An idyllic Caribbean getaway in any season
A trip to St Kitts and Nevis in the low season can offer great value for money.
St Kitts and Nevis offer oodles of sunshine throughout the year
June and July in St Kitts may be high summer, but it is low season as far as the tourism industry is concerned. Away from the peak months from November to March, the only noticeable difference is the lack of people; that and the odd short sharp shower, a welcome relief from the hot sun and a time when hotel prices and air fares are lower.
For me, it was the perfect opportunity to enjoy a Caribbean getaway where for once, the locals outnumbered the visitors.
So what does this two-island nation offer? There are remants of St Kitts' former sugar and slave industry and it was at Independence Square in the capital Basseterre,where slaves were sold and where many were executed. The grand plantations they worked on have been converted into luxury hotels, but under the buildings around the square, the cellars and tunnels remain where slaves were chained together waiting to be brought up into the park for auction.
The best example you'll find on the island is 800 feet up a hill where the 17th century British built Brimstone Fortress. It overlooks the south coast and is one of the best-preserved historical fortifications in the Americas and a UNESCO world heritage site.
St Kitts' dramatic history gives an added attraction over the tropical sun, sand and sea combination of other Caribbean islands. Tourism has been the island's main source of income for only 20 years since the end of sugar production, so island life hasn't changed much over the centuries.
Away from the main resort area of Frigate Bay, there are plenty of villages where local culture and traditions remain the focal points of daily life, along with rum and reggae of course.
There is something special about sitting outside in an easy chair, sipping a rum punch (made from a secret family recipe) and listening to some soft reggae sounds as the sun goes down.
The island has peaceful coves and beaches, like Turtle Beach or South Friars along the south east peninsular, or there are more hedonistic pursuits at resorts and beaches around Frigate Bay in the south.
Fly: BA flies regular direct flights to St Kitts or via Antigua from around £357 each way in summer rising to over £600 each way during peak winter months.
Stay: The Marriott Frigate Bay, the only five star hotel on St Kitts. Tel: 0800 221 222
Whilst Basseterre is a small colonial town (it only has four main streets running east to west and one main street running north to south) it was at one time the most important port in the West Indies.
The 17th century Treasury and Customs House still proudly stands guard as the gateway to the island, but these days serves as the National Museum chronicling much of St Kitts' dramatic history. The Circus, in the town centre, is at the bustling heart of it all. Like a miniature version of Piccadilly Circus, (it even has a small monument in the middle of it) you'll find most of commercial life here, amongst its white colonial buildings. After dark, when the work is done, Fort Street's 'lime' bars open up and the partying begins. You won't find lime cocktails in a lime bar; it's just a term for having some drinks with friends. So chill out and go liming down Fort Street.
A few minutes' walk from Basseterre's centre you'll come to Port Zante, St Kitts' cruise liner terminal where you can buy tax-free goods and wander around more tourist souvenir shops than there are rum punches.
You can see most of St Kitts in a day; after all, it's only 18 miles long and six miles wide, dominated by Mount Liamuiga, majestically rising out of the island's volcanic centre. Wherever you go, you'll have sea views; the Caribbean on the west side and the Atlantic on the east, with lush tropical vegetation and rainforest dominating the interior.
The rainforest is home to the highly entertaining Green Vervet Monkeys. Find a quiet spot to watch them frolick. The Brimstone Hill Fortress is worth seeing and make sure you also visit Romney Manor where you can pick up some delightful handmade Batik based prints and traditional island garments and wander around its beautiful gardens.
Go for a ride on the Sugar Train and take a pleasant three-hour ride around the island in air-conditioned comfort on the rail tracks formerly used to transport harvested sugar cane.
St. Kitts' adjacent is more than just a nearby island; it is the other half of this two island state and worth a day trip or two. A mere half hour away by ferry from Basseterre, Nevis has a completely different feel to St Kitts.
This small sombrero shaped island is half the size of St Kitts but what it lacks in size it makes up for in natural charms. It is a tranquil place where all the beaches are public and the way of life slow and serene encapsulated by its little quaint capital Charlestown.
Visit the Montpelier Plantation Inn, a boutique Inn immortalised when Princess Diana stayed there with William and Harry. Just a few yards away is the tree under which Lord Nelson married Fanny in 1787. Talking of Nelson, you can stay at his former home, now the luxury Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, where a set of air conditioned villas lead you away from the Great House across the manicured lawn to a secluded private beach.
Whilst all the relics of St Kitts and Nevis' slave-dependent past might seem to many of us to be symbols of repression and enslavement, the people of St. Kitts see them instead as permanent reminders of their roots; a nation once emanating from Africa but now justly proud of their beautiful island home. And trying it out of season away from those peak months of November to March will still deliver you some outstanding sun but at much more affordable prices.
Now, where did I leave that rum punch?