining options, three bars, a shopping arcade, on-site car rental, a gym and spa, tennis courts, a fully-staffed activities desk that organizes daily programs, and a supervised children's program. Down on lovely Labrellote Bay, the long sandy beach is lined with palm trees and dotted with lounge chairs. A sports center offers all types of water toys for both kids and adults. Pick from waterskis, banana-log rides, paddleboats, kayaks and snorkeling equipment. The dive shop arranges excursions to the best scuba areas around the island, and offers both introductory and certification courses.

Four freshwater pools provide plenty of room for swimming, floating, and water games. Almost every afternoon, one of the activity directors encourages guests to join in a game of water volleyball or other sport. For an additional charge, the hotel will arrange horseback riding, jeep excursions and boat trips. Each night brings some type of entertainment in one of the bars or restaurants.

It's possible to stay on the grounds for the duration of your trip without becoming bored with either the food or activities. The place is so large, a complimentary shuttle runs continuously up and down the steep hills transporting guests from one spot to another.

Dining options include four full restaurants and three full-service bars. Papa Don's Restaurant, up the hill next to one of the pools, offers Greek and Italian dishes. The brick-oven pizzas are especially popular, and there's a nightly special. Mango Tree looks like an elegant plantation manor and serves wonderful seafood and steak dinners in a romantic setting overlooking the sea. Josephine's is an open-air restaurant set high above the beach with a gorgeous view of the bay. Créole and island specials dominate the menu, and a lavish brunch buffet is served every Sunday. Jammers Beach Bar separates the beach from the main pool, and offers burgers, sandwiches, salads and snacks all day and evening. At five o'clock each afternoon, a bell rings to announce happy hour. A unique dining option is to dine in your villa. The Villa Dining service is a great way to celebrate a romantic evening on your private patio or entertain friends. A chef helps you plan the menu, then comes to your villa to prepare your private dinner party.

SOLEIL COUCHE

Labrellote Bay, Gros Islet (Box 1504, Castries)

(Adjacent to Windjammer Landing Beach Resort)

One three-bedroom villa

% 800-860-8013 or 320-573-5501

E-mail: obholmen@upstel.net

Internet: www.holmen-carpenter.com/soleil-couche

Expensive

If all the accommodation possibilities at the Windjammer don't meet your needs, consider this privately owned villa located next to the resort. The three-bedroom, three-level villa was built as part of Windjammer village, and is now owned by a Minnesota couple, Lynn and Obie Holmen, who fell in love with Saint Lucia several years ago during a sailing vacation. Guests who rent the villa are allowed full access to all the facilities at Windjammer Landing.

CLUB ST. LUCIA

Anse du Cap (Box 915, Castries)

372 rooms, including 55 suites

All Inclusive

% 450-0551; fax 450-0281

E-mail: clubs@internatdemon.co.uk

Internet: www.world-travel-net.co.uk/clubs-international/

In the US: % 800-777-1250; fax 212-476-9466

Deluxe

Club St. Lucia recently had a $5 million renovation. Far on the northern end of the island, this everything-to-everybody resort situated on 47 garden-like acres is Saint Lucia's largest resort. You can get married in one of the two wedding chapels that overlook the sea, play some tennis on one of the lighted courts, workout in the gym, take a sailboat or kayak out for a spin around the bay, snuggle with someone special on one of the two beaches, drop the wee darlings at the supervised Kid's Club for the day, or get in on the volleyball game in one of the three pools. Or you can sprawl on a hammock stretched between two palm trees, order a fruity rum punch from one of three bars, and ask someone to wake you in time for dinner.

All rooms are in one-level bungalows spread among the hills, and each has a king-size bed with room for an additional single bed. Most rooms are air-conditioned, but some have ceiling fans only. All open onto private patios. Larger suites have separate living areas that are cooled by ceiling fans and can be converted into sleeping space.

All-inclusive rates include meals, snacks, drinks, watersports, playing privileges at the fine on-site Saint Lucia Racquet Club, scheduled recreational activities, live musical entertainment each night and a supervised kid's program.

LESPORT

Cariblue Beach (Box 437, Castries)

100 rooms, 2 suites

All Inclusive

% 450-8551; fax 450-0368

In the US: SunSwept Resorts, % 800-544-2883; fax 305-672-5861

E-mail: tropcihol@aol.com

Internet: www.lesport.com.lc

Deluxe

Not actually a health spa, but more than a resort, LeSport bills its product as a body holiday. This means that for one price, guests at this outstandingly gorgeous 18-acre facility can have an active resort vacation while enjoying the pampering treatments of an upscale spa. You can laze about in your robe, take a yoga class, work up a sweat in the gym, or explore the island by bike. The program is completely up to you.

All rooms are large and handsomely decorated, with cool tile floors, marble baths, four-poster king-size beds and a private terrace with a view of the ocean. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style; dinner is à la carte except on special theme nights. Meals are nutritious and filling, and while you may tire of the repetition, the dishes are tasty and well prepared. Wine and dessert accompany every meal.

Live bands entertain during dinner, and you can stay on for the floor show and dancing afterwards.

LeSport is known for its excellent sports and sports instruction. Scuba lessons are given for beginners, and certified divers can dive to 70 feet right from the shore. Waterskiing and windsurfing equipment and instruction are available, and you can also join an aerobics class in the pool. Bike tours are scheduled daily, and there are several jogging routes in and around the resort. Classes include such things as stretching, yoga, tai chi, aerobics and stress management. You may be interested in a cocktail-mixing class or finally learning to calypso. Beauty and rejuvenation treatments in the tranquil Oasis spa include massage, hair treatments, saunas and facials.









RENDEZVOUS

Malabar Beach (Box 190, Castries)

100 rooms and suites

All Inclusive

% 452-4211; fax 452-7419

In the US: SunSwept Resorts, % 800-544-2883; fax 305-672-5861

E-mail: tropichol@aol.com

Internet: www.rendezvous.com.lc

Deluxe

Rendezvous with your significant other at this couples-only resort tucked away on seven acres of lushly landscaped grounds and two miles of Caribbean beach. You can get married or renew your vows or simply bask in the luxury of being alone together on vacation.

