St. Lucia

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Ed and I began our traveling adventures this year with our best friends, Phyllis and Skip, when we embarked on a February trip to St. Lucia. What a beautiful island!  It’s situated in the Eastern Caribbean sea, south of Martinique and north of The Grenadines and St Vincent.  The tiny island encompasses only 238.32 square miles and, other than the beautiful coastlines, it is rugged and mountainous.

We booked our deal through Costco Travel and stayed at Coconut Bay Resort and Spa, which is an all-inclusive place only five minutes from the airport.  It’s the only southern coast resort.  We didn’t know it at the time, but most of the tourist area is on the north end of the island.  A week in February was just over $4,000 per couple, which I thought was a great price for an all inclusive island vacation. I was a little surprised upon entering the grounds of the resort that the ocean was very choppy and rough and didn’t look like the tranquil tropical beach I had in my head.  Come to find out, that’s the nature of the shore on the south end and if you want calmer shores, you should stay on the north end.  I am going to recommend, however, that you don’t.

Coconut Bay was very nice, although a bit aged and certainly not a fancy place.  In my opinion it caters more to the whole family and has many activities for people of all ages.  The lobby is large and open air and the site has various restaurants and several bars, including a swim up bar on the Splash (family) side.  Our first night was a bit nerve-racking because we thought we’d booked rooms on the Harmony (all adult) side, but the rooms we got were on the Splash side.  On Saturday nights they do a live band and big cookout right in front of the Splash rooms and, no matter what, we couldn’t sleep with all the noise and we were exhausted from traveling.  And cranky.  The management said the Harmony side was full and they could not accommodate a move.  This was not a great first impression.

The rest of our stay at the resort was, however, fantastic.  We began our mornings in the beach-front Sun-Follower chairs on the Harmony side after a hearty breakfast. Children are not allowed there, so it was a peaceful spot where you can take in the gorgeous views, swim in the sea or the two adults-only pools, enjoy the hot tub, soak up the tropical sun and read undisturbed.

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We booked a land and sea tour for Tuesday, which was arranged by an agent at our resort. That morning were bussed to a nearby dock and ushered aboard a beautiful catamaran, where we set sail for a couple of hours up the coast of the island.  We saw the beautiful Pitons and snorkled in a cove beneath them, while the captain of our ship offered local fare cooked by his wife and plenty of rum punch.  The staff of the catamaran were wonderful. We saw Sugar Bay and Soufriere, where we disembarked for the land portion of our tour.  We were shuttled by passenger vans up the steep and very curvy roads into the rain forest, where we lunched at an open air restaurant overlooking the Pitons.  It was gorgeous.

We then traveled down the steep passages and made our way to the Sulfur Springs mud baths, which promised youthful results.  Because we were a bit sunburned, the hot bath portion was a tiny bit painful, but we had a blast covering ourselves with mud.  Unfortunately we didn’t take our cameras so there’s no record of our antics.  Trust me, though, it was really fun and we enjoyed talking to the other tourists.

Our tour then took more winding roads to the Botanical Gardens where we were led through by the very knowledgeable Alexander the Great.  The highlight of this tour was seeing Diamond Falls and all the beautiful, lush plants that inhabit the rain forest.  Every few minutes, in the midst of sunshine, a rain shower would drench us and cool us down.

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Because we had such a good time on our tour, we requested that we hire our driver, Albert, for a tour of the island on Thursday.  This, too, was arranged through our hotel and cost about $300 for all four of us, plus tip.  Albert took us up to the northern end of the island where we saw the Capital city and lovely beaches where cruisers disembark for shopping and sightseeing.  Whereas bottled water was $3-4 down south, in the tourist North it jumped to $6-8.  Everything was overpriced and crowded, but the beaches were beautiful.

One thing to keep in mind when traveling in St. Lucia is the locals who try to sell you everything from beads to bird feeders.  While I indeed bought several items for family members, it became tiresome.
St Lucia 2 9510St Lucia 3 9511Albert also took us to a rum factory, where we enjoyed sampling and bought some really good coconut rum.

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We lunched at a beautiful waterfront restaurant in which the view was spectacular, the food was okay and the price was outrageous.

St Lucia 13 9521 St Lucia 11 9519St Lucia 12 9520 St Lucia 9 9517The rest of our stay in the resort was relaxing and wonderful.  The food was decent and there were several options for dining, but reservations had to be made in advance.  We enjoyed my birthday dinner in a private cabana on the beach with a lobster dinner which, again, was at an additional cost.  We had a couples massage, which I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I might.

All in all, I would highly recommend St. Lucia as a relaxing, beautiful vacation destination particularly in the throes of winter, and Coconut Bay as an all-inclusive, decent resort.  The cost through Costco included airfare with a brief layover each way and was, in my opinion, extremely reasonable and well worth it.


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