Saint Kitts and Nevis is shaped rather like atennis racquet and ball. The former is larger and separated by itssouthern counterpart by a two mile (3km) channel called theNarrows. It's the smallest sovereign state in the Americas by botharea and population. Despite this, they still pack a touristicpunch.
The sleepy and lush islands appear forgotten intime, conveying nothing of their former prosperity and turbulenthistory. European powers once fought for control of the territoryas it became the most illustrious sugar colony in the Caribbean,its rich waters an irresistible stalking ground for pirates who layin wait for the merchant ships.
Saint Kitts and Nevis have become the touristpearls of the Caribbean, valued today more as a tropical paradisethan anything else, with clear and inviting waters, sandy beaches,and a natural splendour to stun even the most avid city-slicker.Together with a diverse range of activities, historical sites, andthe charm of their two capital harbour towns, the volcanic islandsare a seductive blend of colour, sunshine, and luxuriousrelaxation.
Saint Kitts and Nevis makes provision for bothbeachgoers and outdoor enthusiasts. The beaches are the maindrawcards, with visitors enjoying the dual pleasures of both theCaribbean and Atlantic Oceans.
Favourites include Frigate Bay South, where the Stripoperates as the island's prime nightlife and entertainment hub.There's also the seldom crowded Frigate Bay North, while Majors Bayis a pristine golden shore with calm waters. Visitors are alsoenticed by Pinney's Beach on Nevis, widely acknowledged as one ofthe best beaches in the Caribbean.
Oualie Beach on Nevis is a magnet for celebrities,while also being ideal for scuba diving and other water sports.Pump Bay and Belle Tete Beach offer something different, soughtafter for their black and grey sand.
Mount Liamuiga and Mount Nevis are ideal for thoselooking for outdoor adventure, while the Royal St. Kitts Golf Cluboffers a getaway for avid golfers. Those who are only in thecountry for a day should consider doing a circuit on the ScenicRailway, which takes in a lot of the island scenery. Finally,history buffs may be interested in the UNESCO-listed Brimstone HillFortress and Alexander Hamilton House.
The capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Basseterre is one of theoldest towns in the eastern Caribbean. Founded in 1627, it retainsa certain architectural charm from its period of British and Frenchcolonisation. Basseterre is located on the southwestern coast of StKitts island and is still one of the chief commercial depots of theLeeward Islands. Basseterre is the most common entry point to SaintKitts and Nevis for travellers arriving by both air and sea. Thetown has a rather tragic history, punctuated by colonialism,battles, fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Historic buildings arespread throughout, with many of the old structures surviving theseperils to the present day.
Nicknamed the 'Gibraltar of the West Indies', the strikingBrimstone Hill Fortress sits atop an 800-foot (244m) rise and isprotected by 49 guns and immense walls. Built largely by Africanslaves, it took nearly ten decades to complete since constructionfirst began in 1690. The scale and grandeur of this UNESCO WorldHeritage Site is representative of the historic importance of SaintKitts during the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, the complexaffords incredible views from its commanding position and houses asmall museum.
If Saint Kitts can be described as a tennis racquet-shapedisland, the Frigate Bay Peninsula is the narrow handle stretchingdown towards Nevis. It connects the racquet head to the widened endof the handle to the southeast. The peninsula is unique in that itoffers beaches on both the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts. SouthFrigate Bay on the leeward side offers calm waters ideal forswimming, snorkelling, and a variety of water sports activities.Alternatively, North Frigate Bay on the Atlantic Coast is batteredby waves perfect for bodysurfing and is one of the most scenicbeaches on the island. As a result, it has also attracted most ofthe resort and hotel development along the coast.
Pinney's Beach is one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Theepitome of paradise, its fine white sands are backed by palm treesand lapped by calm Caribbean waters. Lying within convenientdistance of Charlestown, Pinney's Beach has a few casualrestaurants and beach bars, and is the closest thing Nevis has to aparty beach, although the length of the beach ensures that asecluded spot can always be found. The four-mile (6km) stretch ofsand is never crowded and entertains a beautiful lagoon, with idealconditions for swimming. However, Pinney's Beach is not ideal forscuba diving and snorkelling as the water can be quite murky.