~ WARNING

The resort is across from the end of the George Charles Airport runway, but only small inter-island planes use the airport, and most couples say the distraction is limited.

The agenda at Rendezvous is geared toward pampering twosomes with plenty of individual and group activities in an intimate environment. Catamaran cruises, scuba diving, windsurfing and waterskiing are all complimentary. You can wander hand-in-hand through the garden, loll on the beach, or spend all day in the hammock on your private patio. Guests enjoy two pools, a sauna, hot tub, gym and two lighted tennis courts.

There's live music during dinner and the piano player will entertain as long as someone is listening. Meals are served in the casual open-air Terrace Restaurant or the more formal air-conditioned Trysting Place. A pair of chefs plan and prepare a varied menu, and you're unlikely to tire of either the buffets laid out at the Terrace or the multi-course meals served at Trysting Place.

All rooms are air-conditioned and have ceiling fans and king-size four-poster beds. These rooms are relatively small, but they all have a balcony or patio.

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If you choose a standard room (called superior), ask to be on the top floor so you can see the water.

The upper-category rooms are larger, with good views of the sea. Suites are exquisitely decorated with special amorous touches.

REX PAPILLON

Reduit Beach, Rodney Bay (Box 512, Castries)

140 rooms

All Inclusive

% 452-0984; fax 452-9332.

In the US: Villas St. Lucia, % 800-823-2002; fax 410-692-9579

Deluxe



REX ST. LUCIAN

Reduit Beach, Rodney Bay (Box 512, Castries)

120 rooms

No meals

% 452-8351; fax 452-8331

In the US: Villas St. Lucia, % 800-823-2002; fax 410-692-9579

Expensive

As sister resorts on Saint Lucia's longest beach, these two Rex properties cover a wide range of vacation preferences. Papillon is the newer all-inclusive resort that has soared in popularity due partially to the well-known Rex name. Its lovely rooms have king-size beds or two twins. Deluxe and superior accommodations are air-conditioned, while standard rooms are cooled by ceiling fans. Each is decorated in soft island colors, rattan furniture and cool tile floors. Guests may dine at either of two restaurants, and entertainment is presented nightly in the lounge.

The recently renovated St. Lucian spreads out from a pleasant lobby filled with plants and inviting couches. As you walk out to Reduit Beach, you pass through a tropical garden surrounding the pool area. All rooms are air-conditioned and have been freshly outfitted with two double beds, rattan furniture, colorful prints and TVs. If you want an ocean view, book a deluxe room that includes a mini bar and hair dryer. Since meals aren't included in the room rate, you can try the nearby restaurants on Rodney Bay, or dine at the two open-air restaurants located on the Rex St. Lucian grounds.

The beach has a dive shop and a sports center offering snorkeling, windsurfing, waterskiing and boating. Both Rex resorts have a children's program and babysitting services, and there are on-site tennis courts and shops.

ROYAL ST. LUCIAN

Reduit Beach, Rodney Bay (Box 977, Castries)

84 suites

% 452-8351; fax 452-8331

In the US: MRI, Inc., % 800-255-5859; fax 305-471-9547

E-mail: royalslu@candw.lc

Internet: www.rexcaribbean.com

Deluxe

Even the least expensive Poolside Suites at this exquisite resort have separate air-conditioned bedrooms, sitting rooms with ceiling fans, fabulous bathrooms with two sinks, soft robes, cable TV and a mini bar. When you step up to a Seaview Deluxe Suite, you also get a balcony that overlooks the pool and Caribbean. The Beachfront Deluxe accommodations are larger and have a private terrace directly on the beach, while the largest Grand Deluxe Suites are palatial quarters with enough splendid space for a party.

There are wonderful amenities on the landscaped grounds and sandy beach. A swim-up bar and waterfall in the huge La Mirage pool is the center of activity. When you get hungry, there's a choice of seafood and island-style meals at open-air La Nautique, elegant dining at the resort's award-winning L'Epicure, and exotic specialties at the authentically furnished Oriental Restaurant. You can enjoy a massage or facial in the Royal Spa, and exercise on the Cybex equipment in the gym. Out on the beach, there's a full range of water activities. You can sign up for a tour of the island, or play a game of tennis.

SANDALS HALCYON ST. LUCIA

Choc Bay (Box GM 910, Castries)

170 rooms

All Inclusive

% 453-0222; fax 451-8435

In the US: Unique Vacations, % 800-SANDALS or 305-284-1300; fax 305-667-8996

Internet: www.sandals.com

Deluxe

Halcyon, a couples-only resort, is located north of Castries on a splendid beach with smooth sea for all kinds of land and water activities. This Sandals is a bit more laid-back than its sister resort in La Toc Bay, but it lacks done of the trademark sophistication and romance. Every room is furnished in fine wood, cool tile and bright island prints. A king-size four-poster bed faces the cable TV — perfect for late-night snuggle-viewing.

A shuttle runs between the sister resorts, and guests can use facilities at either resort.

SANDALS ST. LUCIA

La Toc Bay (Box 399, Castries)

213 rooms, 60 suites

All Inclusive

% 452-3081; fax 453-7089

In the US: Unique Vacations, % 800-SANDALS or 305-284-1300; fax 305-667-8996

Internet: www.sandals.com

Deluxe

This resort is located south of Castries on 155 secluded acres fronted by white sand on crescent-shaped La Toc Bay. The energetic staff keeps things moving at a rapid pace, but guests can escape to their room or suite in the soft-colored hillside villas. These are elegantly decorated with mahogany furniture and lovely fabrics. All rooms have king-size beds, cable TV, clock radios, safes, coffee makers and hair dryers. Suites include concierge service, sitting room, larger bathroom, robes and an in-room bar. Some have private plunge pools.

