Early on this year I spent a lovely couple of days on the small Eastern Caribbean island of St. Kitts, the main constituent island of the nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. And as the dreary Canadian winter begins to set in, I find myself missing the brilliant sunshine and friendly faces I had experienced way back in February.
Since St. Kitts isn’t a place on many people’s radar – even among the "Sun destinations" – I thought it’d be fun to shed some light on the variety of activities you can enjoy while you're here, and hopefully nudge it onto your list of vacation ideas as you begin planning for Reading Week travel season.
Getting to St. Kitts
Like most Caribbean islands, St. Kitts has plenty of connections to major North American gateways by air. Air Canada has a weekly flight from Toronto, while American Airlines flies from Miami, Charlotte, and New York JFK. If you’re planning on island-hopping through the Caribbean (which is a surprisingly expensive undertaking), LIAT Airlines can get you from St. Kitts onwards to the neighbouring islands of Antigua, Barbados, and Sint Maarten.
1. Enjoy the Resorts
On my trip I stayed at the Marriott Resort St. Kitts on the island’s Atlantic side, where I had a great experience. The rooms were spacious and clean, and the public areas are quite beautiful, albeit a little dated. Still, for 35,000 Marriott Rewards points a night, this resort is my top pick if you’re looking to fund a good chunk of your vacation with your points!
If you’re looking for something a touch fancier, try the newly-opened Park Hyatt St. Kitts, or perhaps the Four Seasons Nevis on St. Kitts’s sister island. The Park Hyatt is nestled on Cockleshell Beach, located on the shallow waters between St. Kitts and Nevis, where the waves are said to be much calmer than the Atlantic coast.
Meanwhile, the Four Seasons benefits from Nevis’s relative peace and seclusion, though of course that comes at a healthy price markup (and no ability to book on points either).
2. Tour the Island
St. Kitts is not big – you could easily complete a drive around the island and explore many of its nooks and crannies within a day. If you’d like to hire a taxi driver, keep in mind that while most tour packages around the island have a fixed duration and price (like US$60 for a three-hour tour that includes Brimstone Hill Fortress and the Rodney Gardens), you should be able to strike a deal with a driver to bring you around the island at your own pace.
Alternatively, you can rent a moped and take to the road on your own – there aren’t many cars on the island, so navigating the roads ought to be a simple pleasure. The road around the island passes through many small villages, which offer a glimpse into the peaceful and colourful lives that the islanders lead.
3. Go Ziplining
On the St. Kitts mainland, one of the most exciting things to do is to go ziplining through the treetop canopy. Sky Safari operates a series of criss-crossing cables throughout the island’s densely forested interior, offering thrill-seekers an excellent way to get the adrenaline pumping.
There are five ziplines in total, and guests can pick from three tour options – a 2.5-hour full tour of all five lines, a half tour, and a ziplining and river walk combination experience.
4. Visit Basseterre
The capital of St. Kitts and one of the oldest towns in the Eastern Caribbean, Basseterre is home to about one-fourth of the island nation's population. Port Zante, the (relatively) commercialized port area, is where you’ll likely find yourself if you’re visiting St. Kitts as part of a cruise.
There isn’t actually much to do in Basseterre besides helping out the local economy with some of your tourist dollars, but it’s by far the best place to spend a few hours if you’d like to get a feel for what everyday life is like on the island.
Visit a local restaurant and drink a few Caribs, or just wander along the streets lined with churches, schools, post offices – everything one might need in life packed into 6 square kilometres. Hang out by the street food vendors on the main drag and take note of how everyone seems to know everyone else. Life moves at an idyllic pace around these parts of the world, but the sense of community is as palpable as any other place I’ve been to.
5. Brimstone Hill Fortress
A stunningly well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage site, Brimstone Hill Fortress is the crown jewel of St. Kitts. No tour of the island would be complete without a stop at what was one of the Caribbean's most impregnable fortresses.
The fortress commands incredible views of the surrounding Caribbean Sea, which make for a fantastic photo op. Beyond the aesthetics, though, Brimstone Hill played host to one of the most dramatic moments in St. Kitts and Nevis's history, when the French Navy laid siege to the British-held fortress in 1792. Briefly under French rule, St. Kitts was then transferred back to the British a year later under the Treaty of Paris, and Brimstone Hill Fortress was swiftly reinforced.
6. Hike Up Sir Timothy’s Hill
Considered by Kittitians to be the ideal morning exercise, a climb up Sir Timothy’s Hill is strenuous but rewarding. Located at the junction of St. Kitts’s panhandle and the island proper, this hill is where you’ll find the island’s most famous view – that of the glimmering Caribbean Sea on one side and the wavy Atlantic Ocean on the other, separated by the thin cut of land that snakes off towards Nevis.
7. Check Out South Friar’s Bay
Located along the island’s southeastern panhandle, South Friar’s Bay is a popular local hangout and a gathering point for tourists looking for a slightly off-the-beaten-path beach experience.
Here, you’ll find the Shipwreck Beach Bar, which serves excellent cocktails – the "Ting and Sting" is a local favourite – and Caribbean delicacies such as conch fritter and roasted plantains. Take the opportunity to befriend the monkeys of the island as well, but don't get too close; as the islanders will tell you, they aren’t the least bit afraid to disrupt the peace.
8. Explore Turtle Beach
Turtle Beach cradles the lagoon-like body of water at the extreme southern tip of St. Kitts. A large coral reef protects the waters of Turtle Beach from the roiling Atlantic, so take advantage of the clear-blue water for snorkelling and diving against a backdrop of dazzling wild fish. When you've recharged from a carefree day at the beach, head over to the nearby ferry terminal for a...
9. Day Trip to Nevis
St. Kitts is one of the Caribbean islands that thankfully hasn't yet been overrun by tourists, but Nevis, its sister island, takes seclusion to the next level.
A dormant volcano dominates the landscape, and most Nevisians live in villages dotted around the small island. Notably, the settlement of Charlestown, Nevis's designated capital, was the birthplace of American statesman Alexander Hamilton, and you can visit the small museum dedicated to the life of Hamilton and Nevisian history in general.
A great way to discover the natural beauty of Nevis is to go for a round of golf at the Four Seasons, whose golf course brings you on a winding path around Nevis Peak, the island's silent volcano.
St. Kitts made for an awesome trip, and was a fantastic gateway towards getting to know the Eastern Caribbean islands. I'd definitely encourage anyone looking for a dead-of-winter getaway to give St. Kitts a look-in – after all, award travel is simple and affordable, the Caribbean sunshine never gets old, and most importantly, there's quite a variety of things to do on the island to make it a memorable trip.