What to Do in St Lucia: Hike to Volcanic Hot Springs at Soufriere
Hiking in the Caribbean
In the southern part of St Lucia, the volcanic peaks of the Pitons are rarely out of sight. The volcanic origin of this fascinating island make it a great place for a vacation because there is such a variety of things to do. If you like hiking in the Caribbean, I recommend this easy half-day hike to the volcanic hot springs at Malgretoute, near Soufriere.
We left our resort at l'Anse Chastanet after lunch and caught a water taxi around l'Anse Chastanet headland, past the fishing town of Soufriere, and landed at Malgretoute beach. We passed almond and mango trees that grew near the Soufriere Home for the Retired, and joined the paved road to Malgretoute.
By Sea toward the Pitons, St Lucia
St Lucia Volcanoes
Along the way, our guide Menno talked to us about the history of the island, and pointed out plants and geographical points of interest. The Lesser Antilles, a chain of Caribbean islands, are the tips of old volcanoes that emerge above sea level at the subduction zone where the edges of the Caribbean plate and the North American plate meet. Especially in the southern part of St Lucia, near Soufriere, the volcanic peaks stand out, and hot springs, caldera, mud baths and fumaroles are common.
At the Malgretoute Home for the Elderly, Menno stopped for a few minutes to introduce us and to give a message to one of the residents. Although most St Lucian elders are cared for at home by younger family members, in some cases young people have moved abroad to seek work, and the parish supports elders who are infirm or cannot live independently.
After a fifteen minute walk up the gently sloping unpainted tarmac road across the lower slope of Gros Piton, we came to a white house that blazed in sunshine with colourful Caribbean art masks displayed on the porch. This is the art studio of Zaka, who began making these unique masks years ago, when one of his carved sculptures disappointed him and he experimented with slicing off the face, painting it in wild bright colours and hanging it on the wall. People liked it, and soon his business started to develop in an unexpected but gratifying direction. Today his masks are displayed internationally, and sold at his studio, at local galleries, and through his website.
Zaka Art Masks and Totems in St Lucia
Volcanic Hot Springs at Malgretoute near Soufriere, St Lucia
After a forty-five minute walk, we turned off the main road to a pathway that led to the park entrance and the Malgretoute Hot Springs. There are change rooms and concrete steps that lead to the constructed basins where the hot water from the volcanic springs is piped in to mix with the cooler water from the mountain waterfall. The location is shady and peaceful, and the day we went we were the only ones there. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the hot water, talking together and exploring the area, before making our way back to Malgretoute Beach to catch our water taxi back to l'Anse Chastanet Resort.
Saint Lucia was occupied by both French and English during the European colonization of the Lesser Antilles, and many of the names, especially in the south around Soufriere, show the French connection. "Malgretoute" means "in spite of," and I picture the feelings of the ones who named the locale. "In spite of " the heat, the humidity, the blazing sun, the hurricanes, the insects, the distance from friends across the water, the uncertainty of boats and storms at sea, in spite of everything, the place is compelling. It catches at the heart.
On the way back, the water taxi skirted slowly the cliffs at l'Anse Chastanet headland where a deep cleft in the rocks provided a home for bats. There were hundreds of them, clinging to the rough rock with small claws, hanging upside down with wings folded across their furry bodies during the hot equitorial days. At sunset they emerged hungry, to chase mosquitoes and flying insects that fed them instead of feeding on us. I felt grateful to the bats.
Things To Do in St Lucia
- Walk in the rainforest in Edmunds Forest Preserve
- Visit the active Caribbean volcano at the Soufriere Volcano Centre
- Walk in the Diamond Botanical Gardens amidst flowering tropical plants, and float in the Diamond River Hot springs pools on the grounds
- Float in the hot springs pools at Malgretoute
- Laze on the beach
- Snorkel the coral reef off the south coast near Soufriere
- Qualify as a PADI-certified scuba diver at the Dive Centre at l'Anse Chastanet dive shop
- Join the St Lucia Jazz Festival held every summer in various venues around the island
- Take a sunset jazz cruise
- Have a massage, hot stone massage, or spa treatment
- Sail a Sunfish
- Learn to windboard
- Mountain bike the trails in Anse Mamin plantation
- Walk through Soufriere on Saturday morning market day
- Eat a fish dinner Friday nights at Anse la Raye