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Trip Report: St. Kitts & Nevis

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Just returned on Saturday from our week (Feb 26-Mar 5) in St. Kitts & Nevis - we had a WONDERFUL time. What charming & beautiful islands! We felt so well prepared and well educated upon our arrival - largely thanks to advice from these boards - so to return the favor I'd like to post my own experiences in hopes that they may help others! I plan to do this in installments (I have so much to say!) and based upon topic, rather than a day-by-day rundown....but feel free to let me know if you have any specific questions about my experience!

First, some background. My BF and I are both ~30, he has not been the the Caribbean before, I have been to Bahamas (Nassau & GBI), Jamaica (MB), and Grand Cayman. We wanted a good combination of activities - both beach & hiking, beautiful scenery, reasonably priced accomodations with character, and the ability to relax but also to meet new people. We found all of the above in SK/N.

We flew into St. Kitts from Newark (connecting through Charlotte). Our first three nights were spent at Timothy Beach Resort on St. Kitts, our second three at Golden Rock Plantation Inn on Nevis, and our final night at the Marriott on St. Kitts. I am in the process of posting full reviews for each hotel on tripadvisor.com (posted under my e-mail address, happymz@hotmail.com), so I won't repeat extensive reviews here, but I will compare & contrast a bit. So, as promised, by topic:

Installment #1 - HOTELS:
St. Kitts - we enjoyed both our stay at TBR & Marriott. Perhaps that sounds hard to believe, because they definitely attract different clientele, but in my mind it depends upon what you are seeking. At TBR we found a local beach hotel, with wonderfully friendly staff, adjacent to a great beach & steps from excellent beach bars/restaurants...but a bit of an older accomodation, with a great deal of charm, but with some wear (and ants). At Marriott we found everything (for a price, of course)...just like at any Marriott...but without the local charm, or staff who remembered our name. In my view, you go to the Marriott if you want luxury, have plenty of $$ to spend, and don't want to have to leave the resort to do anything; you go to the TBR if you want local charm, a better island experience, and if you are on any sort of a budget. We didn't really visit any other accomodations on St. Kitts, so I can't really comment beyond these two, but depending upon the circumstances under which we would return, we would be happy to stay at either.

Nevis - We enjoyed our visit to Golden Rock. This plantation inn is in a beautiful location - 7 cottages scattered on the very exotic & natural grounds of an old restored sugar plantation, with incredible views of the atlantic coast (& sunrises). The restaurant is excellent, and the staff & service equally good. Pam was very gracious, and accomodated any questions or requests we had. However, the inn (as we were aware) is very far removed from the town and beach (though you can catch a ride to/from the beach once a day with Pam as she takes supplies down to the beach bar on Pinney's). Also, depending upon your preference for engaging others on your holiday (as I know some people like to disappear into a crowd), the environment gently encourages dining with other guests at the inn. While we felt very welcomed, at the time of our visit we were by many years the youngest guests (and it seemed the only first-time guests - many people understandably ADORE this place), we felt a bit out of our league at times - so since we hadn't taken the meal plan and wanted to explore other dining options on the island anyway, we dined there only one night. The dinner - and the breakfast we had there - were excellent - delicious & beautifully presented. I read previously on this board some mixed reviews on the meals, but can assure that we saw NO fruit cocktail! It is my understanding that the work that Pierre has done with the staff there has brought meals into the realm of gourmet - - - we were suitably impressed with our dining (especially at $65 for dinner for 2 people).

Based upon our island tour, talking with others we met on our trip, and visiting a few resorts, we agreed that on our next visit to Nevis, we would try Oualie Beach Hotel. We found this hotel to be very charming, on a great beach, and with an excellent chef. If our budget allowed, we would also strongly consider Nisbet - also in a beautiful location, but certainly more expensive than Oualie.

