Are you an outdoor adventurer, history buff, or a beach bum? If you consider yourself any of those things (or a little of all three), you’ll fall in love with Pigeon Island in Saint Lucia. If you’re looking for things to do in St Lucia, it’s the perfect place to spend half a day, although it’s possible to spend all day there if you choose. Pigeon Island is a national landmark, a nature reserve, and a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.
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The History of Pigeon Island St Lucia
Not to be confused with Pigeon Island National Park in Sri Lanka, Pigeon Island National Landmark is a 44 acre islet in the northern part of Saint Lucia (in Gros Islet). It’s one of the most important landmarks detailing Saint Lucia’s history.
It might be called Pigeon Island, but it’s no longer an island. While it used to be off the shores of the main island of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean Sea, it was joined to the mainland in 1972 by a man-made road. Recognized as a living museum, it was named Pigeon Island National Park in 1979, and later became designated as Pigeon Island National Landmark in 1992.
Its Historical Significance
The first people known to frequent Pigeon Island were the Arawak and Carib peoples as early as 1000 A.D. In the 16th century, Francois Le Clerc (also known as Jambe de Bois), a French pirate, occupied the island. Jambe de Bois (translated to mean “peg leg” because he had a wooden leg) and his 330 men were the first European settlers in St Lucia. They used Pigeon Island to observe and attack Spanish ships.
Later, Pigeon Island became a highly strategic point for battles between the British and the French. From 1779 to 1782, Admiral George Rodney commanded the island and built Fort Rodney up on the hill. From Signal Hill, the higher of the two peaks, he monitored the French naval base of Fort Royal on Martinique. This vantage point gave him a clear advantage. In 1782, he confronted and defeated the French fleet in the Battle of the Saints.
There are several ruins of military buildings on the island that you can wander through and visit. Two barracks with kitchens, quarters for the commanding officer, and an officer’s mess were built in 1808. The former mess hall is now the Interpretation Center, and there’s also a museum about the history of Pigeon Island.
In 1909, Pigeon Island was home to a whaling station. It was shut down in 1952 when laws were enacted that limited whaling activities. In 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt traveled to the region on the USS Tuscaloosa. The US Navy built a Naval Air Station at Rodney Bay, using Pigeon Island as a communications station to patrol for German submarines. After 1947, the communications station was no longer used.
Nowadays, Pigeon Island National Park / Pigeon Island National Landmark is maintained by the Saint Lucia National Trust, a non-profit organization responsible for the upkeep of numerous protected sites around the island.
Things to Do at Pigeon Island National Landmark
Pigeon Island is a vast park with green spaces, hiking trails, the ruins of forts, beaches, and two peaks where you can hike to the top.
Go Hiking at Pigeon Island
If you’re looking for what to do at Pigeon Island, going for a hike is my top suggestion. There are hiking trails that meander through the forest, eventually leading to a clearing. Hike up some steps to reach the first lower lookout point to soak up incredible panoramic scenery.
Keep hiking up some more steps to the top of one of the hills. You’ll see the remains of Fort Rodney at the top, as well as 360 degree sweeping views. The best views of Pigeon Island and its surroundings are right from this vantage point. You’ll see a narrow strip of land with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other. You’ll view the lush mountains of St Lucia off in the distance. On a clear day, you might even be able to see Martinique!
While I didn’t hike to the second peak, you can also continue your hike to Signal Hill. This trail is more difficult than the first, so it’s meant more for the seasoned hiker with proper footwear. The trail to Fort Rodney doesn’t take much hiking experience or anything beyond a pair of regular sneakers. If you’re a beginner hiker or you want to take a short hike, I recommend trekking up to Fort Rodney. You can easily hike the entire trail to the top and back in under an hour. Hiking to both peaks and back will take around two hours.
Discover the Ruins of Military Forts
There are lots of ruins of old, military forts and buildings dotted throughout this area. Check out the informational signs along the way for lots of important details. Try to imagine what these structures looked like in their former glory. There are also cannons, bunkers, and the foundations of buildings. You’ll see some of these ruins on the lower part of the island, and Fort Rodney on top of the peak is quite fascinating.
Check Out Pigeon Island Beach
Looking for Pigeon Island beach? There are actually two gorgeous white sand beaches on Pigeon Island! Feel free to lay down your towel and take a dip in the turquoise waters. The beach on the Atlantic Ocean side will be much wavier (might even be good conditions for surfing!), while the Rodney Bay / Caribbean Sea side will have calmer waters.
Special Events at Pigeon Island
There’s always something happening at Pigeon Island St Lucia. The most prominent festival at Pigeon Island is the Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival. There are several other festivals and events at the island throughout the year.
Saint Lucia Jazz Festival
For more than twenty years, the Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival happens every spring at Pigeon Island National Park. There are tons of concerts, street parties, art shows, and so much more. It’s one of the most popular festivals in the country, and you’ll want to book accommodation well ahead of time as places do book up fast.
