With its cream-colored sandy shores, swaying coconut trees and warm turquoise waters, it’s tempting never to leave the beach when vacationing in St Kitts. But for those willing to explore, there is so much more to discover.
Once known as the gateway to the Caribbean, this idyllic island, tucked away in the northern region of the Lesser Antilles archipelago, encourages visitors to “awaken their sense of wander” and journey to this hidden gem.
From ziplining above the rainforest canopy to taking a scenic railway tour, there are plenty of ways to soak up the island’s rich history and natural beauty. In this travel guide, Elite Traveler takes a look at the diverse range of experiences St Kitts has to offer.
The island is home to an array of pristine, crowd-free beaches perfect for whiling away an afternoon topping up your tan. In the north, you can explore the striking black sand volcanic shores at Dieppe Bay, while southern spots like Cockleshell Beach and Banana Bay boast stunning views of neighboring island Nevis.
Nature lovers will be pleased to hear that almost a quarter of the island is covered by lush rainforest, teeming with wildflowers, tropical birds, and green vervet monkeys. Consider hiking to the top of Mount Liamuiga (the highest point on the island) for spectacular views of St Kitts. Those with an adventurous side can descend via rope into the crater of the dormant volcano before hiking back down.
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Adrenaline junkies can also zipline over the rainforest canopy and Wingfield Estate, reaching speeds of up to 50 mph. During the exhilarating tour, there are five lines to explore, soaring 250 ft above the valley floor. And if you’d rather keep your feet firmly on the ground, drive to Timothy Hill on the island’s southeast peninsula for panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Of course, the best way to explore the picturesque surroundings is by boat. Consider chartering a luxury catamaran and sail to Nevis (St Kitts smaller sister island) for the day. For snorkeling, head to South Friars Bay for a chance to observe the underwater sea life up close and stop by at the Carambola Beach Club to sample the restaurant’s culinary delights (you can’t go wrong with the freshly caught lobster tail).
And when it comes to dive sites, you’re spoilt for choice. One of the most popular spots is the River Taw Wreck, located just offshore at Frigate Bay. The maximum depth is relatively shallow at just 40 ft so divers of all abilities can explore the wreck of the cargo ship that sunk here 30 years ago.
Whether you’re enjoying a barbeque on the beach or dining at one of the island’s gourmet eateries, you’re in for a treat with St Kitt’s culinary offerings. As you would expect, seafood is the star of the show. Delicious dishes to look out for during your stay include stewed salt fish (St Kitt’s national dish), conch fritters and roti (a flatbread with fillings that range from curried vegetables to shrimp).
Passionate chefs are on-hand to create mouthwatering meals that make full use of the island’s bounty of local produce. Head to the Pavilion Restaurant in Christophe Harbour to sample authentic Caribbean cuisine with beautiful ocean views (the sautéed calamari is not to be missed). And if you’re looking for something a bit more casual, try the Reggae Beach Bar and Grill for handcrafted cocktails and delicious fresh grilled fish.
As the first British and French colony in the Caribbean, St Kitts is home to an array of historic landmarks that give a haunting insight into the island’s colonial past. At the start of your trip, consider taking the St Kitts Scenic Railway tour. Originally built between 1912 and 1926 to transport sugar cane between the island’s plantations and factory in Basseterre, today the train takes passengers on a three-hour loop of the coastline, with a knowledgeable guide on-hand to point out the old sugar estates and abandoned windmills as they pass.
It’s also worth taking a tour of the Wingfield Estate – a sugar plantation owned by Thomas Jefferson’s ancestors. Dating back to the mid-1600s, the ruins – which include an aqueduct, mill house, and subterranean tunnel – paint a powerful picture of what life would have been like for the slaves that worked here. Recent excavations also revealed what is thought to be the oldest intact rum distillery in the Caribbean where you can take a tour to learn about the distilling process.
And before you leave be sure to visit the island’s Unesco World Heritage site, Brimstone Hill National Park. Situated nearly 800 feet above sea level on the western coast of St Kitts, the meticulously preserved fortress was designed by British military engineers and built by slave labor in the 17th Century to protect the coastline from sea attack. Stop in at the Fort George Museum to see the exhibits and displays, and learn about the fort’s historic past.
St Kitts is well known for its laid-back atmosphere and friendly, welcoming people. Make sure you visit the Caribelle Batik on the Romney Manor Estate during your stay to watch the local artists demonstrate traditional batik techniques using molten wax to create bright, colorful clothing and learn about the history of the ancient art form. Afterward, head to the shop to browse the unique fabrics, gifts and accessories and pick up a souvenir to take home.
And while you’re there drop by at the Rainforest Bar where you can spot birds and monkeys in the canopy below, while sipping on the delicious signature punch made with local amber rum.
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