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    Installment #2 -
    DINING:
    St. Kitts - We didn't venture far for dining on St. Kitts, enjoying meals at Mr. X's Shiggity Shack $, Monkey Bar $, Sunset Cafe $$, and Turtle Beach$$; as well as at Il Cucina $$$ and Cafe Calypso $$ at the Marriott. The Marriot restaurants were by far the most expensive, but good quality and great service. Mr. X's and the Monkey bar were both adjacent to the TBR, and very affordable (and VERY casual), and I think we actually enjoyed our meals here the most. We ran into several locals eating at both places, which I think speaks well for the value of the meals you'll get there. We also found these places to have much tastier, stronger, and more affordable drinks - great rum punch!

    Nevis - We ate at Golden Rock (mentioned above) $$, Golden Rock beach bar $ (lunch), Sunshine's $(dinner), Oaulie Beach Hotel $$(lunch), Nisbet Plantation $$$(Thurs night seafood BBQ), and Unella's $$(lunch, in town). We enjoyed all of our meals - I enjoyed the Golden Rock's rum punch the best, though Sunshine's Killer Bees were a close second. My BF had his best lobster meal at Sunshine's, commenting that he'd never gotten full on just lobster before! Oualie Beach Hotel's restaurant was recommended to us by friends who were staying there - apparently the chef was formerly at the Four Seasons, then left after marrying a Nevis girl & moving to the states...when he returned, he came to Oualie. The food there was very good, and he came out to greet the diners personally.

    In general, while I should note that we aren't 'foodies', we found the best values on both islands at the beach bars...the menu was limited, but the food was fresh, plentiful, and delicious...as were the rum punches! Aside from a few splurges for dinner (Nisbet BBQ buffet, Il Cucina) we probably got away on less than $40 pp/day for meals.

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    Glad you had a nice time, good trip report. We were in St Kitts 2000. The Marriott attracted us but was not completed. Stayed at TBR, very dissappointed. You are to kind by saying it was a bit worn. You should have ventured out we had some of the best meals in town !!! Is Shiggity shack still just a cart on the beach ??
    Loved having a drink at the Monkey Bar best ting with a sting on the Island. It's serves food now. How??

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    Hi Mels - we would've eaten in town if we were there....I guess I should note that we aren't necessarily foodies...so we typically just ate wherever was convenient, and didn't really seek out particular restaurants, even though we did hear good things about Marshall's, Stonewall's, etc.

    Shiggity Shack has two parts now - the bar/shack, and a small open-air restaurant/shack behind it. Monkey bar is also more than just a bar now - it too has a small open-air restaurant set up next to the bar...complete with bathrooms with indoor plumbing! so it sounds as if perhaps it has advanced since you were there last. For dinner at monkey bar they even put out linens on the tables.

    Installment #3 -
    HIKING: Prior to leaving, I had posted questions on the board about hiking so I will post our experience with that. On St. Kitts, we had hoped to do the volcano hike, but since we were only there for a few full days at the beginning of the week we missed out, because they need at least 4 people to do the hike so they usually do it later in the week once interest has been generated. Instead, we did the 1/2 day rainforest hike with Hugh Rogers of Rogers' Safaris. He was excellent! A wonderful guide, who loved answering all of our questions and who catered the walk to the small group of 3 that was with him. On Nevis, since we stayed at Golden Rock, we were only planning to do the hikes there - the 30 minute interpretive nature walk and the longer 3-4 hour rainforest hike. However, we put our ambitions for the rainforest hike aside when we came down with a bit of travelers sickness. We did complete the 30 minute interpretive nature walk, however, and truly enjoyed it. Both walks can be done without a guide - simply stop by the office at Golden Rock and the staff there will give you map and review it with you.

    GETTING AROUND THE ISLANDS/SIGHTSEEING:
    St. Kitts - we rented a car for the 3 days we were on St. Kitts and in retrospect wished we hadn't. Since TBR was situated on the beach and walking distance to a few dining/rum punch options, we really didn't need it for that. We wanted to tour the island, and we did do that in our rental, but we regretted not having done it with a taxi who would have steered us toward many sites that simply aren't easy to find for a newcomer, e.g. the carib petroglyphs...and a driver would also have taught us a great deal more about the island. I will note, however, that driving on the island was easy enough, and we had no problems getting around or getting lost. We did find Brimstone Hill with no difficulty - you really can't miss it - and were suitably impressed with the restored fort. Incredible views from there as well, we were able to see St. Eustatius & Saba.