A shuttle runs between the two resorts, and guests have the privilege of using all the facilities of both. Between them there are four super-sized pools (three with swim-up bars), six whirlpools, two well-equipped fitness centers, 10 restaurants and three piano bars. Planned activities and entertainment run all day and most of the night, and guest have complimentary use of the on-site nine-hole golf course, a variety of sports equipment and instruction (both land and sea), and exercise classes.

HYATT REGENCY ST. LUCIA

Pigeon Point Causeway

300 room, including nine suites

In the US: % 800-55-HYATT

Internet: www.hyatt.com

Deluxe

Saint Lucia's newest upscale resort sits on the narrow strip of land that connects the main island with Pigeon Point and Pigeon Island National Park. Water is an important feature here, and every guest room and all public areas have sweeping views of either the beach and Rodney Bay or the Caribbean. The low-rise complex is centered around a fantastic one-acre free-form swimming lagoon trimmed with grottoes, waterfalls and tropical landscaping.

Each spacious air-conditioned room is elegantly decorated and includes every convenience. You'll be reminded of gracious plantation living by the antique reproduction furniture, bright island colors and native art. If you book a room on the private Regency Club floor, you'll have access to a club and lounge, where free breakfast and cocktails are served.

Out on the beach, a watersports center provides kayaks, snorkel equipment and windsurfing boards. You can arrange scuba trips and boat cruises that leave ri ght from the fishing pier. A 2,000-square-foot spa offers health and beauty treatments along with a modern, well-equipped gym. Other facilities include two restaurants, two bars, two tennis courts and privileges at the island's only 18-hole golf course.

THE ISLANDER HOTEL

Rodney Bay (Box 907, Castries)

60 rooms and studio apartments

% 452-8757; fax 452-0958

In the US: International Travel and Resorts, % 800-223-9815; fax 212-251-1800

Inexpensive

If you're looking for an inexpensive way to enjoy Saint Lucia, consider this basic but pleasant hotel near all the conveniences of Rodney Bay and Castries. The nearest beach is a short walk away, and there's a complimentary shuttle to the waterside Islander Bar and Grill, which offers meals and lounge chairs.

Owner Greg Glace is a friendly, world-traveling Saint Lucian who aspires to put his island's assets within reach of visitors on a restricted budget. Rooms at his hotel are air-conditioned and have a small refrigerator, cable TV, patio and contemporary furniture. Studios have cooking facilities on the patio. There's a swimming pool and home-style restaurant that features twice-a-week buffets and live music at the Friday-night barbecues.

GREEN PARROT INN

Morne Fortuné (Box 648, Castries)

55 rooms

% 452-3399 or 452-3167; fax 453-2272

Inexpensive

The motel-style rooms are nothing special, but the views from this hillside inn above the capital's harbor are terrific. If you aren't drawn by the setting and room rates, try the food. You'll be hooked for sure. Chef-owner-manager Harry Edward Joseph is a worldly epicurean who enjoys showing off his culinary talents. His weekday business lunch is the most popular meal on the island.

n TIP

Be sure to ask for a room with a view. There's no difference in price.

All rooms are air-conditioned and have cable TV. Furnishings and decor are merely comfortable and basic. Guests have a panoramic view from the swimming pool, bar and restaurant, and some are happy to hang out at the inn all day. Others take the free shuttle to Castries or the beach, which leaves each morning and returns each afternoon.

WYNDHAM MORGAN BAY RESORT

Choc Bay, Gros Islet (Box 2167, Castries)

238 rooms

All Inclusive

% 450-2511; fax 450-1050

In the US: % 800-WYNDHAM or Villas St. Lucia, % 800-823-2002

E-mail: slurep@candw.lc

Expensive

If you get up with the spectacular Caribbean sun, you can join the aerobics class. Then it's on to tennis or perhaps a couple of hours of beach sports. Mid-afternoon refreshments are served in the Tea Tent. Right after dinner at the Tradewind Restaurant, entertainment starts at the poolside Sundowner. If you manage to stay awake until midnight, there's a moonlight pizza party down at the beachside Palm Grill. With enough activities to keep guests on the go all day and night, this modern mega-resort is the destination of choice for many energetic vacationers. When all the fun gets tiring, comfortable rooms provide a welcome retreat. Each is air-conditioned and has a king-size bed, cable TV, clock radio, coffee maker, hair dryer and private balcony.

TUXEDO VILLAS

Rodney Bay (Box 419, Castries)

10 apartments

% 452-8553; fax 452-8577

In the US: Villas St. Lucia, % 800-823-2002

Inexpensive

These new apartments across the street from fabulous Reduit Beach provide one- or two-bedroom units. Housed in a two-story building with a central pool and courtyard, each air-conditioned apartment has a living room, dining area and fully-equipped kitchen and either one or two bathrooms.

Tuxedo has its own restaurant, bar, mini-market and coin-operated laundromat. There's no need for a car, since all the facilities of Rodney Bay and Reduit Beach are within walking distance.

Southern Saint Lucia

JALOUSIE HILTON RESORT AND SPA

Anse des Pitons (Box 251, Soufrière)

114 rooms and villas

All Inclusive

% 459-7666; fax 459-7667

In the US: % 800-HILTONS (800-445-8667)

Internet: www.hilton.com

Deluxe

This massive resort is almost hidden in the dense foliage that grows around it on the mountainside between the twin Pitons. The site has won environmental awards and is designated a Rain Forest Nature Sanctuary and National Marine Reserve. Dozens of cottages are scattered among the trees on 325 acres only two miles south of Soufrière. A shuttle bus takes guests from their villas down the steep hill to the beach, restaurants and reception/lobby.

Sugar Mill rooms are located near the remains of an 18th-century sugar mill on the secluded white-sand beach. They are spacious, with king or twin beds, a large bathroom with a dressing area, and a private terrace. Hillside villas have king-size beds, private plunge pools and panoramic views of the mountains and bay. Larger villa suites have an additional separate living room. Every room and villa is air-conditioned and has a ceiling fan, mini bar, coffee maker, satellite TV and VCR. All accommodations come with bathrobes, bidets, hair dryers and make-up mirrors.

