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The picture-perfect island of Saint Lucia is located in the West Indies, on the spot where the Atlantic Ocean embraces the eastern Caribbean Sea. Boasting lush vegetation, marvelous sceneries, splendid beaches, and a multitude of beautiful towns and tourist resorts – St Lucia Island enchants visitors with its stunning beauty and a rich tourist offer. It is a frequent travel destination included in the Caribbean cruise itineraries and one of the favorite vacation spots for cruisers.
In this article, I share with you the practical information on:
- St Lucia cruise port (Port Castries) & cruise terminal
- Top 9 things to do on St Lucia cruise
- Top-Rated St Lucia shore excursions
St Lucia Cruise Port (Port Castries)
Cruise ships dock at Castries, the charming capital city of St Lucia tucked in the Bay of Castries in the northwest of the island. St Lucia cruise port comprises two main cruise terminals: Pointe Seraphine and La Place Carenage, both located within a walking distance from the town center.
St Lucia Cruise Terminal Info
- Pointe Seraphine cruise terminal is located on the northern side of the bay, around 1.7 km (1 mi) from Castries downtown. To get into town, you can either walk for 20 minutes or take a 5-10-minute taxi ride. Pointe Seraphine cruise terminal features a wide range of facilities, such as ATMs, duty-free shopping complex, tour operator stands, souvenir stores, and a few restaurants and bars offering great food and amazing service. There is a taxi rank in front of the terminal, as well as parking for tour buses.
- La Place Carenage cruise terminal is located at the heart of the Castries downtown, in the south of the bay. Historical landmarks, shops, restaurants, parks, and main city attractions including a famous Castries central market are within a short walking distance from the cruise terminal. You will find all the necessary cruise port facilities in the terminal area.
A 10-minute walking distance from La Place Carenage is the Castries ferry terminal, providing daily ferry transport from St Lucia to the islands of Martinique, Dominica, and Guadeloupe.
Top 9 Things to Do on St Lucia Cruise
1. Discover the Attractions of Port Castries
Castries, the island’s capital, boasts a rich cultural heritage and there are many historical landmarks and attractions you can visit. I’ve listed below the major attractions you can visit in the town, and all of them are within a 5-10 minute walking distance from La Place Carenage cruise terminal, and a 20-minute walk from Pointe Seraphine cruise terminal (except for the Governor-House, which is located a 10-minute driving distance from St Lucia port).
- Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception – Start your exploration with the 19th-century Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, the iconic symbol of the town and the largest church in the West Indies. The cathedral boasts a lavishly decorated interior filled with paintings and picturesque murals, as well as an emblematic bell-tower and a beautiful façade worth admiring.
- Derek Walcott Square – The church overlooks a leafy Derek Walcott park and square featuring a bust of Derek Walcott, the St. Lucian poet, playwright, and a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. A beautiful place to walk around with some great photo opportunities.
- King George V Gardens – Nearby, you can visit King George V Gardens, a green oasis and a relaxing park featuring the statue of the Marquis de Castries.
- Holy Trinity Anglican Church – Overlooking King George V Gardens, the church is another wonderful and peaceful place of worship.
- Castries central market – Dating from the 19th century, the Central market is a bustling open-air bazaar packed with stalls selling fruits, vegetables, spices, handmade crafts, arts, and clothes. Here, you can sample local food or taste the authentic St Lucian coffee. The place is a must and at a stone’s throw from the cruise ships’ dock.
- Governor-General House (Government House) – The estate is located at a 10-15 minute driving distance from the St Lucia cruise port and offers unique panoramic views of the Castries harbor and the town. Built in 1895, this magnificent estate is a true gem of Victorian architecture that nowadays serves as the official residence of the Governor-General. Surrounded by verdant gardens and placed in an extraordinary natural setting, the house is also a museum of history offering permanent and temporary exhibitions. You can either visit it on your own (in that case, you need to make an appointment) or on a tour (cruise ship tour or an independent/private tour). Bring your camera because the views of the harbor are absolutely breathtaking!
