St. Lucia on Any Budget

03 Jul 2024

A budget-friendly adventure in paradise

By Jenny Peterson

As a first-time traveler to St. Lucia, and one on a pretty strict budget of about $180 per day, I knew that checking in to one of the luxury resorts that dominate the island wasn’t an option. But that’s ok. I was excited for a Huck Finn-type adventure where I could engage in authentic experiences and eat local food, all while enjoying St. Lucia’s picture-perfect landscape.

I was thrilled to discover The Reef Beach Huts, on the Southern tip of the island, which offered a cabin-style $66-per-night private room (and bath!) with hot water and cold A/C. It was beautiful, too, with lush greenery and rocky cliffs that jutted out from the blue-green sea. Waking up to this would never feel like a compromise.

More than anything else, my plan was to indulge in fabulous food while on St. Lucia, and I found it. Orlando’s in the city of Soufrière is an authentic three-course Caribbean meal available for lunch (five courses for dinner) with outdoor views of the sparkling blue water and iconic Pitons so beautiful it hardly looks real. Orlando comes to chat with each table about his culinary journey and creations, which that day included a fresh ceviche, fish with a pineapple chutney and homemade fruit pie topped with a plantain chip in the shape of a heart. Treetop Restaurant and Bar was truly a postcard view—a perfect indoor/outdoor bohemian treehouse that overlooks a jungle of trees, cliffs and the Pitons, with an Indian-inspired chef’s tasting menu with vegetarian and vegan options and the best, crispiest frybread I’ve ever eaten. Eating dinner at sunset is what movie scenes are made of.

Dining solo in another country can also spur unexpected adventures. Case in point: at Mama Tilly’s Barbeque and Grill I met a British expat who invited me to join his group the next day on a trip to Scorpion Island, a tiny spit of land in nearby Savannes Bay. A particularly fascinating discovery on the boat ride out to the island were the tiny aquafarms for growing sea moss that dotted the water between St. Lucia and Scorpion Island. Turns out that, once dried, the creamy white seaweed becomes a superfood that enriches everything from smoothies to beauty creams.

I also found a way to indulge in the amenities of two of the area’s most highly-sought-after resorts. Making a lunch reservation at Sugar Beach Resort granted me comfortable access to the white sugary sand beach where I indulged in frozen drinks from a local on an anchored boat knee-high from shore, who blends frozen beverages via a solar powered blender and has become somewhat of a viral sensation on social media.

Using a snorkel and mask I brought from home, I saw sea life at Sugar Beach near the rocky cliffs as well as colorful fish and sea snakes at a small reef off nearby Anse Chastanet Beach, another romantic all-inclusive resort that is friendly to off-resorters who buy a Piton beer or two.

Another day, using a taxi driver suggested by the Beach Huts, I visited the colorful town of Soufrière, where I soaked in the famous mud pits at Sulphur Springs, rinsed off the mud at the powerful Toraille Waterfall and walked the short but magnificent Tet Paul Nature Trail that has 360-degree views of the stunning island.

But one of my favorite island experiences was absolutely free: sitting on a lounge chair on the beach outside my hotel, I watched a group of teenagers exercise, train and bathe horses that they used for trail rides. As I settled into a small slice of paradise on the beach, I watched as the teens unhitched the horses, rode bareback through the sand then practiced circular drills with the horses on a long line. Afterwards, they led the mounts into the choppy surf to cool off.

With a little bit of planning, both adventure and culinary discovery abounds off the beaten path in St. Lucia—even when you’re on a budget.

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