Guests have a choice of four dining areas that are spread throughout the resort and include poolside and beachside service. In addition, a world-class spa offers health and beauty treatments (including one designed specifically for men) in a stunning outdoor area. There's a well-equipped fitness center, four tennis courts, a large swimming pool and lounging deck. Equipment for snorkeling, waterskiing and windsurfing is available on the beach, along with Hobie Cat rentals. Diving lessons and excursions are offered at the PADI dive center.

OASIS MARIGOT

Marigot Bay (Box 101, Castries)

21 rooms, apartments and villas

% 451-4185; fax 451-4608

In the US: % 800-263-4202; fax 819-326-8038

E-mail: info@oasismarigot.com

Internet: www.oasismarigot.com

Moderate/Deluxe

Four types of accommodations are available at the Oasis on Marigot Bay. The Inn is a colonial-style two-story building with a wraparound balcony overlooking the courtyard pool and bay. Each of the four large double rooms opens onto the terrace and has a private bath and sitting area.

The Ocean Cottage has four self-contained apartments. Each features a luxuriously furnished living area, bedroom with a king or queen bed, tiled bathroom with shower, full kitchen and a private terrace shaded by tropical plants. Guests have a choice of walking to the nearby beach and restaurants, or staying home to enjoy the pool and sauna, and barbecue on the open fire pit.

The Vacation Club is a cluster of 12 private sea houses that overlooks a shady beach accessible only by water. Each modern two-story house is individually decorated and features a master bedroom, living room with a sofa bed and fully-equipped kitchen. Both the upstairs living area and downstairs bedroom have double French doors that open onto verandahs with views of the bay.

The Great House is pure self-indulgence, offering breathtaking views of the bay, mountains and sea. It accommodates up to six people in three private bedrooms (two with private baths; a third bath is off the common area). Built in the tradition of the original Great Houses that once overlooked thriving Caribbean plantations, it has a grassy lawn edged with tropical plants and royal palms, a huge cliff-side verandah and freshwater swimming pool. Classic-style columns form a grand entryway into the vast living area with 20-foot vaulted ceiling and superb entertainment system. A formal dining room sits adjacent to the kitchen that offers every modern convenience.

ANSE CHASTANET RESORT

Anse Chastanet (Box 7000, Soufrière)

48 rooms

% 459-7000; fax 459-7700

In the US: % 800-223-1108

E-mail: ansechastanet@candw.lc

Internet: www.ansechastanet.com

Deluxe

If you like posh, skip this fabulous resort that caters to divers, nature lovers and reckless romantics. Your first clue to the drama of Anse Chastanet is the brain-bouncing, rut-ravaged dirt road that leads to Saint Lucia's magnificent Marine National Park off the beach at Anse Chastanet. If you survive the ride, you're rewarded with paradise.

The resort climbs the hill that rises steeply from the black-and-white sand beach. Rooms are large and rustically elegant, with louvered doors that open onto balconies surrounded by trees and high ceilings. You'll have the pleasant sensation of being outdoors while enjoying the comfort of inside conveniences. All the furniture is handcrafted from local wood that blends perfectly with the island art, fresh flowers, tree-house views and nature sounds that pour in from every direction.

Ask for one of the premium or deluxe rooms located at the top of the hill. You'll be rewarded for the precipitous climb with breathtaking vistas of the Pitons and sea. Standard rooms are similar, but with less dramatic views and a bit less space. Each opens onto a balcony and has a ceiling fan, small refrigerator, hair dryer and coffee maker. The tropical decor features madras fabrics and terra-cotta tile or wood-plank floors.

The Piton Restaurant and Bar, located midway up the hill, has grand views. Beachside Trou-au-Diable Restaurant is handy for lunch or snacks. Each week the resort throws a party and cookout on the beach featuring a steel band.

Scuba St. Lucia, a five-star PADI dive center, offers underwater excursions for certified divers and training courses on all levels. Guests at the resort have complimentary use of snorkel equipment, windsurf boards and other sports equipment. Anse Chastanet has great beach access to the marine reserve. When you need a break from the water, you can play a game of tennis, workout in the gym or sign up for one of the islandwide sightseeing trips.

HUMMINGBIRD BEACH RESORT

Soufrière (Box 280, Soufrière)

Nine cabins and rooms

% 459-7232; fax 459-7033

In the US: % 800-223-9815

E-mail: hbr@candw.lc

Inexpensive/Moderate

Located at the beginning of the road that leads to Anse Chastanet beach on the northern edge of Soufrière, the Hummingbird is the ideal low-cost retreat. Its enchanting cabins overlook the Pitons and Caribbean, and you can walk into town or to the main beach at Anse Chastanet in about five minutes. Most rooms have a private bath, but one suite and two standard rooms share a bath. One of the nine cabins has two bedrooms, a sitting area and kitchen.

The resort is rustic and cooled by ceiling fans, but there are occasional elegant touches, such as stone walls, cathedral ceilings and mahogany four-poster beds in three of the deluxe rooms.

There's an attractive freshwater pool, and the beachside bar offers great sunset views. The Lifeline Restaurant serves some of the best food on the island, and it's a popular hangout for locals and visitors arriving by private yacht.

Owner Joan Alexander is a native Saint Lucian and gifted artist. When she's not busy overseeing the resort, she operates an on-site studio and gift shop that features her colorful batiks.

STILL PLANTATION AND BEACH RESORT

Soufrière (Box 246, Soufrière)

14 apartments, six studios

% 459-5179; fax 459-7301

In the US: % 800-223-9815

Inexpensive

With two properties and one name, this resort/plantation offers guests several options. The Plantation has 14 apartments with either one or two bedrooms set on a 400-acre working estate a short distance inland from the coast. All the modern units have a sitting area and all, except the smaller studios, have a kitchen. The Beach Resort is on the north end of Soufrière Bay. Two studio and three one-bedroom apartments sit right on the black-sand beach and have wonderful views of the Pitons. The two properties are within walking distance of each other and guests have privileges at both. Together, they offer two restaurants, two bars and a pool. The Plantation apartments are a bit more expensive, but still a bargain. Discuss your choices when you call for a reservation, since you can decide to stay on the beach without a pool or in the garden apartments without a beach.

