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2 weeks 2 islands 2 persons - St.Kitts and Nevis


Feb 12th, 2013, 07:30 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2007
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2 weeks 2 islands 2 persons - St.Kitts and Nevis

When researching for next Caribbean island to escape the winter two words catch my eye: "... lush mountains ...". And since the British Airways had good price and flight times I've booked the tickets.

After researching some more a decision to take a week at each of the sister island was made. Here is recollection of first week, spent on St.Kitts.

As usual we fly BA from Venice through London. Overnight near airport in Travelodge. Checking and security was a breeze - 30 min from hotel door to inside the departure area. New record for us. Flight was reasonably comfortable although a tad long, with a brief stop on Antigua.St.Kitts airport is a small one, immigration was fast. They do check our luggage, not a problem. Outside waited for us our host for the week, mrs.Sue from Mule House. With her help we found TDC Thrifty office for car rental. Another efficient and friendly Kittitian made his part of the process quickly. Already dark outside thus we were following the tailgate lights of Sue's car to the Mule House.

Mule House is located on the windward side of St.Kitts, some 10 min driving from Basseterre. It has 4 apartments; our was on the first floor, two rooms, bathroom, well equipped kitchen. No A/C and none was needed due to constant fresh breeze blowing around the house. Nicely manicured garden below, with birds and odd monkey in the early mornings. Behind the rain forest covered slopes gave it a dramatic background. There is wireless available, yet it is somehow spotty, like being on the Caribbean time. With Skype we have problems, other internet connections worked fairly good. If no connection then take a book and seat on the balcony. That is what we did. Yes, sitting on the balcony. That is how we spent each day until almost midday. The views over the ocean, the clouds rolling in, green mountains to our left, whose top ridges were enrolled in the clouds ... a great way to relax the body and the mind. So we have had only half a day each day to explore the island. Here is what we found, by locations.

Basseterre: first time we were in Basseterre was Sunday. The small town seemed and looked deserted. Almost not a soul on the streets, shops closed (apart of those in cruise ship terminal, Port Zante). For taking photos of buildings and its few attractions, as the Circus and the Independence Square, fine. Otherwise not so. Got our lunch at the Church Chicken. Not bad at all for a chain, but a chain with a local flavour. Next time we were there were on a weekday, with a cruise ship in port. Much different, people everywhere. However the best impression this town gave me on Friday. It is a day when people stop working at noon, the sellers are on the streets hawking more or less loudly their ware, and street food is offered at many places. The sights, the sounds and the smells of the Caribbean we love so much.

Round the island road: we do it twice, both times anticlockwise. Driving is easy as it is only one road to speak of. Stopping is another matter. The villages having no real centre it was difficult for us to realise where to stop and which side street to take for coming closer to the coast or beach. With more time and more will to explore I suppose also this is pretty easy.

Brimstone Hill Fortress: what a place! Before coming I have read a comment here by someone describing it as a "pile of rocks". Huh, was the person even there? It is a place to be admired. Our luck (or good planning) was that we were there when there were no cruise ship in town, so we have had the place almost to ourselves. Highly recommended is to start at the Visitor's centre, because only the aerial shots of this huge feat of engineering gives you the true perspective. And the restoration work done has also to be admired. We have opted to take the audio guide, and it surely pays to have one, as the facts and stories told by the narrator underlines the visual informations. Three hours we were there, and that is only at the top structures, the fort itself and around it. Well worth the visit. If not on a cruise ship go there at 2 pm, when the daily visitors starts to return, and the sun starts to go down.

Black Rocks: the point where lava flow reached the sea. Rock formations , and ocean waves jointly produces a fantasy world impression. Good for 15 min; there is a pointer but it is already faded out so we missed it the first time.

South Peninsula beaches: a dramatic sight, this south peninsula. The road is going up and down some steep hills, and there are beaches left and right. Those on Atlantic side are wild and deserted. Those on Caribbean side tame and lined with beach bars. Our favourite was South Friars beach with Sunset Beach Bar. At each beach bar one can rent a bed and a shade. Some of the places have too many beds on the beach, like the place in front of the Reagge Beach Bar on Cockleshell beach. Others gave you more private space. They all serve cold drinks and hot food, some more some less expensive. Even with a ship in town, all beaches looked more or less deserted, plenty of space both under the shades and around the bar.

