All posts by caribbeanislandhopper

Discovery and beyond

Overgrown Sugar Mills and former Plantation houses in St. Kitts

Mostly referred to as “St. Kitts”, the official name is Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis. A two-island country with the capital located on the bigger St. Kitts in Basseterre. Nevis can be reached by boat only, crossing the channel called “The Narrows”.

In St. Kitts you feel transported back in the times where sugar plantations dominated the every day life on the island. Until today, you see overgrown sugar mills reminding of that time. Former plantation houses have been converted into beautiful hotels like Ottley’s Plantation Inn: http://www.ottleys.com/ or Rawlins Plantation Inn (does not have it’s own website, but you can find it through the major booking websites).

What else St. Kitts has to offer? In the beginning, I thought of this island as “boring”, and it happens to many people who get there for the first time.  Soon I discovered I was wrong: there is rainforest that wants to be explored on a hike, there is a volcano you can hike up to until the top (quite steep and challenging, a 2 hours ascend) to enjoy the amazing views.

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are you ready for that? :-)
are you ready for that? 🙂
once at the top, you can see the crater of the volcano
once at the top, you can see the crater of the volcano

Another fun and active thing to do on the island is the rainforest zipline. It has only 4 traverses or so, but they are long and you will have amazing views. http://www.skysafaristkitts.com/

one of the traverses
one of the traverses

Traveling south of the Island, you can spend a great day at the beach. The following picture is one of my most favorite views:

South of the Island
South of the Island / view from Timothy point

I liked beaches like South Friars Bay, Cockleshell Bay and Frigate Bay, in the same order I mentioned them. At South Friars Bay you have a snorkel reef along the beach. Everything very natural, don’t expect too much luxury 😉

South Friars Bay
South Friars Bay

I will add some more info on Brimstone Hill Fortress, which is definitely a must-see in St. Kitts later on. For now, I hope you enjoyed my little introduction to this amazing island.

Welcome to St. Lucia!

view to the famous PITONS of St. Lucia
view to the famous PITONS of St. Lucia

 

The first time I heard of this island, I did not know it even existed … I admit! I grew up in Europe, the Caribbean seemed part of a dream that might never come true. Within my reach were the Greek Isles, Spain, Italy and Turkey. The Caribbean is something exotic for Europeans, a long and expensive trip into paradise. So when I started working on cruise ships and suddenly went to all those places, I could hardly believe how many dreams were coming true for me.

St. Lucia, not necessarily an island I would travel to because of the beaches …! In my opinion, it’s beauty is the rainforest. You will find some nice beaches and even amazing resorts, but most of all I would travel to St. Lucia for an active vacation: hiking the famous Pitons, go snorkeling, visit the Volcano, go ziplining etc. Since it is a big island, there is a lot to choose from.

I never managed to go on that helicopter ride which, according to some of my friends who did it, is impressive. Also, I never managed to hike the Pitons (nothing for people who usually don’t hike, very strenuous!), it stays on my to-do-list though, because I was told the view is stunning up there. I did snorkel between the Pitons, which I can warmly recommend. I would even fancy staying at the resort that is located right there, the Sugar Beach Resort (Honeymoon material):  http://www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/sugarbeach

If you just want to do the snorkeling between the Pitons, you can either take a cab or a boat. Consider that it is at the very South of the island, so if you are traveling on a cruise, the distance is too long to go by yourself. Streets in St. Lucia are very windy and the vehicles not always the newest, so expect breakdowns and traffic.

The snorkel site between the Pitons is one of the nicest shore snorkels I have ever done (and I have done lots, believe me). Beautiful coral, abundant fish and easily accessible from the beach. Watch your stuff though, since it is a public area, there is some not very trustworthy people hanging out there. Make sure you don’t leave your stuff unsupervised.

The snorkel location at the Pitons
The snorkel location at the Pitons

Make sure you try and/or even buy some of that banana ketchup which is made in St. Lucia! You can see banana plantations when traveling through the island.

For some adventure, try the zipline at Rainforest Sky Adventure

http://www.rainforestadventure.com/st_lucia_tours_excursions/

Ziplining the rainforest
Ziplining the rainforest

My favorite drink of the island would be the Pitons beer. A light lager beer brewed on the island. The National dish is Green Banana and saltfish.

 

San Juan de Puerto Rico – Goddess of the Sea (Diosa del Mar)

Puerto Rico – the rich port. Did you know that originally San Juan was the name of the country and Puerto Rico the name of the city? At some point in history, when a map was made of the country, the guy who drew it made a mistake and mixed the two names up and since then, we call the capital city of Puerto Rico San Juan. Not that it really matters, but an interesting fact. To me, San Juan is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It has the charme of a modern city with its architecture reminding of its rich history. During the times where Gold and Silver were transported from the New World to Europe, this city was a target of foreign powers of that time. The city had to be protected and nowadays  those beautiful and impressive fortresses, San Cristobal and Felipe Morro Castle, are reminders of the former Spanish Empire in the Caribbean.

A typical view - watch tower in San Juan
A typical view – watch tower in San Juan

When you are in San Juan, make sure you visit at least one of the forts. I visited both and if I had to recommend one over the other, I would prefer El Morro. In my opinion it is in a much more scenic setting than St. Cristobal fort, but they are very similar, with the guard towers and their strong protecting walls. Check out the webpage of the National Park Service http://www.nps.gov for more information on the forts.

view inside the fort
view inside the fort / Felipe Morro Castle

When you arrive by cruise ship, the San Cristobal fort is the one which is closer to the ship terminal, only 10 to 15 minutes walk. You can get to Felipe Morro Castle by taking the free Trolley Bus that goes around the city for free.

http://www.puertoricodaytrips.com/free-trolley-old-san-juan/

Cristobal Fort
Cristobal Fort

I loved to walk through the city since this beautiful city offers interesting architecture in  every street you choose to go. You see interesting bars, shops, houses and restaurants.

Beautiful building in San Juan

Beautiful building in San Juan

There is one area of the city you should avoid though / it is called La Perla. You already notice that it is a dodgy area, it is the stretch at the waterfront between the San Cristobal fort and the El Morro Fort. But overall, I always felt secure walking through the city at day and at night.

Proud to be Puerto Rican!
Proud to be Puerto Rican! 🙂
Interesting "Graffiti" Puerto Rican style
Interesting “Graffiti” Puerto Rican style

Puerto Ricans refer to themselves as “boricuas”, in case you wonder what the t-shirts mean … 🙂 So on your shopping tour in this amazing city, what should you buy? A Puerto Rican hat? Some coffee? Some spicy salsa, that will remind you of the taste of Puerto Rico? So much to choose from, so much to enjoy.

You should definitely drink coffee at my favorite places: the Café Colao (only a five minutes walk from the cruise ship terminal) http://prcafecolao.com and Caficultura. Caficultura is located at 401 Calle San Francisco, that is right at the square where the Columbus Statue is located. I loved having breakfast in Caficultura.  Your coffee will be prepared with love, every cappuccino has a different design .. which is why service might be slow sometimes. There is an amazingly tasty selection of pancakes, eggs and mallorcas (a Puerto Rican Specialty, similar to a sweet bread which they toast with ham and cheese for example, yummie).

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Beauty of Barbados – beaches and rum

Beaches, rum and Rihanna. Most probably the terms that come to your mind when hearing of this island. It invites to drive around and take pictures all along: amazing views of beaches, local rum shops, abbeys and traditional colleges.

One of my most favorite beaches for picture taking is Bathsheba, located on the  Atlantic side. Image

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