Forget about winter chills at enticing isle of St. Kitts

St. Kitts

St. Kitts invites visitors to the island

Looking to escape cold winter weather? How about celebrating Valentine’s Day on a beautiful Caribbean island?

Regarded by many visitors as the jewel of the Caribbean, the volcanic island of St. Kitts offers some of the region’s most dramatic panoramas and scenic photo opportunities. Intriguing coves, excellent interior hiking paths, and palm-lined beaches are hallmarks of this classic Caribbean destination.

The easiest way to view the island, which is only 65 square miles, is aboard the historic St. Kitts Scenic Railway. You’ll travel 30 miles around the island aboard a narrow-gauge railway along a route where sugar cane was once carried from plantations. At one time St. Kitts was the leading sugar producer in the Caribbean, and the railway remains vital part of the island’s economy (It’s the only train operating in the Caribbean outside Cuba). The train returns to the capital city of Basseterre, the island’s main shopping spot, where batik and local artwork are especially popular buys.

For beaches and water sports, head south to Frigate Bay, where most of the hotels are located. The island’s best white-sand coves are just beyond at the Southeast Peninsula. Green vervet monkeys scamper freely here, often looking for a hand-out. Birdwatching, scuba diving, and golf are popular activities. Year-round temperature averages a balmy 79 degrees, making these mountainous islands a great place for a winter vacation.

Mt.Liamuiga, a dormant volcano, is the highest point on St. Kitts at 3792 feet. Hiking to the summit is challenging, but once there you can descend into the crater on ropes for a truly unique experience. Black Rocks on St. Kitts’ northern shores were once molten lava deposits spit out by Mt. Liamuiga Walking along the rocks and boulders is like stumbling over an obstacle course, but the striking geological formations of black cliffs and boulders is one of St. Kitts’ most notable features.

catamaran off coast of St. Kitts

Catamaran off the coast of St. Kitts

The complementary islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, a small, lush tropical paradise, became an independent state in 1983. You can completely circle the isle of Nevis in 20 minutes. Calm and quiet prevail here; crowds are usually nonexistent, even on Pinney’s Beach and Qualie Beach. The Botanical Garden of Nevis provides a shady retreat with one of the largest collections of palms and rare plants.

While visiting St. Kitts, we took a sail and snorkel excursion operated by Blue Water Safaris. We sailed on a catamaran down the island’s southwest coast to Shitten Bay, where mountains provided a welcome windbreak. Although the weather was partly cloudy and winds quite strong, water temperature remained a comfortable 82 degrees—except for people sitting on the trampoline section of the catamaran who got soaked from water splashing over the boat during our 45 minute ride.

snorkeling St. Kitts

Coming back aboard the catamaran after snorkeling

At the snorkel site the water was much calmer.  A wrecked boat by the shore provided a boundary and haven for fish.  With water 22 feet deep where the boat anchored, it was easy to stay away from large rocks under the surface and mustard-colored fire coral that stings if touched. In addition to numerous coral specimens, several varieties of large and small fish were sighted swimming beneath our masked faces.  We saw yellow and black striped fish, iridescent blue fish, and even a small octopus stretching its tentacles on a rock.

A colorful history and changing topography of beaches, rainforest and volcano offer plenty of diversion for winter (or summer) visitors to St. Kitts.

map of St. Kitts and Nevis

Map of St. Kitts and Nevis courtesy of www.caribbeantravel.com

Photo credit: Larry Burmeier

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