Being a Caribbean island, St. Lucia lives up to its reputation as a beach paradise. The sandy shores have a slight tinge of yellow, while the waters are a haunting deep blue.
Meanwhile, Turks and Caicos has some of the most stunning beaches the Atlantic has to offer. Its pinkish-white sands delightfully complement the light turquoise waters.
But more than their coveted beaches, St. Lucia and Turks and Caicos have plenty up their sleeve for their visitors. Activities on both islands are not beach-centric. And away from the shore lies lush interiors and plenty of opportunities to soak in the culture, cuisine, and natural beauty.
If you’re stuck between heading off to the Caribbean or the Atlantic, here are some compelling reasons for both destinations.
St. Lucia is the perfect place for escapism. It’s an irresistible combination of balmy weather, pristine beaches, and lush rainforests for you to indulge in. Top that off with creole cuisine and fascinating culture, it’s no wonder adventurers from all walks of life flock to this paradise.
What Makes St. Lucia Unique?
Endless Blue Waters
Being in the Caribbean, St. Lucia is no stranger to paradise-like beaches. The miles-long sugary white sands and crystal clear turquoise waters are its crown jewel. And whether you want to relax by the shore with a drink in your hand or go for water sports, St. Lucia can accommodate every beach lover’s wishes.
With beaches on all sides of the islands, you’re never too far from inviting waters. On the island’s leeward side are long stretches of sandy shores dotted with resorts. Meanwhile, wilder waves to conquer await you on the west side.
White-sand beaches are what most beach lovers have in mind for a tropical getaway. But because St. Lucia is a volcanic island, you also have some black-sand beaches to enjoy. You’d have a ton of beach options on the island, and they’re all open to the public even if they’re connected to a 5-star hotel.
Jalousie Beach, commonly known as Sugar Beach, is the star of St. Lucia’s beach scene. Its sparkling reputation isn’t only due to its emerald waters and soft white sands. It’s also part of the luxurious Viceroy Resort and boasts a stunning view of the two Pitons, which are mountainous volcanic plugs.
Due to the breathtaking scenes, it’s no wonder Sugar Beach is the top choice for tourists. It’s the perfect place to soak in the beauty of the Petit Piton with the glistening blue waters and soft sands.
If you want to enjoy the waters with more privacy, head over to Pigeon Island. Its white sandy shores and clear waters can rival those of Sugar Beach.
Or you can flock to the restaurant-dotted Reduit Beach for a nice beachfront meal with sunset views. For a romantic beach, Marigot Bay is a small and secluded option for an intimate time with your partner.
A one-of-a-kind experience awaits you at St. Lucia’s “forgotten beach”, Grande Anse. Its shores are a nesting haven for turtles. And you might be lucky enough to see one hatching and heading to the waters for the first time.
Stunning Natural Views
Any nature lover would love soaking up St. Lucia’s physical beauty. Mountains dominate the landscape in the southern half, while the northern half is a hilly delight. And throughout the whole island are thick and magical forests with pops of color from flowers and brightly-hued roofs.
The most iconic feature of St. Lucia’s landscape is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Pitons. These are two pointy emerald-covered peaks on the southwestern coast, overlooking the ocean.
Seeing the Pitons from the shore or sea is breathtaking enough. But hiking there and discovering what its lush forests hide is the best way to experience its fairytale-like charm.
But with St. Lucia’s diverse landscape, this isn’t the only natural wonder it hides.
Beat the heat and take a dip in refreshing spring waters. You can either hike up to Sault Falls or drive up to Toraille Falls for this.
Go on a scenic tour along nature trails that display all shades of green. You can go on a Segway tour up to Mount Pimard with a stunning view of the island’s coastline. Or hike through the Tet Paul Nature Trail for some top-notch viewpoints of the island.
For a spectacular panoramic view of St. Lucia, flock to the Moule a Chique Lighthouse. Nested on a hilltop, you can marvel at the glory of the Pitons in the distance with the blue sea around you.
Lively Underwater Life
While there is a plethora of natural beauties on the shore and inland, St. Lucia’s underwater scenery is just as breathtaking. There is a thriving and colorful marine life underneath the surface of St. Lucia’s glistening waters. And because of this, no other water sport can top snorkeling and scuba diving on the island.
One of the best snorkeling spots in the country is the northern side of Pitons Bay. Near the surface, you can already spot a vast array of sea creatures. This includes one of the most colorful fish species, the parrot fish.
