What's New in Saint Lucia During the "Year of Festivals"

It’s looking like a banner year for Saint Lucia. This year, it will be celebrating its 40th year of independence, the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival will be produced in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center, and 2018 saw a 2.2 percent increase in global visitor arrivals. Here’s a snapshot of what travelers can expect this year. 

40th Anniversary and Specials

To celebrate its 40th anniversary of independence in 2019, Saint Lucia has created a robust calendar of on-island events throughout the year and special offers of up to 40 percent off for travelers visiting from global destinations. Offers are available at 20 properties, including:

  • Family-friendly favorites: Bay Gardens Beach Resort, Coco Palm, Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa
  • Luxury accommodations: Anse Chastanet, Jade Mountain, Ladera, The Landings Resort & Spa, Marigot Bay Resort and Marina, Serenity at Coconut Bay, Stonefield Villa Resort 
  • Villas and unique boutique properties: C’est la Vie, East Winds Inn, Fond Doux Plantation & Resort, Hotel Chocolat, Samfi Gardens, Villa Capri
  • Value accommodations: Aupic Paradise, Bay Gardens Hotel, Bay Gardens Inn, Marina Haven. Of these, Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa, Bay Gardens Hotel, Bay Gardens Inn and Bay Gardens Marina Haven, Coco Palm, East Winds, Fond Doux Plantation & Resort, Ladera, The Landings Resort & Spa by Elegant Hotels and Villa Capri all offer 40 percent off accommodations. 

Visitors to Saint Lucia in 2019 will be treated to an ongoing calendar of commemorative events and celebrations of the 40th Anniversary of Independence, including parades, sporting events, horse races, galas and concerts. Saint Lucia is a country with a legendary past. Before achieving independence on February 22, 1979, the country changed hands 14 times with seven battles won by the French and seven by the British. 

While in Saint Lucia, travelers can visit a number of heritage sites that reflect the country’s history, including Pigeon Island, the Derek Walcott House and Soufriere. Vacationers will enjoy a variety of festivals and events in 2019, such as the first-ever Saint Lucia Jazz Festival programmed by Jazz at Lincoln Center (May), Roots & Soul (August) and Saint Lucia Food & Rum (September). Most famous for nearly 100 miles of coastline and pristine beaches, visitor favorites include the highly Instagrammed mud baths in Sulphur Springs Park at the world’s only drive-in volcano and the Tet Paul Nature Trail, which has spectacular 360-degree views of the island and The Pitons. A hike along the trail, which can take about 45 minutes to complete, is guided by friendly and knowledgeable locals who can answer your questions and provide insights about the attractions you will see along the way. The hike itself is of easy to moderate difficulty and is suitable for families and groups. Highlights include exotic flora, a working organic farm, The Traditional House and a picnic area.

Details on all of the above (and the events described below) can be found by clicking on “Specials” on the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority’s recently relaunched website (www.stlucia.org). The new site features a combination of video and images, capturing iconic sites from around the island. Visitors to the revamped site can also now search for tour operators, experiences, and accommodations by classification (luxury, all-inclusive, boutique, villa, et al) and location. 

The Year of the Festival

The biggest news on the island is the newest edition of the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival — for the first time produced in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center. Already well-known as the premier jazz fest in the Caribbean, it will feature some of the finest names in modern jazz performing in intimate venues and public settings throughout the island from May 5 through May 12. 

For this inaugural year of collaboration, Jazz at Lincoln Center has put together a lineup that includes Christian McBride, Ledisi, Etienne Charles, Russell Hall and Patrick Bartley, who will serve as artists-in-residence during the week-long festival. Members of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and a host of musicians and collaborators from the Caribbean will perform throughout the week. The 2019 Saint Lucia Jazz Festival will also feature “Artists in Education” initiatives that include master classes, professional development and live performance collaborations with Saint Lucia School of Music students and local jazz artists.

