St Kitts: Caribbean Hotspot

Baz Dreisinger underlines that St Kitts is the latest preferred Caribbean hotspot, asking, “What do songstress Roberta Flack, reggae artist Damian (Jr. Gong) Marley, R&B singer Toni Braxton, and Trinidadian soca star Machel Montano have in common?” The answer is that they were all on the island of St. Kitts this summer, celebrating the 16th annual St. Kitts Music Festival, which attracted some 5,000 people for three nights of concerts and Caribbean-style partying — all to a local and international soundtrack. See excerpts  with a link to the full article here:

Chock-a-block with natural wonders — sparsely populated black- and white-sand beaches, a 3,792-foot extinct volcano, a lush tropical rainforest — St. Kitts is off the beaten path enough to elude tourist hordes, yet beckoning with new and soon-to-be-opened posh amenities. The 68-square-mile gem is a place where past, present and future coexist with striking ease. Dubbed St. Christopher by Columbus in 1493, the name was shortened later by the British to just St. Kitts. The locale became England’s first settlement in the Caribbean in 1623, and, until the late 18th century, its most lucrative sugar colony. In 1983, the island became half the twin-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, continuing to produce sugar until the last government-run plantation closed in 2005.

Drive north to ogle this colonial past. Or take a guided tour on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway, built from the tracks of the old “sugar train,” which transported sugar cane across the island. Acres of cane fields sway in the breeze, sugar mill ruins dot the landscape. To the left, the sea is vibrantly blue. To the right, electric green mountains make up the island’s rugged interior. Overlooking all this, the so-called Gibraltar of the West Indies: Brimstone Hill, an imposing stone fortress built 800 feet above sea level by slaves during the 18th century. An impeccably preserved 40-acre UNESCO World Heritage site features both a museum and views of the island’s dramatic northern coastline.

At the height of the sugar trade, the island boasted one plantation for every square mile. Spend a week in one of them: Ottley’s Plantation Inn, which dates to the 17th century. There’s a Garden of Eden feel, complete with 35 acres exploding with colorful flora and fauna, a rainforest trail and doves cooing at every turn. [. . .] Ottley’s sits in the foothills of lofty Mount Liamuiga. Outdoorsy types can sign up with Greg’s Safaris to venture up the mountain. Begin a half-day hike at Bloody Point Canyon, where British and French forces massacred the remaining members of the Kalinago tribe, who themselves ejected the island’s first denizens, the Arawaks. The vigorous hike weaves through colossal ficus trees and night-blooming jasmine, allowing for encounters with hermit crabs, whistling frogs and adorable vervet monkeys. They were imported from Africa as pets by the French centuries ago, and now the monkeys are said to outnumber humans on the island. The intrepid can opt to fly instead of walk: The island’s new Sky Safari is a zipline tour over majestic green canopies.

Then again, there’s always the ever popular lie-in-the-sun-and-do-nothing option. St. Kitts’ beaches range from the deserted black sands of Dieppe Bay in the north, with its majestic views of neighboring Saba and St. Eustacius, to Cockleshell Bay, where the lively Reggae Beach Bar serves up cold Carib beers, fresh conch fritters and a Caribbean soundtrack. The bar is especially popular with students attending Ross University, the American veterinary school on the island.

Frigate Bay, the most touristy part of the island, is another beach-day option. [. . .]

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