This post is part of a series on what to do when you have one day in port on a Cruise. You can find more posts from this series on my page, How To Spend One Day In Port.
If you’re headed to St. Lucia on your next cruise, you are in luck; there is much to do on this island. You can have a simple beach day or go snorkeling. Join a catamaran out for a sail and see the Pitons. Have a zip line experience in the tropical forest, or spend your day shopping in Castries.
But be aware that St. Lucia Cruise Port is a popular stop for many cruise ships. During high season it is not unusual for there to be four or more cruise liners docking at Pointe Seraphine and La Place Carenage Terminal in just one day. Four ships can mean as many as 8,000 extra people on this island! So make sure you plan ahead.
This article may contain affiliate links. We may earn a commission if you use these links to buy products or services. Please see our disclosure policy for full details. Thanks.
Should You Take A Ship-Offered Excursion From the St. Lucia Cruise Port?
There are probably as many opinions about cruise ship shore excursions as cruise passengers. You will hear about many good adventures and many things gone wrong.
The Bad Things About Cruise Ship Excursions
Ship excursions are expensive, and you can often get the same or equal experience from a local.
You have to wake up early. The crew tries to get all the excursion passengers off the ship and on their way before 9:00 am.
Cruise ship excursions are often on a big bus, with added stops to “shop,” usually at some overpriced souvenir shop. You aren’t generally seeing the local shops and people or helping their economy.
There is no opportunity to change up the tour. You follow a pre-determined itinerary.
The Good Things About Cruise Ship Excursions
When a cruise line puts an excursion on its menu, you can be assured that the tour operator has been vetted. You will be treated in the same manner as you are on the cruise. In fact, it is not unusual for crew activity members to be on the excursion with you.
Almost without exception, if something happens and your tour is late getting back to the ship, the ship will wait for you even if it is past its listed sailing time.
The ship waiting for you is a valuable guarantee. If you are off on your own and miss the all-aboard, you most likely will see your ship sailing off into the sunset with the passengers who made it back on time, waiving as you run down the pier. Miss the ship and it’s your responsibility to rejoin the cruise at the next port.
On this same cruise to St. Lucia, our ship also made port in Bonaire, where we had fun touring the island on our own in a rented golf cart.
In Aruba, we did a ship excursion of a sunset sailing around the island. From the start, we knew we would not return before this ship’s sailing time. Indeed we were nearly 45 minutes late. The ship waited for our group, and officers met us at the port to escort us back on board.
Our Choice This Time For One Day In St. Lucia
We’ve been to the St. Lucia cruise port several times on our various Southern Caribbean cruises. Sometimes we find a tour on our own. But on this cruise, we have a large OBC (onboard credit), so we decided to spend some on shore excursions from the ship.
Our sailing is in the rainy season, and we don’t want to chance an outdoor activity being rained out. We chose the “Taste of St. Lucia and Chocolate Workshop.” This tour promises that we can discover the many joys of chocolate, from bean to bar, in a hands-on chocolate-making class at Howelton Estate and a trip to the Pink Plantation to see local artists’ works and sample the local fruit and spices of the islands.
Besides having two of my favorite things included on the tour, local cuisine, and chocolate, this is a small group tour; there are only eight cruise travelers, including us, on this tour. Also, we get to sleep in (YAY); the excursion doesn’t leave until 10:00. I hate waking up early on vacation.
These two estates are high on a hill looking back toward the port and the town of Castries. There are some beautiful vistas as we climb to the top looking back at the pier. At one such photo stop, I took a fantastic picture of our ship, the Celebrity Summit.
First Stop The Pink Plantation
We arrive at the Pink Plantation about 20 minutes after leaving our ship. Our bus driver rings the bell as noted on the sign at the gate; we are greeted by Joseph, the Caretaker, and start our tour.
To begin, Joseph has a table with a bountiful harvest of local fruits and vegetables from the island. Many of these were grown by Joseph himself, he has been the caretaker of these gardens most of his adult life.
As Joseph takes us through the various fruits, a group of wait staff quietly comes up behind us and offers small tastings of juice, fruit, and cake. All these morsels are delicious. Next, Joe guides us through his fantastic garden; there are palm trees, ginger plants, and tropical flowers of all types.
On one edge of the garden is a vast fan palm. Throughout the garden are pots filled with water fountains that have water lettuce on the surface and tiny mosquito-eating fish hiding under the leaves. This is one of the ways the plantation keeps the pesky mosquitos under control without the use of pesticides.
After we tour the grounds, we head into the Plantation House proper. The house, designed to showcase the views and capture the cooling tradewinds, is over 140 years old and represents authentic St. Lucian architecture.
Michelle Elliott is both a restauranteur and an artist. Her unique artwork, paintings, and ceramics are featured throughout the Inn. The Pink Plantation is now home to a small Inn with three beautifully decorated rooms and a restaurant serving the best locally sourced cuisine with a Creole flair. We didn’t get to enjoy a meal here. Still, from our small samples, I recommend making a reservation when you are in St. Lucia.