LADERA RESORT

Soufrière (Box 246, Soufrière)

15 suites, six villas

Continental breakfast

% 459-7323; fax 459-5156

In the US: Villas St. Lucia, % 800-823-2002; fax 692-9579

Deluxe

Ladera rivals Anse Chastanet for the title of most unusual resort on the island. Each room is different, but each allows guests unrestricted views of nature and the setting sun. Positioned 1,000 feet above the Caribbean on a hillside between the Piton peaks, the resort is designed so that all rooms, though open on one side, are completely screened from anyone passing by. Trade winds take care of bugs and the lofty location guarantees cool temperatures for sleeping.

Some accommodations feature private waterfall pools and kitchens, while others have small plunge pools. All are exquisitely furnished with four-poster beds, antiques and local art. One of the villas that accommodates up to six guests has a heated indoor plunge pool, an open-air master bedroom and bath, a separate second bedroom and bath, and a third sleeping area. Another villa that also sleeps six has a private garden swimming pool and a dining area. These are just a few of the examples of the variety of accommodations on offer.

The grounds are lavishly landscaped and include a recently improved community swimming pool. The Dasheene Restaurant is known for excellent cuisine.

A shuttle bus takes guests into Soufrière twice a day, and those who wish to go to the beach can continue on by boat. While most guests come to Ladera for seclusion and relaxation, the resort will arrange sightseeing or sports excursions.

Camping

Anse La Liberté recently opened as the island's first and only campsite. The 138-acre property, south of Castries on the west coast, features six miles of hiking trails, a beach, running water and toilets, and a communal kitchen. Contact the National Trust office for information % 452-5005 or 459-4157.

Best Places to Eat

Surprisingly, Saint Lucia has an abundance of places to eat. Locals and visitors enjoy numerous choices, from sophisticated to casual. Most serve customers outdoors on scenic patios, where meals are accompanied by soft breezes and scents from the sea and mountains.

Saint Lucia is more international in its choice of cuisine than the French islands or Dominica. You'll find all types of local specialties, such as spicy chicken and grilled fresh fish, but many chefs have been trained in Europe or the US, and their menus reflect this diversity. Prices are sometimes high because many items must be imported. Dishes made from local ingredients are usually a bargain.

Several exceptional restaurants are in resorts that also have informal cafés and snack bars. Even if you're staying at a meals-included hotel, make a point of trying some of the local restaurants, where the food tends to be uniquely West Indian or Créole. You'll find particularly good and original dishes at the little beachside cafés.

Pricing

Use the chart below as a guide of what you can expect to pay for a complete dinner for one person, excluding drinks, taxes and tips. Lunch prices will be lower.

ALIVE! PRICE SCALE

All prices are given in US dollars.

Very Expensive More than $50

Expensive $40-$50

Moderate $30-$40

Inexpensive $20-$30

Bargain Less than $20

Castries

A lane of food stalls with outdoor tables is located at the south end of the local market. You can get inexpensive local treats here, such as curried meats, coal pot stews and fresh coconut drinks. The stalls are open Monday-Saturday, 11am-2:30pm.

Other quick-bite in-town eateries include The Pink Elephant, % 453-2847, in the Cox Building on William Peter Boulevard. Expect a crowd at lunchtime. They serve bargain-priced daily specials and sandwiches from noon-2pm, Monday-Friday. On Brazil Street overlooking Derek Walcott Square, you'll find Chez Paul (formerly Rain), % 452-1515. Meals are served on the balcony, and the menu features bargain-priced sandwiches and fish meals. It's open 8:30am-10pm, Monday-Saturday. Kimlans, % 452-1136, upstairs on Micoud Street on the north side of the square, serves local dishes from 7am to 11pm, Monday-Saturday. Vegetarians will want to try The Natural Café, % 452-6421, on Chauseé Road. It's a health food store and restaurant open 8:30am-6pm weekdays and 9am-2pm on Saturday.

For home-style cooking, try tiny moderately expensive Bon Appetit, located on Morne Fortuné with outstanding views. You'll need a reservation during tourist season. % 452-2757.

Two very expensive famous restaurants also sit above the capital on Morne Fortuné. Put one or both on your must-do list.

GREEN PARROT RESTAURANT

Inside the Green Parrot Hotel, Morne Fortuné

(Box 648, Castries)

% 452-3399

French/International

Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Reservations required

Very Expensive

Weekdays, this exquisite hotel restaurant serves an inexpensive business lunch from noon-3pm. In the evening, a more elaborate four-course dinner is laid out on crisp table linens.

London-trained chef Harry Joseph Edwards specializes in French-inspired cuisine using local ingredients, but the menu includes such things as taco shell appetizers, Indian curries and Créole fish. You can also order shrimp, lobster or steak.

On Wednesday and Saturday, Chef Harry comes out of the kitchen to get everyone involved in dancing to the live band. On Monday nights, all women who wear a flower in their hair and are accompanied by a well-dressed man receive a free dinner. Be sure to make reservations well in advance for any of these special evenings.

SAN ANTOINE

Old Morne Road, Morne Fortuné (Box 1192, Castries)

% 452-4660

Continental

6:30am-midnight, Monday-Saturday

Reservations suggested

Very Expensive

This luxurious restaurant was originally the site of a grand home built in the 1880s. Later it became the San Antoine Hotel, which burned down in 1970. Only the thick stone walls survived, and the present restaurant was built around them. The result is truly elegant. The cuisine matches the surroundings, and there is a fine wine list to complete the package. Fresh vegetables are served with all meals. Dishes include lobster thermidor, crab-stuffed pastry-wrapped chicken breast, and bearnaise-sauced steak stuffed with chopped shrimp. Finally, choose a dessert from the trolley that displays an assortment of marvelous indulgences.