2. Tour St. Lucia’s Historic Estates
- Howelton Estate – Built on the historic hill and residential area of Morne Fortune (the Hill of Good Luck), a 10-15 minute driving distance from the cruise port, Howelton Estate is a gorgeous piece of paradise offering spectacular views of the Castries harbor. Another magnificent example of Victorian architecture, the estate is 122 years old and offers a wide variety of facilities to enjoy. The estate has been home to Caribelle Batik for almost 40 years and houses a batik studio offering batik making demonstrations. You can also book a chocolate making tour (my friend did it and she loved it – she brought me chocolate figures she made!) and create your own exciting chocolates with different flavors, and learn how organic chocolate bars and coconut oil are made. There is a gift shop where you can buy local arts and handicrafts, as well as a bar where you can buy a drink and relax in the lounge area overlooking the harbor. This is a truly unique place where I enjoyed so much, and I highly recommend you visit it!
- St. Mark’s Colonial House – St. Mark’s colonial house is a 150-year-old Colonial house situated only a 10-minute drive from St Lucia cruise port. Constructed on the steep hill of Morne Fortune, and offering breathtaking views of the Bay of Castries and the town, this beautiful 2-story white house features antique furniture, artifacts, valuable paintings, and locally hand-crafted artwork. The house is a museum where you can learn about its owners and the history of the island, and enjoy stunning views of the Port Castries, Reduit beach, to Pigeon Island. Guests are usually offered refreshments and banana chips, a local delicacy.
- Pink Plantation House – Perched above Castries, on Morne Fortune hill, Pink Plantation house is a 140-year old French colonial mansion spreading on two acres of lush tropical gardens and offering fascinating views of the Castries port. The former colonial house was transformed into a beautifully decorated rustic house and restaurant boasting delicious cuisine and a relaxation area. There is also a gallery and a gift shop displaying the owner’s artwork including hand-painted ceramic and pottery items. You can delight in the local food served on handmade ceramic plates, take a moment to enjoy the tranquility of the gardens, or take some incredible panoramic photos of the island! The place is a true gem, and definitely among the top 10 places to visit in St Lucia. Pink Plantation House is located within a 10-minute driving distance from Castries downtown.
Recommended article: Pros and Cons of Booking Cruise Ship Shore Excursions
3. Hike Gros Piton
Located in the southwest of St. Lucia, around 45 km (28 mi) from Port of Castries, the Pitons are the absolute highlight of the island and a must-see place in St Lucia. The Pitons are a natural wonder that consists of two massive volcanic mountains – Petit Piton (743 m / 2.461 ft) and Gros Piton (771 m / 2.619 ft), declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to their phenomenal beauty and spectacular natural sceneries. The Pitons are part of Soufriere Volcanic Centre and overlook the town of Soufriere and its bay.
Climbing the Pitons is one of the most exciting things to do on the island, but it’s not recommended to go hiking without the tour guide. Petit Piton is quite dangerous and requires a previous mountaineering experience, while the Gros Piton hike is safer and requires a moderate level of physical activity. The hike starts at the town of Soufriere and is around 3 km (2 mi) long. The trail is rocky and steep at some parts – therefore, you should go with a tour guide as they know the fastest and safest way to get you to the top. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be speechless – the surreal island landscapes and ocean views are to be remembered for a lifetime! Make sure you wear comfortable shoes, and bring water/snacks.
It takes at least a 1 hour 30-minute drive to reach the Pitons. In case you don’t want to hike, you can visit the Pitons by bus or a minivan in a small-group, or by boat. The bus ride might take up to 1 hour 45 minutes, while the boat ride lasts up to 1 hour. Some boats are large (like ferries), with little shade, so make sure you bring sunscreen and a hat. On your way to the town of Soufriere and the Pitons, you might spot the whales.
Cruising along the coast and Bay of Soufriere will allow you to admire the mountains from the sea, and if you want to go by bus there are several spots in Soufriere town from where you can capture great shots of the Pitons.
4. Marvel at Diamond Botanical Gardens
Situated a 15-minute driving distance from the Pitons, and around 40 km (25 mi; a 1 hour 30-minute drive) from Port Castries, the Diamond Botanical Gardens are another natural treasure you should visit in the southwestern part of the island. Spreading across six acres, at the outskirts of the town of Soufriere, this extraordinary tourist site boasts the most beautiful flora and fauna in St Lucia.
It houses a stunning Diamond Falls waterfall, the famous St Lucia waterfall and a breathtaking natural attraction particularly intriguing due to the changing colors of the water. The colors change because of the various chemical reactions caused by the mixture of the volcanic minerals and the rainwater.
