Here's a really popular opinion for you: I love the Caribbean. Every island I've been lucky enough to visit has left me in awe. In awe of the crystal clear blues of the sea, in awe of the freshness of the seafood, in awe of the varying landscapes from one island to the other, in awe of the "rush slowly" mindset that permeates the moment you arrive.
Alright, maybe I'm romanticizing it a bit but what can I say, I seriously love the Caribbean. So much so that it's incredibly tempting to take them up on one of the many digital nomad visas they offer or get the certifications needed to teach at an international school at the Cayman Islands.
St. Kitts and Nevis is no different. With a lush rainforest, two shores that look completely different from one another, and plenty to see and do, you'll love your trip to Saint Kitts and Nevis.
A Little Background on the Islands
Commonly referred to as just "St. Kitts," the small island nation is actually comprised of two neighboring islands a short ferry ride away from one another: larger St. Kitts and small Nevis.
Given the location of the country on the Leeward Islands in the West Indies, one shore faces the Atlantic Ocean. This side of the island has darker and rougher waters. It's also more rocky and not as safe for the leisurely swimming you associate with the Caribbean. On the other shore those, that's where you get those stereotypical Caribbean Sea views. White sand, crystal clear blue waters with hardly a wave await you here.
Saint Kitts is certainly the most popular of the two islands to visit. This is where the St. Kitts cruise port is, the international airport, and a grand majority of the resorts and hotels. The island also boasts most of the things to do as it's bigger and busier.
Nevis, its sister island, on the other hand is small, quaint, and where you'll most likely stay if you've booked a luxury resort like the Four Seasons. They have some great beach bars (more on those later) but unless you just want to lounge in the sand or play 9 on a golf course, you'll most likely just visit Nevis for a day trip.
Traveling Around the Islands
While St. Kitts and Nevis are both compact in size, keep in mind that it can be tough to get from north to south. Unless you rent a car, you'll most likely need to rely on taxis. Public transportation isn't very common here (except the ferry) and walking from one place to another can be difficult if not impossible.
Expect to send a hefty sum on simple transportation if you plan to do all of these things and more while visiting St. Kitts and Nevis.
With this, let's dive into the 6 best things to do in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Things to Know Before You Go
Now that you’re gearing up for your trip and planning the specifics of where and when you’ll go, there are a few things you don’t need to overlook.
I know just how easy it is to look towards the big hike, bucket list city, or beach of my dreams and forget about all of the little things in between that’ll make your trip run as smoothly as possible. Be sure to take into consideration these few things before you go to make sure you get all the good bits of your trip without the stress.
- Make sure you have travel insurance. A good travel insurance, like SafetyWing, will ensure you’re covered in case of emergencies. While you will have to pay upfront for your doctor or hospital costs, unless it’s for a pre-existing condition, you can file a claim and should be reimbursed. For any Americans reading this, fear not, healthcare in pretty much every other country is far more affordable than ours, even if you’re paying out of pocket.
- Do your best to learn a few local phrases in their language. No, I’m not expecting you to be able to have a fluid conversation with locals at the bus stop if you’re just visiting their country for a week but knowing your numbers (for prices), how to order something (“I would like…”), and basic greetings really will take you a long way. Mondly is a great app for phrases and vocabulary.
- Book any popular tours you want to do in advance. I’m really not a great planner and I’ve made this mistake more times than I can count. I plan a trip to a destination knowing that I want to do a sailboat trip or food tour and wait until the day before to book only to realize it’s not available the day I’m in town. Don’t make that mistake - if there is something you know you want to do - book your tour in advance.
- Same thing goes for rental cars. If you want to rent a car to cover more ground in a country, do it in advance. Prices will be more affordable and that way you’re guaranteed to have your wheels waiting for you.
- Last tip certainly isn’t mandatory but it is helpful. Before you start booking your flights, hotels, and tours, consider opening up a travel credit card. Thanks to our Capital One Venture card, my husband and I have gotten countless free flights just by gaining points on everyday expenses.