    Nevis - after regretting the car rental on St. Kitts, we chose not to rent on Nevis, and regretted that. Since we were staying at such a remote place and had to rely on Pam's shuttle or a taxi to get us anywhere, it would have been better to have a car here. As it was, we rode down to the beach with Pam in the morning and back in the evening - but as another poster on this board noted, the shuttle is really her daily trek with supplies to/from the beach bar, and there's really only room for a couple guests, so I would imagine they can't always guarantee you a ride. Otherwise, a taxi from Golden Rock to Charlestown or Pinney's runs around $16 US, so that could get pretty expensive. At least on Nevis, however, we did take a taxi tour of the island, which was very informative, and included Montpelier & the Botanical Gardens, the Old Manor, Mount Nevis Hotel, Nisbet, and some other historic sites. This was with Barry's Taxi Tour - Barry was great.

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    Installment #4 -
    WILDLIFE: While we saw monkeys & sheep/goats on both islands, we actually saw more monkeys on St. Kitts (though I doubt you would ever see any at the Marriott)- but I think that may have been largely due to the fact that much of St. Kitts is cultivated sugar cane fields vs. forested, perhaps making the monkeys stand out a bit? The look-alike goats/sheep (tails down sheep, tails up goats) were everywhere.

    INSECT LIFE: Also everywhere, it seemed, were bugs that bite. Particularly noticed this on Nevis. I didn't actually see mosquitoes, but did see sand fleas...and they bit us up. Definitely would bring skin-so-soft or some type of bug repellant on the next trip. We were itching incessantly...I counted 12 bites just on the top of my poor BF's foot! Aside from this, we did have a few unwelcome guests in our room at TBR - - - tiny ants lived in the bathroom around the sink in particular, and one friendly cockroach dropped by the first night of our stay. YUCK! Made my BF get rid of him.

    SEA LIFE: We did a bit of snorkeling off of Timothy Beach on St. Kitts, and then on a snorkel catamaran cruise. We weren't overwhelmed by the sea life we saw in our limited snorkeling, but did see fish, eels, and even a stingray off the dock at the Four Seasons. Apparently there are some stingrays in that particular area.

    BEACHES:
    St. Kitts - on our tour of the island, we stopped at Dieppe Bay (black sand, we weren't impressed), South Friar's (South was nice, but actually busy the day we were there - a sunday), Turtle Beach, and another beach near Turtle...can't remember the name. Our general impression was that Turtle Beach was probably one of the nicest, with the whitest sand, but we found Timothy Beach to be nearly as nice as any other beach on the island so at the end of the day we were happy to just stay put there. We didn't find any of them to be particularly rocky, and found Timothy fine for swimming.

    Nevis - we visited Pinney's and the beaches at Nisbet and Oualie. We found Pinney's to be rather rocky (in the water, the sand was fine) though we heard that in front of the Four Seasons most rocks are cleared out. Nisbet looked nice, but I believe it was on the Atlantic side so it may have been a bit rougher - we didn't go in so I can't speak to that. All in all, we preferred Oualie Beach to Pinney's. It was very shallow for quite a distance out, with no rocks, and nice clean sand. Yet another reason to stay at Oualie!

    BOATING: We did only a 3-hour catamaran/snorkeling cruise that Pam booked for us through the Four Seasons. It was with Canoa (sp?) who I believe actually is based from the Oualie water sports area. We paid $55 for it, though I would guess we might have gotten it cheaper had we booked directly with them. We really enjoyed the cruise, though, and felt it worth it - all the rum punch & beer you could drink, wonderful staff on the boat, and nice music to cruise to! Our trip left the Four Seasons at 2, and returned around 5, though I believe they offer them several times a day.

    Of note, our taxi driver told us that Oualie has the best water sports options on the island.

