This Weekend We Virtually Visited St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts and Nevis are often referred to as “the Caribbean Island you have probably never heard of”. That doesn’t mean that it’s not worth knowing about, rather (as we recently learned), the locals like keeping a low profile and protecting the beauty of this lesser-known island country from mass tourism. Since virtual travel accords us a glimpse of lesser-known, offbeat, and remote places without a physical footprint, we decided to head there this weekend.
St. Kitts and Nevis are an island country in the West Indies. It is the smallest and least populated country in the Caribbean, and over 92% of the population is of African-Caribbean descent. The people here live by the mantra of “rush slowly” (which explains the absence of traffic lights here).
However, the small population is compensated by twice the number of drunk vervet monkeys that were brought from West Africa by the British over 300 years ago. Some say they were brought as pets, while others claim that they came with the African slaves. Interestingly, these monkeys acquired a taste for fermented sugar cane left in the fields, and are now famous alcoholics. These “drunkeys” are known to steal alcohol, get drunk, fight with each other, and pass out.
The country is also home to over 200 species of birds (including several endangered ones) and the brown pelican is considered as the national bird. While St. Kitts is known for its fertile land (and sugarcane plantations), Nevis is known for its clear waters and is the greenest of the Caribbean islands.
It is said that the great explorer Christopher Columbus who discovered the Americas first named these islands ‘San Cristobal’ (earlier called ‘Liamuiga’ after the extinct volcano) and ‘San Martin’ (derived from its Spanish name ‘Nuestra Señora de las Nieves’, which translates to “Our Lady of the Snows”) respectively until the British colonized them. A lesser-known fact is that the island country is also the birthplace of one of the founding fathers of the United States, Alexander Hamilton.
Interestingly, modern-day St.Kitts and Nevis offers “economic citizenship” or “citizenship by investment”. This means that anyone can become a citizen- all they have to do is buy land or make a relief donation (there are pros and cons to this; more here).
St. Kitts and Nevis is undoubtedly an expensive country to visit as a tourist (since most goods are imported and tourism brings in revenue), though popular travel vlogger Drew Binsky spent 24 hours at the islands in under $100. We decided to virtually travel to St. Kitts and Nevis (for free) and imagine what a 36-hour itinerary would look like.
36 hours in St. Kitts and Nevis
9.00 AM: Military Hill Fortress
Situated atop Brimstone Hill and a half-hour drive from Basseterre (the capital of St. Kitts) lies a UNESCO world heritage site that has a military aura to it. It was designed by the British military, built and maintained by African slaves, and for many years was deemed impenetrable until the French invasion.
One of the few remaining polygon styled fortresses, the fortress was built using volcanic rock and offers panoramic views of its surroundings. Due to its strong fortification structure and 800 ft high walls it took about 100 years to complete!
10.00 AM: Black Rocks
Remnants from the historic eruption of the volcanic Mount Liamuiga, these rock formations have manifested into unique sculptures that cradle clear water pools within their hollows.
The Mount Liamuiga volcano has erupted only once in the past 1,800 years and boasts of a summit crater that is 1 kilometer wide!
12.00 PM: Romney Manor
One of the amazing things about the islands is how a short commute of about 30 minutes transports you to a completely different scene of beauty and history!
There are several estates across the islands that had sugar plantations before the British decided to centralize the process. As the shift occurred, the Romney Manor estate turned to Caribelle Batik in 1978.
The estate was named Romney Manor after its mid-17th century acquisition by the Earl of Romney. In 1834, Lord Romney freed his enslaved African laborers against the instructions of the British Parliament and became the first estate in St. Kitts to do so.
As a Batik workshop that is open to tourists now, one can learn about the intricate process of creating Caribelle Batik clothing here.
While at the estate, make sure to spend time in its peaceful gardens and a few moments of solitude under the 400-year old Saman tree. This tree is the largest living organism in St. Kitts with a 24 ft circumference blanketing half of the estate!
1.00 PM: Goat Water, Black Pudding, and More
Food is excellent at St. Kitts. Head to a nearby restaurant as recommended by the locals and try the Conch Fritters, Pelau (meat, vegetables, and rice combo), Black Pudding (sausage packed with herbs, thyme, peppers, and rice), and Goat Water Stew. Also look out for guava cheese, gooseberry jam, and breadfruit.
2.00 PM: Double-Decker Sugar Train
Climb aboard the ‘Island Series’ double-decker carriages at St. Kitts Scenic Railway that are found nowhere else in the world.
Once known as the “sugar train” it used to transport sugarcane from the various plantations at St. Kitts to the sugar factories in Basseterre. Now the train carries its passengers on a 50 km, 3-hour tour circling the eastern Caribbean island of St. Kitts.
You will be able to capture everything, from the lush flora and fauna of the region to the historic ruins of old cane plantations and windmills. There is an onboard commentary that guides you through the journey and ends with the St. Kitts Railway Choir performing a set of Caribbean folk songs and hymns.
5.00 PM: Dolphin Love
After a long rail ride, what better way to cool down than a trip to Dolphin Discovery to play with dolphins?
Here’s a chance to play with the friendliest creatures of the ocean. Kick-off those shoes and jump into the water with the dolphins!
The Bird Rock Beach Hotel also has something for those who want to venture deeper into the Caribbean: scuba diving. Discover sunken vessels, virgin reefs, and other submerged natural wonders.
7.00 PM: Stewed Saltfish
A visit to St. Kitts is incomplete without trying the Saltfish stew. The traditional dish is made with seasoned and stewed saltfish, served with coconut dumplings, and fried plantains. A simple yet deeply filling dish, it makes for a perfect dinner, accompanied by the famous Killer Bee rum.
