Island Road Trip
ISLAND ROAD TRIP – OFF THE BEATEN TRACK IN SOUFRIERE
There’s nothing like two veteran tourists to find a few authentic local gems off the beaten track in Saint Lucia’s sulphurous and spectacular heart, the bewitching town of Soufriere.
Saint Lucia’s former capital’s is nestled in an emerald green bay, surrounded by steep, lushly verdant mountains and flanked by the volcanic magnificence of Petit Piton, which rarely seems to leave the view as you make your way around Soufriere’s charming but hold-your-breath narrow streets.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors make their way to Soufriere by land and sea, from hotels and cruise ships, arriving on yachts and staying in some of the most exquisite resort properties in the world. The Drive-In Volcano and Diamond Falls are well known and loved, as are many of the area’s iconic tourist attractions, but what if you’re a freelancer, a bit independent and out for an authentic local experience? TT knows that more and more visitors want to take their time, make their own itinerary and get to know Saint Lucia on their terms, so we sent a couple of scouts on a foray into the breadbasket of the island to uncover a few delicious finds.
Driving is the best way to see all the sights and get to know the island intimately, but it’s not without its challenges so choose a reliable, recommended company and a car you’re comfortable driving. Cool Breeze is an excellent rental service with offices in strategic locations islandwide, and a roster of comfortable, reliable vehicles in a variety of price ranges and knowledgeable staff to help you get off to a good start. Signing up is super- efficient, and the office at JQ Rodney Bay Mall is convenient for hotels in the north – in just minutes TT was out the door and loading up an impressive Dodge Calibre which was a great car for the road trip down south.
If a bone- shaking adrenaline rush is your preferred method of arrival in Soufriere, or anywhere else on the west coast indeed, there’s nobody better to get you to the jetty in exhilarating style than with Captain Jerome on his water taxi, Israel King. Bouncing over the waves is not for the nauseous, but if an adventure is on your itinerary, Jerome can take you to any one of his secret coves and caved around the coast. At Soufriere, Israel King disembarks at the main jetty, just steps from the main streets of the town.
THE TARZAN OF SOUFRIERE
Ziplining is a lot of fun, and the Hotwires zipline is a great way to spend to spend a couple of hours in Soufriere. Located at the Morne Coubaril Estate, the eight platform course through rainforest and bamboo is not too strenuous for beginners, and the Piton views make for a real photo opportunity. Our guides were Dalton and Emery, who has been with the operation since day one and seems about as comfortable hanging from a wire as he does on the ground: he’s also very knowledgeable about the forest, the estate history and the town of Soufriere which spreads out below the sixth platform, pointing out interesting features and landmarks. Harnesses and helmets are provided and fitted by the guides, the safety brief is comprehensive and simple, so all you have to do is “sit down and zip” – oh, and screaming is optional but recommended.
Watch out for Emery’s highly entertaining trick- zipping which we don’t suggest you try at home unless you’re a professional like he is, but then we didn’t name him the Tarzan of Soufriere for nothing! And if all that flying through the trees leaves you with an appetite, the rustic restaurant at Morne Coubaril serves up a freshly squeezed juice and satisfying local buffet lunch.
Liming is the Lucian term for kicking back, relaxing and enjoying a little R& R with friends: usually with a few drinks and some delicious home-cooked food. A short walk along Soufriere’s ornamental waterfront park, there’s a right turn and a colourful boat immediately jumps out from the wall above a lively restaurant frontage – this is Skippers, and you read right! A nautical theme is carried from the netted glass buoys and barrel tables to the fresh seafood and local favourites that crowd the menu at ridiculous prices. The beers are cold, the conversation is loud and welcoming, and chef Kelly is a real local, despite moving from the UK four and a half years ago.
One of the most spectacular views on the island is from the La Haut Resort, which perches on the hillside above the town and harbour below, with the awe- inspiring Petit Piton in full view from all angles. The accommodations are spacious and cool, and the Cashew rooms feel particularly secluded in their garden setting with coconut palms fringing the panorama. The folks at La Haut are really wonderful, welcoming, helpful and full of local knowledge – the food is fresh, locally- sourced and deliciously cooked for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bar and restaurant areas are simply spectacular, with a glittering panorama of Soufriere, the Pitons and the Caribbean sea, so it’s a wonderful place to enjoy a local juice or a naughtily strong rum punch.
After lazing and gazing by the La Haut pool, take the family- run resort’s plantation walking tour for more surprises, including old original cane production equipment and a working press (sans donkey but you’re welcome to give it a push), lush herb gardens and vegetable beds, fruit trees like mango, orange and cashew and even a tiny cocoa production are ingeniously hidden under the reception building to keep the beans protected when it rains. It takes only half an hour or so, but what you learn about the history of the property is remarkable.
The Pitons from La
Soufriere town centre bustles with activity.
Photo by Leo Evans
Zipping on Hotwires
Photo by Leo Evans
Soufriere Church is in the centre of town
Morne Coubaril Estate has a
Iconic view of the island's
La Haut's tour includes a
working cane press