In Depth

Beauty and the best: A guide to St Lucia

Meet the most beautiful Caribbean island of them all, replete with spectacular rainforest, banana plantations and beaches

The Caribbean doesn't get more seductive than St Lucia. Now served by a new Thomson Airways flight from Gatwick, this chilled-out island combines beaches, handsome colonial towns, diving heaven and top-notch hotels with a rainforest interior and the lush Pitons: two impossibly picturesque seaside peaks. Welcome to heaven.

What to see

First, explore the old French trading port of Soufriere. Then, cross banana plantations and botanic gardens to the vertiginous interior and pick up the scenic Barre de L'Isle hiking trail – looking out for both waterfalls and the endangered St Lucia parrot. In the busier north, close to the sole resort town of Rodney Bay, it's possible to experience more rainforest by both gondola and zip line at Rainforest Adventure.

Take some time out

Beaches in the north are golden-coloured but busier. Head down the west coast to Anse Cochon for St Lucia's best snorkelling just off darker sands. Further on still is Anse des Pitons, wedged between the twin peaks and populated only by guests of the adjacent hotel and day-trippers. The pale sand here has been imported from Guyana.

Where to eat

Rodney Bay offers most global cuisines, but more special dining experiences await further afield. Rainforest Hideaway and its waterside 'sophisticated Caribbean menu' – think lionfish in coconut crust – is only accessible by boat, and sometimes accompanied by live jazz, while the innovative dishes at Boucan by Hotel Chocolat include chilli-cacao houmous and rib-eye steaks infused with cacao nibs.

Where to drink

Friday night sees the fishing village of Gros Islet throw a 'jump-up' – the Friday Night Street Party sees stalls selling whelks, crabmeat and BBQ chicken, while Caribbean beats play through giant loudspeakers and lethal rum concoctions and bottles of Piton beer are consumed with rapidity.

Where to stay

In the busier and more developed north, try Cap Maison, with its Spanish-Caribbean style, superb Pigeon Island views and esteemed spa and restaurant. The south specialises in boutique resorts that are rich in romance and flair, particularly those around the Pitons. Among the best is Anse Chastanet, set in a tropical estate bordering two beaches.

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