St. Lucia is one of the more mountainous of the Caribbean islands. It boasts a drive in volcano, gorgeous vistas, deep valleys, banana plantations, and black sand beaches. The island has spent much of its history flip flopping between French and British control, changing loyalties a whopping 14 times until it became a British Crown Colony in 1814. In 1967, St Lucia gained its independence from Britain, and today, relies primarily on tourism and banana production as two of its main sources of income. We decided to rent a car and explore the western side of the island.
19 Mar: Pulled into Castries, St Lucia by the time we were done with our gym workout. Grabbed a quick shower and breakfast, and were off the cruise by 0805 looking for our rental car (previously arranged with vcrentals). However, despite several confirmation emails reassuring us that a representative would be there to meet us, we couldn’t find them so we just went to the closest car rental booth and actually got a cheaper rate for an SUV (including insurance $86). After debating whether to accept the insurance or not, we opted to go with it and got our gray Mitsubitshi SUV, which was a bit dinged up. We annotated the scratches and dents before noticing the tank was only at ¼ full, which we pointed out to the rental representative. After checking out a road map, we zoomed out of Castries Harbor (Pointe Seraphine) straight to the nearest gas station (Texaco) where we filled up with $20 which got us up to ¾ of a tank. Getting out of Castries was a bit confusing, but by keeping the harbor to our right, we eventually found the main highway leading down south towards Soufriere Bay. First stop was where Dr. Doolittle was filmed, at Marigot Bay. There were quite a few yachts in the harbor, and we took some photos before heading down to check out the waterfront. To our surprise, Marigot Bay is a mangrove reserve on one side, so we had to walk on an elevated walkway to reach J.J.’s Paradise Hotel’s restaurant, a bay side restaurant that overlooked the beach area of Marigot Bay (apparently there is a water taxi that will shuttle you across once every 10 minutes). We took some photos here before heading down towards the fishing village of Anse La Raye which had a magnificent church. A friendly local invited us to the Friday night fish fry (tonight) but we explained we while we’d love to, we had to be back on the cruise. Next stop was the fishing village of Canaries. This village was also neat, and the views from up high of the pastel colored roofs were quite wonderful. We kept pulling over and taking photos, and it was nice to have our own vehicle so we could stop and go whenever we wanted. Next destination was Anse Chastanet, a black sand volcanic beach that was lovely. To get to it, we had to engage our 4WD and tackle the super steep, extremely rough terrain. The Anse Chastanet beach resort is extremely secluded, complete with its own dive school (we chuckled at the novice divers struggling with their gear, fumbling around in the surf). A beach side restaurant is serviced by St Lucians dressed in traditional garb, and we met a friendly water taxi driver who offered to take us to Jalousie beach (sandwiched between the Pitons) for a whopping $US 40 round trip. It seemed outrageous to pay that amount for a 10 minute ride, but it seemed that our fellow resort goers were fine with extortion. We declined and enjoyed the wonderfully refreshing waters followed by a session in the sun. Lying on black sand in the midday sun was a bit too warm for our liking, so we decided to head out to find the Malgretout Pitons waterfall. It started raining so we picked up a hitchhiker to see if he knew how to get to the Malgretout waterfall (he had never heard of it), and got lost in the town of Soufriere. The locals told us that we were headed down a dead end street, so as we were turning to head back to the highway, a “helpful” guy ran over to tell us what we already knew and demanded financial compensation. We told him to bugger off, and our hitchhiker begged to be let out (perhaps he didn’t want to be associated with us anymore, ha).
Since it took us almost 3 hours (including our numerous photo stops) to reach Soufriere, we decided to head back at around 2 pm to Castries. The ride back was considerably shorter (we knew where we were going and had become familiar with St Lucia’s narrow, winding roads), and we were at the car rental return a little after 3 pm. To our surprise, our SUV was carefully examined for any nicks, dents or dings before our security deposit was returned….it was a rigorous inspection! We grabbed a quick lunch on board the cruise before heading out to downtown Castries to see the lively market. The arts and crafts market was full of souvenir opportunities, and the fruit and vegetable market was OK (after seeing the ones in Asia and S. America, the Caribbean markets can’t compare). Regardless, we bought 3 mangoes for $1 (they were super sweet), found the largest church in the Caribbean (Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception), and headed back on the cruise before our departure time of 1645.