Distinct experiences include a gospel jazz brunch on Mother’s Day, jazz cruises under the stars, one-of-a-kind collaborations including performances by superstar vocalist Ledisi and jazz heavyweights Gregory Porter and Christian McBride, concerts in waterfront venues, open-air performances with Saint Lucia’s landscape as a backdrop and a special evening with students from the Saint Lucia School of Music. Other highlights include an evening with Gregory Porter with special guest Ledisi; an evening with Ledisi in “Nina and Me,” a tribute to Nina Simone with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra; Catherine Russell’s “Harlem On My Mind”; performances by the Saint Lucia School of Music; Dianne Reeves, Nubya Garcia and Emerson Nurse; Etienne Charles & Creole Soul; Christian McBride’s “Inside Straight”; and Veronica Swift and Her Trio. There will also be a Gospel Jazz Brunch with two-time Grammy Nominee The Baylor Project, Shirleyann Cyril Mayers and God’s Anointed Music Ministry.

Saint Lucia has been hosting a jazz festival annually since 1992; for more than 27 years, the festival has attracted visitors from around the world for events and concerts celebrating multiple forms of international, Saint Lucian and Caribbean jazz music. 

Like the Caribbean at large, Saint Lucia has also declared 2019 “The Year of the Festival.” Other events this year to keep on your radar include:

  • Saint Lucia Carnival (Through June and culminating July 12-16): A vibrant, energetic celebration of costumes, music and culture
  • Mercury Fest (August 9-10): Taking place on Pigeon Island Beach, the event sees hundreds of vessels and thousands of visitors from neighboring Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Vincent, Barbados, Trinidad and beyond come together to celebrate an upscale beach event
  • Saint Lucia Roots & Soul (August 23-25): A festival dedicated to musicians who are setting new trends in reggae, conscious hip-hop, Afro-punk and R&B, with performances, master classes and encounters between artists and other actors in the music business. Like Saint Lucia Jazz, there will be free and paying concerts across the island. Among the many scheduled performers are Grammy Award winner Estelle, Timaya, “the king of Afro-Soca music; and longtime reggae-pop sensations UB40. 
  • Saint Lucia Food & Rum (September 19-22): A weekend of food demonstrations from internationally renowned chefs, as well as some of Saint Lucia’s finest chefs; plus, rum tastings and more.
  • Saint Lucia Arts & Heritage (October 18-20): Music and theater performances, art exhibitions and street parties.
  • Jounen Kwéyòl (October 27): Observed on the last Sunday in October, this day celebrates the French / African dialect widely spoken in Saint Lucia. A unique mix of creole (Kwéyòl) food, music, games and folklore give this festival a unique flavor.

At each event, travelers can experience lively dancing, breathtaking art and costumes, unique cocktails and mouthwatering cuisine that will be available. 

Also good to know: Saint Lucia celebrates Chocolate Heritage Month in August, where many of the island’s cocoa farms and resorts offer specialized packages, deals, tours and experiences to attract chocolate lovers. For example, visitors can take a plantation tour to learn about the history and tradition of Saint Lucian cocoa production. There are a variety of experiences available at Morne Coubaril Estate, La Dauphine Estate and The Fond Doux Holiday Plantation. They can also get a crash course on the chocolate-making process by visiting a cocoa fermentation house. Or, they can participate in the traditional “cocoa-rina” dance to polish the cocoa beans. A behind-the-scenes look at a bean-to-bar single estate boutique chocolate maker at Jade Mountain’s Emerald Estate Organic Chocolate and Chocolate Laboratory rounds out the experience. 

Chocolate spa treatments — such as facials, massages, body scrubs and more — are also available at several of the resorts, making for the ultimate chocolate-themed trip. Chocolate is considered to have restorative properties that firm and rehydrate the skin. Relish the various spa treatments featuring chocolate.

One Agent’s Take on Saint Lucia

Leah Bilquist of TravelSmiths in Point Pleasant, NJ, is a certified Saint Lucia Expert who has traveled all over the island. This is what she had to say to us about the island she calls one of her favorite places.

“[Saint Lucia] has such a unique personality compared to the rest of the Caribbean. I was able to take a helicopter transfer from the airport to the top of the island. I was able to celebrate at the Friday Night Gros Inlet Party with locals sampling local cuisine and iconic Caribbean rum punch. I sampled wine from all over the world at [the] wine cellar at Cap Maison and took a mud bath in the world’s only drive-in volcano. All of these experiences I share with my clients and once I do, they are ready to book and do the same experience. No matter what age range they are or what they are interested in, I have the recommendation for them.”

To learn more about travel to Saint Lucia, sign up for our Saint Lucia Focus course here

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