St. Kitts

St. Kitts, the first English settlement in all of the Leeward Islands, was in British possession until 1983, when this island, along with Nevis, declared their independence and formed a tiny, two-island nation. The pioneering and energetic spirit of a move such as this lives on and is quite recognizable in the demeanor of the islanders. Friendly and helpful, but not likely to take guff, the citizens of St. Kitts are extremely proud of their heritage and ancestry, as well they should be. However, British traditions, such as the sport of cricket for instance, remain a strong influence on the inhabitants.

For years, St. Kitts suffered because it was basically a one-resource nation, with all of its monetary revenue coming from sugarcane. This made the health and wealth of the island extremely fragile, especially considering its vulnerability to hurricane damage. Hurricane Hugo in 1990 caused what was then thought to be permanent devastation. But through perseverance and a rapidly growing tourist economy, St. Kitts rebounded stronger than anyone could have thought. Travelers have just recently begun to discover the wonders of St. Kitts, and as a result, tourism is expanding every year, and the economy is at an all time high.

An interesting situation is brewing in St. Kitts, and it has to do with its partner island Nevis. Nevis is attempting to break off its partnership from St. Kitts, and as a result trying to steal a lot of the new thunder that St. Kitts has acquired. As a result of the verbal war that is being waged, prospective tourists can find great deals on St. Kitts as the two islands compete to control the tourism cycle in the Leeward Islands.

The natural beauty of the island remains unspoiled, so hopefully you will have a chance to get there soon. Unlike many of the neighboring islands in the Caribbean, St. Kitts is still relatively uncrowded, and the white-sand beaches stretch for miles. The 18th-century architecture of St. Kitts is magnificent, and the extravagant man-made buildings are complemented fantastically by the lush rain forests that encapsulate the majority of the island. This is exactly what makes St. Kitts so incredibly exciting. The diversity all around the island is amazing, as locals can be seen shirtless wearing sandals, while others prefer to suit up in thousand dollar linens while sipping martinis in one of the posh dining facilities.

Docking & Local Transportation

Cruise ships dock at the St. Christopher Air & Sea Port. Located conveniently right next to downtown Basseterre, taxi service is available to take you to your island destination of choice.

Taxis are an efficient way of getting around St. Kitts. Since they are not metered, it is advisable that you negotiate rates with your driver before departing. Taxi drivers are also knowledgeable tour guides of their homeland, so you can work out a guided driving tour with them as well. If you would like to rent a car instead, contact Avis (869/465-6507). Keep in mind that driving is on the left side of the road.

Local Interests

Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts, is one of the most walkable towns in all of the Caribbean. The architecture, sites, and friendly locals make walking Basseterre an absolute must. Palm trees grace the side of the road, and many interesting shops can be uncovered. Independence Square is a fascinating historical site. It is a location that used to be a slave market, and Georgian buildings that date back to the 18th century surround the square, located off Bank Street, on three sides. St. George's Anglican Church on Cayon Street is a gorgeous stone building that is a pleasure to see. The French built the crenellated tower in 1670 and called it Notre-Dame. In 1706 the British burned it down, only to rebuild it four years later and rename it after the English patron saint. It is such a magnificent edifice, and to think it has suffered through an earthquake, a fire, and multiple hurricanes.

Port Zante, located at the Waterfront behind the Circus, is a marvelous twenty-seven-acre cruise ship pier and marina that was excavated from the sea. The Neoclassical design, complete with stone arches and columns, was completed at the end of 2000. Now it is truly a sight to behold, featuring fountains, walkways, and a West Indian-style mall complex. This state-of-the-art portion of Port Zane houses a multitude of crafts shops, dining facilities, and a hotel and casino are even in the plans.

Black Rocks, located in Sandy Bay, are a collection of lava deposits that were launched into the sea when a volcano erupted long ago. Now centuries later, the rocks have been molded into an exotic formation from decades of crashing surf. This site is extremely popular for photo shoots and exploration.

Activities

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

There are more than a dozen glorious dive sites off the coast of St. Kitts. Bloody Bay Reef has a remarkable network of underwater grottoes to explore. In addition, it has a name that is sure to entice all of you first time divers! After you get past the imposing title, this wonderful site is filled with purple sea anemones, yellow sea fans, and sienna bristle worms. Nags Head is one of the most exciting dive sites in the Leeward Islands. This is the premier location for all of the thrill seeking scuba diving enthusiasts. Gliding rays and reef sharks are two of the most interesting creatures that lurk in these waters, and the currents are strong, so be certain that you are an experienced diver if you venture into Nags Head. Auston MacLeod is a PADI-certified diver who is an excellent instructor. He owns Pro-Divers (869/466-3483), which is probably the best snorkeling and scuba diving company on the island. Austin offers resort and certifications courses, and his expeditions are fantastic. Kenneth's Dive Center (869/465-2670) takes small groups of divers out to nearby reefs, and the instructors at Kenneth's really know what they are doing.

Shopping

Spencer Cameron Art Gallery, located at 10 N. Independence Sq. (869/465-1617), has a wide selection of fabulous artwork by many different Caribbean artists. They will mail your purchases to anywhere in the world, so pick out your duty-free masterpiece and have it waiting for you when you arrive home. Rosey Cameron's extremely popular Carnevale clown prints are the hot seller at Spencer Cameron. Hidden Treasures Art and Antiques (869/465-5450), located on Cayon Street, features beautiful old Victorian jewelry and Venetian art glass. The Art Deco and Art Nouveau tea sets are simply wonderful.

Dining and Nightlife

Golden Lemon (869/465-7260) is the best restaurant for a glorious Sunday brunch. The special four-course dinners are marvelous as well. Located in Dieppe Bay, the atmosphere of Golden Lemon is formal and fantastically decorated. Stonewall's (869/465-5248) is the place for drinks on St. Kitts. The roast beef and chicken breast sautéed in a special tomato sauce are exquisite. You can find this extravagant cocktail outfit at 5 Princes St. in Basseterre.