St. Lucia, a Caribbean Gem


Multiple flags lined the busy streets of Castries, waving in the coastal breeze. Layered triangles centered on the flags’ ocean blue background decorated private homes, government buildings, and various shops open for business. The streets were bustling with locals preparing for tomorrow’s Independence Day celebrations. The traffic bottlenecked along every avenue where drivers, as well as pedestrians, regarded traffic lights and stop signs as suggestions.

St. Lucia, a Caribbean island gem, celebrates 45 years of independence from the English Commonwealth. Its flag’s white and black triangles represent the country’s harmonious blend of cultures. A yellow triangle, constant sunshine, is the center of the flag, as well as island life.

Toyota Bus Tour St Lucia
St Lucia Tour Guide Fran

While Melvin, our brave local driver, navigated the minibus out of the capital city, nineteen of us from today’s only cruise ship in port listened to Fran, our tour guide, run through her monologue of St. Lucia facts and details.  As we reached the edge of town where traffic thinned, our private prayers for safety increased as the minibus strained up the thin mountain road navigating sharp switchbacks and oncoming traffic all driving on what the English call, the proper side of the road.

Marigot Bay overlook on St. Lucia.

Our first stop, an overlook at the top of a hill with views of Marigot Bay.

A 10-minute stop here was long enough to settle any queasy stomachs, pay a dollar to use the restroom, and take pictures of the pristine island bay. The long, narrow bay is known as a hurricane hole, sheltering boats and residents from strong storms. Marigot Bay is a popular destination for today’s vacationers to enjoy the beauty and romance of St. Lucia. We watched a large catamaran packed with tourist head out of the bay to sail the crystal blue Caribbean Sea.

Rhythm of Rum Tour at the Bounty Rum Distillery in St Lucia

Our second stop, St. Lucia Rum Distillery, a cooperative of local rum producers located in Roseau Valley.

Bounty Rum barrels aging in the storehouse in St Lucia
Bounty Rum storehouse
Molasses storage containers at the Bounty Rum Distillery

The Rhythm of Rum Tour leads visitors through the rum making process. We trudged past sugar cane fields, around humongous tanks of molasses, and wandered the aging sheds packed with thousands of white oak barrels, each labeled with dates and variety of rum

Distillery vats at the Bounty Rum Distillery in St Lucia
Rhythm of Rum Tour St Lucia at the Bounty Rum Distillery

Our young guide instructed us on the rum making process. She gave details of the fermentation vats, the copper stills, and described with realia, or samples, of rum from each of the many steps. In a reconstructed ship’s hold, info boards and a short video described the rum production, the art of blending, and the history of the company’s beginnings. The carnival room depicting cultural celebrations was a maze leading guests past colorful costumes and sounds made by traditional steel-pan music.

Rum tasting at the Bounty Rum Distillery in St Lucia

The tour ended in a tasting room for us to sample the dozens of rum varieties made at the distillery with a shop to purchase rum just a few steps away.

Pink Plantation Patio in St Lucia

Once again, we braved the windy roads on to the Pink Plantation House. This restaurant, inn, and art studio provided us with a relaxing lunch bursting with Caribbean flavors. Fresh food of rice, beans, fish, and chicken, and a favorite of ours, fried plantain, was served buffet style. Tables covered with island print cloths were scattered on a veranda surrounded by lush flora. A variety of birds provided entertainment with their songs. The location of the French colonial home at the top of a hill treated us with another amazing view of the coast. Its owner and artist, Michelle Elliot, filled the entry with her beautiful pottery, fabrics, and paintings.

Pottery at the Pink Plantation St Lucia
All Hearts plant at the Pink Plantation restaruant in St Lucia
Water planter at the Pink Plantation restaruant in St Lucia
Vibrant Hibiscus on the isle of St Lucia

Southernorka, a Tripadvisor from Roslyn, Pennsylvania wrote this review: “I had a late lunch here after a day in Castries. What a change of scenery! It was like eating in a treehouse…the view was spectacular. I got to taste a lot of local food.

John D, in his Google Review, wrote about this very unique experience: “Lunch for four of us. Great food and very attentive staff. The plantation house is also a vehicle for showcasing Michelle Elliot’s ceramics and artwork-it’s very interesting.

Batik hanging from the patio of The Howelton Estate St Lucia

Our final stop, the Howelton Estate.

We wandered down a steep set of stairs to this Victorian style home. It’s a unique home, one of the oldest, surviving several hurricanes and earthquakes. Our tour guide spoke with pride sharing the home’s history and eclectic artisans who create on site. We were offered a rum punch treat as we listened to the process of designing a batik project on cotton fabric.

Howelton Estate Batik from wax stamp
Quilted pillow covers at the Howelton Estate in St Lucia
Howelton Estate Batik St Lucia
Batik artist at the Howelton Estate in St Lucia

The Howelton Estate lies hidden within the lush forest high above the coastline and treats its visitors with a spectacular view. Although I did not want to leave the home’s colorful garden, I did want to explore the souvenir shop. The first floor of the historic home was bursting with handmade products created by local artists. Deciding to make a purchase was an easy choice for me, but choosing which unique Batik fabric scarf was difficult.

Patio at the Howelton Estate in St Lucia
Plants adorn the grounds of the Howelton Estate in St Lucia

Our minibus, once again, battled the city traffic as we headed back to port. I pictured an equally busy city tomorrow on Independence Day. A different kind of busy. Streets lined with residents wearing colorful cultural costumes, watching the military parades, attending vibrant celebrations, and drinking plenty of local Bounty Rum and Piton beer. The center of attraction, multiple flags of St Lucia.

Pitons St Lucia

Back on board, just moments before sunset, passengers wandered the ship’s bow to gush over the view. Within the emerald-colored coastline, two cone-shaped formations known as the Pitons, rise majestically from the sea. These volcanic spires, stand watch over Sugar Beach. Labeled as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Pitons are considered the most iconic experience on the island. This coastal stretch is truly a photographer’s dream.

Sunset St Lucia

The deep orange sun eased below the horizon, creating a magnificent finale to our symphony of a day. We experienced a slice of St. Lucia, discovered a mosaic of nature, culture, and adventure, and gained inspiration from the beauty and romance of the pristine Caribbean island named St. Lucia.