Glance out of the aircraft window as you prepare to land at Saint Lucia’s main international airport and you will see for yourself just why this is thought by many to be one of the most beautiful of the Caribbean islands.
Unlike other Caribbean destinations, much of the island is both mountainous and covered in a cloak of dense rainforest, with no shortage of dramatic natural wonders, such as the precipitous volcanic cones of the iconic Pitons, which rise up out of the sea on the south-west corner.
There are fabulous palm-fringed beaches, too, generally golden sand in the north of the island and silver sand in the south, which poses the first problem for visitors: which do you choose? Maybe both. The north, which is where you will find the island’s capital, Castries, tends to be busier and more developed, with a greater choice of restaurants and bars. The South has a more laid-back vibe and is home to a host of natural attractions, including the Piton Mountains.
Indeed, Saint Lucia is far from being just a beach destination. It is just as perfect a choice for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies as it is for those who prefer to take their holidays lying on a beach bed.
Certainly there are secluded, luxurious, romantic places to stay, where hotel rooms typically might have an outdoor garden shower, a small private pool or a hammock that’s just made for two on its balcony.
The island is well-equipped for holding wedding ceremonies on the beach and looking after entwined honeymooning couples. It also offers unique wedding locations too — from elegant plantation houses and beautiful botanical gardens, to hotel venues with the Pitons as a backdrop.
But it is not all about romantic luxury. Saint Lucia is equally ideal for families, with many accommodation options designed specifically for them. A good example is the Bay Gardens Hotel in the heart of Rodney Bay, which offers room-only stays at prices which won’t break the bank.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance and even a free shuttle service to its sister hotel, the Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Spa with its very own Splash Island Water Park, which is an ideal spot for families with children to amuse. At the other end of the scale, Virgin Holidays also offers stays at the top-rated Anse Chastanet, a stylish hotel built into the hillside in the lush, green south of the island with views to the majestic Pitons.
Away from the hotels there are plenty of activities for those who get their kicks by climbing, zip-lining, diving, snorkelling, even riding horses in the surf.
A visit to those Pitons, the volcanic cones named Petit Piton and Gros Piton, is a must.
You can go mud bathing at the island’s sulphur springs (and visit the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano), explore Pigeon Island National Park, check out the market in Castries and the Friday Night Street Party in Gros Islet, and visit the port of Soufriere — once a French stronghold — to get a flavour of Saint Lucia’s history. France and Britain fought constantly for control of Saint Lucia, and it changed hands a dozen times or more in the 18th century.
And make time to simply chill out and relax on some of the most beautiful beaches to be found anywhere as you soak in the Caribbean atmosphere… together with the odd rum punch.
Virgin Holidays expert tip
Between the Pitons in Saint Lucia at Anse Chastanet, the reef has a plateau area with depths between 5ft and 25ft. At the end of this, the reef falls away from 20ft to 140ft in a solid wall of mixed corals and fish.
Visit virginholidays.co.uk/stlucia to book, or find your nearest store.
*This content was commissioned and approved by Virgin Holidays