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    Addendum to HIKING: Our guide on St. Kitts informed us that it is MUCH cheaper to book any guided hikes directly with the guide, PARTICULARLY if you are staying at the Marriott. He gave us the example of the rainforest hike that we did (I think we paid $45 for it?) - Marriott guests would pay over $60 for the same hike because the tour coordinators at the hotel take a certain amount of $$ off the top. So, Moral of the story - BOOK ANY GUIDED HIKES DIRECTLY WITH THE GUIDE TO SAVE $$$.

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    So in summary, were I to do it again (as my first trip to St. Kitts & Nevis), I think we picked great options for lodging, but I would not have rented a car on St. Kitts....and I WOULD have rented a car on Nevis.

    Were we to return for a second visit on any sort of a budget, I would likely stay on Nevis - WE LOVED NEVIS, and while we loved St. Kitts too, we preferred Nevis - rent a car, and stay at Oualie Beach Hotel.

    If I forgot anything...I'll post more later. Hope this was helpful to someone!

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    Happy, I was thinking of taking my kids 11 & 13 to St. Kitts. Did you see anything there that you would reccomend for them? Were there families at the TBR? Any comments would be helpfull?

    Thanks

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    Hi Dan -

    There were families at both TBR and the Marriott, though I would say more at the Marriott. Since the Marriott is so self-contained, it's probably better suited in general for families, as everyone can find something to do without leaving the resort....and for that reason your kids would likely meet other kids staying there as well. Also, the pools are very impressive at the Marriott, which I know would have been a big selling point for me when I was 11-13.

    That being said, unless you can get a really good rate for the Marriott (try priceline, especially if you are going during low season...someone posted on biddingfortravel.com that they just got it for this summer for $70/nt!), you really can't beat the value of TBR - and especially if you're a family that wants to explore the island together vs. just hanging at the resort. Because TBR is more of a condo motel with a small pool that is adjacent to the beach, it's just not as conducive to hanging at the resort as is the Marriott. I should add that it can also be a better value if you'd like a kitchen (as some of the rooms have, though our standard room did not) to do some meals in your room....the Marriott meals were rather pricey, IMO.

    In terms of things that would interest your kids, assuming they've not traveled too extensively ex-US, I'd guess they'd be fascinated by the animals - especially the monkeys, and even the goats & sheep & cows that seem to be just everywhere (not fenced in). As you might guess, you won't see these on the Marriott property, but they were all over at TBR, and on other parts of the island. I also think they'd be interested in the rainforest hike - while we were on it all I kept thinking about were pictures I'd seen in my school science books - how cool for them to see the real thing. If you have a good guide, as we did (Hugh Rogers) I'd imagine he'd really try to engage them...it's not too strenous a hike, and he shares so much about the forest along the hike...plus, toward the end he brought us to a swing that you swing out over the forest on - so cool! The fort at Brimstone Hill is also really neat to see, even if just for the views. But I'm sure they'd also just love the scene at the beaches, especially Turtle Beach and Timothy Beach - to see the little shacks set up selling food, the music, and the friendly locals. Also, I think they'd probably love the catamaran/snorkeling cruise...I've heard the one from St. Kitts is great - an all-day excursion that includes lunch and stops on Nevis for a few hours. There was a family of 4 kids (ages 2-9) on our catamaran cruise from Nevis and though they were a little younger, they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

    I hope that helps....if you have specific questions about any of these activities or others, ask away - - - I'll try to help as much as I can.

    Megan

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    What an engaging trip report to read! Thank you so much for sharing your first impressions of St. Kitts & Nevis, as they remind me so much of my first trip there last November. My husband and I can't wait to return to Nevis--we were only there for 5 nights and missed so much. The vibe of the entire island just seems to call us back.

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    Thanks ejcrowe for your nice comments... I so hope we are able to return before both islands become more developed! The rumors while we were there were that the southern peninsula of St. Kitts was to be developed (Sandals, Hyatt, etc.)- although locals said that rumor has been around for years so they won't believe it until they see it. There is also more development planned on Pinney's beach...though not clear yet which hotel might be involved.

    After skimming over my posting, I have a clarification, and a few additional notes I wanted to make.

