St Lucia is an island full of natural attractions with lush jungle-covered terrain in the volcanic south contrasting with the more gentle scenery and white sands of the north. Famous for its iconic twin Piton mountains, this rugged Caribbean gem serves up a wealth of natural charm alongside the lively resort of Rodney Bay and the bustling capital Castries, where cruise ships generally dock.

View of Soufrière – St Lucia

What to see and do

In the north, picturesque Pigeon Island (which isn’t actually an island, but joined to St Lucia by a causeway) is full of history as a former pirate hangout and military base (www.slunatrust.org). Nearby is the lively resort of Rodney Bay with its shops and restaurants and fronted by Reduit Beach, a stretching arc of golden sand.

Jump on a catamaran or take the one-hour drive from Castries southwards to Soufriere to admire the beautiful rugged surroundings that include the Pitons, the world’s only drive-in volcano and the pungent sulphur springs and Diamond Falls waterfall (www.stlucianow.co.uk).

In Castries, shoppers can choose from two malls on either side of the harbour where the cruise ships moor. Pointe Seraphine and La Place Carenage (which is closer to the city) offer duty free bargains, while the daily market is full of local handicrafts and souvenirs.

Where to eat

The Coal Pot (www.coalpotrestaurant.com) overlooks the bay at Castries and offers French cuisine coupled with a great ambience while The Edge (www.edge-restaurant.com) in Rodney Bay is an upmarket haunt, set on the waterfront and known for its “Eurobbean” fusion. For something spicy, try Razmataz (www.razmatazstlucia.com) also in Rodney Bay and St Lucia’s first Tandoori Indian restaurant, or the Jungle Restaurant (www.magohotel.com) with its fabulous views.

Where to drink

For a quick tipple, try the Caribbean Pirates Restaurant and Bar at La Place Carenage in Castries (www.caribbeanpiratesrestaurant.com) or The Lime in Rodney Bay, a popular hangout for locals and tourists. The 18th century Captain’s Cellar on Pigeon Island (www.captainscellar.sluhoo.com) brings a sense of history while the Mango Tree Bar at the Stonefield Estate Villa Resort (www.stonefieldvillas.com) near Soufriere has breathtaking views of Petit Piton.

Where to stay

To be in the hub of the action, try the Coco Palm hotel (www.coco-resorts.com) in Rodney Bay Village; for stunning views there’s Anse Chastanet (www.ansechastanet.com) overlooking the Pitons; and for family fun try Coconut Bay Beach Resort (www.coconutbayresortandspa.com), with its own water park.

Marigot Bay – St Lucia

Day trips

Visit the Fond Doux Estate (www.fonddouxestate.com), a Caribbean fruit and cocoa plantation; get a perfect view of the Pitons from a helicopter (www.stluciahelicopters.com), a rainforest aerial tram or on a zipwire (www.rainforestadventure.com).