The highest point on Saint Kitts, Mount Liamuiga is a dormantvolcano topped by a 0.6-mile (1km) wide crater lake. Formerlycalled Mount Misery, the name Liamuiga means 'fertile land' in thenative Kalinago language. The slopes of the mountain are covered infarmland and lush tropical rainforest, and are popular places forhiking in Saint Kitts. Guided hikes usually start from BelmontEstate in the village of St Paul's and go up to the summit, whichhas panoramic views of the Caribbean, including the islands of StBarths, St Martin, Antigua, and Nevis.
Sandy Point Town is the second-largest on Saint Kitts, with apopulation of just more than 3,000 people in the surrounding area.Thought to be the original landing point for English explorer SirThomas Warner in 1623, Sandy Point was the commercial centre of theisland until the 18th century when most business was moved toBasseterre. These days, Sandy Point is an industrial centre andtourist attraction, located at the entrance to Brimstone HillNational Park. There are some excellent beaches around Sandy Bay,including the shiny black sand beach of Pump Bay, offering goodscuba diving and snorkelling opportunities, and Belle Tete, whichis near the La Valle estate.
Oualie (pronounced wah-lee), meaning 'beautiful waters', was theoriginal name of the island of Nevis, and the pretty stretch ofsand known as Oualie Beach lives up to its name. Located on thenorthern shore of the island, Oualie Beach boasts fine yellow sandand sheltered waters that are ideal for swimming. The area alsomakes a good base for a holiday on the island of Nevis, with theexcellent Oualie Beach Resort providing top-class accommodation inthe picturesque bay. Oualie Beach is home to fun activities, withwater taxis, scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing, mountain biking,and windsurfing easily organised from its pleasant dock area.
One of the most popular tourist activities on the island, the StKitts Scenic Railway is a must for first-time visitors to theCaribbean. It is a fantastic way to experience the beautifulscenery of the island, as well as its history of a major sugarproducer in the 17th and 18th centuries. The St Kitts ScenicRailway takes visitors on a three-hour tour of the island,following a 30-mile (48km) circular track. The narrow-gauge trainis unique in that it has two levels: an open-air observation deckon the top offering panoramic views, and an air-conditioned parlourbelow, where complimentary beverages are served throughout thetrip. As the train rolls by sugar cane fields, traditionalvillages, and great sights such as Brimstone Hill Fortress,friendly tour guides contribute to your understanding of St Kittsby sharing anecdotes about the island and snippets of its colonialhistory. Cruise passengers should note that tickets for the ScenicRailway can be booked while on board most cruise ships.
The Strip is the area immediately surrounding Frigate Bay. It isthe beating heart of the island when it comes to nightlife andentertainment options. However, visitors should not expect neonlights or chic buildings. Rather, a closer guess would be a seriesof unpretentious beach shacks located a mere stone's throw from theocean. Visitors can rest assured that what the Strip lacks inglitz, it more than makes up for in spirit, with numerous bars andclubs offering live music, DJs, fire-eating performances, bonfires,and a steady supply of cold rum cocktails to fuel your dance moves.Although restaurants and bars can be found on some of the mostpopular beaches, the Strip is the natural entertainment hub forthose in search of fun on St Kitts.
As with all Caribbean destinations, one of the most popularthings to do on Saint Kitts and Nevis is to try your hand at somescuba diving or snorkelling. The calm, clear waters of theCaribbean Sea, not to mention its spectacular coral reef formationsand its abundant marine life, make it a wonderful diving andsnorkelling destination for beginners and experts alike. For thosenew to diving, Monkey Shoals and Friars Bay Reef provide a gentleintroduction to the undersea wonders of Saint Kitts and Nevis, withplenty of reputable diving companies offering full training andguided excursions into the depths. For intermediate-level divers,Sandy Point on Saint Kitts is a National Marine Park known for itsbeautiful coral heads and colourful sea life. Those who prefer theexcitement of wreck-diving can explore the remains of ships such asRiver Taw, M.V. Talata, and the recently sunk Corinthian.Experienced divers will enjoy the challenge of Nags Head's strongcurrents and Aquarium, famous for its range of tropical fish.
The climate of St Kitts and Nevis is tropical, but sea breezeskeep the islands relatively cool. There are no definite seasons andthe yearly average temperature is 79°F (26°C). Although rain ispossible throughout the year, the average is higher between Julyand November, coinciding with the hurricane season.
