(LifeWire) - Welcome to St. Lucia
First colonized in 1499, St. Lucia was traded back and forth between Britain and France for two centuries before the British prevailed in 1814. An independent commonwealth nation since 1979, this lush, avocado-shaped island is popular with British tourists, and driving is British-style, on the left.
St. Lucia is known for scenic beauty and especially for the twin peaks of the Pitons in the southwest. The island is lush, with jungle and with sugar and banana plantations; and the sea has coral reefs for divers and snorkelers. St. Lucia is known as a honeymoon destination, but can easily provide a memorable Caribbean family vacation.
St. Lucia receives direct flights at Hewanorra International Airport on the southern tip of the island near the town of Vieux Fort. Several airlines offer direct flights from major North American cities as well as London. Connecting flights - usually via Puerto Rico or other Caribbean islands - land at George Charles (Vigie) Airport, located on the northwestern coast near the island's capital, Castries.
It's important to be sure to fly into the airport closest to your resort. Unfortunately, for St. Lucia, you're probably going to have to take a connecting flight in order to land at Vigie Airport (which is closer to the family-friendly resorts on the Caribbean side of the island) or to take a direct flight to Hewanorra and endure a long, but scenic taxi ride.
How's the Beach?
Some of St. Lucia's beaches are lovely, but they're generally not the fine, white sand found on other islands. Beaches ideal for swimming are all located on the Caribbean side of the island, not the Atlantic Ocean side.
The best spot for families is Reduit Beach, near Rodney Bay in the northwestern corner of the island. The Rex St. Lucian resort is conveniently located here, but all of the island's beaches are public, so you're welcome even if you aren't staying on the property. Three other great beaches for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling are the beach at Pigeon Point, just north of Rodney Bay; Choc Beach, just a couple of miles south of Reduit Beach; and Anse Chastenet, near the historic town of Soufriere and the Pitons, St. Lucia's two great mountains.
Many of St. Lucia's hotels and inns are geared to canoodling couples; some either impose an age restriction on children or ban them outright. However, there are several resorts on the Caribbean side of the island that welcome families as well as lovers - and spoil them equally with excellent amenities. Some choices:
Coconut Bay Resort & Spa: This is a great option for families, all-inclusive and value-priced, and just five minutes fromr Hewanorra airport at the southern end of the island, on the Atlantic Ocean side. In addition to the Cocoland Kidz Club with huge play areas, there's a water park with a lazy river and two zippy water slides.
Rex Resorts St. Lucian: Perched on what is widely considered St. Lucia's best beach, this hotel (with an all-inclusive option) has upgraded its Rexplorers Kids' Club (ages 4 to 12), though it's not as comprehensive as other resorts' programs.
Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort: This village of villas is situated on a idyllic bay about 15 minutes north of Castries. The Jacquot Fun Club (ages 4 to 12) offers evening hours, allowing adults to enjoy the romantic atmosphere; teen programming includes ping-pong tournaments and windsurfing lessons.
Almond Morgan Bay: Located on Choc Beach just minutes north of Castries, this is an elegant, all-inclusive resort that even families with newborns can escape to, thanks to an on-site nursery. The Kids' Club keeps children ages 3 to 12 busy, and teens have their pick of water sports and dance parties.
Almond Smugglers Cove: this second Almond Resorts all-inclusive is also in the northwest, with a nursery as well as kids' programs. This resort has five pools, including one for families.
The Jalousie Plantation: Nestled between Gros Piton and Petit Piton, this luxurious resort has the best views in the country and is probably best for families with children ages 5 and older (though younger children are welcome). Supervised kids' activities are held in the resort's learning center.
Attractions & Fun Outings
St. Lucia is better known for its lush tropical environment than its beaches, and one of the best family outings is a guided hike through St. Lucia National Rain Forest. You can learn more about the flora of the island at Diamond Botanical Gardens, five minutes from the town of Soufriere; bring swimsuits to enjoy the waterfall and mineral baths. Meanwhile, a "Rainforest Canopy Adventure" riding ziplines suits families with kids eight and up.
Also near Soufriere is the drive-through volcano, which you will undoubtedly smell before you see. (See photo.) Your kids will tolerate the rotten-egg aroma of sulfur when they see the bubbling surface for themselves.
Other outdoor activities suitable for the entire family are snorkeling in the calm waters of the island's Caribbean coast and horseback riding on trails. St. Lucia is also known for great windsurfing; beginners should stick to the northwestern Caribbean coast, while more advanced windsurfers prefer the rougher waters near Vieux Fort.
Kids will enjoy a visit to the former pirate hideout of Pigeon Island, now a national park and a very family-friendly beach. Bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
More St. Lucia Tips
- For resorts and major attractions, always check recent visitor comments at a site such as TripAdvisor.com.