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St. Lucia: Paradise found

St. Lucia is one of the loveliest islands in the Caribbean, thanks to its rainforest, beaches and dramatic volcanic spires.
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There is a sign at the top of Tet Paul nature trail in St. Lucia that points toward rough steps cut into the bank. They are, if the sign is to be believed, a stairway to heaven — and whoever put up the sign knew what they were talking about. The view from the top, over the two Pitons that are this Caribbean island’s trademark, is indeed heavenly.

St. Lucia is sandwiched between the islands of Martinique and St. Vincent, and is a favorite call for cruise ships sailing one-week voyages from Barbados or longer Southern Caribbean itineraries from Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Most ships visit in winter, when temperatures average 80 degrees. Between June and November, don’t be surprised by the occasional tropical shower.

Related: Cruise to Cuba in 2016

Big ships dock in the capital, Castries; smaller vessels operated by the likes of SeaDream Yacht Club, Star Clippers and Windstar anchor in picturesque bays and tender passengers ashore.

Once on terra firma, activities await, from catamaran sailing to fishing and even golf. You can go “snuba diving” (a cross between scuba diving and snorkeling) off Pigeon Island or zip-lining through the rainforest canopy.

There are guided Segway tours from Rodney Bay, nature walks through the rainforest in search of the national bird (the St. Lucian Parrot, of course) or hikes up to Fort Rodney on Pigeon Island. It was built by British Admiral George Rodney in the 18th century to spy on the French naval base in Martinique.

If that sounds too strenuous, island tours take in the aforementioned Tet Paul and also Sulphur Springs, known as the world’s only drive-in volcano, where bubbling pits of lava are hot enough to boil an egg. If time allows, take a dip in the nearby mud baths, which are said to be good for the complexion.

Top three excursions on St. Lucia:

• Hotel Chocolat Boucan’sTree to Bar tour starts with a walk through the hotel’s estate to pick cocoa pods and ends with a lesson in how to make your own bar of chocolate. Non-residents must book ahead of time.

• Saddle up and set off for a horseback ride along the island’s north coast beachesbefore cooling off in the sea – while still on your steed!

• See the dramatic Pitons the easy way — on a 20-minute “flightseeing” helicopter tour from Castries. The journey takes you over Marigot Bay.

For more advice on Caribbean vacations, go to Insightguides.com.

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