The good buys here are local handicrafts, including leather (goatskin) items, baskets, and coconut shells. Some good values can also be found in clothing and fabrics, especially Sea Island cottons. Store hours vary but are likely to be Monday to Saturday from 8am to noon and 1 to 4pm.
If your time is limited, head first for the Pelican Shopping Mall, Bay Road, which contains some two dozen shops. Opened in 1991, it also offers banking services, a restaurant, a philatelic bureau, and the administrative offices of the St. Kitts Tourist Office. Some major retail outlets in the Caribbean, including Little Switzerland, have branches here. Also check out the offerings along the quaintly named Liverpool Row, which has some unusual merchandise, and Fort Street.
Associated with the island's burgeoning cruise-ship industry, Port Zante is a shopping mall built just after the turn-of-the-millennium directly on landfill that was dumped into what old-timers designated as Horseshoe Harbor. Cruise ships can berth at quays immediately adjacent to Port Zante, in a way that's replicated in Barbados, and whose role model the St. Kittitians copied. The Queen Mary stops frequently, disgorging passengers who shop, shop, shop. Port Zante, whose name derives from an ancient Greek myth, is the home of about 60 shops, with emphasis on things that glitter, especially jewelry. Although there are dozens of shops purveying upscale goods, one of the noteworthy, best-established shops is Linen and Gold (tel. 869/465-9766), which offers a limited selection of gold and silver jewelry, usually in bold modern designs. But the real appeal of this shop is its tablecloths, doilies, and napkins, laboriously handcrafted in China from cotton, linen, and polyester. The workmanship is as intricate as anything you'll find in the Caribbean.
Ashburry's, the Circus/Liverpool Row, Basseterre (tel. 869/465-8175), is a local branch of a chain of luxury-goods stores based on St. Maarten. This well-respected emporium sells fragrances, fine porcelain, Baccarat crystal, designer handbags, watches, and jewelry at prices 25% to 30% below what you might pay in retail stores in North America; the selection is similar to dozens of equivalent stores throughout the Caribbean.
Spencer Cameron Gallery, 10 N. Independence Sq., Basseterre (tel. 869/465-1617), is set on a dusty plaza ringed with businesses and residential clapboard-sided houses, near the center of Basseterre, and with an exterior brightly painted in tropical colors, this is a leading art gallery. On display are scenes of St. Kitts and Nevis by Brit Rosie Cameron-Smith, along with works by a handful of other mostly West Indian artists. Rosey ("a good-natured English lass in the Tropics") is well known on the island for her paintings of Kittitian Carnival clowns, monkeys, and figurative work, and she also produces greeting cards, postcards, calendars, and lithographs.
The finest gallery on St. Kitts is Kate Design, Mount Pleasant (tel. 869/465-7740; www.katedesign.com), set in a carefully restored West Indian house, on a hillside below the Rawlins Plantation. Virtually all the works on display are by English-born Kate Spencer, who is well known throughout North America and Europe. Her paintings of island scenes range in price from $200 and have received critical acclaim. Also for sale is a series of Ms. Spencer's silk-screened scarves, each crafted from extra-heavy stonewashed silk.
Island Hopper (known as "The Big Shop of the Little Island"), the Circus, below the popular Ballahoo Restaurant, Basseterre (tel. 869/465-1640), is one of St. Kitts's most patronized shops, with the biggest inventory of any store on the island. Notice the all-silk, shift-style dresses from China and the array of batiks made on St. Kitts. About half of the merchandise is from the islands.
Caribelle Batik, at Romney Manor, Old Road, about 15km (9 1/4 miles) west of Basseterre (tel. 869/465-6253; www.caribellebatikstkitts.com), is the most unusual factory in St. Kitts. It was built around 1625 as a manor house for sugar baron Lord Romney. For years, it has been used as the headquarters and manufacturing center for a local clothier, Caribelle Batik, whose tropical cottons sell widely to cruise-ship passengers and tourists from at least three outlets in the eastern Caribbean. The merchandise ranges from scarves to dresses, along with an extensive collection of wall hangings and cushions. In 1995 a tragic fire and hurricane completely gutted the historic building. The manor has now been rebuilt and extended. Consider a stopover here if only to admire the 2 hectares (5 acres) of lavish gardens, where 30 varieties of hibiscus, rare orchids, huge ferns, and a 250-year-old saman tree still draw horticultural enthusiasts. Entrance to the gardens is free.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.