The 3,792 foot summit of Mt Liamuiga is the highest point in the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis and the entire British Leeward Islands. Naturally, this makes it an unparalleled vantage point for taking in the stunning expanses of the Eastern Caribbean. Formerly possessed of the discouraging moniker Mount Misery, Liamuiga comes from the Kalinago name for the island itself, which means “fertile land.” And the mountainsides surrounding this peak are certainly fertile.
Nearly half way up the mountain, the land is a patchwork of farmland and small villages, beyond which tropical rainforest covers the slopes before giving way to cloud forest. Guided tours to the summit are readily available starting from Belmont Estate in St. Pauls. The whole of the island is easily visible from the top, as well as the nearby islands of Saba, Statia, St. Barths, St. Martin, Antigua, and Nevis.
Outside of the southeastern peninsula of St. Kitts, Frigate Bay has long been considered the best beach on the island. Located just 3 miles from Basseterre, there is something going on day or night all year round. Swimming, windsurfing, kayaking, jet skiing and beach volleyball are all popular activities at this golden sand beach. After nightfall, the beach bars of South Frigate Bay come alive. Live music, dancing, bonfires, karaoke, food and fun alternate on different nights of the week.
This section of the beach also hosts the annual St. Kitts Music Festival. The western end of the beach is home to various sports bars, restaurants and nightclubs for visitors and locals seeking some excitement. Things really heat up with events sponsored by area businesses that coincide with the end of semester at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (mud wrestling, anyone?).
One of the oldest towns in the Eastern Caribbean, Basseterre is the capital of the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies, making it an excellent jumping off point for exploration in the area. Owing to centuries of French and British colonial rule, this small hub of a now sovereign state is a delightful combination of European history and culture and island living, tourism and opportunities for repose.
Basseterre’s small, protected harbor is its most distinctive physical feature. The city itself is dived into two main areas, The Circus, which is geared towards tourists, and Independence Square, which contains the cathedral, courthouse and most of the older buildings. As the cultural and commercial center of the Federation, there are an assortment of iconic regional businesses, breweries, craft markets, museums, monuments, heritage sites, eateries and pubs.
Nevis may be smaller and sleepier than its sister isle of St. Kitts, but the capital of Charlestown has a decidedly more elegant and old-fashioned vibe than the rough-and-tumble neighboring capital Basseterre. The local code of conduct seems like something from a bygone era, where everyone smiles and stops to say good morning, afternoon or night, depending on the time of day, and public displays of swearing or complaining are frowned upon.
Walk along Main Street to the waterfront and visit the Museum of Nevis History to learn about the island and its most famous inhabitants, Alexander Hamilton and Horatio Nelson. Along Government Road, you can find a Jewish cemetery with headstones dating from 1684. And just a short walk from downtown takes you to Pinney's Beach, which boasts three miles of soft, palm lined Caribbean sands, along with the Four Seasons Resort and smattering of beach bars.
Caribelle Batik is essentially a shop on St Kitts, but a very special one. Located within Romney Manor, a stately estate once owned by the great-great-great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson, Caribelle Batik sells popular batik products that are some of the most sought after in the Caribbean. Batik is created using an ancient Indonesian method that uses wax to resist dye on parts of the fabric and then designs (often consisting of lines and dots) are applied with that method by using a canting tool or stamp. Caribelle Batik is famous for its unique batik designs that combine flourishing strokes and elements of nature. While at Caribelle Batik you’ll be able to learn more about the methods used to create batik as there will be artisans demonstrating the technique and creating products onsite while explaining the process. You can purchase products you see while at Caribelle Batik and the majority of them will have been created right in house.
Thought to be the first tourist hotel in all of the Caribbean, the opulent Bath Hotel was built on Nevis in 1787 to provide visitors easy access to the on-site volcanic hot springs. The mineral laden waters from the Bath Stream were believed to have healing properties, and the water temperature consistently stays around 107 degrees thanks to underground volcanic activity.
Over the centuries, the hotel and the original spring house have experienced cycles of disrepair and restoration—today the hotel is partially used as government offices—but visitors can still take to the waters in the stream itself or in a bathing pool on the grounds. After a soak, take time to explore the once immaculately manicured property, home to the “Garden of Jericho,” where Captain Horatio Nelson’s wedding was held in 1787.
Step into tropical serenity at the Botanical Gardens of Nevis. Created to showcase and preserve tropical plants and animals from around the world, the gardens overflow with sculptures, fountains and fragrant flowers. The centerpiece is the Rainforest Conservancy. Modeled after the Palm House in England’s Kew Gardens, the lush garden has parrots, butterflies and a cornucopia of brightly colored flowers blooming around a Mayan-style temple and waterfall.
After strolling the cactus, fruit and orchid gardens, stop for a meal at the on-site Oasis Restaurant, where the Thai-inspired flavors come straight from the nearby herb garden. Or have an al fresco meal among the blooms at one of the many secluded picnic spots around the grounds. The restaurant and gift shop can be found within the replica great house, designed in the Nevisian colonial style, complete with a massive second-floor veranda offering incredible views.
Like its neighbor Nevis, St. Kitts is a Caribbean haven in the Leeward Islands. Miami is around 2,100km (1,300 miles) away, and nearby islands include St. Barts and Antigua. You’ll dock at Port Zante in the historic capital, Basseterre, towards the island’s southern tip. The port’s sparkling-new facilities include restaurants and boutiques, jewelry shops, souvenirs and a duty-free plaza.
How to Get to Basseterre
Downtown Basseterre is just a 15-minute stroll away from Port Zante. If you take a taxi, agree on the fare upfront as cabs don’t tend to be metered. Minibuses also takes passengers downtown. If you’re driving, keep a lookout for goats, cows and other wildlife that might wander into your path. St. Kitts’ tourism operations are based at the port, a good spot to pick up maps and island information.