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A Drive In Volcano: St. Lucia

Updated on September 17, 2014

St Lucia's Drive-In Volcano

Did you know you can see a "drive-in volcano" on the island nation of St. Lucia in the Caribbean? You can - Yes, Really!

The St. Lucia volcano isn't actually a drive-through volcano. (That would be foolish!) But, you'll get closer than you ever thought you could get to a real volcano. it's best to book a tour. Tour buses typically park within a couple hundred yards of the volcano, and guides lead you the rest of the way right up to the edge of the caldera. (They still call it the "Drive-In Volcano" in St. Lucia, though.)

It's an amazing sitght. And, though it sounds fool-hearty to get so close to such a wonder, the main danger will most likely be to your olfactory senses. Oh, yes, it smells really bad. You might say it STiNKS. Why? This lens will tell you that and a few other things about St. Lucia's drive in Volcano.

Maybe you'll want to visit St. Lucia some day!

Photo: My own. (all rights reserved)

How Close Can You Really Get?

Real Close!

There is a railing at the edge of the caldera, and you can go right up to the railing. Until about 15 years ago, you could even walk all the way up to the edge of the tar pits. However, after an accident in which a tour guide fell through the crust, more restrictions were put into place. Even though he only fell in up to his waist, and was quickly rescued, he still had third degree burns over a large portion of his body. So, those restrictions were a good idea.

You can still get awfully close, though, as you can see in the accompanying photograph of my husband at the caldera. Note the steam rising behind him. (Read on to find out about calderas.)

Photo: My own. (all rights reserved)

Have You Been to St. Lucia?

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What is a Caldera?

It's like a big bowl

A caldera is a bowl-shaped formation that is formed when an eruption basically 'empties out' the material under the surface of the dome, causing it to collapse, assuming a concave shape, like a bowl. The word caldera comes from the Spanish word for cauldron.

The Qualibou Caldera at St Lucia is a little over 2 miles by 3 miles, and contains about 24 vents that spew steam. VERY HOT steam. There is also bubbling mud!

Some folks actually tout the health benefits of the Volcano's mud, and take mud baths downstream, where the temperature is cooler but still pretty hot. They then wash off in the sulphur water. It's supposed to make your skin really smooth and nice, for one thing!

Graphic from the US Geological Survey, P.D.

See For Yourself!

See this Drive-In volcano for yourself, and watch the sulfur steam venting in this short video. It really is amazing!

Resorces on St. Lucia - and Volcanoes on Amazon

Are you finding this interesting? Want to learn more? Or start planning a trip to St. Lucia? You might even like to get the kids involved in learning about volcanoes. It never hurts to learn something else! Books, DVDs, and even volcano elated science kits are easy to find on the internet. They're available on Amazon, as you might expect.

National Geographic - Volcano!
National Geographic - Volcano!

The hour long DVD from National Geographic will captivate you.

Volcano: A Visual Guide
Volcano: A Visual Guide

Chocked full of fabulous color photos of volcanoes all over the world, under the sea, and even in space.


The Last Eruption

Was in 1766

The last time Qualibou erupted was in 1766. That eruption was not of the variety that spews rivers of molten lava, burying towns. Rather, it was an a minor phreatic eruption that ejected a thin ash layer over a wide area, and lots of very hot steam .

Those who have studied the volcano generally agree that another event is not imminent - probably not for at least half a century, and probably more.

One wonders, however . . .

Adventure Science series:  Volcano Madness
Adventure Science series: Volcano Madness

Award winning science kits for young students (up through about third grade)


Rotten Eggs

. . . and Pretty Colors, too!

Have you ever smelled really strong sulfur? It smells like rotten eggs, doesn't it? Yep - this volcano's caldera spews hot steam that smells like rotten eggs.

Well those vents in Qualibou's "dormant" caldera are venting hot sulfur steam, and there's no mistaking the aroma! We were there in the daytime, and it was strong and unmistakable. They say it's even stronger at night. I'm glad we left before dusk.

If you look closely, you'll see some pretty colors through all that steam. I didn't know the source of the reds, rusty gold, greens, and other colors were when I saw them, but later, my research told me they were from deposits of sulfur, copper, iron oxide, alkaline lead, calcium oxide, and carbon.

Photo: My own. (all rights reserved)

Where is St. Lucia?

Getting There

Bodering the Caribbean Sea, Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles. It's south of Martinique, and northwest of Barbados. So, the weather is St. Lucia is very tropical.

We got there the easy way. We took a cruise to St. Lucia, and booked a tour through the cruise ship. Though it was just one port of call on that cruise, I must say that St. Lucia was most fascinating, with some really incredible sights, including the 'drive-in volcano.' I'd highly recommend it.

