St. Kitts is fast becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean for North Americans and Europeans, with many amenities and modern comforts. However, the island is still unspoiled and undeveloped enough to maintain a unique charm, with plenty of wide-open spaces, lush tropical rainforests, volcanic peaks, sugary white-sand beaches, coral reefs and crystal-blue waters for nature lovers to explore and savor.
This is the first in a series of regular features about St. Kitts in the UMHS Pulse. There is so much to do in this tropical paradise that we didn’t know where to start, so for our inaugural segment we’re focusing on the Top Summer Activities for visitors (in no particular order):
History & Historical Sites: History probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when mentioning the Caribbean, but there’s plenty of it in the region, particularly in St. Kitts, and no visit here is complete without visiting at least one of the sites. Christopher Columbus discovered St. Kitts on his second voyage to the New World in 1493, and thought the island resembled Saint Christopher carrying the Christ child. Columbus named the island Saint Christopher, but it is now known as simply “St. Kitts.” In 1623, Englishman Sir Thomas Warner arrived with 14 other British settlers to an island inhabited by native Arawak and Carib peoples and helped form the first non-Spanish European colony in the Caribbean.
Two years later, the French arrived and massacred the natives in an area now called Bloody Point. The French and British started the grim slave trade by importing Africans to work the fertile land on sugar and tobacco plantations.
By 1776, the same year as U.S. independence, St. Kitts was the most profitable British colony in the Caribbean, providing most of the sugar for Great Britain. Over the years, there were many battles amongst the French, Spanish and British, but Britain ultimately won possession of St. Kitts and its sister island, Nevis. Sugar was grown on the island until 2005, when the government finally closed all the cane fields and sugar factory, abolishing this final colonial remnant. St. Kitts and Nevis gained independence from Britain in 1983 but remains part of the British Commonwealth, enjoying a rich culture made up of British, African and North American influences.
Historical highlights include: St. Georges Anglican Church (originally a French Roman Catholic Church, burned down by the British in 1706, rebuilt and renamed); LaGuerite Reservoir (built in 1869); Independence Square (originally called Pall Mall Square in 1750 but renamed on September 19, 1983); Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site (work on the fortress began in the 1690s and it became a complete military community in the 1790s); the St. Kitts Scenic Railway; and much more. For the full list of historical sites, visit http://www.stkittstourism.kn/
Beaches: St. Kitts has some of the world’s best beaches, and watch for an upcoming, detailed post of the UMHS Pulse’s top picks. There are beaches for every taste, from busy to secluded. As U.K. travel writer Nigel Tisdall said in a feature last year in The Telegraph, “The sea is calmest on the western, Caribbean side of the island, while the Atlantic coast is more wild and windy. Beaches in the north have gray volcanic sand and an austere appeal.” The island has white-sand beaches on both the Atlantic and Caribbean sides, all of which are free to the public, including: Frigate Bay-South; Sandy Bank; Turtle Bay; Dieppe Bay Beach; Frigate Bay-North; Half-Moon Bay; Banana Bay; Cockleshell Bay; Pump Bay; Turtle Beach; Conaree Beach. Friars Bay; White House Bay.
