When Christopher Columbus sailed past St. Kitts in 1493, little did he know that the small island he reportedly named St. Christopher was to remain one of the most authentic and naturally unspoilt of the Caribbean Islands in the following centuries. But this is St. Kitts today: a gem in the Caribbean and a perfectly enchanting island which symbolises the definition of perfection. As one of the few places on earth where the rainforest is still expanding, St. Kitts is a natural paradise offering stunning vistas for explorers and plentiful leisure activities for adventurers, alongside a genuine warm hospitality. Warm summer evenings, cosy beach bars and picturesque landscapes offer an invitation to stroll along the beach and to ‘lime’ – which is a Kittitian expression for having a drink in good company, relax and chat.
Topping all that, St. Kitts also offers a high-end luxury product. A YU lounge and private air terminal was established in 2014, a superyacht marina inaugurated in 2015 with new berths being added and several new luxury resorts in planning. Two new championship golf courses are also in development including the Irie Fields par 71, 18-hole championship golf course at Kittitian Hill designed by Ian Woosnam and an 18-hole golf course designed by Tom Fazio as part of the Christophe Harbour Development.
Facts: The island is 23 miles long and 5 miles wide and is separated from its sister island Nevis by a two-mile wide channel called The Narrows. It is home to approx. 40,000 inhabitants.
Climate: Hot and tropical climate throughout most of the year tempered by trade winds. Drier season from November-April with a traditional rainy season from May-October. Rainfall also depends on altitudes.
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar (US Dollar also widely accepted)
How to get there: from London Gatwick (British Airways twice weekly on Wednesday and Saturday)
How to get around: Car hires, local taxis, local tour guides and buses
1. Play Golf
The Royal St. Kitts Golf Club, adjacent to the St. Kitts Marriott Resort and Royal St. Kitts Hotel, offers an 18-hole, Par 71 course featuring water hazards on 10 holes, 80 bunkers and a multitude of coconut palm trees. Easily one of the most scenic courses in the region, Royal St. Kitts uniquely allows golfers to play two full holes on the Caribbean Sea and three complete holes on the Atlantic Ocean.
2. Explore Brimstone Hill Fortress
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Brimstone Hill Fortress and National Park is easily one of the most breath-taking ‘must-do’ activities during a visit to St. Kitts. Located 800ft above sea level in the north-west of the island, it is one of the best preserved in the Americas, a monument to the ingenuity of the British military engineers who designed it and to the skill, strength and endurance of the African slaves who built and maintained it. Known as the “Gibraltar of the West Indies” as it dominated the battles in the 18th Century, Brimstone Hill brings history to life through several exhibition rooms featuring life in the Fortress.
3. Conquer Mount Liamuiga
Mount Liamuiga is not just any mountain, but a dormant volcano whose last eruption took place around 1800 years ago. It belongs to the highest peaks in the Caribbean archipelago, at almost 3,800 feet tall. Its slopes are embedded in rainforest, changing into a cloud forest further up giving way to a 0.6 mile wide, beautiful crater at the summit, sometimes known as the ‘Salad Bowl’. Mount Liamuiga might look intimidating, but those who rise to the challenge of hiking to the top, joining one of the many guided tours, will soon learn that the ascent is worth every step and bead of sweat as they take in the stunning views around. “Liamuiga” means fertile land and reflects on the rich and productive organic soil which can be found all over the island.
Next to playing golf and hiking Mount Liamuiga, there is a huge range of leisure and sporting activities on the island. For those with adventure in mind, the lush landscape presents opportunities for rainforest hikes, safari tours off the beaten path and state-of-the-art zip-lining. The destination does not disappoint with its range of watersports either offering the thrills of skydiving, kitesurfing and, flyboarding alongside the gentler snorkelling along the scenic coastline.
For a slower pace, take time out to browse local craft shops and cafes in the capital, Basseterre, or simply take a nostalgic tour of the island on board the unique Scenic Railway, also called the “Sugar Train” formerly used to transport sugar from the plantations to the factories. The railway is the only one of its kind in the Caribbean and follows the beautiful northern and eastern coastlines.
For those who want to get close to nature, St. Kitts is blessed with a myriad of beautiful, complex ecosystems containing a range of photogenic wildlife and a whole host of experiences. Enjoy the huge variety of flora and fauna during a rainforest hike, join birdwatchers on the lookout for more than 200 species of birds, visit the famous Black Rocks at the north-eastern coast or walk along the beaches at night, looking out for endangered Leatherback Turtles with the St. Kitts Sea Turtles Network.
Visitors embarking on an expedition of discovery will come across signs of a colourful historic past in St. Kitts when visiting the UNESCO Brimstone Hill Fortress and National Park or taking the scenic railway through old sugar cane estates with abandoned windmills and chimneys. There are also remnants of a pre-European Carib culture to be found when approaching the Wingfield Estate and historic Romney Manor – Carib petroglyphs bearing witness to a long-forgotten past of war, conquest and victory, but also telling about a rich non-European culture wiped out by new European settlers. Today, the area known as Bloody Point where the extinction of a whole population took place, seems haunted and leaves visitors with a chill in the heat.