A few meters downstream, you’ll come across the mineral baths whose construction and usage date from the era of the King Louis XVI of France. The king ordered the construction of the baths in 1784 for the French troops and disabled people because it was believed that the springs had medicinal and therapeutic properties. Here, you can take a dip in the hot mineral springs, take unique photos of the Diamond waterfall, stroll through the gardens or enjoy a local meal in one of the Soufriere restaurants (the town is located less than 1 km (0.6 mi) from the Diamond Botanical Gardens).
5. Take the Mud Bath at Sulphur Springs
Only a 10-15 minute driving distance from the Diamond Botanical Gardens and the Pitons, and a 1-hour 30-minute drive from the cruise port in St Lucia, the mystical Sulphur Springs are another St. Lucian natural attraction that will blow your mind away! Known also as Soufriere Qualibou Volcano and Soufriere Drive-In Volcano, Sulphur Springs is the world’s only drive-in volcano whose last eruption took place in the 1700s and is nowadays considered as a dormant volcano.
You can drive up to the edge of the geothermal springs and see the steam coming out of the Earth, caused by the water in the springs whose temperatures reach up to 340 Fahrenheit (170 Celsius). The water and soil are blackened due to the chemical reactions between sulfur, iron, copper, and other minerals and metals, and there are many hot pools and fumaroles all around – a truly impressive sight to see!
Within a short distance downstream from the hot sulfur springs, you can enjoy the geothermal mud baths, a popular tourist attraction. The water in the mud baths reaches 110 Fahrenheit (45 Celsius) and has therapeutic properties – it detoxifies the body and helps heal sunburns, eczema, and more. During the high season, it might get crowded here, as the baths are visited by both tourists and locals, but are certainly not to be missed on your Sulphur Springs tour.
6. Take a Tour of Pigeon Island National Park
Heading toward the northwest of St. Lucia, after a 25-minute drive (around 14 km, or 8.7 mi), visitors come across the Pigeon Island, a 44-acre islet and nature reserve connected to the mainland by a sandy, man-made causeway added in 1972. If you want to simultaneously enjoy the beautiful nature and learn about the history of St Lucia, this place is a must-see!
It is an important historic site because many important historical events took place here. Throughout history, the place was occupied by the Amerindians, pirates, French and British, mainly due to its favorable strategic position. In the second half of the 18th century, British Admiral George Rodney conquered the island and built Fort Rodney on the Signal Hill, the highest peak of the island, from where he could keep an eye on the French naval base of Fort Royal on Martinique.
On top of the hill there are the military ruins and cannons open for visitors, and to get there, you need to take a 15-20-minute somewhat uphill hike. It’s totally worth the effort (moderate activity level), as from the hilltop you can admire the exceptional views of the northwest coast of St Lucia and Rodney Bay.
Once you get down to the bay, you can sunbathe at two wonderful beaches of Rodney Bay, visit the Interpretation Center and learn about the history of the island, stroll through the nature reserve, or grab a bite in one of the neighboring local restaurants. There is an admission fee to enter the Pigeon Island Nature Reserve and costs around 10 $ per person (the price is discounted for kids).
7. Snorkel at Anse Chastanet
Besides natural beauties, the island of St Lucia boasts rich marine wildlife and offers an amazing snorkeling experience. The best place to check it out is Anse Chastanet, located within a short driving distance from the town of Soufriere and the Pitons, and around a 1 hour 30 minutes’ drive from the St Lucia port. Anse Chastanet is part of the Marine Reserve and you can explore the beautiful, shallow reef directly from the shore.
The beach is small, sandy, and scenic, and the resort offers fascinating views of the Pitons and the volcanic mountains. The coral reef is gorgeous and is home to a wide variety of tropical fish, such as butterflyfish, surgeonfish, angelfish, and triggerfish, while the ocean bottom houses sponges and gorgonian forests… Anse Chastanet is a true off-the-beaten-track gem that offers great beach time and a unique snorkeling experience, so make sure you bring your snorkel gear with you.
You can visit the place by boat (most of the snorkeling tours stop here), or by car/on a land tour. There is also a nice beach restaurant where you can delight in the local St Lucian specialties while taking in the views of the Pitons.
There are several other spots popular for snorkeling: Anse Mamin, located near Anse Chastanet, a gorgeous quiet beach offering amazing snorkeling; Anse Cochon Bay and beach, situated further up on the northwest coast, Anse La Raye (the Bay of Rays, a rustic fishing village), Marigot Bay, and others. All these places lie along the west coast of St Lucia and are known for the fringing reefs and abundant sea life. For more experienced and daring ones, St Lucia scuba dive is an alternative option.