JIMMIE'S

Vigie Cove Marina

% 452-5142

Seafood

11am-11pm daily

Moderate

The verandah overlooking the marina is a relaxing boat-lovers' place, perfect for a soup-and-salad lunch or an appetizer and drink at sunset. After dark, when the lights come on in the harbor, the open-air ambiance turns casually romantic. Service is friendly and laid-back, and all the food has a fresh, home-cooked flavor. If you're really hungry, try the Harbor Catch, a seafood platter that comes with a bit of everything from the sea plus local vegetables. The menu also includes crab, fish cooked in various ways, and a delicious seafood crêpe. Order warm banana fritters with ice cream for dessert.

COAL POT

Vigie Cove Marina

% 452-5566 or 452-6811

Nouvelle Caribbean

Noon-3pm and 7-10pm

Closed Sunday

Reservations suggested

Moderate

This popular spot with only 10 tables gets crowded quickly, so arrive early for lunch and make reservations for dinner. Artist Michelle Elliot and her French-chef husband, Xavier, have a long-running reputation for friendly service and excellent cuisine distinguished by the mingling of island products and classic preparation. Lunch specials feature fresh fish and seafood salads, while dinner highlights include smoked salmon, coquilles Saint-Jacques, lobster and curried meats. You have a large choice of wines, including some fine vintages from France and Chili. The open-air restaurant is decorated with Michelle's colorful paintings, which give the wood-and-stone structure a unique spirit.

North of Castries

Rodney Bay is a lively area with several good restaurants. You can't go wrong at any of them, but put Key Largo, The Lime and La Créole at the top of your list.

KEY LARGO

Marina, Rodney Bay

% 452-0282

Italian

Daily 7:30am-midnight

Inexpensive

Owners Marie, Carlo and Val have recently moved and enlarged this landmark pizzeria and added pasta to the menu. You can't miss the large white Spanish-design building encircled by a red brick wall. The three owners make sure their friendly staff keeps up with the constant demand for the island's best wood-fire pizza at this spacious joint. Longtime customers have begun to appreciate the new menu, which features lasagna, cannelloni and spaghetti pomodoro e basilico. Top off your meal with a cup of freshly ground espresso or cappuccino.

THE LIME

Marina, Rodney Bay (Box 2083, Castries)

% 452-0761

Caribbean

Noon-11pm

Closed Tuesday

Reservations suggested

Moderate

This multi-faceted spot is a restaurant, bar, nightclub and snack bar — all in one lovely white building on the bay. The owner goes by the name of "T," and she has a reputation for pleasing everyone, whether they've come for a quick snack outdoors or a complete dinner inside. The food is delicious and many dishes are accented with traditional island sauces. Try rotis or crêpes for a snack or light lunch, and seafood or lamb at dinner. Prices are reasonable, which is probably why you need a reservation on most evenings.

LA CREOLE

Marina, Rodney Bay (Box 779 GM, Castries)

% 450-0022; fax 450-0378

French Créole

Daily lunch and dinner

Reservations suggested

Moderate

Martinique comes to Saint Lucia at this popular restaurant owned by Lise Herman, who was born on the French island and trained in Paris. Specialties are outstanding and include red snapper stuffed with sweet potatoes in a passion fruit and orange sauce, and mixed seafood in coconut and curry sauce stuffed in a christophene shell. For dessert, you can choose from a large list that includes chocolate-covered profiteroles, banana flambeé and fruit-filled crêpe. Enjoy dancing to jazz played by Third Eye Bandon Saturday nights, and dine to the soft island songs of Francis François on Friday nights.

) NOTE

Other recommended restaurants on Rodney Bay include Razmataz for Indian food, The Bistro for French, Miss Saigon for oriental, The Charthouse for steaks, and Capone's for Italian.

SPINNAKERS

Reduit Beach, on the waterfront

% 542-8491

Mixed menu

Monday-Saturday, 6:30am-midnight

Reservations accepted

Moderate

Spinnakers sits on one of the island's best and most popular beaches. They serve a full English breakfast, inexpensive lunches and casual dinners, but the most outstanding feature is the buffet filled with choice meats, vegetables and salads. Other menu items include grilled chicken breast stuffed with brie and spinach, and three kinds of lasagna. Many people like to watch the sun set from the verandah while enjoying one of the signature drinks, such as Kiss of Rose or Bloody Caesar. The two-for-one happy hour starts just in time for the daily sunset performance.

SNOOTY AGOUTI

Marina, Rodney Bay

% 452-0321; fax 452-9806

E-mail: snooty@candw.lc; Internet: www.snooty.com

Eclectic

Daily 9am-midnight

Bargain

Clever name, clever concept. Not only an all-day restaurant, the Agouti is also an art gallery, book-swap shop, gift store, bar and Internet-connection source. The menu features homemade soup, vegetarian lasagna, moussaka and several kinds of sandwiches, but many customers come in just for one of the "Gooey Desserts," which change daily. You can also grab a cup of gourmet coffee — there are 30 blends and flavors — and go on-line for a cyberchat or to check your e-mail.



THE GREAT HOUSE

Cap Estate (Box 389, Castries)

% 450-0450 or 450-0211

French/International

Dinner, 7-10pm; tea, 4:30-5:30pm;

happy hour, 5:30-6:30pm.

Closed Monday

Reservations required

Expensive

This grand plantation manor brings back memories of a festive, elegant time in Saint Lucia's history. It's built on the original foundations of the de Longueville Estate, which was constructed during the 1700s. You enter the colonial-style mansion by a grand staircase, and dine by candlelight with polished service, excellent cuisine and fine wines. The EC$100 prix fixe meal features a choice of fish, steak or chicken accompanied by an appetizer, soup and dessert. Other menu items include lobster risotto, roast duck, lamb and several types of seafood. Try the chocolate profiteroles for dessert. Elegant dress requested.

Marigot Bay

This area has developed rapidly over the past few years, and you will find a half-dozen places that serve high-quality meals. The following are current hot-spots.

