If you want a hidden gem, then look no further than St. Kitts and Nevis. It's like stepping back in time in the Caribbean. Not too long ago they changed their economy from sugar to tourism, so they've kept a lot of secrets over the years. Secret forts, mist shrouded jungles, sugar mills, petroglyphs, exquisitely romantic ex-plantation home resorts, and long, lonely expanses of beach. Underwater, with all that commerce, you'll find a wonderful handful of wrecks to explore, including the much-heralded River Taw, all of which are thriving mini-ecosystems. There are numerous yet to be named dive sites, and the explorations continue. And, a couple miles offshore are a group of sites called Monkey Shoals that's like an island of coral that brings in big schools of snapper and tangs, nurse sharks, eels and sea turtles. Above the water, these two islands, separated by a narrow three-kilometer/two-mile channel, host the Caribbean's largest intact fort, Fort Brimstone, Carib Petroglyphs, the St. Kitts Railway, and scenic hikes deep into the jungles slopes of Mt. Liamuiga or Nevis Peak that will surprise even the most well-traveled Caribbean veteran.
When to go:
Weather conditions offer enjoyable diving year-round, but be aware of the hurricane season from July to November.
When to Get the Best Deals:
August to November.
What to Pack:
A 3/2 mm fullsuit; sunscreen, mosquito repellent and hiking shoes for excursions into the mountains, hiking the fort and roaming town streets; DAN card.
Seasonal averages: 25°C/78°F in winter and 28°C/84°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 26°C/80°F in winter and 29°C/87°F in summer.
Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD). Credit cards are widely accepted.
Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.
What to Eat:
The islands' fertile fields yield lot of fresh vegetables and fruits, such as pineapple, bananas, plantains, coconut, mango, sweet potatoes, yams, avocados, tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers and squash, that are paired with fresh seafood and meat (often goat) mixed with spicy sauces to create wonderful Caribbean creole dishes. Go local and try the goat water stew or cook-up (chicken, pig tail, saltfish, vegetables, rice and beans.)
What to Drink:
The local liquor is CSR, a clear cane spirit, that reputedly won't leave you with a nagging hangover. Local rums include Belmont Estate and Brinley Gold. The local brewery bottles Carib, Skol and Stag, with Carib being the most well-known beer. Try a Ting with a Sling or a Killer Bee, if you dare.
Hike into the mountains to see vervet monkeys and ancient petroglyphs; Fort Brimstone is the largest in the Caribbean; the St. Kitt's batik is world renowned; and plantation tours are a must.
Customs and Culture:
The people of St. Kitts and Nevis are well known for their warmth and hospitality. They have a unique culture, including a dance fusion, that mixes African and European styles.
Carnival, which begins in December, features the Caribbean's best Moko-Jumbies, or stilt walkers.
Electricity and Internet:
The electricity supply is 230 Volts and 60 Hz. There is good internet connectivity in most of the big hotels and internet café on the islands.
Drink the water?
Bottled water is recommended away from the major resorts.
English is the official language, but Creole is widely spoken.
Amazing Marine Life
Seen peeking out from both wreck and reef.
These brightly colored schooling fish aggregate over the wrecks and undersides of the reefs.
These crustaceans sport brown or orange shells, often colorfully dappled with yellow, blue, or green.
Hawksbill and green turtles can be found swimming in leisurely fashion or napping under ledges on many reefs.
These predatory fish are often seen on the reefs.
Forming long wagon trains as it schools, this purple and gold fish can be best seen roaming over the reef in the late afternoon.
Caribbean reef shark:
This shark is often around two metres/six feet long and, true to its name, prowls the reefs around the islands.
Wily and secretive, the octopus is often found in holes and crannies of reefs and wrecks.
A smaller relative of the shark, these rays often hang out on sandy bottoms, but can also be seen swimming around the reefs.
Top Dive Spots
This deliberately sunken cargo ship rests at 12 metres/40 feet and shelters octopus, lobsters, and other intriguing invertebrates. Keep an eye out for squirrel fish, glass-eyed snappers, angelfish, stingrays and turtles.
A favorite with underwater photographers, this freighter (sunk by a hurricane) hosts lobsters, green moray eels, puffer fish, barracuda, and schools of squirrelfish and yellowtail snapper.
Black Coral Reef:
As its name suggests, this site is famed for its stately trees of black coral. Look for creole wrasse, snapper, and lizardfish.
Turtle Bar Reef:
This maze of volcanic rock and reef structures teems with schooling fish, and (true to its name) is almost a sure bet for seeing turtles.
A wall of volcanic boulders at this site is packed with fire coral, sponges, black sea urchins, crabs, and other invertebrates. Watch for eagle rays.
This underwater overhang shelters nurse sharks and green moray eels, as well as a profusion of invertebrates - a favorite spot for macro photographers.
Hot water seeps through vents at this site, which is also noted for its black coral trees, wire coral, oversized lobsters, spotted drum, arrow crabs, stingrays and barracuda.
Alongside old anchors on this reef, you'll find well-protected corals, barracuda, turtles, lobsters, angelfish, rays and eels.
Sandy Point Reef:
Stunning coral formations, including canyons and swim-throughs, form the background to this marine life garden. Count on a profusion of reef fish, as well as garden eels, turtles, and old anchors.
Staghorn coral, sea fans, and sponges set the stage for the multicolored cast of reef fish. Keep an eye out for large lobsters and reef sharks.