Map of St. Lucia, from

If you go on your own, you should know that the volcano is on the southwest coast of St. Lucia, near the town of Soufriere. Even on your own, a tour guide is ra good idea. The entrance fee to the volcano is usually included with your tour fee. The tour may include other highlights, such as the rain forest, the Pitons, and Marigot Bay. Just be sure you make it to the volcano!

St. Lucia Cruises

CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia

If you'd like to take a cruise to St. Lucia, you should look for those with an itinerary labeled "Southern Caribbean." Most of the 7 night cruisess that include St. Lucia depart from San Juan. Both Princess Cruises and Holland America Line have some of a bit longer duration leaving from Ft. Lauderdale. Plan for a FULL day ashore that day, as there is a lot to see!

Steam Power in the Caribbean?

Geothermal Energy from the Volcano

UPDATE: 02/28/11

As early as next year, the Drive-In Volcano may become much more than a tourist attaction. It may become a source of power for St.Lucia and beyond.

A company called Qualibou Energy is reportedly in the process of working on a plant to turn the steam from the volcano into power for St.Lucia's 175,000 residents. The developers estimate that the potential is some 120 megawatts from geothermal energy by 2015, with the first 20 meegawatt plant coming online perhaps as early as 2012.

If the company's estimates are correct, it would be a powerful development for St. Lucia's power grid, which currently runs on oil purchased mainly from Venezuela. It is estimated that the power produced from the geothermal energy would eventually be sufficient to power St. Lucia, with enough left over to sell power to neighboring Martinique, delivered via an undersea pipeline.

Books About Volcanoes - Reading is Fun

Volcanoes make fascinating reading for all ages. Whether you're four of forty, there's a book about volcanoes that's written just for you.

Qualibou's Sulphur Springs - in the Caldera

Sulphur Springs of Qualibou
Sulphur Springs of Qualibou | Source

Another view of the sulphur steam rising from St. Lucia's drive in Volcano.

Near the center of the caldera is an active geothermal area, and this is where the steam is venting.

While (as reported above) there has not been a major eruption of Qualibou since the 1700's, there were actually three very minor ones at a shallow depth during the years 1990 - 2000.


For teens through adults


Have you ever seen a volcano up close? If not, would you like to? What did you think of this lens about St. Lucia's drive in volcano?

The Guestbook is: OPEN - Comments are Welcome and Appreciated!

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    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 5 years ago

      I've wanted to see this ever since making a map of the Caribbean for a company I used to work for, which I made a few years ago. Great lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      St. Lucia's volcano is a drive-in or drive through because any vehicle could drive right through the centre from one end to the other. You cannot go too close to the hot springs but there are those one could bathe in.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      @anonymous: And a person couldn't ask for better traveling companions!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @Lady Lorelei: I like that, looks like we're traveling together with Cruise. :)

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      I do most of my traveling on Squidoo's travel pages and visiting the drive in volcano at St. Lucia through your eyes was a very enjoyable vacation.

    • profile image

      grannysage 5 years ago

      I know about the sulfur smell from going to Yellowstone. Ewww. I am glad someone has finally figured out that these active calderas can be a source of energy. I hope it works out for them.

    • MindPowerProofs1 profile image

      MindPowerProofs1 6 years ago

      I would love to see it. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      GeniePark 6 years ago

      I would love to see vulcano up close and personal. They are so majestic.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 6 years ago

      We've actually walked the base of Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica ... and would you believe, the week after we returned home, it erupted? Also walked the grounds of the volcano in Hawaii. It's a awesome part of Mother Nature!

    • squid-pinkchic18 profile image

      squid-pinkchic18 6 years ago

      This was a beautiful lens! St. Lucia is on my list of top places I want to visit someday, I've heard it's stunning! You got some great pictures here. I'm jealous!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I would love to see a volcano up close and personal like this. But, what are the chases of it erupting? :)

    • SayGuddaycom profile image

      SayGuddaycom 6 years ago

      Excellent stuff

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 6 years ago

      What a spectacular place!

    • SquidooPower profile image

      SquidooPower 6 years ago

      Great lens! There are so many wonderful places in the world to see that trying to decide which to visit is extremely hard. Fortunately we have people like yourself who are kind enough to share their experiences and help us choose.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      @sukkran trichy: Thank you!

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 6 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      i've never seen a valcano in my lifetime. it is in the top of my bucket list. thanks for sharing your experience. ~blessed~

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I've never seen an active volcano up close, but I did see Mount St. Helen's in 1988, and they say Mt. Rainier will also become active again. I'm not the adventurous sort, and I hate the smell of sulfur. Since the 2003 Paso Robles Earthquake, our library and city hall grounds have smelled like sulfur, because there used to be an active hot spring under it. Only earlier this year did they plug the gaping hole that was in what had been our parking lot. We' ve got the full parking lot back now, but there is still an occasional smell of sulfur in the air. I think I'll stick to volcanic mountain ranges. But this was interesting to read about and see the photos.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      @Diana Wenzel: You are most welcome!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      I would love to visit a volcano, just not during an eruption or ash bath. Thanks for this review. Another place for my travel list.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      St. Lucia sounds like a fascinating place to visit. Something to think about.