Festivals and Events: At the end of June, such musical luminaries as Shaggy and Lionel Ritchie performed the St. Kitts Musical Festival (https://www.facebook.com/stkittsmusicfestival). Read more about Shaggy in the online pop culture magazine Triple the Focus (http://www.triplethefocus.com/) and its upcoming series on St. Kitts. The 2014 event will be held again next June at Warner Stadium. For more information, visit www.stkittsmusicfestival.net
Mt. Liamuiga Volcano Crater Hike: Hiking to the top of this 3,792-foot volcano is a spectacular experience that’s a “must” for any visitor. You’ll walk up the mountain through a rainforest and see the plants and animal life on the island. Once reaching the summit, you’ll get a breathtaking view of the Caribbean and the neighboring islands St. Eustatius, St. Barts and Nevis. Several tour operators have various packages available. Visit the following websites for more information:
Greg’s Safaris, http://www.gregsafaris.com/tours_volcano_hike.asp
Grey’s Island Adventures, http://www.thenfordgrey.com/Stkittsvolcanotour.html
Shore Trips, http://www.shoretrips.com/excursion/region-car-skb-069574/caribbean-central-america/st-kitts/volcano-hike-experience
Royal St. Kitts Golf Course: The Royal St. Kitts is considered one of the best and most scenic golf courses in the Caribbean. Originally designed in 1976, renovations began on golf course in 2002 and were completed in late 2004. Royal St. Kitts Golf Course is renowned for its 125 lush acres and the opportunity to play two full holes on the Caribbean and three complete holes on the Atlantic, complete with water hazards on 10 holes and 80 bunkers. Royal St. Kitts is an 18-hole, Par 71 course. Visit http://www.royalstkittsgolfclub.com
Water Sports: Whether you’re into sailing on a catamaran, deep-sea fishing, kiteboarding, sea kayaking, or the new sport of flyboarding, it’s all available in St. Kitts. The following is a list of the best:
Catamaran Cruise: This is one of the most popular activities in St. Kitts, if for no other reason than it’s an excuse to hang out with friends and family and enjoy a day on the water. Many cruises offer open bars and a stop for snorkeling and a sail to/from the sister island of Nevis. Full-day trips usually include lunch while in Nevis. Boats depart from the marina in Basseterre (near Port Zante). Visit http://www.stkittstourism.kn/explore-st-kitts-activities-catamaran-cruises.php to see the variety of packages available.
Deep-Sea Fishing, Diving & Snorkeling: St. Kitts has wrecks, reefs, walls and caves that provide unique aggregation sites for game fish. In addition, the water around St. Kitts is deep close to shore, so there’s no need to go out too far to reel in the big ones.
Fishing sites include Sands Bank Bay, also known as Gong’s Beach. This well-protected cove on the Atlantic side of the island has calmer water than the other Atlantic areas, making it ideal for fishing. The waters of the Dieppe Bay Coastline, surrounded by a palm-lined, black sand beach, are protected by a major reef, and home to lots of marine life. Finally, Monkey Reef, south of Shitten Bay, is a fisherman’s favorite. The Monkey Shoals is an atoll of coral directly between St. Kitts and Nevis. The reef is just three miles offshore and allows for excellent fishing.
As for diving and snorkeling, St. Kitts provides of cornucopia of world-class undersea places to explore, from shipwrecks to national marine parks. Some of the hotspots include M.V. Talata Wreck; Devil’s Cavern; The Grid Iron; Coconut Tree Reef; The Vents; The Wreck of the River Taw; Sandy Point, among others.
For diving, there are experienced charter and excursion services available, many of which are listed at http://www.stkittstourism.kn/love-st-kitts-diving-fishing.php. Note that there is no decompression chamber available in St. Kitts, so it’s advised to dive with one of the professional services.
Sea Kayaking: Here is the perfect way to see St. Kitts’ scenic coast, moving past steep cliffs and remote bays, and see hawksbills, green turtles, pelicans, cormorants and frigate birds.
Kiteboarding: Since the mid-1990s, this sport of riding on a small surfboard, propelled across water by a large kite to which the rider is harnessed, has been a thrill for aquatic aficionados. For safety reasons, opt for an experienced kiteboarding school that offers lessons, especially if you’re a beginner. The Frigate Bay Beach is one of the best spots for kiteboarding, with its white sandy beach, trade winds ideal for the sport, and copious space to set up gear and get out on the water. For more information, visit http://www.stkittskiteboarding.com/
Flyboarding: This too-cool phenomenon just made its debut in the USA last year, and is fast becoming the hot new water sport in St. Kitts. According to the Aquafly website (http://aquafly.com/about/flyboarding/), “The Flyboard is connected to a Personal Water Craft by a 55-foot long, 4” diameter fire hose that can propel the pilot over 35 feet above or below the surface of the water. Although some people might refer to it as a water jetpack, the pilot is actually secured onto the board with Wakeboard Style Bindings and is being propelled from below, not from your back as the term jetpack might imply. While the pilot of the Flyboard is in complete control of the navigation, the operator on the Personal Water Craft is in control of the throttle.”
It may sound confusing, but check out the many websites and YouTube videos about the sport and you’ll see that it looks like awesome fun. That must be why TripAdvisor.com lists flyboarding as #4 of 43 attractions in St. Kitts. Visit https://www.facebook.com/StKittsFlyboarding