8:00 AM: Nature Trail 15 minutes away from Basseterre is the Wingfield-Phillips Forest Nature Trail. Start the day with a casual nature walk or a challenging hike, depending on our preference.
The Wingfield-Phillips Forest Nature Trail offers an exploration of old cane-processing centers and the unique flora and fauna of a gorgeous central reserve rainforest. If you’re lucky you may spot the red heliconia, yellow bell and purple hibiscus, hummingbirds, and much more. The locals believe every plant in the forest has medicinal value.
10:00 AM: North Frigate Bay Beach
There are several beaches close to Port Zante (the cruise port) but the closest one is the North Frigate Bay, just ten minutes away from the port.
The North Frigate Bay is a calming stop after an adrenaline-filled rainforest hike. It offers serene views, quality sand, and sea grapes!
If the monkeys inspire you enough, you can climb the copious coconut palms too. Or else, simply stroll your way to the Caribbean, crashing against the shores of South Frigate Bay. Fun fact: the frigate region is one of the narrowest expanses of land at St. Kitts.
The south side is much more lively, bustling with restaurants, bars, and live music. Grab some lunch at any cafe before you start your journey across islands!
12:00 PM: Ferry Ride to Nevis
Take one of the five ferries that run ten times a day between St. Kitts and Nevis.
The 45-minute ferry drops you in Charlestown, the capital of Nevis. Take a quick stroll around the petite town that also happens to be the birthplace of the man on the US $10 bill: Alexander Hamilton.
The beautiful wooden buildings exude distinct Georgian and Victorian styles and features, and a walking tour is a good way to learn more about their history.
1:00 PM: Birthplace of Hamilton
The Museum of Nevis History is a two-storey building that was the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, the founding father of the federalist papers. The second floor of the building was the meeting room for the Nevis House of Assembly.
The museum houses numerous artifacts, capsuling pockets of stories before our time. They show Nevis as is today and go all the way back to the time of the native American-Indian people.
2:00 PM: Nevisian Heritage Trail
Step into the past with a Fothergills Estate Tour that quite literally transforms history into a practical experience. Transport yourself to a time where huts were made of thatched-roofs and learn about the cutlery and cooking ware used in the olden days.
Further, if you look intently enough, you’ll find several local plants and flowers in the backyard gardens.
3:00 PM: Botanical Garden
The Nevis Botanical Garden calls out to nature lovers around the world. The sheer variety of tropical plants, rare fruits, orchids, and palms will leave you in awe. To top it off, there is a plethora of fauna ranging from tropical fish to native birds.
The botanical garden houses one of the largest collections of orchids in the Caribbean and over 100 species of palms. There are several waterfalls, fountains, and vine gardens as well, not to mention a butterfly-filled rainforest conservatory to keep you immersed in its natural grandeur.
Make sure to stop by at the Oasis Thai Restaurant for a quick snack and refreshments. The restaurant offers unique experiences that bring together the best of nature and food. Their ‘Purple Rain’ mocktail comes highly recommended: “an antioxidant-rich refresher made from butterfly pea flowers and lime juice”. Alternatively, get a Carib beer to cool down.
5:00 PM: Oualie Beach
Time to head back to the beach — it’s an island after all!
Pronounced as “wah-lee”, the Oualie beach is a perfect spot to unwind after a long day. Interestingly, Nevis was originally named Oualie, which is “Land of beautiful waters” by the Caribs.
There are numerous activities offered by the Oualie Beach Resort including spas, yoga sessions, snorkeling, paddle-boarding, diving, and other water activities. Alternatively, set out on a sunset cruise before calling it a day.
7:00 PM: Eat Rikkita
A must-try dish in Nevis is Rikkita- a beef dish served with peas and rice. It is available at most restaurants in Nevis and makes for a great last supper on this beautiful island.
If you don’t know much about St. Kitts and Nevis (like we didn’t prior to our virtual exploration), it is easy to assume it’s just another Caribbean island. However, apart from its year-long tropical climate and stunning landscapes, the island-country also has a rich history, and the stories of the native American-Indians and families of former slaves are sure to move you.
Further, the island hosts several festivals at different points of time in the year: the Culturama festival, Carnival, and St. Kitts Music Festival, to name a few. Not to mention, the island also organizes a 4 km Cross Channel Swim through “The Narrow” waterway connecting St. Kitts and Nevis.
How to get there
St. Kitts is easily accessible from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Europe. Dozens of flights depart daily and arrive at Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw International Airport, St. Kitts.
Where to stay
For luxury travelers, Park Hyatt at St. Kitts and Four Seasons Resort in Nevis are good places to stay. There are also fantastic options offered by Airbnb for a more intimate experience. Oualie Beach Resort is another option.
When to go
The best time to visit St. Kitts and Nevis is between May and June when hotel rates are more affordable. However, the peak season is from December to April, particularly during Carnival time.
U.S. citizens must have a valid U.S. passport to enter Saint Kitts and Nevis. No visa is required for stays up to 90 days with a return ticket, confirmation of accommodation, and proof of funds. Other nationalities can check visa regulations here.
To get around St. Kitts and Nevis, you can hire a private taxi or hop onto a shared taxi. To go to Nevis from St. Kitts, you can take the ferry.
The Eastern Caribbean dollar is the official currency of St. Kitts and Nevis.
English is widely spoken in St. Kitts and Nevis.
If you enjoyed reading this post, you might also like our virtual travels to Tuvalu, Liechtenstein, Turkmenistan, Vatican City, Tywyn, Riga, Khovd, Wulingyuan, Samoa, Madagascar, Beppu, Bishkek, Antequera, Niger, and Vanuatu.
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