Take the Ferry to Nevis
Let's start where we left off, with Nevis. This nearly perfectly circular island is really stunning. With Nevis Peak right in the center, you'll have jungle, beach, or a mountain view from anywhere on the island and sometimes all 3 at once.
If you're staying on St. Kitts, it's really simple to get to Nevis. It's just a short boat ride away. You can either take the public ferry, arrange for a water taxi, or go via boat tour. Since we were such a large group, we opted for the water taxi. We were picked up from the pier at Cockleshell Bay Jetty and dropped off directly across the channel.
In less than 30 minutes we had a leisurely ride from island to island, with great views to accompany us.
While on Nevis, the best things to do are:
- Spend the day at the Four Seasons. Even if you're not a guest, you can typically purchase a day pass, go for lunch, or get a tee time. Just be sure you call in advance before showing up as they don't always allow for outside guests to visit.
- Enjoy history at the Alexander Hamilton House & History Museum. Most people, myself included, don't realize that Alexander Hamilton was born in Charlestown, Nevis. This is a good place to visit if you want to learn more about him or St. Kitts and Nevis' history in general.
- Eat & drink plenty. I'll talk more about this in detail below but Nevis has a great strip of beach bars and restaurants on Pinneys Beach that will keep you entertained for hours while you frolic in the sun.
Drink Plenty of Killa Bee
Killa Bee became all of our drink of choice while staying in St. Kitts and Nevis. As someone who doesn't usually enjoy sweet cocktails, I might have drank my bodyweight in Killa Bee.
Made famous by Sunshine's Beach Bar and Grill at Pinneys Beach on Nevis, this rum concoction will have you wanting more. You can buy it by the cup or purchase it in large bottles so you can bring down to beach or back to your hotel to share. If you take a boat tour to Nevis, you should definitely grab a cup or two at Pinneys Beach.
No one quite knows what goes into this secret rum punch but it definitely involves rum (obviously) and passion fruit juice.
Go on an ATV Adventure
Imagine your 80 year old grandma whipping around the rainforest on her own ATV. That was a sight I never thought I'd see until she unabashedly joined us on the ATV tour. Although this might make the tour seem calm, it's anything but.
You'll traverse the thriving rainforest, go through abandoned sugar cane plantations, catch views of the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, skirt along the coast, and end Romney Manor, the beautiful home of St. Kitt's batik production.
At Romney Manor, take a stroll around the gardens to soak up the actual perfection that is this place. If you've on the market for a souvenir and like bringing back art, the batik shop will be your best bet. We tried to find good alternatives in Basseterre and at the cruise ship port but to no avail.
If you want to see more of St. Kitts than just the beaches, this is the island tour for you. Just be warned: you'll get muddy so don't wear anything you can't give a good scrub to afterwards.
Take in the Views at the Timothy Hill Viewpoint
Are you a sucker for breathtaking views? Trick question - who isn't? For the best views on either island, you need to make a stop at Timothy Hill Viewpoint. The easiest way to make this happen is by asking your taxi driver to make a stop here while already driving by. You'll just want to give him or her a larger tip for the trouble.
From here, you'll have a nearly 360 view of the island landscape. To one side, you can see Mount Liamuiga and the hotels and houses that are strewn throughout the northern end of the islands. To the south, you'll see both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in one clear view, with Nevis off in the not so far distance.
Go on a Catamaran Ride
Eager to see the islands from a different vantage point, go snorkeling, and have some drinks with the wind in your hair? You'll want to book a catamaran tour.
The tour we booked took us out along the coast for a few hours, lunch and drinks included. The ride itself was great. For added comfort, I highly recommend you book a boat that has large hammocks in the front of the boat. This allows for large groups to lounge in comfort together. You'll get uninterrupted views and be far more comfortable than sitting in the plastic benches in the back.
