An Introduction to St. Lucia

St. Lucia is the sort of island that travelers to the Caribbean dream about--a small, lush tropical gem that is still relatively unknown. One of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, it is located midway down the Eastern Caribbean chain, between Martinique and St. Vincent, and north of Barbados. St. Lucia is only 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, with a shape that is said to resemble either a mango or an avocado (depending on your taste). The Atlantic Ocean kisses its eastern shore, while the beaches of the west coast owe their beauty to the calm Caribbean Sea.

 In natural beauty, St. Lucia seems like an island plucked from the South Pacific and set down in the Caribbean. Its dramatic twin coastal peaks, the Pitons, soar 2,000 feet up from the sea, sheltering magnificent rain forests where wild orchids, giant ferns, and birds of paradise flourish. Brilliantly-plumed tropical birds abound, including endangered species like the indigenous St. Lucia parrot. The rainforest is broken only by verdant fields and orchards of banana, coconut, mango, and papaya trees.

 St. Lucia has been inhabited since long before colonial times, and its cultural treasures are a fascinating melange of its rich past and its many different traditions. The island's people have earned a well-deserved reputation for their warmth and charm, and the island itself is dotted with aged fortresses, small villages, and open-air markets.

 There is a broad array of exciting and exotic activities available on St. Lucia. The island's steep coastlines and lovely reefs offer excellent snorkeling and scuba diving. The rainforest preserves of St. Lucia's mountainous interior are one of the Caribbean's finest locales for hiking and birdwatching. Of course, the island also possesses excellent facilities for golf, tennis, sailing, and a host of other leisure pursuits. Not to be missed is St. Lucia's Soufriere volcano, the world's only drive-in volcanic crater.

 St Lucia is a diving paradise. The island is at the tip of an underwater volcano where both beginner and experienced divers alike will enjoy the stunning variety of coral, sponge and marine life. Artificial reefs have developed around a number of sunken ships which have become home to huge gorgonians, black coral trees, gigantic barrel sponges, purple vase sponges and black lace corals. Exciting Caribbean diving trips will reveal turtles, nurse sharks, seahorses, angel fish, and golden spotted eels, to name but a few, among the dazzling cross section of Caribbean marine life.

 There are several spectacular diving sites just off St Lucia, ranging from easy to challenging. Keyhole Pinnacles consists of 4 seamounts rising from incredible depths to within a few feet of the surface. Superman's Flight, a drift dive on a gentle wall which drops to 1,600 feet. At the base of Gros Piton the Coral Gardens rise from a depth of 15 to 50 feet and Anse La Raye, midway up the west coast is a superb wall and drift dive, where huge boulders cover a shallower slope creating fascinating formations to explore. On the point of Anse Chastenet, a plateau slopes gently from 40 - 60 feet. The reefs fall away to a depth of 140 feet in a unique coral chain, meandering out from the Bay. A number of shipwrecks provide adventure and exploration for divers. For the experienced only, off the southern part of the island, the Waiwinette freighter lies 90 feet below. The currents here make this dive extremely challenging, whereas further up the coast off Castries, there is a pleasant wreck dive in 20 feet of water for those less experienced.

 Divers from all over the world know the exotic beauty and warm crystal waters of St Lucia. A great deal of care has been exercised to ensure that the island, as well as the surrounding water remains as pristine as it was a generation ago when it first began attracting divers in search of a paradise less traveled.

 As mountainous below sea level as it is above, St Lucia offers incomparable sightseeing for divers who are drawn to the tremendous variety that nature has to offer: huge gorgonians, black coral trees, gigantic barrel sponges, purple vase sponges and lace coral. Angelfish, black beauties, golden spotted eels, seahorses, Stingrays, nurse sharks, turtles and many varieties of schooling fish are as plentiful as they are colorful and varied. A few submerged shipwrecks and a mysterious serpentine creature of mythical proportions known as “the thing” add to the excitement of diving in the waters of St Lucia.

 What to Expect in St. Lucia

 BANKS:

  • Banking hours are from 8 am to 2 pm, Monday through Thursday, and Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. Banks are closed on weekends and holidays.
  • However, the Bank of Saint Lucia and the First National Bank have Saturday morning hours at their sub-branches in and around Rodney Bay.
  • Most major credit cards are accepted in St. Lucia.
  • All ATM machines on the island distribute Eastern Caribbean dollars.

CURRENCY:

  • The currency of St. Lucia is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar which is linked to the US Dollar at the exchange rate of US$1 to EC$2.65.
  • US Dollars are readily accepted throughout the island.
  • Most hotels will exchange reasonable amounts of foreign currency, and there are change bureaus in Castries.
  • The National Commercial Bank (NCB) has a branch at Hewanorra International Airport where EC Dollars can be exchanged for foreign currency. It is open daily from 12:30pm until the last flight departs.
  • A passport and ticket are required as proof of returning visitor status.
  • Major credit cards are widely accepted across the island.

CLIMATE:

  • St. Lucia's temperature ranges from 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit from December to May and 75-95 degrees from June to November.
  • The winter is relatively more dry as well. Visitors should bring cool, comfortable clothing.
  • While jacket and tie are rarely requisite, overly casual beachwear is rarely appreciated off the beach.

DEPARTURE TAX:

  • There is a Departure Tax of EC$54 (approx $20 U.S.) for all passengers leaving the island.

DRINKING WATER: 

  • Drinking water is safe from the tap and bottled mineral/distilled water is also readily available.

DRIVING LICENSE:

  • Drivers need to purchase a local driving permit, which is issued on the presentation of a foreign or international license.
  • These permits are obtained from the immigration offices at Hewanorra and George F. L. Charles Airports and issued by the major car rental agencies.
  • Driving is on the left.

ELECTRICITY:

  • Electric current is 220 volts, 50 cycles AC.
  • (A few hotels are 110 volts, 60 cycles.)
  • Most sockets take 3-pin square plugs (UK standard) but some take 2-pin round plugs or flat American plugs which are more rare.
  • Adapters are generally available at the hotels.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:

  • U.S. and Canadian citizens must have a valid Passport and a return or ongoing ticket.

TOURISM SEASONS:

  • High-season is mid-December to mid-April.
  • The crowds in St. Lucia, as with all of the Caribbean islands, will be heaviest during the high season.
  • The island experiences the least amount of rainfall during this time and weather remains warm without being stifling.
  • Restaurants, vendors, and recreation services will all be functioning at their maximum and hotels will generally use this season to schedule most of their events and attractions.
  • Those looking to socialize during their visit will also find the nightlife to be lively and bustling.

The hurricane season, along with increased rain and temperatures, marks what is generally considered to be the off season in the Caribbean and St. Lucia. June through November are the wettest months and the temperature will tend to rise a few degrees making the heat more of an issue for vacationers. Rainfall, although heightened, generally comes in the form of short showers, and those who stay close to water or air conditioning should not have trouble braving the temperature increase.

VACCINATIONS:

  • No vaccinations or preventative medications are required for travel to St. Lucia. However, we always suggest that you speak to your family physician for a personal recommendation.

WATER TEMPERATURES AND WETSUITS:

  • Water temperatures generally range between 79 – 83°F
  • Most people find wearing a 1mm – 3mm wetsuit keeps them comfortable.
© Atomic SCUBA and Travel LLC 2011 WA Seller of Travel # 603 113 523