The islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are known for their beautiful beaches, pristine tropical forests and friendly locals, but there is a lot more to these island paradises than meets the eye.
1. Great things come in small packages
In terms of both population and land area, St. Kitts and Nevis is the smallest country in the Caribbean (and indeed in the whole of the Americas). The twin-island Federation covers just 104 square miles, and is home to around 45,000 people. Around a quarter of them live in the capital city, Basseterre.
2. Cricket is a national obsession in St. Kitts
Basseterre has a modern stadium, Warner Park, which gets packed out whenever there’s any sporting action to be seen. International matches featuring the West Indies are the biggest occasions. But the nation also has its own team, the St. Kitts and Nevis Patriots, who play in the Caribbean Premier League.
3. St. Kitts basks in a warm tropical climate all the year round
The average temperature in Basseterre varies from 25°C in January to around 28°C between June and October. And it’s never too chilly to go for a swim: water temperatures seldom drop below a balmy 26°C, whatever the season.
4. Complex colonial history
The colonial history of St. Kitts is more than a little complex, with the English and French squabbling over control of the island for centuries. There was even a spell when they shared the spoils, with the French occupying the two ends and the English in the middle. St. Kitts and Nevis gained full independence from the United Kingdom in 1983.
5. St. Kitts was formed by volcanoes
Like many of its neighbours, St. Kitts was formed by volcanoes, all of which are now dormant. The tallest is the 3,792ft Mount Liamuiga, which is thought to have last erupted some 200 years ago. Energetic visitors can hike through pristine tropical forest to its summit, a mile-wide volcanic crater known as the “Giant’s Salad Bowl”.
6. The Narrows Swim
The strait that separates St. Kitts and Nevis is known as the Narrows, and lives up to the name: in places it’s just two miles wide. Every spring, swimmers arrive from across the Caribbean and beyond to take part in a race between the sister islands. If you fancy your chances, the course record to beat is 58 minutes and nine seconds.
7. The national flower of St. Kitts is the Royal Poinciana
It’s more colloquially known as the “flamboyant”, and if you visit between the months of May and August, you’ll see why. The blooms paint the whole island in vivid scarlet, with a particularly fine display around Independence Square in Basseterre. What’s more, the Poinciana is named after a local – the first French governor, Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy.
8. Sugar City
St. Kitts was known throughout the world as a sugar-cane island and is still commonly known today as Sugar City, but this wasn’t the first crop to be cultivated for export. The first English governor, Sir Thomas Warner, started a tobacco plantation in 1624, but soon switched to sugar after facing stiff competition from the colony of Virginia. Tobacco plants can still be seen growing wild around the 17th-century Wingfield Estate.
9. Carnival flair
The two biggest occasions in the social calendar are the St. Kitts Music Festival which is now in its 20th year. This festival is held end of June every year and attracts a variety of international artistes for the 3 day event. Locals and returning nationals look forward to this event. The other being St. Kitts-Nevis National Carnival – also known as Sugar Mas – which takes place around Christmas and the New Year. The whole island bounces to the beat of soca and calypso music as the local troupes vie to outdo each other with their spectacular costumes and dancing. No one gets much sleep.
10. Green monkeys
It’s said that St. Kitts is so fertile that even the monkeys are green, and you’ll see colonies of them scampering freely beside the roads and beaches. Their ancestors were the pets of 17th-century French settlers, brought over from West Africa. Records suggest they soon escaped to establish a native population, and they’ve been thriving ever since.