    Clarification - in my summary I say that if we were going back on any sort of a budget we would stay on Nevis at Oualie, which could be interpreted to mean that Nevis was a more affordable island, which is not necessarily the case. In fact, we spent more $$ on Nevis on cabs alone, because the hotels & dining options are simply more spread out...unlike on St. Kitts where you could pretty much walk to several options if you were staying in the Frigate Bay area. What I meant to say was that if we were to return, regardless of budget, we would choose Nevis as we preferred that island, but if we wanted more affordable accomodations we would go for Oualie (vs. if we had a bit more to spend we would probably choose Nisbet).

    Additions -
    SHOPPING: I also posted questions pre-trip on this topic, so here's what I found.
    St. Kitts - The best shopping on St. Kitts can be found when the cruise ships are in port, downtown near the port. There are several shopping 'malls' and local shops for arts & crafts....and a few duty-free shops. I only found one really nice duty-free store - Ashburry's I think - which had a shop downtown and a smaller version in the departure terminal of St. Kitts airport. They did have jewelry, handbags, makeup, perfumes, etc., but I didn't end up buying anything. The Marriott also has quite a few shops, but with higher prices - the duty-free liquor store at the Marriott had 20-25% higher prices it seemed than did the duty-free store downtown or at the airport, so save your liquor purchases for there.

    Nevis - I didn't really shop on Nevis, and what I saw of the downtown area did not impress me in terms of shopping. This is possibly because no large cruise ships dock here so they simply don't get the same level of tourists...though several smaller cruises, e.g. windjammer cruises, were anchored off shore when we visited Nevis so there was some influx of cruisers, though not nearly to the level of St. Kitts.

    DRESS CODE: As on any trip, I think this depends upon where you stay & where you choose to dine. I brought two dresses and a couple casual skirts on the trip, and hardly needed them, especially since we didn't often choose to dine out at nicer restaurants. Staying at TBR was much more casual, and if we had simply stayed there & stuck to the beach bars for dinner, we truly would not have needed to wear anything other than flip-flops & shorts for the duration of our trip. Dinner at Golden Rock, Nisbet, and the Marriott was a bit more dressy. In general, as with anywhere I would imagine, the nicer plantation inns & Four Seasons & Marriott called for a bit dressier attire than did the beach bars & TBR.

    $$$, ATMs & PAY PHONES:
    St. Kitts - there are several ATMs downtown & at the Marriott, but note that the casino at the Marriott has 2 ATMs that are the only ATMs on the island that dispense US dollars. There are also several pay phones downtown & at the Marriott, and you can buy phone cards which are a bit cheaper for calling the US than it would be to use your room phone.

    Nevis - ATMs are downtown, and there are several banks to choose from, though my BF could only use the ScotiaBank ATM b/c of the type of ATM card he had. The payphones are also pretty much just downtown. Note that the Four Seasons has neither - No ATMs and NO pay phones.

    Note - you could use US dollars everyhwere on both islands, and the major resorts - Four Seasons & Marriott - actually focus more on US dollars than EC. However, as you would expect, the ATMs on both islands give only EC (except in the Marriott Casino).

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    Hi iw: hopefully you enjoy the islands as much as we did! In re-reading my report, I was worried it was so 'information-focused' that we didn't really convey how much we loved the islands...which we did. I've done a small bit of travel in the carribbean - but just jamaica, bahamas, caymans (all more developed tourist destinations) - and St. Kitts/ Nevis (Nevis especially) is by far my favorite to date. Feel free to post any specific questions you may still have!

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    I think that we will stay longer than we had planned and include some time on Nevis. I am a teacher, so I have time in the summer to do whatever. (please don't hate me....15 years in the profession) hubby is self-employed, so we are flexible. I will contact you with any specific questions. If you want advice on St. Martin, Guadeloupe,
    the Bahamas, Hawaii or Arubs, please let me know !! karen

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    Hi Karen: Don't worry, though I chose another profession, my Mom & Dad, several uncles, Grandmother & Great-grandmother were all teachers, so I know you need that summer off to recover!!!! And I would be interested in your thoughts on St. Martin & Guadeloupe & after you've seen St. Kitts/Nevis how they compare...and also, eventually Hawaii!

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