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St. Lucia

Overview

St Lucia is 238 sq. miles (616 sq. km), 27 miles long, 14 miles wide with a combination of high mountains, forests, low lying lands and beaches. St. Lucia is an island with a dual personality, both Creole French and English. It is home to approximately 160,000 people.

St Lucia is well known for it’s natural beauty and eco-tourism. The island has two volcanic cones on the southwest coast, Gros Piton (797m) and Petit Piton (750m), which are one of the Caribbean’s most famous landmarks. The former volcanoes have left visitors with the opportunity to visit a “drive-in volcano” and take a dip in the Sulphur springs.

The northern area is more developed for tourism, with large and small resorts, villas and other accommodations. The southern area is also attractive for visitors, offering eco tourism and an increasing number of resorts

There are 158 km of coastline with some excellent sandy beaches. Many have dark sand due to the island being volcanic. Here are some of the best:

Jalousie Beach is between the majestic twin pitons on the southeastern shore of the island. This is a fine area for snorkeling and diving.

Reduit Beach in Rodney Bay has 5 miles of white sand. This popular beach has several hotels and restaurants. Beach chairs and water sports equipment are available for rent.

Anse Chastanet is north of Soufriere. It is excellent for snorkeling and diving close to shore. This beach has a mixture of white and dark volcanic sand.

Pigeon Island, a national park at the northern end of St. Lucia, has an uncrowded beach. The island is accessible by car. There are a couple dining spots, a mini museum and the ruins of Fort Rodney to explore.

Grand Anse is a one-mile beach north of Dennery on the eastern side of the island. This area was once a plantation; it has a dramatic background of cliffs and is a nesting area for sea turtles.

History

Before the European settlements, the island was inhabited by Arawaks Indians who were replaced by Caribs. The Indian name for this island is Hiwanarau, and later Hewanorra. The major airport is Hewanorra International.
St. Lucia changed hands 14 times during the colonial era. It was often a bargaining chip in negotiations between countries. The first European settlement was in the 1550’s. In 1605, the Dutch built a settlement. The French officially claimed the island in 1635. The English founded the next European settlement which was destroyed by the Caribs. In 1651, the French arrived form Martinique and held the island for 3 years. The English claimed it in 1664 but failed to establish a strong presence.
In the 1700’s, most colonists were indentured white servants serving a small percentage of wealthy merchants or nobles. Sugar became a major crop; slaves from Africa provided most of the labor. The Caribs and settlers had conficts since more of their land was taken.
There were many battles and skirmishes among the English, French, slaves and Caribs. The most notable Anglo-French conflict was in 1780. The English Navy under Admiral George Rodney attacked and decimated the French fleet under Admiral Comte DeGrasse. Ironically, this French Admiral is a hero of the American Revolution. He brought 3000 troops to Virginia, enabling Washington to defeat the British at Yorktown. The French fleet contributed by cutting off their escape route.
Following the French revolution, Captain La Crosse set up a guillotine to execute Royalists in St. Lucia. The French governor of the island declared the slaves were free. The British invaded again in response to the concerns of the plantation owners, most of whom were French. They restored slavery after years of fighting between the British and the slaves and their French Republicans allies.
The French officially ceded St. Lucia to the British in 1815; slavery was abolished in 1838. The British governed St. Lucia from thier headquarter in Barbados and later, Grenada. In 1924, the island had its first representative government under a constitution. Universal suffrage came in 1951. St. Lucia and 6 other Windward islands developed a novel form of cooperation called associated statehood with the UK. Limited self-government came to the island after an attempt at regional Federation failed in the 1960s, and full independence followed soon thereafter in February 1979.

Language

English is the official language although many St. Lucians also speak French and Spanish. Kwéyòl, St Lucia's second language is widely spoken by the St. Lucian people including all walks of life. Kwéyòl is not more than a French Creole Patois. It is a language in its own right, with its own rules of grammar and syntax.

Entry Requirements

Visitors must carry valid passports. Visas are not required if the visitor is a citizen of the USA, Canada and the UK. If you are not a US, Canadian or UK citizen please check to see if you need a visa.

It is a good idea to make sure your passport is current before you book your trip.
US Passport Information

Getting There

There are a dozen airlines providing service to St Lucia’s two airports, Hewanorra (UVF) International and George Charles Airport (SLU). Hewanorra accommodates large jets arriving from Europe, the US and Canada. It is located in the southern part of the island. George Charles airport is near Castries in the north. It serves smaller aircraft from other islands including connecting flights from San Juan.

Cruise lines and local ferry’s arrive daily at Port Castries and Soufriere. There is ferry service to Martinique and other islands.

Departure Tax

There is a Departure Tax of and EC$68 (about US $26) for most passengers over 12 years old leaving the Island. This is often including in your air ticket.

Currency / Banking

The Eastern Caribbean Dollar is shared with other members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union and is tied to the US dollar (US$1 = EC$2.7) Cash in local currency can be obtained by credit cards or bank cards through the ATM machines located at most banks. US & Canadian dollars, British pounds and Euros are relatively easy to convert. Credit cards are accepted at most tourist facilities and shops.

Climate

Temperatures average 70°F to 90° year round with Summer being more humid than Winter. The rainy season is June-November however rain is usually in the form of a brief afternoon shower.

Electricity

St. Lucia runs on 220 volts (European). Most sockets take 3 pin square plugs (UK standard) but some take 2 pin round plugs or flat American plugs, which are more rare. US appliances will need adapters at most accommodations.

