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The beautiful Caribbean island of St. Lucia is not just a magnet for weddings and honeymoons, though it's certainly an idyllic place for both. If you're travelling with the whole family, and especially if you're a fairly active bunch, St. Lucia will reward you with all manner of rainforest adventures and water-based fun. We take a look at a handful of the best activities on offer, and where to base yourself during your stay.
See the rainforest up close
Both Treetop Adventure Park and Rainforest Adventures offer ziplining opportunities over the rainforest canopy. Along with hiking, cycling and kayaking outings, the longest and highest zipline is at Treetop, some 150 feet above the ground and 800 feet in length, though Rainforest Adventures has the added bonus of an aerial tram for those who'd prefer not to dangle from a wire. Rainforest also offer the AdrenaLUNA moonlight zipline tour, voted the 'World's Coolest Zipline' by Travel + Leisure.
Get interactive at Our Planet
In the heart of the island's capital Castries and proudly proclaiming itself to be the only attraction of its kind in the world, Our Planet is a fun, hands-on and stimulating way to experience St. Lucia up close. Our Planet has been open for just under a year, with the aim of bringing environmental conservation issues to life through state-of-the-art technology. Sit in the largest mirrorsphere in the world, which produces a kaleidoscopic view of life on earth, see life-sized holograms, experience a simulated hurricane, and view our planet from space in a special room designed by NASA. You can even view the harbour at Castries through a snowstorm via the use of snowmachines.
Enjoy a lazy picnic at Pigeon Island
A small islet in the very north of St. Lucia and now joined to the mainland by a man-made causeway, Pigeon Island is a national park and landmark once occupied by French pirates and later the British navy. Today it's a favourite local beauty spot and home of the annual St. Lucia Jazz Festival. As well as great views from its twin peaks of Fort Rodney Hill and Signal Hill (where you can spot neighbouring Martinique on a clear day) and a pile of ruined barracks to explore, there are acres of shady oaks and manicured lawns for running around and letting off steam, plus a great little secluded beach (where you can SNUBA - see below) and a cafe just through the trees. At only $5 entrance for adults and $1 for children (aged 5 - 12) it makes for a great value afternoon.
Go beyond snorkelling with SNUBA
If you're a family of water babies, but you have neither the time, money or inclination to get deep-dive certified, SNUBA might be just the thing. In the company of experienced guides, you'll be able to explore underwater at a variety of depths, breathing through an easy-to-use regulator while your air supply sits above in the security of a raft on the surface. No previous experience is required and the activity is suitable for everyone, even children as young as 4 years old (young kids wear a special flotation vest that keeps them safely bouyant just below the surface). Sessions are available at Pigeon Island and down in the south of St. Lucia at Soufriere.
Where to stay
While there's no shortage of family-focused resorts in St. Lucia, some are clearly a cut above the rest. We recently visited Smugglers Cove Resort & Spa on the northern coast, and were seriously impressed with the facilities for children, from tiny tots to fussy teens.
There are no less than seven swimming pools at Smugglers Cove (two are adults-only), including one with a 100 foot slide. That alone would be enough to keep most kids happy, but there's plenty more besides. Older kids can indulge in movie-star makeovers, Nintendo sessions and learning how to cook and dance, along with beach cricket, pool volleyball and even archery lessons for the over-16s.
The main kids' club is split into two different age groups (5 - 7 and 8 - 12) and activities include making jewellery, tie-dying, flower and sand art and special movie nights, along with plenty of pool games and beach sports. Toddlers (2 - 4) get their own movie matinees, puppet craft, and plenty of free indoor and outdoor play in the minipark. Even babies get plenty of special attention, with a nursery available for those aged 0 - 23 months, open every day from morning until late afternoon - good news for parents who need a bit of time to themselves.
If you manage to offload the kids for a couple of hours, there are plenty of grown-up ways to indulge yourself. The Samsarati Spa is a good place to start, with a range of facials, massages and mud treatments on offer. There's tennis, yoga, aqua aerobics and a fully-equipped gym for the more energetic, or simply laze around at the swim-up bar with a cocktail in hand.
Virgin Atlantic operates flights to St. Lucia from London Gatwick.
Header shot © Aramil Liadon
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.