DOOLITTLES RESTAURANT

North shore at Marigot Bay

% 451-4974; fax 451-4973

Eclectic

Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; happy hour 5-7pm

Bargain/Inexpensive

Actually, the entire north side of Marigot Bay is called Doolittles because of the movie that was filmed here, but the name is claimed specifically by this waterside restaurant known for its fixed-price barbeque. For EC$45, you get soup or salad, barbequed steak, chicken, ribs or fish, a selection of vegetables and a fruit plate. In the morning, breakfast is standard waffles or eggs with bacon or sausage, and the dinner menu includes fish or meat with a choice of interesting sauces. You can get here only by boat, so if you come by land instead of by sea, take the ferry across the bay to the restaurant's dock.

Doolittles hosts Red Hot Jazz Night every Friday, Caribbean Night on Tuesdays (featuring fire-eating and limbo), and Half Price Night every Wednesday (discount drinks 5-7pm and discount food from 7-9pm).

61E IN THE SHADE

Seahorse Inn, Marigot Bay Road (Box 101, Castries)

% 451-4436; fax 451-4872

Nouvelle Caribbean/International

Dinner nightly; Sunday brunch

Reservations suggested

Moderate

The up-and-coming young chef at this small restaurant draws a word-of-mouth crowd each evening beginning at happy hour. Chef Lucia was born and trained in England, and she's won awards for both cuisine and cocktails since her arrival on the island a few years ago. She faces stiff competition for loyalty from yacht owners who pull into Marigot Bay demanding good food and better drinks, and she's making steady progress at winning devotees. Dinner selections change frequently, but you can expect a choice of fresh seafood and meat dishes.

JJ's

Marigot Bay Road, Marigot Bay

% 451-4076

Seafood

10am-late

Inexpensive/Moderate

Mr. JJ's place is up the hill, a couple of miles outside the bay, on the road from Castries. He runs a friendly restaurant known for its excellent fresh fish. And, since he's not on the bay, his prices are low. Arrive early to beat the lunch crowds that come for rotis and chicken. Other busy times are Wednesday (Seafood Night), and both Friday and Saturday nights, when there's live music. Check out the mixed seafood platter — a more-than-most-can-eat Caribbean-style meal. Other menu choices include curried chicken, grilled fish and conch.

JJ is the good-natured, fun-loving organizer of the Friday Night Jam alternative to Gros Islet's famous street parties. You'll no doubt hear the booming music well before you smell the aroma of fish, chicken and ribs sizzling on the outdoor grills.

CAFE PARADIS

Marigot Bay Road

% 451-4974; fax 451-4973

Caribbean

Breakfast, lunch & dinner, 8am-late; happy hour, 5-7pm

Reservations accepted

Expensive (dinner)

Set on the waterfront, this attractive open-air restaurant serves gourmet meals created by chef Pierre. Breakfast and lunch are inexpensive local dishes, but dinner is a more romantic affair, with the lights of the harbor as a backdrop. Arrive in time for happy hour at sunset, then move to a harborside table for a relaxing meal featuring escargots, fish or lamb served with a flavorful French-inspired sauce. Finish it off with tropical fruit or a homemade dessert.

Soufrière

ANSE CHASTANET RESORT RESTAURANTS

Anse Chastanet, north of Soufrière

% 459-7000; fax 459-7700

Local

Breakfast, lunch dinner daily

Reservations recommended at dinner

Expensive

Between the two restaurants at this resort, you can find a wide variety of dishes. The open-air waterfront restaurant and bar is casual and serves light meals of grilled fish and fresh salads, along with a lunchtime buffet, burgers, sandwiches and snacks. The double-level hillside restaurant offers more elaborate fare featuring seafood with tasty sauces, pastry-wrapped conch and a selection of meat dishes. You can splurge on dessert after you walk up the steep stairs from the beach.

LA HAUT PLANTATION

RESTAURANT & SPORTS BAR

West Coast Road, north of Soufrière

% 459-7008; fax 454-9463

Créole/International

10am-9pm daily

Moderate/Expensive

You'll have great views from this pleasant restaurant about two miles north of town. The lunch offerings feature a special clam chowder, crêpes, pasta, sandwiches and jerk pork. At dinner, the highlights are jumbo shrimp in garlic butter, lambi (conch) in Créole sauce, and lobster in a white wine sauce. Service is friendly and relaxed. An adjacent boutique sales island crafts and gift items. Sports buffs will enjoy watching live-via-satellite events shown on a 60-inch television. Cold beer and snacks are available during games. Call ahead to request the broadcast of a particular event.

HUMMINGBIRD RESORT

RESTAURANT & BAR

On the water, north of Soufrière

% 459-7232; fax 459-7033

French Créole

Breakfast, 7-10am; lunch, noon-2:30pm; dinner 7-10pm

Expensive

Set in a garden at the northern entrance to town, this charming restaurant features excellent gourmet meals, friendly service and outstanding views of the Pitons across Soufrière Bay. Award-winning chef Cajou creates tempting dishes using fish fresh straight from the sea and local vegetables laced with island spices. The wine list is first-class. At lunch, you can order lighter meals, such as salads and sandwiches. The Bamboo Beach Bar is an excellent place to enjoy a drink while you watch the sun set into the sea.

Don't leave here without checking out the batik art designed by Joyce Alexander, the talented and gregarious owner.

THE STILL BEACH RESTAURANT

On the water, Soufrière Bay (Box 246, Soufrière)

% 459-7224

Local cuisine

8am-10pm

Inexpensive

All the produce served at The Still is grown on the working estate using organic methods. The resulting meals are fresh and delicious. This is a good place to stop for lunch if you're on a coastal tour or heading into the nearby rain forest. Unfortunately, tour organizers know this, and you may have trouble getting good service if a large group arrives during your meal. At other times, service is friendly and efficient. The menu features seafood, but you can also order beef or pork. Everything is served with local vegetables, such as yams and christophenes. Dine indoors or on the large patio, which offers scenic views, but sometimes gets too hot during the middle of the day.