The striped sergeant major fish are also a common sight, swimming along the corals. You’ll find sea urchins clinging onto the reef, slippery moray eels peeping out of holes, and more. If you’re lucky, endangered sea turtles may swim with you as you explore the deep blue sea.
Continue your underwater exploration at Anse Chastanet Beach, featuring a much larger reef. There’s a world-class scuba center there, where you can tap experts to guide you on your journey. Other than that, the area also has top-notch restaurants for fuel, such as The Restaurant at The Still Beach House and Apsara.
A much less crowded snorkeling spot is Pigeon Island. Other than scuba diving and snorkeling, there are other ways to experience the underwater world here. Sea Trek offers sea helmet adventures for those who want to try something new.
Away from the paradisical shores, St. Lucia offers novelty experiences that’ll put the cherry on top of your vacation. There’s something for the sweet tooth, party lover, and daredevil in you on the island. If you don’t know where to look for these, here’s a list of top events and places for you.
St. Lucia has been producing cocoa for centuries, and these go into the fine chocolate that they produce. Its volcanic mountain slopes and balmy weather make it ideal for growing cacao trees. Thus, there are plenty of plantations for these sprinkled throughout the island.
One of the best ways to admire St. Lucia’s chocolates is simply through your stomach. Chocolate is everywhere on the island, from chocolate buffets to chocolate martinis.
But the best way to gain a deeper understanding of the island’s long history as a cocoa producer is by visiting plantations. Touring the facilities, you’ll learn how these beans turn into bars of chocolates! The best part is that you can spoil your taste buds with tastings, and some even allow you to make your own chocolate!
Head over to Hotel Chocolat’s plantation for a three-hour tour. You’d get to pick ripe cocoa pods here to use for making your chocolate bar! This place also serves as a hotel and restaurant, so if you’re a serious sweet tooth, this might compel you to stay.
You can even plant your own cacao tree here for a true tree-to-bean experience. Label it with your name so you can have all the chocolate you want when you come back!
Chastanet’s Chocolate Lab offers chocolate tastings with wine, along with truffle-making classes. Not only that, but they also have special events, dinners, and chocolate spa treatments.
An odd attraction, La Soufriere is the world’s only drive-in volcano. If you don’t mind the strong smell of sulfur, you can drive into the crater of the volcano. Wander between the bubbling springs and hissing streams of the hot pools.
The main attraction here is the Sulphur Springs, so why not jump in for a mud bath? Dipping in is a relaxing way to spend your day, and the mud is rich in minerals that are said to soften your skin.
If you need to cool down after, head off to the Torialle Waterfall nearby.
With the lush forests that St. Lucia has, the Treetop Adventure Park offers a more exciting jungle experience than hiking. Zoom through greenery through its zip line course. It has 12 of the fastest, longest, and highest ones among the Caribbean islands.
If you’re only looking for a leisurely time, the park also has suspension bridges amidst the tropical trees.
The nightlife in St. Lucia is more low-key and laid-back. Locals much prefer street parties and carnivals for a fun time. They know how to have fun, and you can dance the night and day away with them to festive beats.
Among the festivals on the island, St. Lucia Carnival is one of the biggest. Every June, the capital city fills with color, music, and the chatter of merrymakers.
The star of this festival happens every Carnival Tuesday as a Mardi-Gras style party occurs. Parades, soca dancing, and lanterns are some sights that you can expect.
St. Lucia’s West Indian cuisine is a burst of flavors with Caribbean, European, Indian, and American influences, among others. Fresh fish and seafood are fresh and abundant. They’re the stars of the menu, from mahi-mahis, snappers, and tunas in roadside stands to high-end restaurants.
Have some conch fritters in spicy Caribbean sauce on the side to tickle your taste buds. Try the local favorites, such as breadfruit, salt fish, and callaloo soup.
For authentic eats, head to the Coal Pot. Fill your stomach with a hearty meal while overlooking the clear blue waters and the yachts in the bay.
Mama Tilly’s Barbeque and Grill is the place to go for your grilled seafood needs, while Martha’s Tables offer massive portions of homemade creole lunches.
If you want to experience the vibrant street food scene, head to the Gros Islet on a Friday night. Fill your plastic plate with piles of barbecued chicken, fish, and crab meat, and munch away!
Turks and Caicos
“Beautiful by Nature” was once written about Turks and Caicos back in 1994, and today, this motto rings true as it perfectly captures the nation’s essence. A cluster of magnificent islands, Turks and Caicos has adventure and excitement aplenty. From waters of all shades of blues, lush interiors, and exotic wildlife, it’s an alluring playground for adventurers.
