Staying with a Local Host Family in St. Lucia

Traveling through the Caribbean is not cheap, especially if you’re looking for accommodation. It might be cheap by some standards, but by backpacker standards everything can be a bit pricey. There’s no $2 rooms like in Southeast Asia and virtually no hostels to be seen. We found our best bet was to look on websites like Couchsurfing.com, which we didn’t get a chance to use, and Air BnB, which we used in Tobago and St. Lucia.

Lucky for us we found an amazing host in St. Lucia, who welcomed us into her home like we were family. I had never before stayed with a local host family and wasn’t sure what to expect. My biggest fear was that it would be extremely awkward and intrusive, that we wouldn’t get along with our host, and that we would be out on the street with no place to stay. All those fears were shot down as soon as we walked through the front door to our host, Noa, in the kitchen. We were welcomed with hugs and huge smiles and we talked through the evening.

Staying with a local host was amazing and is something that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in seeing how locals live in your chosen destination. One of the main reasons we chose our host was for the great reviews left by those who had stayed with her before. Everyone had only nice words to say and her place was located in the area we were hoping for.

The house was a basic local home with all the good and bad that comes with that. In this case, it was the resident mouse and the cockroaches that thankfully kept hidden in the crack in the bathroom wall. Just extra roommates right? Noa’s home was filled with so much love and laughter that it was infectious, you could feel it in the air. There was never a dull moment with her daughter running around and their puppy to play with. We shared meals together, watched movies and sat on the porch late into the night.  Noa drove us to visit the volcano and waterfall in Soufriere, stopping at every point where we felt the need to snap a photo. She brewed us fresh herbal teas, taught us how to make cocoa tea and we kicked off one of our final nights dancing in the streets of St. Lucia’s famous Jump-Up in Gros Islet.

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As with anything, there are a few things you can do to make your stay with a local host more enjoyable. For me, the top two things you should be doing as a host are:

1. Keep the space clean and tidy. You are a guest in their home, no matter if you become friends or not. Keeping the place as clean as you left it (or cleaner!) is the nice thing to do.

2. Show your appreciation. This can be anything from cooking your host a meal, walking their dog, or even leaving them a small gift. Flowers? Maybe something from your home country?

As for everything else, follow your hosts lead. Every host will have a different personality and a different way of running their home. Some hosts may be young and loud into the night. Others may have small children that need to sleep at an early hour. Music playing in the home might be great, other might not appreciate it as much. So play it by ear and meet your host on common ground that works for you both.

Have you ever stayed with a host family? Were you the host? Share your experience in the comments below!

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Gros Islet’s Famous Jump Up

A Friday night in St. Lucia is not complete without making an appearance at Gros Islet’s jump-up, the street party that has made this town famous. Once the sun sets, the town locals and all the tourists flock to the streets to celebrate another week done and another weekend beginning. Our local host, Noa, and her friend Steve had been talking about the party all week and were eager to show us a good time. Sections of town are closed off to vehicles, allowing people to eat, drink, dance and party in the streets all night long.

After stopping at the fish fry down the road for some food and Piton beer, we made our way to where the party happened, being enveloped in the loud reggae music coming from the speakers. There are a few spots on the street, each playing different versions of soca, dancehall and reggae music. Drinks in hand, we followed our ears to the sound of familiar soca beats in the center of the street and suddenly we were surrounded by more white people than I’d seen in four months.

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The street party is well-advertised to tourists. Almost everyone that we met on the beach or on the street leading up to the party was sure to mention it, getting promises from us that we would be there. So we were, and so was every other tourist in the Gros Islet area. The tourists made up the majority of the dancing until after 11pm, when tourists dwindled away and the locals moved in. After 11pm is when things get really good, with St. Lucians showing what their mamas gave them. The music got louder and the dancing never stopped, with a few talented young men busting out some choreography in the center of it all.

Rum punch is available at every corner and for those with a hungry tummy, there’s street vendors selling bbq food. If your money is burning a hole in your pocket and you like art as a souvenir, there’s quite a good guy selling handmade wood carvings and paintings just up the road. Typical me has lost his business card again but if I find the name, I’ll put it here! In the meantime, that’s him in the photo above.

If you’re looking for a unique St. Lucian experience and a great way to interact with the locals, make sure you end up at the jump-up on Friday night.

Bucket List: Volcano Mud Bath, St. Lucia

Dunking myself in warm, scratchy mud was at the top of my list when I headed to the island of St. Lucia. It might seem counterproductive to take a bath in mud, but the effects on your skin are truly amazing! Soufriere is one of the world’s only “drive-in” volcanoes, meaning exactly that. Instead of hiking up a volcano you can drive your car right up and into the volcano itself, parking the car and going by foot to get up close and personal.

The drive to Soufriere is breathtaking, with the road winding through the mountains and giving you incredible views of the Pitons. As soon as you enter the fishing town of Soufriere, you’re hit with the unmistakable scent of rotten eggs — the tell-tale sign that a sulphur spring is nearby. With our local host guiding the way, we walked up to look over the bubbling pools of volcanic mud, steam rising into the air around us.

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A few years earlier, tourists were allowed to actually walk amongst these active pools but this has been prohibited ever since an employee fell through the hollow ground, burning the majority of his body. Luckily, he survived and can now be found working in one of the many resorts on St. Lucia, safely away from hot volcanic mud.

Seeing the pools of mud bubbling up from the ground was good, but the real treat of our trip up to the volcano was obviously the mud bath. If ever there is a chance to do something weird like rubbing mud all over myself, holding boa constrictors around my neck, or taking a shot of green water from a lake full of asphalt, I’ll do it. Especially if there’s rumors of healing properties or good luck.

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So, it was off with our clothes and into the mud for us! But wait, you don’t just dive right in. First, you scoop fistfuls of mud and rub it all over your body as it seeps out between your fingers. The mud is hot to the touch but cools as you continue to a nice feeling of warmth. It’s an added natural exfoliator thanks to the bits of crushed rocks in there.

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Once you’re nice and covered, take a seat or stand and chat, laughing with strangers at how weird you look — especially those who cover their face — until the mud starts to dry on your skin and turn a lighter shade of grey. Then, despite it already being well over 30 degrees Celsius outside, you go on to lower yourself into muddy water that is about the temperature of hot tea, or around 40-45 degrees Celsius. It’s a little hot as first (as you can see by my reaction!) but you quickly get used to it.

Lounging in the water is really quite nice and super relaxing. Your muscles instantly relax and you suddenly feel a very strong urge to take a nap. As you float in the water, the mud will slowly come off your skin but you’ll want to help it out. Chances are no matter how much you scrub, you’ll discover some dried mud on yourself or caked in your hair a few hours later, even after you’ve rinsed off in the showers available.

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Once you’ve spent enough time playing in the mud, you might want to check out one of the nearby waterfalls! Who doesn’t love a good waterfall, am I right?