Accommodations

The island offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from moderate to deluxe. There are small boutique resorts and hotels, large all-inclusive resorts, private vacation homes and villas with resorts amenities. Villa Journeys books all types of accommodations.
Caribbean villas are our specialty. Most of the St. Lucia villas come with full staff. This includes maids, gardeners and cooks. Some of the smaller ones have maid service only. The cooks are excellent at local Creole food. The St. Lucia villas include staff services in the rent. We do recommend tipping your staff. Typical gratuities are $30US per week per couple for the head housekeeper and $25US per week per couple for any assistants or gardeners.

Villa Journeys can also set up airport transfers, car rentals (can be delivered to the villa or picked up at the airport) and food pre-stock. Food packages are flexible and moderately priced.

Driving

In St Lucia driving is on the left and the use of seat belts is required. Drivers will need to purchase a St. Lucia driver’s license for about $20US. The license can be purchased from your car rental agency.
Most rental cars range from $300 - $500 per week. If you are staying in a villa we can arrange for a car to be delivered to and picked up from the villa.

Ground Transportation

Buses serve the north of the Island around Castries and Gros Islet very well and run until around 10.00pm: (longer on Friday night when the weekly “jump-up” takes place at Gros Islet). However, there is no scheduled bus timetable. Bus fares: Castries - North end of the island EC $2.00, Castries - South end of the island (Vieux Fort) EC $8.00. Car travel via the new West Coast Road from Castries to Soufriere takes about an hour. From Hewanorra Airport to Castries takes around an hour.

Taxis are easily available at taxi stands or by telephone and minibuses can be hired as taxis for groups. They generally can take up to 10 persons. Some guideline fares are from Castries to Hewanorra Airport (EC $120 up to 4 persons), Castries to Rodney Bay (EC $40 up to 4 persons).

Activities

St Lucia is especially popular for eco tourism. The island has a central mountain range with peaks ranging between 1000 and 3145 feet. There are two volcanic cones on the southwest coast called Gros Piton (797m) and Petit Piton (750m). These are the islands most famous landmarks. Due to St. Lucia’s volcanic origins the island can provide visitors with the chance to visit a drive in volcano and experience a sulphur spring.

Also worth noting is the island’s rain forest. Visiting the rain forests gives tourists the opportunity to see rare birds and plants. There are several trails but the Barre de L’isle Forest Reserve has a one-hour walk on a ridge that divides the eastern and western halves of the island.

There is also the St Lucia Rain Forest Aerial Tram in the Babonneau area. This tram will give you an aerial tour and is great for people that do not want to hike. This area is very convenient for people staying in the Cap estate and Rodney Bay area. For those more adventurous there is also a zipline course.

Golf, tennis, snorkeling, wind surfing, sailing and diving are all available in St. Lucia.

The St. Lucia Golf and Country club is in the Cap Estates in the northern part of the island has a fully irrigated 18 hole 6815 yard Par 17 course. Several tennis courts are available at the club.

Voted one of the "10 Best Dive Sites" by Caribbean Travel & Life magazine, the Key Hole Pinnacles are described as "four coral and gorgonian-encrusted seamounts that rise tantalizingly up from the ocean depths". There are several dive centers in St. Lucia. They provide lessons for beginners and supply equipment and trips for certified scuba divers.

We will provide more information on activities upon request.

Shopping

Local shops are generally open weekdays 8.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 4.00pm and on Saturday 8.00am to noon. In Castries, local crafts are available in a busy market area. There are two duty free shopping centers in Castries. Outside of Castries, there are shopping malls with extended opening hours and a wide selection of boutiques and restaurants. Some hotels have boutiques and vendors' markets.

Special Events

The two most popular events in St. Lucia are the annual Jazz Fest and Carnival:

The St. Lucia Jazz fest takes over the island for 10 days every May. The outdoor festival brings together international, regional and local acts in spectacular venues – parks, beaches, hilltops, for an incredible celebration. The 2008 St Lucia Jazz Fest includes Anita Baker, Michael Bolton, Wyclef Jean, Angie Stone, Dionne Warwick and more.

The annual carnival takes place in July and combines local artistry, soca and calypso. Events include calypso competitions, Panorama, Mas on the Derek Walcott Square in the daytime and Square Jam at night, the Carnival Queen Pageant, Junior Carnival, j’ouvert, OECS Soca Monarch, Lucian Line Jam and the King & Queen of the Bands.

St. Lucia is also now offering a Food and Rum festival in October and November. This festival features chefs and rum from St Lucia as well as internationally.

Weddings

It's easy to get married in St Lucia. You have the option of getting married on the same day where you would be required to pay EC$540 (US$200) if you are able to produce all the necessary documents. You can also opt to stay two days and upwards on island where you would be required to pay EC$335 (US $125). A local Solicitor would be able to apply for a license on your behalf. Here is a list of the documents that you need to obtain a marriage license in St Lucia:
· Passport
· Birth Certificate
· Decree Absolute (if one of the parties is divorced)
· In the case of a widow/widower a Death Certificate of first spouse is required
· If a name has been changed, a Deed Poll is required
· If one of the parties is under the age of 18, evidence of a consent of parents is required in the form of a sworn affidavit stamped by a Notary Public
· If any required documents are not in English, an authenticated translation must be available
We recommend using local wedding coordinators to assist with planning. Please note that you should always recheck the wedding requirements as policies may have changed since this information was posted.

Additional Information:

We would be happy to answer any questions you have about St Lucia or our St Lucia Villas.

You may also want to see the following links:
St Lucia Wikipedia
St Lucia Tourist Board
Our St Lucia Villas