What Makes Turks and Caicos Unique?
Supreme Turquoise Waters
The glistening waters and soft white sands are Turks and Caicos’ hallmarks. A delightful view from the shore, the waters range from light blue-green to deep azure. And beneath the surface, the thriving wildlife, from dolphins to whales, makes dipping into the warm water more inviting.
Among the island’s many beaches, Grace Bay Beach is the epitome of Turks and Caicos’ crowning glory. This spectacular, 3-mile (5km) long strip of fine sand is as close to perfection as earthly beaches can come. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the leading beach destinations in the world!
Though you can find most large and luxury resorts here, Grace Bay Beach is a public beach with nine access points. The water here is calm, perfect for kids or even novice swimmers. With washrooms, restaurants, and more on its shores, you can easily enjoy the day away here.
You wouldn’t want to limit yourself to one beach, though, as Turks and Caicos has much more shores to offer.
Look for conch shells of every size in Pelican Point. Enjoy a quiet time bird-watching at the secluded Horsestable Beach. Swim with the marine life or go on a picnic under the shade of the swaying trees at Governor’s Beach.
When you’re in Turks and Caicos, you can’t go wrong with any of its divine beach options.
Loads of Water Fun
Where there are heavenly waters and winds, there are bound to be a plethora of water sports opportunities. Kayaking, windsurfing, and paddleboarding are only the tip of the iceberg.
Among all the water sports, snorkeling and scuba diving are the highlights of the island’s water scene. Turks and Caicos lies on an underwater plateau that steeply rises 10000 feet (3000 m) from the ocean floor. This transition is often called “the wall”, and is why the island is one of the best diving spots in the Caribbean.
The vibrant corals combined with the abundant sea life are a diver’s delight. Sea turtles, sting rays, lobsters, nurse sharks, and sea fans are some of the sea critters sprinkled throughout the waters. You may get a glimpse of humpback whales, the rare leatherback turtle, and more!
The best snorkeling and diving spot in Turks and Caicos is just off the eastern crook of Grace Bay Beach. Here you’ll find the Bight Reef, also called the Coral Gardens.
If you’d rather stay dry, boating is also a great way for some marine wildlife encounters. Get a glimpse of a pod of dolphins, jumping eagle rays, and humpback whales. You may be lucky enough to see the local star, Jojo the Dolphin.
You can even try fishing on a boat, as Turks and Caicos are abundant in big-game fish. This includes mahi-mahi, yellowfin tuna, and sailfish. Local restaurants are also happy to prepare your fresh catch once you come back to the shore.
Island- and Cay-Hopping Galore
Turks and Caicos’ natural beauty extends to the 40 islands and cays it has, and only nine of them are inhabited. Each one of them has its unique draw, and these hidden gems are accessible via ferries or domestic flights! While the main island offers a ton to explore, you’d want to discover what lies on smaller shores.
Connected by a road causeway, North and Middle Caicos host various attractions. Some of these are the Mudjin Harbor, Wade’s Green Plantation, and Conch Bar Caves. These two islands have a charming rustic vibe, with long stretches of secluded coasts.
If you’re looking for a true private island experience, Ambergis Cay, Parrot Cay, and Pine Cay is for you. These exclusive islands have top-notch boutique hotels with exceptional service. The intimate vibe here is a perfect choice for couples.
If you’re looking for more excitement, two other cays might tickle your fancy.
Arguably the most scenic cay in the nation, Mangrove Cay is a proud eye candy. On the sprawling land of this uninhabited cay are countless unique mangroves. Their roots gracefully twist and turn, rooting themselves into the calm, clear waters.
The best way to soak in the beauty of this cay is to go on a guided tour. Water Play TCI offers extensive ecotour on a kayak or a paddleboard. Paddle through glistening waters as you view the conchs, starfish, turtles, and baby sharks that are easily visible from the top.
Little Water Cay
This uninhabited cay is where iguanas roam free, thus, Little Water Cay is also known as Iguana Island. You can access this cay via kayak or private boat to see the Rock Iguanas reign their kingdom. These regal endangered lizards are rare, so it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to meet so many of them at once.
Exciting Inland Amusements
If you need some respite from Turks and Caicos’ glorious shores, there’s a ton of excitement inland too. Take a scenic escapade to lush caves and fascinating historical sites.
