“I can’t believe I found a real hermit crab!” exclaims my seven-year-old son, Archer, crouching low on the beach. He’s smiling at the animal scuttling over the palms of his hands and onto the sand, and then up at my husband, Toby, and me.
It’s late afternoon in St. Lucia, and we’ve spent most of our day swimming in Labrelotte Bay at Windjammer Landing and scouring near the rocks for treasures. We’ve turned up plenty of coral, mollusks and small fish, but this is the moment Archer had been hoping for. The setting sun casts a gentle glow across his face as he gazes closely at this small crustacean, which was at the top of his wish list of things to find on our trip.
Archer has been fascinated by nature for most of his life, but as a kid growing up in downtown Toronto, he has limited opportunities for face-to-face experiences with wild creatures. Lately, his curiosity seemed to be waning, giving way to an interest in video games and Netflix.
Perhaps if he has a chance to see the animals he loves to read about — out in the real world, not just in an exhibit — it would spark his wonder again, I thought while planning this trip. I’d hoped our travel would be not only an escape from wintry conditions in Toronto but also an opportunity for Archer to reconnect with nature.
It doesn’t take long. Driving north from the airport, we roll the windows down to feel the sunshine. Along the way we’re flanked by roadside food stands, small clusters of colourful buildings and, at times, stretches of rainforest, which St. Lucia has in abundance. Archer watches out the window at the unfolding scenery, then turns to me and says, “I wonder what I’ll see by the sea,” his curiosity already sparked.
Even the air seems to smell warm, with an aroma like baking spice lingering. It could also be the incense made from the resin of the lansan tree, which our guide Marcus points out to us a couple of days later on our Rainforest Adventure trek. The tree is an integral part of both the culture and economy in St. Lucia.
It thrives in the volcanic soil here, as do plenty of other plants and trees that Marcus points out to us along the way, sharing the names in both English and the local Kwéyòl language. Archer wanders along with him, looking up at hummingbirds and down at flowers that line the path. “I like this kid!” Marcus laughs, when Archer proclaims he’s searching for what he hopes are “undiscovered species” of insects.
Our itinerary also takes us to Project Chocolat, a cacao farm in the rainforest, which focuses on sustainable and ethical practices and offers “tree-to-bar” experiences. There, we meet our guide Vernice, who patiently shows Archer how to graft a young cacao seedling, listening to his questions about all the caterpillars he finds crawling around the mature trees as we explore the estate.
At times we try to usher him along to the next view, but he’s too mesmerized by all the little things crossing his path. It reminds me that kids experience the world — and travel — a little differently than grown-ups do.
I’m dazzled by the beaches, luxe resorts and the vistas in St. Lucia. For Archer, the revelation that chocolate comes from cacao pods, then getting to break one open to sample the slimy but sweet pulp inside, is a memory that will stay with him longer than any of those things.
While there’s still plenty of time to relax, Toby and I find ourselves leaning into Archer’s way of discovering things, rather than expecting him to conform to ours. I happily leave my beach chaise behind at the Landings to snorkel with him in Rodney Bay, searching for sea urchins.
When he surfaces proudly with one, marvelling at its spikes, he’s thrilled. And so are we. For Toby and me, discovering St. Lucia through this lens of second childhood is a gift, and more restorative than we expected.
I keep this in mind as we head toward the Pitons, the twin volcanic spires that are one of the biggest draws in St. Lucia. Covered by rainforest, with a coral reef just offshore, the area is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We’ve been away from home for almost a week, and Archer has fully settled into exploration mode.
The longer we spend in St. Lucia, the more observations he makes and the more questions he asks. With the abundance of animal and plant life, both on land and offshore near the Pitons, this part of the island is the perfect place to end our trip.
My sights are set on Sugar Beach, with the Pitons rising above on either side. Situated on what is also known as La Baie de Silence, the water is both turquoise and somehow almost buttery, the light in a perpetual state of magic hour. It’s the exact beach I envision when I daydream about escaping winter.
As Toby and I take in the view, La Baie de Silence gets a little less quiet. Archer runs down the beach, laughing and chasing ghost crabs that are popping up out of their burrows and back again, too quick to catch.
There’s a flicker of the toddler he once was, seemingly just yesterday, the one who would gleefully say “opotus!” instead of “octopus” as we pored over picture books about sea creatures.
I realize this moment on the beach is one I’ll remember, with nostalgic longing, for years to come. I smile, and run along the shore with him, searching for magic.
If you go
How to get there: Several airlines, including Air Canada and WestJet, operate non-stop flights from Toronto to St. Lucia (about five hours and 10 minutes).
Where to stay: In Soufrière, Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort offers luxurious accommodations, spa pampering, and the only beach situated between the Pitons. To the north, Canadian-owned Windjammer Landing on Labrelotte Bay has family-friendly villas, a relaxed atmosphere, and a beach perfect for rest and play. Just beyond lively Rodney Bay, the Landings is home to grand villa suites and beachside dining, situated along a turquoise lagoon, complete with a private marina.
What else to do: For adventurous teens and adults, a hike up Gros Piton is vigorous and rewarding, though likely too challenging for little legs. Instead, Tet Paul Nature Trail offers an easy-to-moderate hike for kids or those looking for a gentler incline, and provides a clear view of the Pitons. Cool down afterwards at Toraille Waterfall or relax in one of the sulphur hot springs in the area.
Michelle Jobin travelled as a guest of the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, which did not review or approve this article.
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