No one came blame you for wanting to get away from the winter blues and head down to the sunny and inviting Caribbean. While you begin to plan your getaway, there is one island in particular to keep in mind: St. Kitts. The sparkling gem of St. Kitts, located in the Lesser Antilles in the Southern Caribbean, has so much more than meets the eye. This is especially true during the winter holidays. The island absolutely comes to life with festivals and events to end the old year and welcome in the new one. You can spend your days on the beach, soaking up that much needed Vitamin D, and then spend your evenings and nights enjoying all that St. Kitts has to offer. There is no where else in the Caribbean that does Christmas quite like St. Kitts.
Visitors know it as the St. Kitts and Nevis National Carnival. The locals call it Sugar Mas. But whatever you refer to it as, one thing’s for sure: There’s no better way to experience Kittitian culture.
Sugar Mas regularly ranks as the Federation’s largest event. Running from November 22, 2019, to January 4, 2020, the 48th edition of the carnival will feature all of the festival’s old favorites — with the potential for a surprise or two.
Traditionally, the National Carnival opens on a Friday, rung in by a vibrant female calypso show. From there, the party keeps rolling: The coming weeks are marked by a series of fetes — lively celebrations — ranging from Blu’s powder-filled revelry to Flag & Wet’s unique blend of live music and waterworks.
If those festivities set the tone, J’Ouvert ramps it up. Meaning “I opened” in French, this early-morning parade kicks off the carnival’s street celebrations. Participants wake up well before daybreak, grouping up and hitting Downtown Basseterre’s roads as early as 4:00 a.m. By midday, the streets have cleared — but not before eight hours of paint- and water-soaked fun.
The country’s roads once again fill to capacity on Parade Day. A Kittitian take on the New Year’s Day parade, revelers don colorful feathered costumes before marching through the nation’s capital. The event also serves a cultural purpose: Folklore groups dominate the activities, introducing the crowd to moko jumbies, masqueraders, clowns, and other traditional figures.
In between those two events, the National Carnival serves nonstop entertainment. Qualifying rounds of the national soca and calypso competitions bring the country’s best performers to the same stage. Bar crawls and sunset cruises offer plenty of opportunities to mingle and discuss the day’s activities. Folkloric storytelling troupes bring the island’s rich history to life, and in the days leading up to the new year, crowds celebrate its present with the National Queen, Swimsuit, Mr. GQ, and Talented Teen Pageants.
After six weeks of partying, Sugar Mas draws to a close — but what better way to send it off than with one final bash? On January 2, revelers take to the streets for the Last Lap, the National Carnival’s concluding outdoor celebration. Amid singing and dancing, event officials announce the winners of the Best Carnival Troupe and Road March Song competitions — a fitting end for a festival that filled the Kittitian air with music and laughter.
Every year, the festival runs. And every year, people far and wide come to partake. Are you looking to plan a vacation you won’t soon forget? Stockpile your time off and mark your calendar: Sugar Mas is the best time to visit St. Kitts.
2. South Friar’s Beach
One of the biggest attractions to the Caribbean are its warm and soft sands, crystal clear turquoise and sapphire waters, and tropical greenery. And St. Kitts is no different, with beaches lining almost the entire coastline. You can’t go wrong with any of the beaches on St. Kitts. However, one of the beaches most frequented by the locals is South Friar’s Beach. Located on the southwestern shore of St. Kitts’ southern peninsula, South Friar’s is a secluded warm stretch of sand that feels worlds away from your problems. You can even indulge in the local restaurants near the water once you start to feel a little hungry. Regardless, South Friar’s is a great destination to beat the winter blues.
If you have a little bit more Christmas shopping that you need to do for the loved ones in your life, why not bring them back something from the tropics? The Amina Craft Market in Basseterre is a great one-stop-shop destination for anything you could imagine. The vendors are local artists and artisans who sell unique art, jewelry, pottery, and other souvenirs to locals and tourists alike. Come wander the stalls and pick up that perfect gift for everyone on your list – and support local artists in doing so!
Take in the lush beauty of St. Kitts by hopping aboard the Scenic Railway Tour. Once the rail line for the historic Sugar Train, you will get to ravel between St. Kitts’ many historic sugar plantations and learn about the unique history of these now abandoned colonial pillars. You will also speed by scenic landscapes, old churches, and small communities as you relax in comfort and get to feast on local sweet desserts.
5.Retreat to the Rainforest
There isn’t a lot of rainforest left in the world, however, St. Kitts is home to a tropical rainforest of its own. Not only that, it is thriving and even expanding. So when you’re enjoying the sapphire waters of St. Kitts, why not enjoy this emerald landscape? You can enjoy a guided hike up to the top of Mt. Liamuiga, a now dormant volcano, and get to see waterfalls, stunning cliffs, and maybe even some of the local wildlife. Or instead, you can sign up for a zipline excursion and speed through the trees and maybe even see a monkey! Some popular options are offered through Greg’s Safaris, a local rainforest tour agency.