Popular St. Lucia Shore Excursions
Soufriere: The area in and around the 18th-century city of Soufriere is one of the loveliest parts of the island. Located in the shadow of the Pitons, Soufriere was the capital of St. Lucia back when it was a French colony. Today, its colorful buildings with gingerbread trim still hold plenty of historic charm. (Shops generally open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Soufriere's Drive-In Volcano: Soufriere's Drive-In Volcano lets you get close to the steaming 7-square-mile caldera. You don't actually drive into the volcano, but you park close and walk to an overlook. Be prepared for the stench of sulfur, akin to the odor of rotten eggs. (758-459-5500; open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens & Mineral Baths: There, you can stroll acres of landscape blooming with bougainvillea, ginger and other tropical plants. A land grant to three Devaux brothers from Napoleon in 1713 established the estate, which is still owned by family members. For an extra fee you can soak in the mineral baths near Diamond Waterfall. Be sure to wear or bring your bathing suit and a towel. (Soufriere Estate; 758-459-7565; open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays and holidays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
Pitons: The best way to see the twin peaks of the Pitons is from the water; most cruise lines offer boat excursions that sail along the coast. The Pitons are also visible as you drive in and around Soufriere.
Pigeon Island National Landmark: Located at the very northwest tip of St. Lucia, Pigeon Island National Landmark is a 44-acre islet connected to the mainland by a causeway. It once was home to a group of Carib Indians and later served as a pirate hideout. The island features an 18th-century British naval garrison, a small museum and two small beaches. Walk the half-mile to the top of Signal Hill for a panoramic island view. (758-452-5005; open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Castries Market and Craft Market: Vendors have gathered for more than 100 years at the Castries Market and adjacent Craft Market to hawk fresh fruits and vegetables, spices and local crafts. You can pick up spices and bottles of the local hot pepper sauces, as well as baskets, wood carvings, pottery and hand-screened clothing. (Open Monday to Saturday 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Anse Chastanet and Anse Cochon: Those interested in snorkeling should head to Anse Chastanet or Anse Cochon to explore coral reefs, colorful marine life and even an old sunken ship at Anse Cochon.
Captain Mike's: Try your hand at sport fishing. Captain Mike's offers five fishing boats and a whale- and dolphin-watching boat, welcoming both neophytes and experienced fishermen. Reservations are recommended. (Vigie; 758-452-7044)
Trim's National Riding Academy: Take a horseback ride on the beach in Gros Islet. You can even go for a swim with your horse. Check out Trim's National Riding Academy for riding tours. (Rodney Bay; 758-450-8273)
St. Lucia Golf Resort & Country Club: Golfers can play at the St. Lucia Golf Resort & Country Club, an 18-hole course open to the general public. There's a well-stocked bar and pro shop. Temporary membership, golfing equipment and lessons by the resident pro are available. (Cap Estates; 758-450-8523. Tee times daily from 6:50 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
St. Lucia Helicopters: Want to see the island from a different perspective? St. Lucia Helicopters offers 10- to 30-minute aerial tours (you can fly over the north or south parts of the island, or choose both), complete with commentary on the island's history, rainforests, indigenous species and more. (Hewanorra International Airport, Vieux Fort Quarter; 758-453-6950)
Rain Forest Sky Rides: Glide through the treetops on a zip-line adventure with Rain Forest Sky Rides. Go for the adrenaline rush by whooshing through the treetops on cables strung between platforms, or opt for a bird's-eye view of the canopy from your seat in an aerial tram. You can also hike trails or combine activities. (Babonneau; 758-458-5151, U.S. office 305-704-3350)
Edmund Forest Reserve: Experience the island's rainforest by hiking through the Edmund Forest Reserve. A shady walk through the lush landscape rewards you with a view of the Caribbean sea. The hike begins south of Soufriere and takes 3.5 hours roundtrip. Hikes are by reservation with a certified guide. Contact the St. Lucia Forestry Department. (Soufriere; 758-468-5649)
Best Beach for a Half-Day Visit: Choc Beach is just a 20-minute taxi ride from Castries, and offers a lovely stretch of white sand.
Best Beach for Active Types: Rodney Bay's Reduit Beach (pronounced red-wee) -- about 10 minutes north of Choc Beach -- offers hotels, restaurants and water sports.
Best Scenic Beach: Anse des Pitons is nestled between St. Lucia's famous twin peaks and is a good place for snorkeling or diving. (Fun Fact: This beach was initially made of volcanic black sand, but the white sand that you see today has been imported to "improve" its appearance.)