St. Kitts and Nevis evokes images of what the Caribbean was like just a few decades ago before over-commercialization. The two islands offer old West Indies charm, quiet streets and small crowds, gracious hotels and inns, and some of the most breathtaking panoramas in the Caribbean. The people of St. Kitts and Nevis are also easygoing and unassuming. All in all, this nation of two islands presents an exotically beautiful paradise of palm-studded coral beaches, volcanic peaks, and lush forests yielding tropical fruits.
St. Kitts and Nevis is a Caribbean nation that consists of two islands: St. Kitts and Nevis. Both are part of the Leeward Islands that also includes the islands of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda. The islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are both lined with coastal beaches and whose interior features mountains and volcanoes. The central region of St. Kitts features Mount Liamuiga which rises over 3,790 feet high. Nevis, on the other hand, is more volcanic, highlighted by the circular cone of Nevis Peak, which measures 3,232 feet high.
St. Kitts and Nevis was originally inhabited by Arawak tribes who were displaced around 1300 AD by the Caribs. Christopher Columbus claimed the islands for Spain in 1493 on his second voyage, but it was the British who first settled the two islands in the 1620s. The French also settled St. Kitts and shared the island with the British until 1713.
From the 17th to the early 19th century, the islands were used to cultivate sugar on plantations that were worked by imported slaves. Slavery was finally abolished in 1834. In 1983, the St. Kitts and Nevis was finally granted independence from the United Kingdom, although it remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Today, sugar production continues to be an important component of the country’s economy. Tourism, of course, is another component. And for Nevis, it has become somewhat of a haven for money-laundering and drug trafficking. Its strict secrecy laws have lured more than 9,000 offshore businesses to base and incorporate out of the island. This has caused much tension between the two islands with secessionist sentiments currently lingering in Nevis.
St. Kitts is probably the more “tropical” of the two islands, providing an “air” of the South Pacific. Its lush greenery and blend of sun, sea, and air gives it an exotic appeal, which is further enhanced by its majestic centerpiece – Mount Liamuiga, a dormant volcano forested with abundant vegetation. Ecotourism is thus the main draw of St. Kitts. Nature lovers enjoy touring the rainforests, lagoons, and lava formations, and along the way observing the various tropical birds and roaming monkeys. Visitors can also enjoy swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling in the coastal waters that wash onto the island’s coral beaches. St. Kitts, however, also offers colonial architecture in its tiny towns such as in Basseterre where the 19th century Berkeley Memorial Clock and drinking fountain stands at the center of the Circus. Ancient British fortifications like the Brimstone Hill Fortress and the Charles Fort are also worth visiting. You can also find remaining plantations to get a glimpse of where the slaves used to work.
Nevis, on the other hand, is known as the “Queen of the Caribbean” because of its reputation since the 18th century for its exclusivity as a vacation destination. The island is still home to some of the most exclusive resorts and spas, which welcome the odd celebrity now and again. But otherwise, Nevis is not that much different from St. Kitts. It offers ecotourism with its rainforests, volcanoes, and natural reefs. Visitors enjoy hiking through the rainforests and up the volcanic Nevis Peak, observing the nesting of sea turtles and other marine life, scuba diving and snorkeling offshore where wrecks and corals can be found, and exploring the old ruins of sugar plantations and the ancient archaeological sites of the Arawaks and Caribs.