Ottley Plantation: went there for a light stroll under the trees. Its hiking trail is cca. 30 min long, very easy with several steps at the beginning. The place itself looked very nice, very chic but I did not made more detailed inspection.

Rain forest hike: once we decided that we have plenty of time also for a rain forest hike, our host Sue phoned one mr.Oliver Spencer from Periwinkle Tours. An elderly gentleman, in love with both his country and his its nature. He drove us in his Landrover up the hill where the secondary forests starts. Walking past several out in the field farms, and meeting farmers who all seemed to know Oliver by name. It was almost all botanical experiences although we have seen glimpses of hummingbirds and few butterflies. However the poetry of greens was what captured our, and Oliver's attention, and soul. If going as a couple, or max. 4 persons, get Oliver.

We have eaten out only for late lunches. We tried Reagge Beach Bar on Cockleshell beach, and Jam Rock and Sunset Beach Bar on South Friars. We didn't like Reggae, food was only so so, and it was almost 1/3 more expensive then other two. Chef Michael opened Jam Rock only a year ago, and his food is influenced by his Jamaican origin. Sunset and mrs.Olivia are icons of the beach bar scene.

St.Kitts is all about serious relaxation. Its lush green mountains and deep blue seas have the ability to calm down and bring people to lime in a no time.

So, our six full days passed by fast and definitively not furious. Relax was the order of the day.

Quality stuff came in small bottles. So true, would be a remark from my daughter (1m60cm tall). And so true also for Nevis.

Saturday was another sunny Caribbean day. Sea Bridge car ferry port is located in Major Bay, almost at the end of the South Peninsula. The ferry departs every odd hour from St.Kitts, and very even hour + 30 minutes from Nevis. But that is the schedule. So we arrived at 10.30 am and waited for about an hour. It seemed that locals new better as they started to arrive just before the ferry. Funny thing is that you drive on the ferry on reverse - first one for me. The transfer itself is short, cca. 20 minutes, nice views and the sea was pretty tame yet windy. The price is 190 EC$ return for a car and two passengers. The ferry can load between up to 20 cars.

Our home away from home on Nevis was Banyan Tree B&B, located near the Fig Tree church, about 5 minutes from Charlestown. Owned by Anne and Jonathan, it is a well maintained property, with an 300 years old fig tree at the centre, and three buildings on it. One is used by hosts, second is made of two rooms, and the third, a short walk away, is Bamboo House. It is a very nice small house, with wide porch around three sides, lot of space in the living/sleeping room and a separate bathroom and small kitchen (microwave and fridge). Property looks like a botanical garden, we have seen up close three different types of hummingbirds, any green vervet monkeys marched up and down every other day. Breakfast was included and prepared fresh by Anne every morning. No A/C or TV in the Bamboo House. A/C was not needed at all, just the opposite, after the quite cool first night we learned to close the windows that looks to the mountain side. Instead of TV we have enjoyed in NGC "Live from monkeyland" every other day. There is wifi near the main house (and also reachable from the two rooms).

As for the island itself, it is quite small, about an hour of slow driving to get around. Very green, nice houses, very well kept and clean. There are many beaches to chose from, each with beach bar(s). Some of these bars are simple, others even includes small pools for its clients. Although in high season, there were very few tourists around. Perfect for us. As on St.Kitts, we enjoyed the porch and the book every morning, then around noon we decided to take the car "to the walk". We have made no plans so we just drive left or right on the main road, based on everyday instinct. These are the highlights of our one week on Nevis.

