Groupon Getaways Guide to St. Lucia

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Volcanic Natural Beauty and White-Sand Beaches

Although it's a tiny island in the Caribbean with little apparent military value, St. Lucia was zealously contested by the imperial powers of the 17th century. Rule over the island changed hands between the French and the British no fewer than 14 times. Once you arrive, you'll understand what all the fighting was about. What the island lacks in strategic value it makes up for in stunning geography, lovely beaches, and friendly locals.

On the southwestern end of the 238-square-mile island, the Sulphur Springs claim to be the world's only drive-in volcano, where visitors can swim in the caldera's bubbling hot springs.

A scant 3 miles from the springs loom St. Lucia's main volcanic attractions, the Gros and Petit Pitons. These wizened slopes, the fossilized magma cores of a volcano that has otherwise eroded into oblivion, stand sentry on the sides of Jalousie Bay. A hike up Gros Piton will take about three to four hours roundtrip, but the views from the top justify the effort.

Once you're back at the base of the Pitons, you'll be conveniently close to one of the island's best beaches, Sugar Beach. Ensconced between the peaks in Jalousie Bay, the beach might be named after the white sand that covers it or the sugar-cane plantations that used to dominate the island. Though the shoreline here is developing quickly, there is still a public beach accessible from the road that leads to the Jalousie Plantation resort, which also rents snorkel gear to non-guests.

Culture of St. Lucia

Throughout the years, the different strains in St. Lucia's history have blended to form a vibrant melting pot of French, English, and African cultures. The coal pot, a tasty traditional stew that varies from one village to the next, is the literal manifestation of this cultural fusion.

Across the island, different communities hold regular festivals and parties. Friday is fish-fry night in Anse La Raye, near Marigot Bay on the island's western side. Local fishermen line up along Front Street to grill their day's catch and relax with a rum punch.

The island's two main societés are La Woz and La Magwit, historic cultural groups whose collective membership claims most of the island. Named after the national flowers, the rose and the marguerite, the groups spend months preparing for their annual festivals, each trying to outdo the other. When the festival days finally arrive (August 30 for the roses and October 17 for the marguerites), the members parade through the streets before throwing a grand feast.