To the St. Lucia Pitons: A road trip the easy way

st-lucia-pitons-tourDave S. Clark

I’m an adventurous traveler and that means I like doing things my own way. Everything from planning trips and activities to actually doing the things we plan. Packaged up tours and set itineraries aren’t usually in my travel vocabulary. 

But there are certain instances where they have to be, or perhaps you just think they should be. My wife Karlie and I booked a trip to St. Lucia for my birthday in February 2011. We had done a lot of traveling prior to that and we didn’t want this to be one of our typical travels. We wanted it to be a vacation.  However as much as we wanted to relax, we knew we would probably go a bit crazy just sitting on the beach for an entire week. And being that we wanted to see the rest of the island, not just our little section of beach, we decided one day we needed to hit the highway and see the other sights of the St. Lucia: Pitons, Marigot Bay, Sulphur Springs volcano and the former capital, Soufriere.

Marigot Bay, one of the Caribbean’s most picturesque harbours.

Our hotel was right near the northern tip of the island in Rodney Bay and all of the other sights were farther south along the island’s Caribbean coast on the west. I love day trips on the road, so as soon as we decided on the sights we wanted to see, I looked up prices of rental cars and fuel and started my research on driving in St. Lucia. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this road trip would add a lot of stress to what was supposed to be a stress-free vacation. Rental cars were pricey, gas wasn’t cheap, and you need to get a St. Lucia license ($20 approximately) but my biggest concern was the actual driving. After driving all over Italy, including downtown Rome and along the Amalfi Coast, I now think that I can drive pretty much anywhere. But St. Lucia worried me. The roads are notoriously bad, so much that there are government warnings about them. They don’t have adequate local hospitals, which was also a very big factor, in case something did go wrong. They drive on the left as well and I’m used to driving on the right, but I think I could have managed that.

So we compromised and I’m glad we did. Rather than being brave and doing the drive ourselves, we booked a tour that would take us everywhere in a small van, something that we had dreaded doing in the past. But for the cost, considering it included lunch, admission fees and all transportation, it was worth it, compared to DIY. Another great thing was that you spent a good part of the day traveling one way down the coast and if you were to drive it yourself, you’d have to turn around at the end of the day and make the long, winding, difficult trip back. With our tour, you went all the way down by minibus, stopping at the sights along the way then hopped on a catamaran and headed back by boat to the marina right near our hotel. We’d have to make the sacrifice of not being able to spend the amount of time we wanted in each place, but for the ease of our minds, it was worth it.

Castries Harbour from a great lookout point.

The trip itself was excellent, but started off under rather unfortunate circumstances. Heading down to Castries we were stuck in a terrible traffic jam, which we found out was caused by a fatal motorcycle crash. I never like hearing about those, but it did remind us that the roads here were in fact dangerous.

So, although this wasn’t really a traditional road trip, I still have no regrets on our decision. As much as I love driving, I wouldn’t have wanted to drive all the way back on those windy roads, when the alternative is a big catamaran loaded up with rum punch that stops at a few snorkeling spots and gives a great view of the island. If I’m going to feel motion sick, I’d much rather be on a boat in the sun, rather than stuck in a rental car. If I was to go back and do it all over again, I’d do it the exact same way.

An amazing view of the St. Lucia Pitons aboard a catamaran.

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