    • GypsyPirate LM profile image

      GypsyPirate LM 6 years ago

      I never have seen a volcano in person, up close or otherwise. I loved reading about a "drive in" one!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Well im St.Lucian but i currently reside in London.

      Ive been on holiday and i went to the sulphur springs/drive through volcano and it does smell awful but they have places where you can actually bath with the igneous rock i guess LOL i don't really know what it is, to be honest.

      But it works greart on the skin ! My skin was clear of rashes and spots !

      Oh how i love my home, its really beautiful :)

    • StudioElysee profile image

      StudioElysee 6 years ago

      Great lens. Have not been to St Lucia but go to Nevis often. get Montserrat dust there when the volcano is active, and have collected quite a bit of washed up pumice. Anyway, am very interested in St Lucia, thanks for the great lens!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      I need to add "looking into a live volcano" to my bucket list

      Angel Blessed

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 6 years ago from New York

      Another spot to add to my bucket list. Thank you for a very enjoyable desktop trip.

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 6 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      I have not visited St. Lucia. It sounds like a lovely spot. The volcano would surely be high on my list of things to see.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 6 years ago

      Awesome reading. I would love to visit one day.

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 7 years ago

      Fantastic ....I'd love to see this!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This certainly looks like an adventure. I would love to drive in volcano even if it is in my dreams.

    • profile image

      GetSillyProduct 7 years ago

      wow, that looks awesome! I've always been fascinated by volcanoes

    • HulaHoops LM profile image

      HulaHoops LM 7 years ago

      I've never heard about this before. Fascinating!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 7 years ago

      No, I have never been that up close and personal to a volcano. If it is active, I would be too scared of the rumblings. Thanks for sharing this great lens.

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 7 years ago from Australia

      We have no volcanoes like that here in Australia. That looks like a really great experience though!

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 7 years ago from Valencia, California

      Excellent lens, very colorful and informative, thanks for posting

    • profile image

      loraseverson 7 years ago

      great info here!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 7 years ago from United States

      I would love to visit and explore this volcano! This looks like a really awesome adventure.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 7 years ago

      Wow, great information, I will have to look into this

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 7 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Cool lens and cool destination!

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 7 years ago

      I have been up on the volcano in Naples, Italy. We had to walk a lot! But it is not as fantastic as this one!

    • profile image

      Dinostore 7 years ago

      I love this, sounds like an amazing place to visit! Thumbs up and fav'd.

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 7 years ago

      Oh, this would be an amazing place to visit. I love Mother Nature and her amazing little displays.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 7 years ago from East Central Florida

      @choosehappy: I can see where it would seem like it might be scary just reading about it. But it was't at all, In fact, it was quite fascinating! I'm really glad I got a chance to see it.

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 7 years ago from US

      It sounds cool to read about, but I think it would scare me to death. lol....

    • profile image

      dessertlover 7 years ago

      Very cool lens, it looks like a lot of fun!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 7 years ago

      Very good info in the lens 5*



    • marketmasterpro profile image

      marketmasterpro 7 years ago

      Great Lens, I think this looks like so much fun!

    • TheLittleCardShop profile image

      Malu Couttolenc 7 years ago

      Woww it sounds amazing, would love to there someday. It must be a fantastic experience :)

    • profile image

      alyssa87 7 years ago

      thanks for sharing in detail about it, i really enjoyed reading it and hope to visit this place as well.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 7 years ago

      Wonderful! Really enjoyed the visit to the "drive thru volcano" -:)

    • Laura Schofield profile image

      Laura Schofield 7 years ago from Chicago, IL USA

      Fantastic lens. There are so many things to see in the Caribbean - its on the top of my list for places to visit! The southern Caribbean sounds particularly interesting, especially St. Lucia!

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 7 years ago from East Central Florida

      @KarenHC: You would love it! There is such a wide variety of features in such a small area - even a rain forest!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      First time to hear of this. Thanks for featuring it here.

    • profile image

      maryrussel 7 years ago

      I started reading your lens earlier today but got waylaid. Glad I came back to it. Nicely done.

    • profile image

      PrettyWorld 7 years ago

      Very cool!

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      I'd love to go visit St. Lucia's drive in volcano! My husband and I met while taking geology classes, and a tour like this would be right up our alley :-) And I'm sure the rest of St. Lucia would be great to visit as well.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 7 years ago from East Central Florida

      @anonymous: LOL - Yes it IS cool - and hot, too!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Now this would be very interesting to go to see. Thanks for sharing, I didn't know anything about this place before. Very cool,!