Charlestown: much smaller then Basseterre but surprisingly we found it more interesting. Plenty of parking places in front of the coast. Always busy but never crowded. Almost only locals on streets, in bars or shops. Shopping is basic only, most needed souvenirs and some local art and craft. People are friendly, within an hour we knew names of several of them, and later we've been waved at by them. Places to eat are all pretty much simple yet we have been always received with smiles and greetings. As one of the experts wrote to me beforehand, "cheap eating is almost unheard of". We have not tried "The yellow Truck" but both Cafe des Arts and nearby Octagon Mermaid ranges in the 100 EC$ category for a lunch and drinks for 2 persons. There is a smallish museum on the waterfront, some churches, few ice cream shops, banks and ATM are plenty. We feel very safe, nobody harassed us or trying to sell us merchandises or services. On weekends local ladies starts selling food from the streets, mostly BBQ.

Botanical Garden: gardens are great thing on Nevis. People likes to maintain them, and climate is great for having a really nice garden. Botanical Gardens are the best we have seen on Nevis; and there is also Oasis there, a Thai restaurant with very good Thai food and reasonable prices (for lunch, at least). Allow at least two hors, more is better.

Beaches: there are many beaches on Nevis, most of them on leeward side. Pinney's beach with 4 big beach bars, then there is Four Seasons, we have stopped at Coconut Grove, a wooden restaurant with its own small pool, Chrisi Beach is next, and the beach in front of the Nesbit Plantation also has amenities like bar, lounges and even a pool. All of them are easily accessible from the main road. They were almost empty. one can enjoy them in perfect solitude. Water was relatively calm and safe for swimming.

Plantation Inns: many former plantations and its main houses are transformed into luxury (but not luxurious) resorts. We have visited Golden Rock Inn. High above the coastline, perfect views toward Redondo and Monserrat, lush and green, pool. The restaurant is pleasant, and famous for its lobster sandwiches. But it comes at a price. Two soups, two lobster sandwiches, a cocktail and a beer were 100 US$. Not for ever day but it was a special day for us, and at Golden Rock it was even more special. After the lunch one can hike their gardens, and then use the pool. Other plantation inns are similarly well maintained and worth a visit. Come during the day for the views, they all have a restaurant on site, although not all are open every day in a week.

Jazzique: its a local music band. They are playing every Friday night at Lime on Pinney's beach (as it was advertised in the bar at the time of our visit). We booked on Monday for next Friday. We came at 7 pm, ordered a light dinner, and at 8 pm the instrumental part of the band start playing some soft jazz. The things starts to heat up when the vocalist came. Full of energy, and good vocal, he soon convinced the spectators to become the part of the performance. The dance floor filled with young and not yo young couples (and some singles). We enjoyed the music for more then three hours, and it was not over yet when we decided to drive back. Very enjoyable and fun night with Jazzique. Be careful on the dance floor, most of the people were dancing with a drink in their hand. No high heels for ladies, please!

Nevis is even more laid back then other Caribbean islands, yet its infrastructure is well kept, the most of the main road has good pavement, and all historic sites are marked with a descriptive table. We have met the minister of tourism, Honourable Mark Anthony Graham Brantley, and based on the short talk we have with him, Nevis is heading towards even better and higher standards, as this is one very energetic man. There were not many tourists on Nevis during our visit, first week of February. There is no landing port for cruise ships, and US air carriers are flying into St.Kitts despite the fact that Nevis also has an international airport. Not a good news for locals, yet a great one for those who decided to give this island a try (and to all of those repeated guests, I assume). If an affordable accommodation can be found (that is, a room with kitchenette for 50 US$ per day, long term), then it would not be a problem staying even for a month or two, and not be bored at all. It is also a good place for a honeymoon, with its selection of up scale resorts, which has mainly villas or cabins, a wide variety of restaurants to have more or less expensive dinner at, but always in a great settings. The island's night life is where there is plenty of space for improvement, but I might also be wrong, and there are enough of local spots that I am not aware of. BTW, first hotel in Caribbean was built on Nevis, The Bath, now house to government offices. And the old hot springs below the hotel are in a process of renovation. That is one more selling item for this small but beautiful island.
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Feb 12th, 2013, 12:11 PM
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Thanks for taking the time to write and share your experiences.
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