Photo Gallery ( 100+ photos): www.samdobrow.110mb.com/StLucia/ My wife, Janice and I decided to travel to St. Lucia to see the Pitons for Valentines Day. We are late 40’s with 2 kids and live in Atlanta, GA. Janice refuses to travel unless we stay in the nicest accommodations (4 stars or better) which can sometimes limit our options. I researched St. Lucia to discover most rooms near the Pitons are not air conditioned or are over $400/night. Eventually I decided to book a room at the Mago Estate Hotel in their air conditioned Eden Suites rooms. I booked directly with the hotel, by phone, to negotiate the best possible room rate. I recommend talking to Sonya, the hotel manager before booking your room. We found discount airfare on Delta by booking through Air Jamaica, actually $250/person less than Delta’s best fares for the same exact flight. Delta flies from Atlanta non-stop to Vieux Forte in about 4.25 hours. Since we booked the Mago for 7 nights the hotel arranged for a taxi to meet us at the airport and transport us to the hotel (round trip) at no additional charge. Prices in St. Lucia are outrageous. Everything is priced like New York City but the service is very Caribbean; slow and deliberate. Much of the local tourist economy is entrepreneurial meaning cash not credit. Bring lots of cash and be prepared to pay $100 for just about anything, that is the magic number for 2 people. What I found hard to understand was the lack of understanding of economics (supply and demand). There is so much poverty but nobody is willing to undermine the NY price and as a result people spend less money and the people live a lower standard than is possible with a better price structure and work ethic. Taxi drivers will scam you for the local tours to the “Drive in Volcano” and “Diamond Falls” with a stop at Ladera for sunset. It is not so much that the tour is a ripoff as much as it is excessively hyped to get you to take the taxi ride for $100. The volcano is nothing more than a pit of noxious smelling fumes at the top of a hill. Diamond Falls is a quaint place to swim in a small pool where hot spring water mixes with cool mountain water; judge for yourself whether the mud bath makes you look 20 years younger. Ladera is beautiful but snobby and very expensive resort; dinner will easily run $100+ per person and I heard much complaining about the poor service. Taxi is the only way to get to Dennery for the seafood festival on the Pacific coast. Transportation by car is challenging and time consuming; use only when absolutely necessary for your desitination. I recommend the charter of a “water taxi” for the day. The Caribbean waters are calm and protected so you will be able to explore from Rodney Bay in the north to Vieux Forte in the south and reach many pristine beaches for swimming and scuba. We stopped at Marigot Bay, Ti Kaye, Anse La Raye, Jalousie Plantation, and Anse Chastanet. It is beautiful to see the stars and coastline after dark. A water taxi will run $150 to $250 for a day depending on how far you want to go. You can find Chile (our water taxi driver) on the beach or dock at the Hummingbird Resort. Shopping opportunities are virtually non-existent in Soufriere outside of the grocery store. There are a few craft shops and boutiques but most of the stores cater to local people. Anse La Raye offered the best prices and selection of T-Shirts and local crafts. We also visited the Seafood Festival in Dennery which I recommend to experience the local culture but would not suggest eating there. The food is very inconsistent from vendor to vendor. I sampled great Mahi Mahi steamed in foil, average seafood stew, mishandled and overcooked tuna, and nasty turtle soup. Each portion costs from $2 to $7 and should be purchased in the local currency. About four ounces of straight liquor after the food may have saved my life by killing the bacteria. I did not get sick but felt queasy. Get there early (7 PM) for the best food and stay late (1 AM) for the cultural experience. Mago is a small hotel with about 9 rooms built into the side of the mountain and is walking distance to the beach. The road is very steep so you need to be in good health to make the climb back to the hotel as well as up the stairs from the Eden Suites to the pool, bar, restaurant, and lobby. The views are spectacular and the service is similar to a B&B environment. Our Eden Suite “Kabir” was quite large with a very private plunge pool on the balcony. The beds are very firm with excellent pillows. Voltage is 220 and we were able to get a heavy duty transformer and power strip to operate our hairdryer and electronic devices. There are no phones or Internet in the room; though there is an international pay phone in the lobby. The air conditioner kept resetting to economy mode which was a little annoying as was the ungrounded electrical fixtures in the room. The only real drawback is that the noise from town carries up the side of the mountain like a natural amphitheatre and some people staying in the open air rooms were complaining. A very loud nightclub could be heard until 3 or 4 am on the weekend nights. The Mago is a unique resort and I highly recommend it to young and middle aged couple for its integration with nature and value in the area. It is not the place for kids or anyone with mobility issues. The food at Mago is good and fairly priced. The chef cooks up something special each day based on what is available at the local market. The best part about dining at Mago is the view which I can only describe with pictures (see my gallery). Every meal is served up in what I call “minimalist cuisine”. Each course is beautifully prepared but doesn’t really satiate an appetite. Breakfast is included. Lunch and dinner are extras ($10 – $30 per person). We found 2 local restaurants worth mentioning for their taste as well as portions (1) Beachfront restaurant at “The Still” resort at Hummingbird Beach, and (2) The “Green Room” one block from the church in downtown Soufriere. Both offer excellent local curries which need spicing up with the local hot sauce to really bring out the flavors and the price is right ($8 – $12 per person). The beachside restaurant at Anse Chastanet has an excellent menu of Indian-Caribbean fusion food; its pricey ($50/person) but worth it.
Overall Soufriere and the surrounding area is indescribably beautiful. As a developing country with minimal infrastructure, there is a sharp contrast between the poverty of mostly black villagers and the opulence of the white tourists and yachtsmen. Unfortunately, the St. Lucian government has done only a little to protect the natural resources, endangered species and marine life of the island. I hope you will visit my photo gallery (above) for more information and to enjoy the sights of Soufriere as I saw them.