Pitons Management Area

By Rachel Heller

What is Pitons Management Area?

Pitons Management Area is an approximately 3000-hectare (11.5 square miles) area of the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. It comprises an 11-kilometer-long (7 miles) coastal zone and contains a protected reef, two volcanic spires and what remains of the volcano itself, as well as an area of forest and woodland.

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Text: Pitons Management Area, Saint Lucia.
Images: Top, volcanic spire reaching out of the water, surrounded by densely forested hills. Bottom, view of a village in a valley wedged between thick forests with the volcanic spires in the background.

Why is Pitons Management Area a UNESCO World Heritage site?

According to the UNESCO listing, it was chosen partly for its aesthetic impact: the sight of the two Pitons volcanic spires is breathtaking. They are covered with diverse natural vegetation, which adds to their beauty.

The Pitons Management Area also includes volcanic features which “fully illustrate the volcanic history of an andesitic composite volcano associated with crustal plate subduction.” 

With the tops of a few trees visible in the foreground, most of the photo shows a very faraway view of a flat part of the island, very green with a scattering of houses, and the sea. The fluffy clouds in the blue sky appear to be at about the same height as the camera.
View from the top of Gros Piton. Photo courtesy of Steve Watt.

What can you expect on a visit to Pitons Management Area?

Besides taking in the beauty of the two spires, Gros Piton (770 meters/2526 feet) and Petit Piton (743 meters/2438 feet), you can expect to choose from a variety of ways to enjoy the Pitons Management Area. The remains of the volcano, billed as a “Drive-In Volcano,” is a popular attraction, as are the sulphur baths nearby, where visitors soak in the volcano-warmed water before being coated with mud.

You could also hike up one or both of the Pitons – Gros Piton is walkable, while Petit Piton requires climbing experience – or the easier Tet Paul trail, which offers a view of both spires. There are a number of pretty waterfalls as well as a botanical garden within the boundaries of the UNESCO site.

The sulphur bath in the picture is a pool of brown water edged by a simple concrete wall. A channel leads the water into it, visible behind the pool, and also edged with low concrete walls. Signs read "Pool entrance steps" and "5 steps down". Part of the next channel leading the water to the next pool is visible on the left, and plastic buckets stand next to or on the walls here and there.
Sulphur/mud bath

Is Pitons Management Area worth visiting?

Yes, for sure. Those interested in geology in general or volcanoes in particular would certainly find this place interesting; the town of Soufriere lies inside what is left of the volcano’s caldera. But lots of other sorts of visitors would enjoy it as well: if you like tropical forests or botanical gardens, if you enjoy hiking to see incredible views, if snorkeling or diving is your thing, or, for that matter, if you’d prefer to relax on a beach with a tropical drink in your hand. Any and all of these things are possible within or nearby the Pitons Management Area.

Even if you don’t go to Saint Lucia to see Pitons Management Area, you’re likely to at least enjoy the beauty of the two volcanic spires, which are visible from a long way off.

Petit Piton is in the shape of a steep cone coming straight out of the water (it's attached to land on one side, but that side is obscured by the nearby forest in this photo.) In parts it's covered with green growth. In other parts it's bare rock.
Petit Piton

Tips for visiting Pitons Management Area

Think carefully before you decide to rent a car. While it would give you more freedom than relying on taxis or tours, it can be very stressful to drive the winding, potholed roads in the area. Consider booking tours instead.

Given how difficult the driving can be, don’t expect to stay in one of the popular resorts up north and just hop down here for sightseeing. You’re better off staying somewhere near the town of Soufriere.

Use this link to book accommodations in or near the town of Soufriere.

Do not climb either Piton without a guide. Do not climb Petit Piton unless you have some experience with climbing. Tip your guides well!

Bring and use both sunscreen and insect repellent. It is a tropical rainforest climate, so it’ll be quite hot and humid. Don’t bother bringing rain clothes – the rain feels good!

A view from a hill looks across a valley. In the valley a lot of houses, quite close together, in bright colors. They extend up the valley and also down right to the sea on the right. The sea is deep blue. A forest-covered hill rises on the other side of the valley and, beyond that, two taller pointed hills, one partly behind the other.
The town of Soufriere, with the Pitons behind it.

Where is Pitons Management Area?

Saint Lucia is in the Caribbean between Martinique and Saint Vincent. Piton Management Area is in the southwest corner of the island. The nearest town is Soufriere. Google will tell you that it’s 50 minutes’ drive from Hewannora International Airport, an hour and 15 minutes from George F.L. Charles Airport, or an hour and 10 minutes from the capital city of Castries. However, any of these drives will likely take longer than listed.

For more information about Pitons Management Area, see its official website.

Have you been to the Pitons Management Area? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!