8. St Lucia Beach Break
If you decide to spend a relaxing beach day on this amazing island, St Lucia beaches are absolutely breathtaking. You should check out these ones:
- Vigie Beach – Situated within a 20-minute walk or a 5-minute driving distance from the Castries port, Vigie beach ranks among the most visited and popular beaches for cruisers. Its long, sandy stretch of beach, turquoise waters, a lot of natural shade, and a variety of beach facilities make it attractive for the visitor of all ages. It can be crowded when several ships are in port, but despite that, it’s beautiful and totally worth visiting. It is the closest beach to the cruise port.
- Reduit Beach – Located a 15-minute drive north of Castries, Reduit beach is a lively stretch of sandy beach tucked in the southern part of Rodney Bay. Its blue azure waters, enjoyable atmosphere, a lot of water sport options, and a large number of facilities guarantee a fun-filled beach experience for all visitors. Nearby, toward Pigeon Island, there is a Pigeon Island public beach, another beautiful spot you can check out.
- La Toc beach – Nestled south of the Castries, within a 10-15-minute driving distance from St Lucia port, La Toc public beach is a beautiful sandy beach offering all necessary facilities for a memorable beach day in St Lucia. You can access the beach through the Sandals Resort and although located near the town, La Toc Beach is not that busy. It is a perfect getaway from the bustling town center.
- Anse Chastanet – Besides being an amazing snorkeling spot, Anse Chastanet is also a popular beach and a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the towns. It is located near the town of Soufriere, consists of several upscale resorts, and is connected to Anse Mamin via a walking trail.
- Anse Mamin is another secluded sandy beach located up north, and an ideal place for a family picnic, as it’s a less crowded and less known place.
- Marigot Bay – Situated on the western coast of St Lucia, a 30-minute driving distance from Castries cruise port, Marigot Bay is a magnificent natural harbor with deep, crystal clear water and several beautiful, sugar-white beaches. Surrounded by densely forested hills from three sides, boasting luxurious hotel and beach resorts, sophisticated restaurants, and a multitude of picturesque anchored yachts, catamarans, and boats, Marigot Bay served as a setting for several Hollywood movies and therefore became popular worldwide. The bay also had an important role in the history of St Lucia, as it served as a battleground between French and British navies. It is considered one of the most beautiful bays in the Caribbean and is a must-see spot on your St Lucia cruise.
- Grande Anse – Located around a 40-minute driving distance from the port of Castries, Grande Anse is a charming, secluded beach located on the eastern coast of Saint Lucia. If you search for lush nature, mountainous sceneries, peace, and quiet, Grande Anse is a perfect spot. People come here to see the turtles, as the beach is a popular leatherback sea turtle nesting ground and turtles often come out of the water.
- Jalousie (Sugar) Beach – If you seek the best views of the Pitons while swimming in the St Lucian crystal clear waters, Jalousie beach (also known as Sugar Beach) is the top choice! Tucked in the Pitons Bay, between Petit Piton and Gros Piton, the beach offers powdery, white sands, a great snorkeling experience (it is part of St Lucia Snorkel Marine Reserve) and features several resorts and restaurants backed by the stunning volcanic and mountainous landscapes. It takes a 1-hour 30-minute drive to get to Jalousie beach from the Port Castries.
9. St Lucia Adventure Park Experience
If you look for an adrenaline rush and want to have a one-of-a-kind St Lucian experience, head over to one of the two top-rated adventure parks on the island: Treetop Adventure Park, located around 1-hour drive from the cruise port, or Morne Coubaril Historical Adventure Park, situated near the Pitons and Sulphur Springs, a 1 hour 30-minute driving distance from Castries.
Explore the island’s rainforests via aerial tram and zipline, hike through the lush tropical forests, zipline over the historic estate and banana plantations with breathtaking views of the Pitons and Sulphur Springs, or take a horseback ride into the volcano. If you are not afraid of height and like the challenges, join the thrilling Adventure park tours and you’ll have an experience of a lifetime!
To Wrap Up
Of all the Caribbean islands I’ve visited, I must admit that St Lucia ranks among the top 3. If you are into mountainous landscapes, spectacular seascapes, natural wonders and exciting adventures, St Lucia is a perfect pick for you. It offers something for everyone, and its friendly locals, delectable cuisine and cool, relaxing ambiance contribute to the overall impression on the island. Fellow cruises love it, and I hope you got some fresh ideas of what to see in St Lucia the next time you visit it on a cruise.