The official currency is the East Caribbean Dollar (XCD), whichis divided into 100 cents. It is tied to the US dollar at a rate ofUS$1=EC$2.70. Most businesses accept US Dollar notes as payment,but change is given in EC$. Major credit cards are widely accepted,and major currencies can be exchanged at banks, with US Dollars thecheapest to exchange. Most banks are closed on weekends, butprovide 24-hour ATM services.
English is the official language.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 60 Hz, but a 117-voltsupply is available in most hotels. Round three-pin plugs andthree-pin rectangular blade plugs (as in the UK) are inuse.
United States citizens must have a passport valid for at leastsix months beyond period of stay. A visa is not required for staysof up to six months.
UK nationals require a passport valid for at least six monthsbeyond period of stay, but no visa is necessary for a stay of up tothree months.
Canadians require a passport valid for at least six monthsbeyond period of stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up tosix months.
Australians require a passport valid for at least six monthsbeyond period of stay, but no visa is necessary for a stay of up to90 days.
South Africans require a passport valid for the intended periodof stay, but no visa is required for visits of up to 90 days.
Irish nationals require a passport valid for the intended periodof stay, but no visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days.
United States citizens must have a passport valid for at leastsix months beyond period of stay. A visa is not required for staysof up to six months.
New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for the intendedperiod of stay, but no visa is required for a stay of up to 90days.
Although a maximum stay of either three or six months isindicated in official requirements, essentially immigrationofficials will decide how long visitors are legally allowed to stayin St Kitts and Nevis upon arrival. Visitors are recommended tohold confirmed return or onward tickets, all documents needed fornext destination and sufficient funds to cover their stay. As partof the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellerstravelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda,and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport orother valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States.If departing from the USA a valid passport will be required byimmigration authorities. It is highly recommended that passportshave at least six months validity remaining after your intendeddate of departure from your travel destination. Immigrationofficials often apply different rules to those stated by travelagents and official sources.
No vaccinations are required for travel to the islands, but ayellow fever certificate is required from visitors travelling froma yellow fever infected country. Medical facilities are adequate,but limited, and travel insurance is essential. This should includeemergency air evacuation, with most travelling to Miami or PuertoRico for more complex procedures.
A 10 percent service charge is usually included in hotel andrestaurant bills, otherwise it is customary to leave 10 to 15percent of the bill, depending on the service. Taxi drivers canreceive a tip of around 10 to 15 percent.
Although most visits to the islands are trouble-free, visitorsshould still guard against robbery and other crimes of opportunity.Valuables should be left in hotel safes where possible and remoteplaces, particularly beaches, should be avoided, especially afterdark. Hurricane season normally runs from June to November.
Wearing camouflage clothing in Saint Kitts is illegal, as isnudity on beaches. Sadly, homosexuality is illegal, while thepenalties for drug-related offenses are severe.
Business in Saint Kitts and Nevis is conducted in a relativelyinformal manner, but fairly formal dress is expected despite theheat. Handshakes for both men and women are the common form ofgreeting, and business cards should be exchanged immediately afterbeing introduced. Business hours are generally 8am to 4pm Monday toFriday, with an hour taken at lunch.
The international dialling code for St Kitts and Nevis is +1869. The outgoing code is 1 for the Caribbean, USA and Canada, and011 for all other international destinations followed by therelevant country code (e.g. 01127 for South Africa). City/areacodes are not in use.
Travellers over the age of 18 may import 200 cigarettes or 50cigars or 250g tobacco, and 1.5 litres of wine or spirits withoutpaying customs duty.
Department of Tourism, Basseterre, St. Kitts: +1 869 465 4040 orwww.stkittstourism.kn
St Kitts and Nevis Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202686 2636.
St Kitts and Nevis High Commission, London, UK: +1 020 79379718.
High Commission for the Eastern Caribbean States, Ottawa,Ontario: +1 613 236 8952.
United States Embassy, Bridgetown, Barbados (also responsiblefor St Kitts-Nevis): +1 246 227 4000.
British High Commission, Bridgetown, Barbados (also responsiblefor St Kitts and Nevis): +1 246 430 7800.
Canadian High Commission, Bridgetown, Barbados (also responsiblefor St Kitts-Nevis): +1 246 429 3550.
South African High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica (alsoresponsible for St Kitts-Nevis): +1 876 620 4840.
Australian High Commission, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago(also responsible for St Kitts-Nevis): +1 868 822 5450.