Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Travels to Soufriere, St. Lucia

St. Lucia is a sovereign island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. St. Lucia stands apart from the rest of the Caribbean islands thanks to its varied landscape and diverse culture and cuisine, which is distinguished by African, Indian, Caribbean, British, Spanish and French influences. You can explore everything from the Piton Mountains and rainforest to the Sulphur Springs of Soufriere and the Caribbean coral reef on this 238 square-mile island in paradise.  St. Lucia was named after Saint Lucy of Syracuse by the French, the island's first European settlers. In 1814, the British took definitive control of the island. Because it switched so often between British and French control, St. Lucia was also known as the "Helen of the West Indies".

Over this past Thanksgiving, Keith and I decided to run away from the cold weather in DC and head to St. Lucia.  We stayed in Soufri√®re on the southwest coast of St. Lucia, at a wonderful resort called Stonefield Estate Resort. Nestled below the awe inspiring Pitons and overlooking the Caribbean sea, the Stonefield Estate was our secluded Caribbean home away from home.  Framing the town to the south are the picturesque Pitons - comprising the Gros Piton and Petit Piton. They rise directly up from the coral reef beds and form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We had our own private swimming pool, private spacious veranda with a hammock, exotic outdoor garden shower and spectacular views.  There is no TV nor Internet (WiFi is available in the main lobby areas and at the restaurant), so it was nice to "unplug" and truly relax.  We were given a prepaid cell phone to use to contact the front desk or security, if needed.  Breakfast is included with your accommodations and available at the onsite Mango Tree Restaurant.  We woke up every morning to the strong sulfur in the air and this gorgeous view:

Our pool with a view of the Piton in the back.
The Soufriere region of the island is popular for snorkeling and scuba diving. We went to Sugar Beach one day and enjoyed a nice lunch there at Bayside.

Kayaks and wind boats for rent at Sugar Beach.
Many private boats docked right up to the beach.
We stocked up on some snacks to carry us over in between meals.  Keith was fond of the cookies.

There are several rainforest trails in the area with spectacular views, abundant wildlife and several waterfalls such as the Enbas Saut Falls.  The area is studded with fruit trees and "local wildlife" (read: many feral cats.)  We had a banana tree at our villa and a papaya tree at the restaurant that they used to make the jams we ate at breakfast.  The locals seemed very proud of their island agriculture and fishing villages.

A few working plantations where cacao is still processed are popular in Soufriere as well.  One night we enjoyed a chocolate lover's dinner at Boucan at the Hotel Chocolat.

Besides the chocolate, you should try the local Caribbean rum.  It's actually very cheap there, so if you plan on checking baggage back to the U.S., you can probably pack a few bottles in your luggage to bring home.  We also took an adventure up to Jade Mountain and I highly recommend it.

Sunset Cruise
St. Lucia was breathtaking.  The mountainous views with the ocean down below reminded me of Maui.  I was impressed with the cuisine - with definite influence from France and the West Indies.  If we were to visit again, I think we would return to Soufriere, as we enjoyed the exclusiveness away from the touristy ports.  Have you visited St. Lucia before? What are some of your favorites things to do and places to eat? Please share in the comments below!

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