From the soaring, mist-mantled summit of Mount Liamuiga to the powdery Caribbean beachfronts of Oualie, Frigate Bay and Cockleshell, the historic French-flavoured, Anglophone capital of Basseterre to the craggy volcanic chutes of the Black Rocks, the formidable palisades and bunkers of Brimstone Hill to the clattering railway tracks of the old Plantation era, there’s plenty to see and do between the beautiful coastal borders of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Covered in a thick blanket of primeval rainforest and cloud forests, dotted with the crumbling remnants of tobacco farms and imbued with enticing little beach shacks and cocktail bars, world-class golf resorts and uber-luxurious hotels, the duo of islands that forms this federation has something for every type of traveler.
So, wax up the walking boots for the Phillips Trail or don the bikini for a trip to Turtle Bay, and be sure to make a beeline for this; one of the region’s most enticing and enthralling destinations!
Let’s explore the best things to do in St. Kitts and Nevis:
1. Make for the fortress on Brimstone Hill
Unquestionably the most iconic national park in all of St. Kitts and Nevis, the great fortress on Brimstone Hill is a daring and striking example of colonial era military construction.
The site started out as a simple cannon battery, intended to harry the French forces who were controlling Fort Charles on the headlands a little to the east.
However, over the ensuing decades, the citadel grew and grew to become one of the largest in the Americas.
Today, it’s tagged by UNESCO and offers a glimpse at the formidable engineering projects undertaken by colonial powers using African slaves in the Caribbean.
Visitors can come and walk the great palisades, watch re-enactment battles and enjoy sweeping panoramas over the island of Sint Eustatius in the distance.
2. Hike to the top of Mount Liamuiga
Soaring to a whopping 1,156 meters above the Caribbean Sea in the heart of St. Kitts Island, the mighty massif of Mount Liamuiga reigns supreme as the highest peak in the federation and one of the highest in the entire region to boot.
Its ridges come dressed in great swathes of misty rainforest and lush tropical savannah, not to mention oodles of hiking trails, most of which weave out from the Belmont Estate to the colossal crater rim up top.
Treks to the tip and back typically take a whole day to complete, seeing walkers pass primeval groves of old mango trees, delve into cloud forests and take in 360-degree panoramas of the ocean, peppered with Saba and Antigua on the horizon!
3. Find pure luxury on Oualie Beach
Oualie is located just a stone’s throw from the ferry docks, where boats coming across from St. Kitts pull up, facing the sand-bottomed Narrows that run underwater between the two isles.
A truly wonderful enclave of the Nevis coast, the beach comes lined with blooms of tropical flowers and turquoise-hued timber hotels.
There are clusters of royal palms casting their spiny shadows on the ground, while rows of sunbeds and recliners are available for rent.
Meanwhile, mojitos and rum punches flow from the beach shack bar and there are oodles of water sports outfitters offering jet skis and snorkel rental to boot.
Pure tropical luxury!
4. Gasp at the Black Rocks
The Black Rocks are one of the most visible remnants of the historic eruptions that once spewed from the huge crater atop Mount Liamuiga.
They can be found tumbling down to meet the Caribbean rollers on the north-eastern edge of St. Kitts Island.
Craggy and jagged and sprayed by the whitewash of the swells, they shine in anthracite blacks and off-greys.
It’s a truly breath-taking geological wonder to behold, made all the more dramatic by the presence of the roaring whitecaps where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea.
There are oodles of paths and lookout points to enjoy atop the cliffs themselves.
5. Ride the St. Kitts Scenic Railway
Encircling the entire island of St. Kitts, from Conaree Village in the south to Dieppe Bay Town on the north coast and Brimstone Hill on the west side, this winding railway was once the principle means of transporting sugarcane down from the plantations to the docks for trade.
Today, it’s been converted into a scenic tourist track, inviting cruise shippers and other travelers to board the historic whitewashed and painted carriages and ride the clifftop rails.
Calypso bands serenade passengers on-board, while the views are second-to-none, taking in the Black Rocks, the beaches and the crumbling remnants of countless mill houses and colonial factories.
6. Arts and crafts galore at Romney Manor
Set in a series of lush tropical gardens, betwixt colourful explosions of flamboyant plants, mysteriously-carved boulders courtesy of the Amerindians, and royal palms (not to mention that 400-year-old Saman tree – nothing short of legendary on St.
Kitts), historic Romney Manor was once a working plantation.
Today, the cluster of elegant colonial builds has been taken over by local arts and crafts maestros Caribelle Batik.
These guys weave colourful fabrics using the classic Indonesian batik wax method for all to see.
Come take a tour, learn all about the crafting processes and get some bold islander shawls, throws and quilts.
7. Feel the history at Old Road
Dating all the way back to 1624, Old Road remains the oldest British colonial settlement in the entire Caribbean region.
Set above its own rocky bay and below the jungle-dressed peaks of central St. Kitts, the town was first founded by Englishman James Warner.
Explorer and entrepreneur, Warner cultivated tobacco for some years at Old Road, before being forced out when a tenuous peace with the local Kalinago tribes broke down.
