We woke up Monday morning in St. Kitts, a tiny little island we hadn't even heard of until planning for our cruise. We booked an excursion with Kyle and Megan, another agent and his wife whom we've gotten to know through other Farm Bureau events. And after hearing St. Kitts is known for its high ratio of monkeys that outnumber its residents 4 to 1, we established two goals for the day: see some monkeys, and zipline through the rainforest.
Check and check.
Our first views of St. Kitts, from our balcony!
After another guided tour across the island, we learned that St. Kitts is relatively new to the whole cruise port destination, and that twenty years ago, the entire port was just a body of water. After giving up on the sugarcane industry for its hard and expensive labor, the people of St. Kitts took a leap of faith and started investing in tourism. And in addition to offering monkeys and unique black stand beaches, they have some pretty great rainforests to explore. From the sky, that is.
We had an absolute blast ziplining with Sky Safari Adventure. Our guides, Cheesecake and Sparrow were hilarious, Kyle and Megan were the perfect couple to adventure with, and our team included a fun family of five from the East Coast, as well as two eighty-year-old best friends who were there to zipline because it was a bucket list item that was yet to be crossed off! And taking that first step off the scaffold and soaring like a bird 250 feet above ground, with the rainforest on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other was a thrill I won't ever forget. I think it's as close as I'll ever feel to a bird! We were hooked from the start and we all said we would have turned around and completed the entire tour again in a heartbeat.
After our ziplining adventure, we stopped at a seafood restaurant and had the catch of the day, more red beans and rice, and homemade rum punch. We shopped at the port, drank ice cold beers at a bar in the center of town, and were welcomed back by Royal Caribbean's friendly staff just before dinner. I loved the energy of this time of day. Swarms of sun-kissed cruisers making their way back to the ship, greeted with smiles, fruit-infused water, and of course, hand sanitizer from numerous cruise staff members on the deck. It was such a fun, unique experience and one we looked forward to every late afternoon.
Our third port day, Tuesday, would end up being our favorite island of the trip. The energy immediately felt different upon stepping foot in lovely Antigua. There was a steel drum band playing Bob Marley, and the port area had a much more local, less touristy feel to it. With friends, Kyle and Megan and Brent and Kelli, we decided to find a cabbie who would take us around the island and help us find a beach to spend the afternoon. Again deciding to not book through the cruise line, things felt a little off at first as this man who promised us a deal took us on a hike to find his driver, finally stopping at a clunky black mini van without A/C. We rolled with it and asked our driver to show us Antigua. And I tell you what, A/C or not, the culture, people, and beauty of this place spoke for itself.
Our first stop was English Harbour. This quaint little village town was full of history and charm and my camera couldn't keep up with the details. We strolled through the village before walking the harbour and drooling over the multi-million dollar sailboats docked from all over the world, there for a sailing competition that started that week. I tucked this little gem away, dreaming of one day returning and staying in the quaint little inn that overlooked the harbor.
After English Harbour, our cabbie said he had one more stop for us before the beach. We climbed higher and higher in the rainforest before reaching a clearing at what only felt like the top of the world. And as he opened our van door he said, "Welcome to Shirley Heights."
As if he weren't already sold on the island of Antigua, our afternoon at Jolly Beach was enough to get us all talking time shares while we sipped our frozen cocktails and dined on shrimp wraps with our toes in the sand. The white sand beaches and light turquoise water were straight out of a travel pamphlet. I always remember seeing pictures of the beach when I was growing up and this was it. These pictures are unedited and still blow my mind a little. It was gorgeous!
It was in Antigua that I started to admire what the locals referred to as Caribbean time. Everything moved slower and the people just seemed more content with less to do. The color and culture was vibrant every where I looked. From the mango trees and banana stands on the side of the road, the bright aqua and peach houses tucked in beds of rainforest, the small friendly honks cabbies gave to passerbys, and all the people on their porches, rocking on swings and talking to neighbors, made me wonder if we're doing it right in the States. It was clear that in many ways, these people had less, yet they seemed so fulfilled. As we drove through the narrow streets, taking in the windowless houses and barefoot kids playing on the sidewalk, we asked the driver what the lifestyle was like in Antigua. And he said this: "We be very blessed in Antigua. We have a lot. In all my life living here, I've never seen poverty. We don't have that here." A beautiful truth in a truly beautiful place.
The views of Antigua from our ship were wonderful! The islands were all so distinctly different from each other.
Visit here for Part 1 and Part 3 of our trip!