Wednesday, May 1, 2013

St Lucia

When it's freezing cold outside, what better place to go to than the beach? So in February of 2013, my husband and I headed to St Lucia. We hadn't had a vacation in so long where we really had nothing planned other than just hanging out with each other on the beach.
Our flight arrived early Saturday morning into St Lucia. We had hired a private car through Real Saint Lucia Tours to take us to our beach house/hotel. They will stand there with a sign with your name so you can figure out who you are looking for. Make sure to have your confirmation number and ask your driver what they have and to confirm it. From what I hear, some people will just copy down names so they can pretty much steal your business. It cost $100 for our private transfer from the airport to Soufriere, which took about an hour. Our driver was very cool. He had water & beer for the ride & was great to talk with. He pointed out things along the way & gave us some pointers on what to do in Soufriere.
We arrived at the Still Beach House and got checked in. This place was awesome because it was just a little beach house with five rooms along the beach with a beautiful view of the pitons. It has two rooms & three suites (has a kitchenette). We were in room five and were on the end, which probably had the most obstructed view of all of them but it was still a pretty good view. If you do book with them, ask for room number three. It's a suite and probably has the best view.
We had seen mixed reviews on trip advisor but still decided to give it a shot. As my boss says, some people want five star service on a white castle budget. I think some people were expecting to go to this $150/night almost guesthouse and be at a five star resort. We really liked this place! It was very chill & low key & everyone there was so nice.
We got checked in, threw on our swimsuits and checked out the place.
We didn't get there until the afternoon so we just got settled & hung out on the porch & enjoyed the great view. We had heard lots of good things about Orlando's that was like a two minute walk from where we were staying so we decided to check it out for dinner. He had been the chef at the Ladera & opened up his own place.
If you do go there, you might want to make a reservation because it is not a very large restaurant . We of course showed up without one but there were two seats left at the bar. So we sat there & ended up talking with the other couple that was waiting on their table. We sat there for probably about thirty minutes. We ended up drinking this really strong rum & then our table was ready. My husband and I both had fish dishes and they were really good. Probably one of the best meals that we had there. Unfortunately we did not bring the camera with us.
After dinner we headed to the local bar called Whispers. Our driver had told us that they were having a big party that night. This place was only about a five minute walk from The Still Beach and it was packed! We had the local beer Piton and hung out there for a few hours. This was not a tourist spot so it was cool to hang out with the locals.
The next day we spent most of the day hanging out on the porch of The Still Beach or on the beach right in front of it. That day they had out a buffet for a tour group that came through there so we got in on it too. It was yummy. We also watched the locals cliff jump as more tour groups arrived. They would jump & then ask the people coming in for a tip. The kids came up to the still beach but never bothered us. We did have locals that got to the point of annoying us of asking if we needed a water taxi or a ride some where. But after being there a day they got the hint & backed off. I'm assuming that they knew the owners and/or people that worked there because they didn't seem to have a problem with them just hanging out on their porch. We actually ended up talking to a couple of guys that were cool & did take a water taxi from them later.
 Later that afternoon we walked into town (it only took like 15 minutes) to find the local supermarket. There were only two supermarkets in town and we went to the smaller one this time. There was not a huge choice in food so we got some chips, fruit, beer & water. Something to keep in mind is if you bring dollars (they use the East Caribbean dollar there but still take dollars) make sure that they are good/new ones. They wouldn't take some of our twenties because they were extremely worn out and the US wont take back ones that aren't good.

That night we decided to head back to Whispers for a few beers. We ended up talking to some of the locals and one of the guys owned his own tourism company called Charles in Charge Tours. Well as we talked more he told us he gets contracted out by Sandals and would be taking guests back to the resort we were going to next. So we agreed to do a tour through Soufriere & a boat trip to Sandals Grande St Lucian for $150.00 which seemed like a pretty good deal (it was going to be $75 at least to get a ride by land to Sandals so this way we got to see it by water).

The next day we took up one of the locals on their water taxi. The water taxis are not large boats. They are mostly small wooden boats that can fit four people at the most. They took us over to Sugar Beach (right on the other side of the piton) which is where the Sugar Beach Resort is (high, high dollar & luxury but this place was beautiful!). Also the Ladera and Boucan Chocolate resort are the resorts above Sugar Beach. They dropped us off and told them to come back at four o'clock.

