We snorkeled at the base of Petit Piton and next to the white sand beach at the Jalousie Plantation, known as Sugar Beach. The sand was imported from Guyana and used to cover up the volcanic black sands.
All beaches on St. Lucia are open to the public. Scuba St. Lucia offers trips around the Pitons.
St. Lucia — once known as the land of the iguana — is a lush, green, natural and still-developing island. It has surprisingly wild interior rain forests and mountain peaks that top 3,100 feet. The development hugs the coast, and its roads are slow and winding.
Known for its pricey all-inclusive resorts, St. Lucia is not dominated by a beach culture, like many other Caribbean islands. It is largely rural, with banana and coconut plantations. It was a sugar-cane island in the past.
The first European settler on the island was Francoise Le Clerc, a 15th century French pirate with a wooden leg. St. Lucia was a battleground between England and France and changed hands 14 times. England won out in 1814. It became an independent country within the British Commonwealth in 1979. English is the official language, although the French influence is strong.
About 13 percent of the island is protected rain forest with more than 20 miles of jungle trails, secluded waterfalls and volcanic features including boiling mud and steaming vents. The St. Lucia Forest Preserve covers about 19,000 acres, home to the threatened St. Lucia parrot, also known as the jacquot.
The St. Lucia Forestry & Lands Department can arrange guided rain forest hikes. The Tet Paul Nature Trail is one of the best (www.tetpaulnaturetrail.com). The St. Lucia Trust also offers guided rain forest hikes. You can drive into a volcano with bubbling mud pots and sulfurous gases near Castries.
Elsewhere on St. Lucia: Pretty Marigot Bay is where the original Dr. Dolittle movie with Rex Harrison was filmed. Rodney Bay at the island’s northwest tip has become a tourist center for water sports.
Anse la Raye on the west coast is known for its Friday night fish parties/dance parties. The village of Dennery on the east coast hosts similar get-togethers on Saturdays.
Two estates near Soufriere — Soufriere Estate and Morne Coubaril — offer tours. There are also botanical gardens, waterfalls and mud baths.
Pigeon Island National Park covers 40 acres with two beaches, the remains of an 18th century naval garrison and a British fort.