Often overlooked by Caribbean-bound travelers, low-key St. Lucia has all the makings of a tropical paradise: tawny, palm-studded beaches, sheltered coves, a lush interior replete with rain forests and waterfalls, and helpful locals who seem happy (if amused) to wave you in the right direction when the curvy roads fork off in three vertiginous directions. But St. Lucia’s under-the-radar status is changing as a bevy of new luxury resorts vie for the best view and the most over-the-top amenities. Still, if the $1,000-a-night, private-plunge-pool experience doesn’t appeal to you or your wallet, deals abound, and with them, a chance to sample the real St. Lucia.
Where to Stay
On the island’s quiet southern tip, the Villa Caribbean Dream map (Cap Moule à Chique, Vieux Fort; 758-454-68-46; www.caribdreams.net) is a roomy guesthouse with gingerbread trim perched high above untouristy Vieux Fort, near a good windsurfing beach. For $40 (single) or $50 (double), you can stay in one of four rooms in a separate wing with two shared bathrooms. Two apartments, with kitchens and baths, are available for $80. All guests are encouraged to lounge on the deck, which offers a splendid view of sea and coastline.
At the 33-room Bay Gardens Inn map (Rodney Bay; 758-452-82-00; www.baygardensinn.com) on the northwest coast, published rates start at $115, but scratch below the surface and you’ll easily find under-$100 deals. A recent Expedia search yielded a $72.75 December rate and, on the hotel’s Web site, a $90 rate turned up as a “manager’s special.” The rooms are bright, with balconies or patios facing a peaceful courtyard and small pool. All have effective, if slightly noisy air-conditioning, refrigerators, modern bathrooms and thoughtful extras like thick beach towels. A bonus is free access to the larger pools at both the Bay Gardens Hotel across the street and the higher-end Bay Gardens Beach Resort on nearby Reduit beach.
Where to Eat
With all the roadside stands offering grilled chicken and pork (starting at 10 East Caribbean dollars, or about $3.70 at 2.70 E.C. dollars to the U.S. dollar) and cheap Piton beer, it’s easy to grab lunch on the fly. At the sprawling market across from the port in the capital city of Castries, find your way around tables laden with breadfruit and coconuts, to an alley where vendors sell local fare like rotis — spicy lamb and chicken curries wrapped in a tortilla-like pancake (7 E.C. dollars) — and chewy disks of cassava bread, flecked with cherries and nutmeg (5 E.C. dollars). For breakfast, grab a papaya juice and a coconut turnover for 4 E.C. dollars…
Read more: NY Times