The island of St Kitts is just simply stunning – full of sandy beaches, sugar cane fields, volcanic peaks and lush green rainforest it really is one of nature’s finest. It covers only 68 square miles but packs punch with all it has to offer.
The capital of St Kitts is Basseterre which is located on the island’s south coast. The city of Basseterre has experienced much devastation in the past, much of it through natural disasters including earthquakes, hurricanes and floods. However, there’s a spirit here among locals that offers the best and most relaxed vibe and they are so welcoming to visitors and cruise ships.
Population: 14,000 people (as of 2018)
Climate: Temperatures average 27°C year-round meaning it is mostly hot whenever you choose to visit.
Currency: the local currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, however, the US dollar is widely accepted.
When to visit: The summer, peak season, is between the months of December and April – the same as most Caribbean islands. May and June are considered the winter months and thus see fewer tourists.
Flight times from the UK: Flights to St Kitts from London, UK, take just over 10 hours. This includes an hours layover in Antigua but passengers do not have to get off the plane.
Fun fact: The country is famous for having a large array of bird species – over 200 in fact! So when visiting be sure to keep an eye on the sky!
The port of Basseterre is named Port Zante and is located on the southwestern coast of St Kitts. It has a welcome centre with a large shopping area for all your duty-free purchases. The port has capacity for two berths and so there shouldn’t be too many ships docking at the same time. The island’s museum is also located in the port area and is worth a quick visit to immerse yourself in the island’s culture and history.
Whilst Basseterre is easily reached by foot from the port and is easy to explore as it’s all laid out in square blocks, most passengers docking here will choose to opt for a guided tour or shore excursion to see the islands main tourist hot spots. However, if you do choose to stay local to the port then there’s still plenty to see in Basseterre including the Circus Clock Tower, the courthouse, various cathedrals, shops, and plenty of photogenic buildings in pastel colours. On some days there will also b a local market selling fruit/veg, craft items and tourist souvenirs – don’t miss the sugar cakes!
Places of Interest in Basseterre, St Kitts:
St Kitts Scenic Railway
One of the most popular things to do when visiting St Kitts is take a ride on the St Kitts Scenic Railway. This heritage railway follows an old 18-mile narrow-gauge trail that used to be used for the transportation of sugar cane during the island’s sugar manufacturing days. Whilst onboard there is commentary detailing the sights and the history, and often a choir in traditional dress to keep you entertained. The 3-hour tour is completed with 12 miles on a sightseeing bus completing the full 30-mile circular route around the island. Along the journey visitors will see abandoned windmills, sugar cane estates, amazing views, Brimstone Fortress and more. Most cruise lines that dock in St Kitts will offer an excursion here. It isn’t the cheapest of excursions, with, for example, Marella offering one for £76.
For those looking for an outdoor active challenge then look no further than Mount Liamuiga. This huge extinct volcano is 3792 foot tall and is located on the Northwest side of the island. Some cruise companies will offer excursions here for the chance to see panoramic views and get a good hike ticked off!
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
Not far from the port you will find Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. The fort was built in the 17th century and is located at the top of an 800-foot hill that looks down over the Caribbean sea offering stunning views. The fort is pretty impressive as its the most preserved fort in the Caribbean and is now named one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It was designed by the British and built by African slave labour so and so there is plenty of history to the place. An audio guide is available for those keen to learn more. From the top, there are awesome views out to sea and the rest of the island and this spot is a popular one for tourism.
The site of Romney Manor encompasses 8 acres and the grounds have a strong sugar distilling history. There are no organised tours offered here but visitors are able to wander the gardens at their leisure and enjoy some rum punch at the Rainforest Bar. Often if you go with the ship line then they will guide you around. Also on site is a shop and collection of the Caribelle Batik works which can be admired and often you can see colourful clothes being made. Of course, you have the chance to do some retail therapy in the store too! Admission is $3 to enter. A stop here often makes up part of a cruise excursion itinerary.
Fairview Great House & Botanical Garden
Another monument house with a long history that can be visited whilst on the island of St Kitts is Fairview Great House. The house was formerly owned by a rich plantation owner and visitors are welcome to look around. Apparently, Prince Charles has stayed at the house when it was previously a hotel – if it’s good enough for the Royals then it’s good enough for us! Rum tastings and food tours are also offered here. Again, as with Romney Manor, Fairview Great House is often part of a guided excursion.
Palms Court Gardens & Restaurant
Palms Court Garden is a rather fancy privately owned home which boasts boats stunning views over Basseterre harbour and beyond. Visitors can enjoy the oasis of lush tropical gardens as well as an infinity pool and elegant restaurant. It is a $2 fee to access the 1-acre garden and it is free for children. Should you wish to enjoy some time at the pool then a day pass costs $15 for adults and $12 for children. It really does look very picturesque!
Sky Safari Zip Line
For those feeling a little more adventurous then head to the Sky Safari Zip Line. Most cruise lines offer a pre-booked excursion here and the company recommend you book through them to avoid any disappointment due to limited numbers. Just so you know, if you were booking independently then a 1-hour tour featuring 5 zip lines costs $60 for an adult and $45 for a child so you don’t want to pay the cruise line much more than this!
As you can imagine the island of St Kitts is home to many beautiful beaches. Popular with cruise passengers are South Friars Beach and Frigate Bay South as they are the easiest to reach from the cruise port. Other noteworthy beaches include Cockleshell Beach, Frigate Bay North, Sandbank Bay and Majors Bay Beach – each as stunning as the next. Many local taxis will be happy to offer you transfers to the beaches or even do a customised trip if you want to visit more than one. Be sure to take your snorkelling gear and look out for tropical fish and turtles!
Tours and Excursions:
According to TripAdvisor, the most popular tour operator for St Kitts is Greg’s Safari’s which specialises in off-road island adventures. Greg’s Safari’s offer various tours including the 4×4 island safari and beach tour, and 4×4 sugar heritage tour. The ‘4×4 island safari and beach tour’ is an “off the beaten track tour” exploring the mountains, beaches and south-east peninsular of St Kitts with a beach stop. This tour takes 3.5 hours and costs $65 for adults. The ‘4×4 sugar heritage tour‘ takes guests for a look around the 300-year legacy of sugar production on the island and includes a trip to Shadell Great House. This tour costs $70 and lasts 3-4 hours.
For those wanting to head into the rainforest then there are various tour operators offering the chance to immerse yourselves in St Kitt’s eco-system. The tour we looked at began in the gardens of Romney Manor and was followed by a trek through the Central Forest Reserve Natural Park. This trip takes 3 hours and costs just over £50.
With so many lush beaches to explore then a tour of the best ones might be the best way to see them. Private tours to visit 2 of the best beaches will cost about £33 for a 5-hour stay.
For thrill-seekers, there’s always the option of getting on the water and crashing through the waves on a speedboat. Hiring your own speedboat for two this excursion sees you explore the southeast peninsula of st St Kitts on this self-drive tour. This type of experience will set you back about £57 a person.
We love the look and sound of St Kitts and know we would find it hard to choose what we would like to do if docked here. I think for us it’s a toss-up between the St Kitt’s Railway and a rainforest trek, but do let us know what takes your fancy in the comments below! We would love to hear from you!