I have been to St Lucia and Barbados in recent years. For both holidays myself and Vanessa booked into an all inclusive resort. If you have never done this type of holiday there is the option to simply ‘flop and drop’, with the most moving around you need to do is from the sun lounger to the buffet and back. However if you have been reading this blog for a while you know that is not really our style. We have explored both islands and here will give a quick overview of the similarities and main differences between the two.
St Lucia like the majority of the islands of the Caribbean is a volcanic island created where molten rock material rises up through the fractured and weakened crust. Initially growing on the sea floor, the volcanic land masses reached the surface of the ocean to form islands. This gives St Lucia an undulating geography and also created its emblematic Pitons that can be seen from all over the island. This also means the beaches are in parts grey or even black.
Whilst we were in St Lucia we did a trip to the world’s only ‘drive in volcano’ to see an example of the island’s continuing geographical formation. This is located just outside of Soufriere (the French word for sulphur) in the South West of the island. You can indeed drive right up into the volcano but walking around the site has been banned since a tour guide fell in and received 2nd degree burns, still he did get the formation named after him as Gabriel’s Hole, so not all bad!
On top of its spectacular geology St Lucia has rugged jungle, lush forests, exampled in its botanic gardens, as well as rivers where you can do white water-rafting. Its steep hills also lend itself to interesting hikes for spectacular views across the island. In terms of outdoor pursuits St Lucia wins hands down.
Barbados, lies to the East of the Caribbean volcanic arc and is classed as a coral limestone island formed by the build up of layers of the skeletons of the tiny coral polyps. As a result it has perfect white sand beaches and is a lot flatter than St Lucia, most of your active stuff will be based on coastal based with the usual paddle-boarding, jet-skiing and wind-surfing options.
Barbados is easily the most British of the two, and perhaps in the whole Caribbean. They have horse racing on the weekends and they have retained a lot of their colonial buildings and history. Whilst there we visited Bridgetown, the capital and put together our own walking tour from the centre to the historic garrison down the coast. The Barbados Garrison was the largest in the British Colonies during the 18th and 19th centuries after being established in 1780 as the military headquarters for the Imperial Forces stationed here until 1906. Today it is the home of the Barbados Defence Force. All around Bridgetown there are remnants of the British occupation in its colonial buildings.
St Lucia has a more mixed European history, being that it has been fought over by both the French and English, reflected in many of its place names. Many of its older buildings have been subsequently destroyed in its fight for independence and wars between the British and French occupiers. As a result much of St Lucia’s main tourist sights are natural rather than man-made.
Both the islands have a traditional Friday fish fry. St Lucia was a lot more local, less organised and perhaps a little sketchier with random stalls and food carts spilling out on to the street, backed by the sounds of Island reggae. Barbados was very touristy and more organised with rows of tables dishing out ready cooked local fish and pre-mixed punch to the sounds of ABBA, The Beegees and Hot Chocolate with not a reggae song to be heard, It was more like being a British Hen Party truth be told, very disappointing.
As you would expect from a Caribbean Island both have fantastic beaches. In Barbados the most popular beaches are found on the more sheltered West Coast, this is where the majority of hotels are also located. Hotel development and coastal erosion have however reduced the size of the beaches to virtually nothing when the high tide is in. The South and West coasts are a little more rugged. If you can hire a car they are well worth exploring for the more hidden and secluded beaches. Similarly, St Lucia has a wide range of beaches to suit everyone’s needs. See this excellent Telegraph article here for a good summary.
Barbados being the more developed and built up of the two destinations has a wider choice of restaurants and bars. Eating out is very expensive, with an average meal for two people at a good local restaurant costing upwards of £80 for 3 courses. St Lucia has more ‘rustic’ options and therefore you can eat more on a budget, just don’t expect it to be ‘backpacker’ cheap. Barbados is much easier to get around with a good public transport options, including the cool reggae buses, that blare out Reggaeton and zip up and down the coastal roads. St Lucia is less well served and it is often easier to hire a car or use taxis to get around.
In summary, both are beautiful islands. Barbados the more affluent, British, with a good tourist infrastructure and impressive white sand beaches. St Lucia is the more visually appealing with more natural sights and less development. Either way its a pretty nice choice to have if you ever have to decide between the two!