Cave exploration is a staple on the to-do lists of tourists to the island. Nestled on Middle Caicos is the Conch Bar Caves, the largest aboveground cave system in the archipelago. This karst limestone cave features pools that change with the ocean tide. Along with that are stunning stalactite and stalagmite columns.
The cave only has little to no development, offering the raw beauty of this natural wonder. Bats are a common sight here, another opportunity for wildlife spotting. You can also see some native crustacean species scrambling around.
Another cave in Middle Caicos is the Indian Cave. While it’s only a single-gallery cave, it’s popular for its breathtaking views.
A natural skylight provides an ethereal glow to the cave. Combined with the overgrown greeneries around, the cave has a mystical allure that’s hard to ignore.
For something a little different, time travel back to the 19th century in Yankee Town. This remote ruin was once a cotton-planting settlement. While it’s now reclaimed by nature, it’s still one of the most visually impressive historic sites on the island.
Fresh Island Cuisine
One of the best ways to enjoy the island’s culture is to help yourself to its vibrant cuisine. Freshly-caught local seafood is a staple in many dishes. Turks and Caicos knows how to transform these into delectable meals, prepared in a variety of ways.
While local dishes are the star of the food scene, Turks and Caicos also has some international cuisine. Thus, there’s always a restaurant to tempt your tastebuds.
Da Conch Shack is a legend in the country’s food scene, a beach bar that’s famous for its conch dishes. Grab some fish tacos from Hemingways and munch on them under the shade of the umbrellas on Grace Bay. Bight Bar park has a weekly fish fry every Friday night, along with some live music and a Junkanoo parade.
A special restaurant in Turks and Caicos is Opus in Providenciales. You can enjoy a candlelit dinner indoors with high ceilings or on the delicately-lit garden patio.
The menu blends island flavors delightfully with an international taste. And you’d also have an extensive selection of wines to go with your meals.
It’s no secret that the Caribbean islands are famous for their rum. But Turks and Caicos proudly boasts its own brand, Bambarra. This award-winning rum brands itself as “the spirit of Turks and Caicos”, and locals enjoy this island-wide.
Enjoy it on the rocks or in a popular cocktail, Rum Punch. Sip on it by the shore or have it to go with your fresh local dish. As it’s embraced by the locals, you can find Bambarra anywhere from local bars to high-end ones.
Is Turks and Caicos or St. Lucia Better?
In a nutshell, St. Lucia is better for the adventurers at heart. While Turks and Caicos is better for sun worshippers and beach bums. The key difference here is their geography, as St. Lucia has a more diverse landscape.
St. Lucia is a better playground, offering both water and interior activities. As a volcanic island, it has an interesting inland scenery that is begging to get explored.
Climb up the greenery-dense Pitons, flock to a drive-in volcano, help yourself to a mud bath, or relax in a hot spring. St. Lucia also has the highest and longest zip line in the Caribbean. Hike through jungle trails, discover secluded coves, and much more.
These are only some activities that you cannot find in Turks and Caicos. And that’s because Turks and Caicos’ landscape is flatter. Thus, most activities will center around the beach.
But while Turks and Caicos focuses more on its shores, its beaches are superior to St. Lucia’s. Turks and Caicos is home to the internationally acclaimed beach, Grace Bay Beach. But all other beaches share the same clear turquoise waters and supreme white sands.
From bustling shores to more remote and secluded ones, you’re bound to find one that fits the bill.
You’re not limited to sunbathing and water sports to enjoy the beaches in Turks and Caicos though. The nation is a cluster of smaller islands, and each has a unique charm for you to discover.
Kayak your way to Little Water Cay, the exclusive island of the rare Rock Iguana. Or make your way to Mangrove Cay for an exciting ecotour through mangroves. You can even have a whole island almost to yourself at Ambergis Cay, Parrot Cay, or Pine Cay.
Other than these, you may also want to drink and mingle with the locals on your vacation. If you love the thrill of an exciting party scene, St. Lucia is a better choice for you. While St. Lucia’s night is more relaxed than other destinations, it’s still a great way to unwind at the end of the day.
Meanwhile, Turks and Caicos isn’t big on nightlife. It’s more of a place for peace and relaxation and spending lots of time on the beach.
If you’re tight on a budget, St. Lucia is easier on your expenses too. While it isn’t necessarily a cheap destination, there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself without breaking the bank.
Turks and Caicos is more Americanized and built for tourism. Thus, you’d expect accommodations, restaurants, and more, to be pricier.