A Popular Wedding Venue
Pigeon Island is a nature reserve with wide open spaces, hiking trails, and powdery beaches surrounded by glistening waters. Of course, it’s a magnificent wedding location! It’s possible to host your wedding event at Pigeon Island. You can have your wedding at a little gazebo, right on the beach, or cliff side with incredible views. Contact the Saint Lucia National Trust for more details.
How to Visit Pigeon Island
It’s easy to venture out to Pigeon Island St Lucia. If you have your own car, there are lots of parking spaces. It’s possible to book a taxi to this region, too. Here are a few other fun suggestions on how to plan your trip.
Stay at the Sandals Grande St Lucian and Walk Over
When I visited Saint Lucia, I spent several nights at the Sandals Grande St Lucian, which is the perfect resort hotel for those wanting to check out Pigeon Island. You couldn’t get any closer to the landmark if you tried! Pigeon Island is a short five minute walk from the Sandals resort.
It’s so easy for anyone staying at the Sandals Grande St Lucian to take a couple of hours out of their day to visit Pigeon Island. You don’t need to plan any kind of a tour or even plan your day in advance. Just lace up your sneakers and walk down the road until you reach Pigeon Island National Landmark.
If you’re traveling with your partner and seeking a romantic holiday in St Lucia, don’t hesitate to book your stay at the Sandals Grande St Lucian. When you stay at one Sandals resort, you have access to all three Sandals resorts on the island of Saint Lucia. This means that you can stay at the Sandals Halcyon Beach or the Sandals Regency La Toc and have easy access to Pigeon Island, too. Hop on board the free shuttle service between all three resorts and you’ll begin your day trip to Pigeon Island in no time flat.
Can’t decide which Sandals resorts to book? Perhaps reading more reviews might help your decision making. Here are reviews written by fellow travelers of the Sandals Grande St Lucian, the Sandals Halcyon Beach, and the Sandals Regency La Toc.
Book a Tour to this Landmark
If you aren’t within walking distance, don’t fret. There are many tours that visit Pigeon Island, whether it’s simply transportation to the island or an activity while you’re there.
If you’re traveling to St Lucia on a cruise, you can take a day trip to Pigeon Island from the cruise ship without booking an expensive cruise ship tour. Here’s a shuttle to Pigeon Island from the cruise ship ports that will get you there for a beach break and/or a hiking trip.
Next, this is a guided half day tour to Pigeon Island that includes transportation, snacks, refreshments, and entrance fees. You’ll meet a guide at the park that will tell you some interesting things about the history of the area. Then, you’ll hike on the trail up to the fort at the top for amazing panoramic views.
Last, embark on a Sea Trek Adventure at Pigeon Island in St Lucia. You’ll wear a specially designed helmet that will allow you to breathe underwater as you walk along the ocean floor. This helmet keeps your head completely dry and you’ll be able to see incredible fish and sea life without having any kind of scuba certification. It includes transportation from any north island hotels, and the groups are kept small for more engaging experiences with your guide.
What to Know Before You Go
Before you visit Pigeon Island St Lucia, here are a few important details to know before you go.
How much does it cost to visit Pigeon Island?
There are daily park admission fees that give you access to everything on Pigeon Island. It’s EC$10 for residents and US$10 for adult visitors. It costs US$3 for children visitors that are 5 to 12 years old.
When is Pigeon Island open?
Pigeon Island National Landmark is open 365 days, and its hours of operation are 9:00am to 5:00pm.
What should I bring to Pigeon Island?
It really depends how long you’re thinking about visiting and your purpose of visiting. If you plan to visit the Pigeon Island beach, don’t forget to bring your swimsuit, a towel, and flip flops. If you’re going to hike up to the fort, wear appropriate sneakers or hiking shoes. Regardless, you should definitely bring sunscreen and a bottle of water to avoid sunburn and to stay hydrated.
There are two restaurants on Pigeon Island (one featuring local cuisine and one is a pub/restaurant), but I’m not sure if they have much in the way of vegan options. I recommend bringing some protein bars or trail mix as a snack until you get back to the resort, if you’re visiting for a few hours and don’t plan to have a meal there.
I can’t stress this point enough: don’t leave home without travel insurance. You never know what might happen when you’re abroad, and you don’t want to be left with hefty medical bills. Travel insurance is a must for anyone traveling abroad, whether you’re hiking or soaking up the sunshine in Saint Lucia. You can quickly and easily get travel insurance quotes here.
Map of Pigeon Island
This map of Pigeon Island National Park in St Lucia will show you exactly where it’s located on the island. You can see just how close it is to the Sandals Grande St Lucian, as well as the major cities in Saint Lucia.
If you’re traveling to Saint Lucia and you’re looking for a fun half or full day trip, I encourage you to make a trip to the Pigeon Island National Landmark. Whether you love hiking, learning about history, or simply lounging on the beach, Pigeon Island has something for everyone. The beautiful views alone are not to be missed.