Families with kids often find the short flights and exotic destinations make the Caribbean an ideal spot for a family vacation. But with so many islands to choose from, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly where to go. We recently took our kids to St. Lucia and it proved to be an excellent choice for families traveling with kids.
If you are like me, sitting on the beach for an entire vacation can get tedious. So when we visit a new place, I love to explore everything that it has to offer. In St. Lucia we found a number of great family-friendly adventures that let us experience the fun beyond the beach.
Hiking is not an option for families with toddlers, so getting the chance to see a volcano up close can be a difficult endeavor. But St. Lucia boasts the “world’s only drive-in volcano” Qualibou, or as the locals call it, La Soufriere, making it possible for budding geologists to check out the heat without the hike.
Park entry is $2 for walkers and $5 for driving into the park. Either way, a guide leads you to viewing points along the trail while giving information about the temperature of the numerous steaming pools, the extent of the caldera and the activity of the volcano itself. It is a quick tour – probably 30 minutes or less – but interesting and educational all the same.
Rainforest Sky Ride’s Aerial Rainforest Tram
Zip-lining is a booming business in many tourist destinations today, but not a safe option for young children. A variation on this theme, the rainforest tram, is a great option for families traveling with children in St. Lucia.
This relaxing tram ride is a great way for families to get an intimate, birds-eye view of the rainforest and some of its interesting creatures, like humming birds, ficus stranglers, and parrots. Each tram holds eight passengers, along with the naturalist guide and glides up the mountain at a relaxing pace. At the top, a short, guided hike allows families to see a buttress root system up close. Rain ponchos are provided at the beginning of the tour (and we needed ours), and drinks are provided at the end. The small gift shop has a reasonable array of snacks and souvenir items, and was the only place where I could find a “real” bird book.
I am not a fan of trapping children on a boat with nothing to do for three hours, but whale watching in St. Lucia kept our kids (ages 2 and 4) enthralled throughout the trip. Of course, part of the fun was getting on the boat first, and then watching the chaos when we went to pick up the cruise passengers who signed up for the excursion. Luckily, the boat wasn’t crowded and the kids also enjoyed dodging the water that splashed into the boat as as we moved along.
But the best part really was all the whales we saw. Out of the 20 species of whales that occur around St. Lucia, we only saw two, but they entertained us for a good amount of time. We started with a pod of pilot whales that we followed for thirty minutes or so. Then we came across a sperm whale mother and calf and hung around with them as well. We also saw a number of birds and some good views of the island.
The kids had their fill of the chips and cookies the crew served as snacks, and then fell asleep on the way back. Both kids have said it was one of their favorite things that we did on St. Lucia.
Diamond Botanical Gardens and Waterfall
Another way for families to explore St. Lucia and its wildlife is the Diamond Botanical Gardens and Waterfall. An easy stroll through gardens bursting with tropical flowers and a bevy of birds takes families to Diamond Falls, so named because the water is laced with minerals that have colored the rock face behind falls in a bedazzling rainbow of colors.
This six-acre botanical garden is a great place for a family adventure that includes flower spotting, bird-watching, and a dip in the mineral baths (bring a swimming suit). At $5 for adults and $2.50 for children (not including the bath) it is easy on the wallet, and gives little feet the chance to explore the tropical rainforest, while learning a little bit of St. Lucia’s history.
Castries Public Craft Market
Outdoor markets in the Caribbean are a profusion of food, music, local arts and crafts and vendors ready to barter with anyone within earshot and the Castries Public Craft Market is no exception. Our kids were warmly welcomed here and had a hard time focusing on choosing one souvenir to take home, since every stall had some fun things to offer.
They also enjoyed dancing to the steel drum band playing in the courtyard, and couldn’t pass up a palm-frond sculptor, who made a grasshopper for my son and an angelfish for my daughter. Some of the ladies selling goods brought their children out to meet ours – and we had a laugh swapping stories about raising kids. The market is open every day, except Sunday, and is adjacent to the produce market where local farmers bring fresh produce each Saturday. Entry is free, but it’ll cost you!