The only aspect of the catamaran ride that I didn't enjoy was the snorkeling off Shitten Bay (yes, that's actually it's name). From my experience, the Caribbean Sea is teeming with marine life and is one of the best places I've ever gone snorkeling. This was honestly a disappoint. Maybe it was the area we went to or the time of year, but we saw very few fish or any other type of marine life other than conchs on the sea floor.
That being said, being able to jump in the water and swim around half way through the tour was still a great break. I just wouldn't go into it with the mindset that you're going to see loads of marine life.
A Note on Where to Catch the Catamaran
Most likely your boat tour will take off from the marina (Port Zante Marina) at the cruise ship port (Port Zante). This is right at the capital of St. Kitts, Basseterre. I'm not much of a resort traveler and only stay in places like this on family vacations, like this one.
On my own, I've been living around the world for the past 10 years and really prefer the local side of life whenever someone new. My husband and I took the opportunity before the boat trip to walk around Basseterre while everyone else in our group hung around the port.
While there are a few things to see and do in Basseterre, there's really not much. We walked around ourselves but to get more context you could instead go on a walking tour. You'll learn about Independence Square, Berkeley Square, and the unique architecture you'll find.
If you're not keen for either option, walking around Basseterre or the port, you can pay a visit to The National Museum of St. Kitts. This museum is right at the entrance to Port Zante so you really can't miss it.
Relax on the Many Beaches
Of course you want to know about the beaches - you booked a beach holiday after all. Really if you want to do any of things to do in St. Kitts from this list, let it be beach hopping from spot to spot. After all, what's a Caribbean Island for if not lounging in the sun without a plan?
Saving the best for last, these are the best beaches on St. Kitts and Nevis that you need to make sure to visit:
This beach is located on the Caribbean side of the island on South Friars Bay, near the Timothy Hill Viewpoint. This was by far my favorite beach on St. Kitts and really where you get those stereotypical Caribbean vibes, albeit with more lush rolling hills in the background than I'm used to.
Located at Carambola Beach Club, you can choose to use their amenities and rent beach chairs, have some drinks, and eat. Alternatively, you could walk farther down the coast and make your own private spot.
If you walk far enough in the sand under the palm trees, you'll get to Shipwreck Beach Bar. This is a far more laidback environment for simple, fresh seafood and cold beers. Even if you don't want to eat there, I recommend you take the walk and at least grab a drink before returning.
Banana Bay & Cockleshell Bay Beach
While technically under two names, these bays are side by side, only divided by a small concrete pier that you can easily walk around.
Banana Bay is a strip of beach shaped like - you guessed it - a banana. From end to end, you find plenty of sand to stretch out but most areas are controlled by specific restaurants and bars so most likely you'll need to rent a chair or at least eat or drink there to stay.
While there are plenty of options, we preferred to hang out at Reggae Beach on Cockleshell Beach. The staff was more than friendly, there were plenty of places to sit and on Friday nights they offer a Lobster Fest that does not disappoint. Just come ready because the portions are more than generous.
Frigate Bay is where the St. Kitts Marriott Resort is which is where we stayed. Staying here was great given it's central location and plenty of pools and amenities, like the casino. But, compared to the other beaches on St. Kitts, I can't say it's one of the best.
The beach here is plenty scenic but since it's on the Atlantic Ocean, it has bigger waves, more rocks, and the water is darker. It's just not what you imagine from a Caribbean Island. This doesn't make it inherently bad but if you're visiting for those calm clear waters, this isn't the beach for you.
I won't go into too much detail here as I already covered this when talking about Nevis and Killa Bee but in case you missed that, it's one of the best beaches on St. Kitts and Nevis so you need to add it to your list.
Like Banana Bay & Cockleshell Bay Beach, this beach is full of bars and restaurants so you'll have plenty of options to keep you refueled throughout the day. The only difference is that this area has a larger sandy beach and a bigger area to safely swim.
You'll Love Your Vacation to St. Kitts and Nevis
With only these 6 activities, your time in St. Kitts will be jam packed yet lots of fun. While the two islands themselves are quite small and compact, you won't run out of incredible views and exciting things to do in St. Kitts.