St. Kitts and The Caribbean Sea
Basseterre, St. Kitts, Nevis
September 01, 2012 (CUOPM)
Look at the brochures and St. Kitts seems to offer all the staples of the small island Caribbean holiday…splendid plantation houses, sweaty rainforest hikes, ramshackle rum shacks and blissfully warm swimming.
A championship golf course, relaxed beaches in the southeast and direct flights from the UK are further draws, along with the chance to visit its beautiful sister isle of Nevis.
Nigel Tisdall, who has been writing travel stories for the Telegraph for over 25 years wrote the following feature in the Telegraph’s Travel Section:
Delve deeper, and St. Kitts turns out to have special treasures too. One is the colossal Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a military bastion and World Heritage Site dating from 1690 that has been dubbed “the Gibraltar of the Caribbean”. The name of the island’s dishevelled capital, Basseterre, is a reminder that the island was settled by both the French and English in the 1620s. Tobacco, indigo and then sugar were grown on the Wingfield Estate, where the ruins of a mighty water-powered mill are currently being unearthed.
The sugar industry survived until 2005, and a unique legacy of this is the St. Kitts Scenic Railway where passengers can ride for 18 miles along a narrow gauge line built to transport cane. Today the island lives by tourism, a transformation that appears to have been achieved with record speed. St Kitts now welcomes a steady stream of cruise ships and has a 394-room Marriott resort and casino. Major luxury property developments, along with a private jet terminal, are taking shape.
The abiding mood, however, remains one of green hills, warmth and easy living. Crowned by the 3,972ft peak of Mount Liamuiga, St Kitts covers just 68 square miles and over a quarter of its land is protected. Its restaurants serve good fresh fish and there is plenty to enjoy from touring botanical gardens to ziplining. Above all, this an island that will suit travellers who like to explore rather than flop on a beach.
When to go:
High season on St. Kitts runs from mid-December to April when the cost of accommodation peaks and the weather is at its best. Rates drop in summer, but due to the limited number of direct flights from the UK you’ll have to travel outside of the school holidays to get the best deal. While the Caribbean hurricane season officially runs from June to November, September and October are the most likely months to encounter major storms. Some hotels and restaurants close for a few weeks during this quiet period.
St. Kitts is an island with a great variety of attractions, from hiking to golf to historic sites. It is enjoyable at any time of year with its warm seas and sunny skies. Consider visiting when the island is in party mood ““ popular events include the annual St Kitts Music Festival at the end of June, the St. Kitts Carnival (mid-December to early January), and international cricket matches at the Warner Park Stadium in Basseterre.
British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) flies from London Gatwick to St. Kitts’ Robert L Bradshaw International Airport, which is in the centre of the island. Departures are on Tuesdays and Saturdays and the flight includes an hour-long stop in Antigua each way (you do not have to leave the plane). Fares vary according to demand and the time of year, for offers and packages including accommodation see ba.com/stkitts.
An alternative route, with a greater frequency, is to fly to Antigua with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 7777; virgin-atlantic.com), then continue to St. Kitts with Liat (liat.com).
Booking a package combining the flight with a hotel and car hire can work out cheaper than booking these separately. You will also get the support and financial protection that comes from using a tour operator, and it makes things easier ““ partticularly if you also plan to visit the neighbouring island of Nevis.
Caribbean specialists offering holidays to St. Kitts and Nevis include Golden Holidays (0845 085 8080; golden-holidays.co.uk), Just St. Kitts & Nevis (01373 814210; juststkittsnevis.co.uk) and Prestige Caribbean (0208 994 2244; prestigecaribbean.com).
Transfer times from the airport to the island’s hotels are short ““ a ttaxi to the most distant, Ottleys Plantation Inn, costs US$25 (£16) and takes 20 minutes.
To see the best of St. Kitts you’ll need to join an excursion, take a tour by taxi, or rent a car and go exploring. The last option is a good idea if you like the independence this brings and will suit families and couples who want to spend time on the beaches in the southeast, which are a six mile drive from the centre of the island. However, you are unlikely to need a car every day of your holiday, so consider arranging this locally once you have arrived. You can cover all the north of the island, including sightseeing, in a day ““ the roads are quiet but keep an eye out for goats, children and potholes.
Rental cars can be booked through your tour operator or hotel, or contact Avis St Kitts (001 869 465 6507; avisstkitts.com). You’ll need a temporary driving permit, which costs US$24 (£15) and usually arranged through your supplier. Driving is on the left.
Many Kittitians get about using minibuses that work to their own schedule ““ they have a green numberplate annd a ride costs around EC$2.50 (£60p). As they don’t work at night or serve the beaches in the southeast they are not that useful to visitors, unless you are heading to or from Basseterre.
Taxis are the best way to travel around independently. Fares are fixed rather than metered ““ always check if prices are being quoted in US or EC dollars. An island tour, excluding the southeast peninsula, costs around US$80 (£51).
You can take a ferry over to Charlestown, the capital of Nevis, from Basseterre ““ the crossing costs EEC$26 (£6) one-way and takes around 45 minutes with engaging views of both islands. The times of sailings fluctuate so ask your hotel to confirm the schedules. A shorter route is offered by the small Sea Bridge car ferry, which leaves from Major’s Bay at the southeast end of the island then docks at Cades Bay. Passengers connecting with international flights on pre-booked transfers often use a fast boat service from Cockleshell Bay to Oualie Beach.
Know before you go
Around ten hours from London; nine-and-a-half hours back.
The official currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, written EC$. It is pegged to the US dollar at US$1 to EC$2.70, but local shops and restaurants often use a slightly lower rate which is displayed on boards and menus. Hotels, upmarket restaurants and some activity providers only quote in US dollars. You can pay for most things in US dollars as well as EC dollars, but the change will usually be in EC dollars. Note that cashpoints only issue EC dollars.
Foreign Office Advice
There is currently no advice against travel in St. Kitts (fco.gov.uk). There is no British High Commission in St Kitts and Nevis but if you need assistance there is one in Barbados.
St. Kitts Tourism Authority (00 1 869 465 4040; stkittstourism.kn.)
Police 999; Fire 333; Ambulance 911.
Local laws and etiquette
Kittitians are a friendly and welcoming people and many islanders have visited or lived in the UK. If you want to find something out, just ask.
While St. Kitts feels easygoing and safe, violent crimes on the island do happen. Avoid poorly-lit areas at night in Basseterre and don’t leave valuables on display in cars or on hotel balconies and beaches. If you want to take photos of local people, always ask first.
Most electrical sockets in hotels take three-pin, UK-style plugs so British travellers won’t need adaptors.