Once the capital of the entire archipelago, this sleepy seaside town is now a picture of the historic Caribbean: rustic, aged and peppered with ancient petroglyphs.
8. Have a round at the Royal
Lanky and windblown palms separate the fairways, and the rising volcanic hills of central St. Kitts hem the greens in on all sides.
Meanwhile, the frothy rollers of the Atlantic Ocean crash just meters from the pins and tees, while the salty air wafts over the soft contours and undulations of the grassy hills and bunkers.
Welcome to the acclaimed Royal St. Kitts Golf Club – one of the highest-rated courses in the entire British West Indies.
After a recent redesign at the hands of Canadian course architect Tom McBroom, this Marriot affiliated 18-holer makes for a seriously beautiful and challenging par-71. Traveling golfers: It’s not to be missed!
9. Explore pretty Basseterre
Set in the shadow of St. Kitts’ great volcanic ridges and shrouded by the regular silhouettes of colossal cruise ships, energetic little Basseterre has the veneer of an aged Parisian suburb fused with a pretty English village.
It’s got the same elegant mansions and arcades as New Orleans, and comes punctuated with straight-laced Georgian homes to boot.
Then there’s the lovely little Circus, one of the epicentres of local life here, crowned by the regal clock come fountain of the Berkeley Memorial.
Also, don’t miss St. George’s Anglican Church, built in the 1700s by British settlers, or the roaring terraces of Warner Park – the home of St. Kitts and Nevis cricket!
10. Party and chill on Frigate Bay
The area of Frigate Bay straddles the two sides of St. Kitts.
On its northern edge is where travelers will discover the sprawling Marriot Resort and the aforementioned holes and fairways of the Royal St Kitts Golf Club, all washed over by the wild Atlantic swells.
To the south (on appropriately-named South Frigate Bay) is where the quintessential Caribbean takes over.
Cool beach bars line the shore here, with parties erupting in the Shiggidy Shack in a medley of rum punches and reggae throughout the week.
The swimming is great on both sides, but expect some hefty waves on the north side and warmer, shallower Carib waters (not to mention bigger crowds) on the south.
11. Rums and history at the Fairview Great House
With more than 300 years of history coalescing between the whitewashed arcades and verandas of the elegant Fairview House, it’s easy to see why so many culture vultures and history lovers make a beeline for its beautiful grounds between Old Town Road and Basseterre each year.
Fully restored to mirror its original opulence, the building comes complete with a colossal mahogany dinner table and rich furnishings from centuries gone by.
There are also a series of gorgeous and verdant gardens to wander, peppered with original courtyards and coloured with flamboyant trees, not to mention a chance to sample and buy local rums!
12. Go off-the- beaten-track on the Wingfield-Phillips Rain Forest Nature Trail
Hit the winding mud tracks and forest routes of the Wingfield-Phillips Rain Forest Nature Trail for an up-close-and-personal experience of St Kitts and Nevis’ wild backcountry.
Going deep into the old growth woodlands that sprawl over the heart of St. Kitts, the trail passes endless orchards of exotic fruit trees, delves into ancient valleys of rock carved by volcanic eruptions, and flits between the clifftops of the beautifully rugged Windward coast.
Along the way there are chances to see huge and spiny sandbox trees, swinging vervet monkeys, saman groves and more!
13. Pinney’s Beach: fit for a travel brochure
Ochre-hued and sparkling under the Caribbean sun, Pinney’s Beach is perhaps the single most beautiful beach on Nevis.
It can easily be reached from Charlestown and comes fringed with pockets of swaying coconut palms and sea vines.
The sands are soft and powdery, forming just a narrow strip of cotton-white color before dipping and sloping into the sky-blue hues of the Caribbean Sea.
The whole beach is a whopping four miles long, meaning there’s always somewhere secluded to settle down (even if there’s a cruise ship in dock!), along with plenty of spots for refreshment and water sports rentals.
14. Barbeques and broadside views on Cockleshell Bay
Perched out on the very southern tip of St. Kitts Island, Cockleshell Bay is an endearingly unkempt enclave of the Caribbean coast.
Ad hoc barbeque joints line its two miles of ivory-white coral sands, issuing the smells of Jamaican jerk and Creole spice mixes into the salt-filled air.
And to the front of the bay, there are awesome broadside views of the second largest island in the federation: Nevis.
Vervent monkeys swing and wander by all the while too, and the shore waters are calm and transparent – perfect for a quick dip before headed to nearby Turtle Beach or the Great Salt Pond.
15. Cigars and Carib dining at Bananas
Nestled in acre upon acre of lush tropical gardens close to the Hamilton Estate and beneath the rugged rises of Nevis Peak, this acclaimed eatery serves up unquestionably some of the most mouth-watering foods in the federation.
Menus are a fusion of the Med and the Creole kitchens, with hummus and olive mezzes mixing with saltfish and conch gratins.
There are uber-fresh catches of the day to boot, along with local lobster dishes and BBQ pork with guava sides.
Vegetarians can enjoy Thai curries and gnocchi platters, while that selection of Cuban cigarillos and tasty Caribbean rums is simply not to be missed!