St Kitts (pop: 35,340) has an area of 68 square miles, made up of three groups of rugged volcano peaks split by deep ravines, and a low lying peninsula in the southeast where there are salt ponds and fine beaches. The dormant volcano, Mount Liamuiga (3,792 feet, pronounced Lie-a-mee-ga) occupies the central part of the island. The mountain was previously named Mount Misery by the British, but has now reverted to its Carib name, meaning ‘fertile land’. The foothills of the mountains, particularly in the north, are covered with sugar cane plantations and grassland, while the uncultivated lowland slopes are covered with forest and fruit trees.
Climate: The weather is pleasant all year round but the best time to visit is during the dry months from November to May. The temperature varies between 17°C and 33°C, tempered by sea winds and with an average annual rainfall of 55 inches on St Kitts and 48 inches on Nevis. See the current weather by clicking here.
Documents: US and Canadian visitors do not require passports but need only produce proof of citizenship to stay up to six months. Other nationalities need passports and a return ticket but for up to six months visas are not required for Commonwealth and EU countries, Finland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela and nationals of other member countries of the OAS, with the exception of the Dominican Republic and Haiti who do require visas. Visas can be extended for US$20 per month for the first three months and then US$30 for the following three months up to a maximum of six months.
Safety: Note that the penalties for possession of narcotics are very severe and no mercy is shown towards tourists. Theft has increased, do not leave your things unattended in a car or on the beach. Health Mains water is chlorinated, but bottled water is available if preferred for drinking, particularly outside the main towns. Dairy produce, meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally considered safe. A yellow fever or cholera vaccination certificate is required if you are arriving from an infected area.
Official Time: Atlantic Standard Time, four hours behind GMT, one ahead of EST.
St Kitt’s shape resembles a large chicken drumstick, with an oval road running around the perimeter of its main body and another extending down the spine of its southern arm. It takes about 1 ½ hours to make a nonstop loop around the northern road and about 30 minutes to drive from Basseterre, the capital, to the end of the southeast peninsula.
St Kitt’s airport is on the northern outskirts of Basseterre, just a five minute drive from the center. The departure tax is EC $44 (US $16.50) if you leave by air. For stays less than 24 hours the tax is EC $4 (US $1.50). The departure tax for cruise ships and yachts is US $5.
The main tourist area on St Kitts is southeast of Basseterre, the capital. There are hotels, villas, a golf course and a popular beach in Frigate Bay, while Friar’s Bay has a marvelous beach of soft golden sand. At the southern end of the peninsula there is a beach bar and superb views of the channel and of Nevis.
Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts is easily explored. There are many tall palm trees and interesting shops, excellent art galleries, and some beautifully maintained houses. The Circus, named after Piccadilly Circus has duty-free shops along the streets and courtyards. On the site of an ancient slave market at Independence Square there is a public park with lovely gardens and a fountain, and 18th century Georgian buildings, including St George’s Anglican Church. The waterfront has recently been developed on reclaimed land with stores, a marina and a new cruise ship terminal.
St Kitts is famous for its locally produced clothing made of beautiful batik and tie-dyed cotton. Other local crafts include hand-embroidered items, straw goods and ceramics. Shopping areas in Basseterre are found along Bay Road, Liverpool Row and Fort Street. The Circus is where Island Hopper sells Caribelle Batik’s famous dresses, caftans, wraps and wall murals. The Caribelle Batik studio, where these fashions are designed and made, is located at Romney Manor, a 17th century great house and plantation, northwest of Basseterre. At the Pelican Mall on the downtown waterfront you can find a philatelic bureau selling colourful collectors issues of postage stamps. Local art can be bought in the Spencer Cameron Gallery on North Independence Square, and Kate Spencer’s studio and gallery is at the northwest end of the island near Rawlins Plantation.
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park – This 38 acre 18th century fortress, one of the largest forts in the Caribbean, was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth in 1985. Its nickname was “Gibraltar of the West Indies”. It played a major part in the battles between the English and the French, being occupied by each of them in turn in the 1700s, but finally reverted to the English under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1783. It was abandoned in the mid 1800s, and lay idle until the 1960s, when a major restoration was undertaken, and it is now the showplace of St Kitts. The Citadel is lined with 24 cannons, and has wonderful views of Montserrat, Nevis, St Barts and St Maarten. Inside the Citadel’s barrack rooms is a complete museum of colonial history and armaments. The actual hill that Brimstone sits on is an 800 ft. high dormant volcanic cone! In the year 2000, Brimstone Hill was officially named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The official document states: “inscription on this List confirms the exceptional value of a cultural or natural site which deserves protection for the benefit of all humanity.”
Beyond Brimstone Hill, at the northwest end of St Kitts, are scenic sugarcane plantations and estates. At Black Rocks, on the northwest coast, you can view black cliffs and boulders formed by lava flowing from Mount Liamuiga and eroded by a pounding sea.