CAMILLA'S

Bridge Street, Soufrière

% 459-5379

Vegetarian/Créole

Lunch and dinner daily

Inexpensive

Set right in the middle of town, this tiny second-floor café with a little balcony is a casual spot serving generous portions of well-prepared food. The staff is friendly and efficient. For dinner, you can order grilled fish, barbequed chicken and vegetarian dishes. At lunch, there's a choice of sandwiches, burgers and salads.

BANG

Anse des Pitons, Jolousie Cove, two miles south of Soufrière

% 459-7864

Barbeque

Lunch and dinner daily

Inexpensive

You just have to visit this kooky place to understand what it's all about. It's located in a gorgeous spot between the Pitons in Jalousie Cove, near the Hilton Resort, and is owned by Englishman Colin Tenant, better known as Lord Glenconner, the aristocratic developer of Mustique Island and eccentric past owner of a pet elephant. He ran into some ecological hurdles when he came to Saint Lucia to build a fantasy resort, so instead opened Bang, a restaurant, bar, rum shop and boutique. Locals and tourists come for the inexpensive meals and relaxing atmosphere. Menu standouts include the fish cake appetizers and meat barbequed in jerk sauce. Enjoy a drink under the shady open shelters before or after your meal.

DASHEENE RESTAURANT

Between Soufrière and Vieux Fort

% 459-7850 or 459-7323; fax 459-5156

Nouvelle Caribbean

Lunch and dinner daily

Reservations recommended

Expensive/Very Expensive

The view from this restaurant a thousand feet above the coast at Ladera Resort is dramatic and magnificent. You look between the Pitons to the sea, so plan to come for lunch, or arrive before sunset in the evening, so you don't miss this breathtaking sight.

The menu changes, but expect to find choices such as zippy gazpacho soup, smoked fish and chicken or beef served with innovative sauces. Desserts are equally imaginative, many served flambée-style at your table.

Saint Lucia A-Z

ATMs

Cirrus and Plus bank cards may be used at 24-hour machines located at the Royal Bank of Canada in Castries and Rodney Bay. Cash advances are possible with a Visa or MasterCard.

Banking

Banks are open Monday-Thursday, 8am-3pm, and Friday, 8am-5pm. Barclays and Royal Bank of Canada at Rodney Bay, and National Commercial Bank in Castries are open Saturday, 8am-noon.

Barclays Banks, located in Castries, Soufrière, Vieux Fort and the Rodney Bay Marina, will cash traveler's checks free of charge for denominations of more than EC$500.

You will find Bank of Nova Scotia, Royal Bank of Canada and Canadian Imperial Bank on William Peter Boulevard in Castries. Other banks are on Bridge Street and Waterfront Street. Branches are located in Vieux Fort, Soufrière and at Rodney Bay Marina.

Climate

Average temperatures range from a high of 81°F to a low of 68°F during the winter months and a high of 85°F to a low of 72°F in summer. It is cooler and wetter in the mountains. The driest months are January through March, and the rainiest months are June to December. The coast gets an average of 59 inches of rain per year, while the mountainous rain forest gets about 136 inches.

Credit Cards

Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted. However, most gas stations and many small restaurants and shops do not accept credit cards.

Currency

The official currency on Saint Lucia is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, EC$. One US dollar exchanges for EC$2.70. Many businesses accept US dollars, but you should carry enough EC dollars to cover one day's expenses, especially if you will be traveling outside the main tourist areas.

Dress

Attire on St. Lucia is resort casual. Swimsuits aren't appropriate anywhere off the beach. In the evenings, men and women usually dress up for dinner or nightclubs, but men are rarely required to wear a tie or jacket. Slacks and sports shirts are typical attire for men. Sundresses or slacks are fine for women.

Drinking Water

Tap water is safe, and bottled water is readily available. It is not advisable to drink from streams and rivers, no matter how sparkling clean they appear.

Drugs

There are stiff penalties for use, possession, or selling of narcotic drugs.

Electricity

Saint Lucia's electricity is 220 volts AC, 50 cycles, with a square, three-prong outlet, so you must use a converter and plug adapter for most US appliances.

Emergencies

Fire, police and ambulance % 999

Hospitals

Victoria Hospital, Castries % 452-2421

(24-hour emergency room)

St. Jude's, Vieux Fort % 454-7671

(24-hour emergency room)

Soufrière Hospital, Soufrière % 459-7258

Dennery Hospital, Dennery % 453-3310

Language

The official language is English, but residents speak a Créole patois among themselves.

Maps

Tourist offices, hotels and car rental agencies supply complimentary maps, and you may purchase the Ordnance Survey map at bookstores and gift shops for EC$30.

Marriage Requirements

Couples should submit an application to the Saint Lucia attorney general through a local lawyer or other representative at least four days prior to the wedding. Both bride and groom must arrive on the island with proper identification no less than two days before the ceremony.



Political Status

Saint Lucia is an independent state within the British Commonwealth. The monarchy is represented by an appointed Governor-General, and a prime minister is the effective head of state.

Telephone

The area code for Saint Lucia is 758. For local calls, dial the seven-digit number. When calling the island from the US dial 1 + 758 + seven-digit local number. To call the US from Saint Lucia, dial 1 + area code + local number.

Phone cards are sold at tourist offices, Cable & Wireless offices, and at the Rodney Bay Marina. Both card and coin phones are located in public areas around the island.

Time

The island is on Atlantic Standard Time, which is one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time. When it is noon in New York, it is 1pm on Saint Lucia.

Tourist Information

Tourist Board offices are located at both airports and near the police station across from the waterfront in Soufrière. Another office is on Jeremie Street in Castries. The main office is open at the cruise ship dock at Point Seraphine Monday-Friday, 8am-4:30pm. % 452-4094; fax 453-1121.



Request information in the US from:

The St. Lucia Tourist Board

800 Second Avenue, Fourth Floor

New York, NY 10017

% 800-456-3984; fax 212-867-2795

E-mail: slutour@candw.lc or info@st-lucia.com



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