When you come up on the beach, there is a little public area with chairs that is pretty packed. Then there is the Sugar Beach Resort part (probably about 75% of the beach). There you can pay $50 a chair (they were at least the really nice comfy ones that are like laying out on a bed) with an umbrella and are required to spend another $50 there. We decided to spring for it and got two chairs close to the other end of the beach. They also give you a red flag to put up for whenever you would like service. We started out with some drinks and ended up hanging out, drinking on the beach all day. It was a lot of fun and this place was just so beautiful. If only we could have afforded to actually stay there, haha.
We spent all day just hanging out on the beach & having drinks. It was beautiful & we had so much fun. The guys came back to pick us up and we weren't ready to leave so they came back right before the sun was setting to bring us back. It was a perfect time to come back going over the ocean, watching the sunset. Before we went back to the Still Beach, they took us to look at this crazy bat cave. Since we had a lot to drink that day we just ended up having dinner and staying at the Still Beach for dinner.

The next morning we got up and headed into town to look around & grab an early lunch before we headed out for our tour. First we checked out the Soufriere Church & found a local restaurant called De Belle View. I think we walked in right before lunch time because they were steady but then got slammed about ten minutes later. It was a great creole restaurant with excellent food.
We walked across the street, close to the docks where the larger boats took off from to meet our guide, King Nigel. I believe he works for Charles in Charge or he was helping him out. He has a van with beers & water & was ready to go. First he took us up in the hills, through the Pitons to the Soufriere Hills Volcano. You had to pay a small fee to get into the park. This volcano has been active again since 1995 & had a very strong smell of sulfur. We weren't really feeling the mud bath so we headed to the piton falls.
We arrived at the falls & paid the three dollars per person fee & made our way down to the falls. There was another couple leaving as we were arriving & were the only ones down there for almost the entire time. They were very nice & warm. We hung out there for a while & then headed out.
Probably the coolest part was after the tourist stuff was Nigel drove us though the mountains. We'd stop everyone once in a while to check out the view or he'd grab us some fresh fruit off of a tree. After driving around for a bit he asked us if we wanted to chill at his brothers house for a minute. So we headed there and hung out for a bit. He was cooking some food and was nice enough to offer us some as well.
That night we had dinner at the Hummingbird Beach Resort; which was right next door to the Still Beach (these were the only two places along the beach in Soufriere besides Sugar Beach). This looks like a great place to stay too & had great food. We both had very good fish dinners & a nice bottle of wine. We forgot to bring the camera again.
 The next morning we were picked up from the Still Beach by another one of Charles' employees and taken down to the larger set of docks. We hung out there and waited for the tour group to return to the boat since we were hitching a ride with them. Once everyone was back, we all loaded into the boat & headed out. Since they had a full tour group, there were not two extra seats so Christian sat on the cooler & was the bartender for the ride & one of the guys was nice & let me sit in one of the captains chairs. The boat ride was probably about twenty minutes or so. We passed the other two Sandals along with some other really nice resorts along the way.
We arrived to Gros Islet to Sandals Grande St Lucian, pulled up the shore & hopped out of the boat. This place was huge! We found our way to check in & were greeted with some drinks. We got checked in & headed to our room. We booked the Caribbean Honeymoon Beachview Grande Luxe - GL room through Hayley with BeachBum Vacations (who was also our wonderful TA for our wedding at Sandals Jamaica in 2009). The room had a wonderful view & was super close to all of the main things, including to the beach.
It was kinda close to our anniversary so said it was an anniversary trip and they put champagne with flowers & a slice of cake in our room. Below is a picture of our room on the end of the second level & the view from our room.
He changed into our swimsuits & hit the beach. We found some vacant beach chairs, grabbed some drinks & hung out there & watched the sunset until we were ready for dinner. The first night we ate at the Bayside restaurant, which was actually pretty good for an AI. From the two Sandals resorts that I have been to, the Bayside restaurant was the buffet. This one had lots and lots of seafood, which was great.
The next morning I woke up early & put some towels on some beach chairs & then went back to bed. Unfortunately unless you have a butler, getting a good spot with chairs can be challenging so getting up early is helpful. I found some under a "palm tree" umbrella which was nice for some shade when needed & to put our stuff on the table. We just hung out on the beach all day. It was nice to just relax & enjoy each others company.