On To The Howelton Estate To Make Our Own Chocolate Bar!
From the Pink Plantation, it’s a short bus ride to Howelton Estate, where I am very excited to learn how to make my own chocolate bar. The Caribbean islands of Grenada, Trinidad, Dominica, and St. Lucia are known for growing the world’s rare varieties of cocoa, Criollo and Trinitario. And today, we get to try some.
We park on the road at the top of the estate and take a short walk down to Howelton’s buildings. It’s been overcast most of the day, but the sun breaks through now and again. As we reach the part of the estate where we will be making our chocolate bars (outside on the veranda), we are treated to this incredible view of the lush vegetation covering the hillside down to the city of Castries.
Already set up for us are eight “cooking” stations with a mortar and pestle, spatula, towel, and the ingredients to make our chocolate bar: cocoa, cocoa butter, and sugar.
Julia is our instructor today, and she starts by showing us the cocoa fruit (did you know it was a fruit?). This fruit is much larger than I would have guessed. Next, she opens the fruit and digs out some cocoa beans. These fresh beans are not anywhere near ready for eating yet.
The cocoa beans must first be fermented. Then, there is a whole roasting process, after which you finally get the nibs you need to make the cocoa. With all that’s been done to get us the raw cocoa powder, we still have a lot of work ahead to make our chocolate bars.
Julia leads us through the process, mixing the cocoa in the mortar with the pestle. This is definitely hard work. We must grind the cocoa, cocoa butter, and sugar until they come together in a smooth, glossy, pourable liquid. This takes a lot of elbow grease. As Julia sees each of her pupils tiring, she comes to our rescue. So we learn today that turning cocoa into the chocolate we all know and love is a lengthy process.
Eventually, we all have our chocolate ready to place in the bar mold. With that complete, we are gifted our Howelton Estate aprons and sent off to the gift shop for a refreshment and to while away some time as the chocolate bars harden.
The storm that has been promising all morning comes in with a fury… That’s ok. Our excursion is nearly complete. We grab our chocolate bars and hustle back on the bus for the ride back to the ship. Our driver takes a different route this time, driving by Castries Harbor and downtown Castries on the way back to the cruise ship terminal.
Arriving back at the Saint Lucia cruise port, we take a short 20-minute walk through the shop at Pointe Seraphine to stretch our legs a bit before returning to the ship. We freshen up and have a toast on our balcony while watching the sail away from St. Lucia cruise port as it glows in the evening light.
Other Things You Can Do In Your One Day In St. Lucia
Have A Beach Day In St. Lucia!
The most popular beaches are found on the west coast (leeward) of this island nation:
Vigie Beach is within walking distance, just a little over a mile from the cruise port. If you want to go further from Castries, you will find many sandy beaches perfect for lazing in the sun on the island’s northwest coast.
Choc Beach is a beautiful sandy expanse, but there are no amenities here. But it’s only about a 20-minute taxi ride from Castries to Reduit Beach, adjacent to the Rodney Bay Marina. This area offers day beachgoers all the amenities. There are bars and restaurants on the beach, umbrellas are available for rent, and of course, there are the necessary facilities. It may get crowded at Reduit Beach with all there is on offer.
Heading south from the port, you’ll find Marigot Bay, voted the best beach in St. Lucia, and the Marigot Beach Club and Dive Resort. This beach location is near the Saint Lucian National Marine Reserve, which makes this an excellent choice if you love to snorkel.
View Nature On The South End Of St. Lucia
The drive from the port of Castries to the Soufrière area takes about 75 minutes. Unfortunately, much of the journey is on a very windy road, which is not the best if you suffer from motion sickness. But there are rewards for the fearless.
Don’t want to risk driving the curvy roads on the Island of Saint Lucia? No worries; several water taxi companies are located near the cruise ship terminal that will take you to the south part of the island.
For those adventurers who make the trek by land or sea, this is where you find the Pitons. This Unesco World Heritage Site offers excellent scenic trails full of natural wonders and fantastic views of the surrounding Caribbean Sea.
If you are looking for a more relaxing commune with nature Sulphur Springs Park welcomes you to the only drive-in volcano. Here you can soothe your muscles in the hot springs or take a mud bath in the bubbling pools in a collapsed volcanic crater.
Diamond Botanical Gardens is a bird-haven rain forest with a breathtaking colorful waterful. Spend some time walking through the lush vegetation with hundreds of tropical flowers. After your walk, you can bathe in the mineral water at the hot springs.
Good Things To Know For Traveling In St. Lucia
The Time Zone is the same as in the eastern United States, or UTC -4. For us, from California, this means the islands are three hours ahead. However, note that in the US, we still use daylight savings time which will shift the time difference to four hours forward for California.
St. Lucia used the East Caribbean Dollar or EC Dollars. You can use US Dollars but expect the exchange rate to vary from place to place. Most venues will accept standard credit cards such as Visa and Master Card. I recommend this payment method if you have a card with no foreign currency fees.