The cool thing about the location of the Grande St Lucian is it's on the end of a peninsula in Rodney Bay. So you have the beachside on one side & Oceanside on the other that leads to Pigeon Island. That morning we decided to get up and hike up to the top to the old fort. We had heard from some people that it was quite a hike but it wasn't too bad.
Outside the park were people trying to give you rides, buy stuff from them, etc. It was pretty interesting to see some of the tourists almost freak out when people talked to them. I like Sandals & all but the resorts almost shelter you way too much where you don't get to socialize or interact with the locals. Then they come to situations like this in broad daylight & get so scared & think that they are in danger just because someone is asking for you to buy something. I'm not saying that you shouldn't always be cautious but sometimes it's a bit too much. Those people probably would not stay in Soufriere.
We took the very short walk from the resort to the park on Pigeon Island & paid a small fee to get in. We made our way in & hiked up to the fort. The view at the top was just beautiful. You had a three-hundred and sixty degree view out into the ocean & over Sandals Grande. You could even see over to the next island over, Martinique.
We made our way back down the hill & checked out things around the bottom. There were some more great views and was very peaceful.
After we walked back from Pigeon Island, we hung out on the beach & had some drinks. We watched the sunset & then headed in to get ready for dinner. We made reservations at Josephine's. This was the only place that was included with Sandals that you have to make reservations. There is also Gordon's on the Pier but it's only included for Butler Category guests (or you can pay extra, which didn't seem worth it).
The night before we saw a couple get served lobster at Barefoot by the Sea. We asked our server how we get that we were told you can book it through concierge. So we stopped by their booth & booked it for Josephine's. We typically eat later so the restaurant wasn't super packed when we got there. They sat us at a nice, romantic table outside. It was kinda funny because it was like they were sneaking us the lobster so other people didn't see it, which we didn't understand why & they didn't do that at the other place. But if it's included, then why does it matter if others see it? Overall, the meals was pretty good though.
The next day we were leaving so in the morning we hung out on the beach again. It was absolutely beautiful that day, which made it much harder to leave. Transportation was included from Sandals to the airport but we decided to pay $350 for a helicopter ride with St Lucia Helicopters from Gros Islet to the airport that we booked through Hayley at BeachBum as well. The free transportation did drop us off at the helicopter pad & we checked in there. They take your luggage in a van that arrives before you do & then re-collect it at the airport to check it in.
I do not like flying and had never been on a helicopter before. Most of the helicopters held the pilot and then five more passengers. We were pretty much told by the guy that worked there that if we tipped him well that he would make sure that we got the two seats upfront with the better view. So we did. Therefore, we had to wait for one full helicopter to leave. It made me so nervous watching it take off & then waiting five more minutes for another.
Finally it was our turn and we got in. Again, I was so scared when we took off but it was so cool! The views were just amazing and I loved it! I'm so glad that we got to see St Lucia by three different ways. We landed on the runway & then a van took us to the front of the airport to check in.
The check-in line was pretty long but moved pretty quickly. The resort makes sure that you are there with plenty of time. We checked in and made our way to get some lunch in the terminal. It was so packed because it was a Sunday afternoon in the winter but we found a corner and ate our lunch.
Overall, we thought St Lucia was wonderful. It was definitely a little pricey but a very cool & beautiful place to see. What we saw of Soufriere and Gros Islet were very different. Soufriere was a little town that wasn't built up and not as touristy. A lot of people will come to Soufriere to see the Pitons, mud baths & the falls during the day but don't stay there. It wasn't the nicest city but not at any time, did I feel unsafe. Gros Islet is the most popular city in St Lucia and the Sandals Grande is probably the largest resort there. I wish that we would have gotten to seen some of the town but unfortunately with an AI you are inclined to stay there since you already paying for everything there. I would like to come back again & check out St Lucia more. It is such a beautiful place!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing the great tips, Hope! I’ve been talking about going on vacation to the beach with my family, but it’s our first time planning a trip like this, and well, we’re a little lost. Stressing over a vacation doesn’t really sound good, but I feel more confident after reading this. Thanks again.

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