There are also heritage sites with a less bloody past to be found, such as Sandy Point where the first European travellers set foot on the island and where the inspiration came for the popular Amazing Grace hymn; the capital, Basseterre, where historic buildings reflect a mixture of French and British architectural influences; and the beautiful surroundings of Caribelle Batik, offering an insight in to the traditional methods of batik making.
From Conch Fritters and Johnny Cakes to stewed saltfish or goat water, a local speciality stew and traditional favourite, Kittitian food represents an authentic taste of the Caribbean, St. Kitts style, complemented by American and European influences. The island is gaining a reputation for its international cuisine and today offers its visitors a number of fine dining options across a range of restaurants. Image of Belle Mont Farm courtesy of Suzanne Jones - thetravelbunny.com
For casual dining and a laid back vibe, to suit every preference, these include, amongst many,
Mr. X's Shiggidy Shack Beach Bar:
Great food and even better ambiance await visitors at this casual local favourite on St. Kitts famous ‘Strip’, which also offers a range of water sports during the day. This beachfront bar is quite literally a shack, set directly on the sandy beaches of Frigate Bay where guests can enjoy fresh daily caught seafood, local dishes infused with tropical fruits, or perhaps a rum daiquiri while dipping their toes in the sand.. To keep the atmosphere lively, fire eaters and live bands perform weekly, making this a must see venue.
Reggae Beach Bar and Grill: Recognised as one of the top 45 Beach Bars in the world, Reggae supplies guests with fresh seafood and barbeque dishes daily. Located on the South East Peninsula, a trip to Reggae Beach Bar not only guarantees delicious food but breath-taking and serene oceanfront views.
Ballahoo Aqua Blue Restaurant: This local hotspot is set directly in Basseterre’s Circus making it the perfect spot to watch the city come to life. The menu is comprehensive, ranging from fresh local seafood to top quality steaks and burgers, plenty of local roti favourites, a range of sushi and speciality Ballahoo cocktails.
With seafood specialities in mind, several island restaurants are a must to visit and these include:
Sprat Net Bar & Grill:
Sprat Net is a family run island hot spot situated on the entrance to Old Road where the motto is: “WE ONLY EAT THE ONES WE CATCH". By tradition, the main dish of either freshly grilled fish, lobster, spare ribs or chicken is served with Corn on the Cob, Potato, Bread Roll and "Johnny Cake" (Fried Dumpling) in a casual setting by the beach.
Arthur’s Restaurant: The newest addition to the Belle Mont Farm culinary roster, Arthur’s offers an oceanfront dining experience on the black sand beach in Dieppe Bay, just a 10-minute drive from the resort. The restaurant’s name pays tribute to Arthur Leaman, the former House & Garden Magazine editor behind the legendary, Golden Lemon Inn. Its menu reflects the freshest catch of the day.
Fisherman’s Wharf: The Ocean Terrace Inn’s legendary seafood grill and bar, is a true St. Kitts institution. Featuring contemporary modern décor, an open Display Kitchen and nautical themed Bar and Lounge, menus feature the ‘Catch of the Day’ amongst a variety of seafood, with customer favourites of lobster, steaks, and chicken and famous conch chowder. Visit on Friday for the ’Fish Fry’ and Karaoke’.
For a romantic evening or a dining treat, high-end options include:
In a romantic ocean view dining room and against the unique setting of an inside swimming pool, the cuisine at Marshall’s is a simple, yet elegant mix of local ingredients, laced with ethnic elements to create a New World of Dining. Speciality freshly prepared dishes range from Crab Cakes to Lobster Thermidor, complemented by a wide selection of delicious house-made Sorbets.
The Verandah at OTI: 'The Verandah' offers a spectacular setting with panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea and Basseterre Bay. As its name suggests, the restaurant features a unique nine-foot wrap around verandah that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, transforming into a romantic setting in the evening with a Carib-Asian menu infused with Asian flavours. The kitchen takes a special pride in finding fresh produce grown locally and with a weekly changing menu, so there's always something new and exciting in store for the discerning traveller looking to voyage through Caribbean culture.
Spice Mill Restaurant:
Caribbean flare is what guests can expect from this serene beachside venue. Cuisine from the Spice Mill relies heavily on Caribbean staples as a base and then infuses their dishes with influences from Indian, Asian, and Spanish cooking. Blend their unique dishes with the restaurants breath taking ocean views and rum cocktails and guests are left with a highly memorable dining experience.
Specialising in both Indian and Chinese fine cuisine, the Bombay Blues culinary team prepares a tantalising variety of gourmet and exotic dishes at this restaurant above the Sugar Bay Club. Offering delicacies such as Vindaloo and Lo Mein amongst traditional favourites, guests can expect a highly authentic dining experience while taking in the sweeping views of Frigate Bay and serene golf course.
Palm Terrace at Ottley's Plantation Inn:
For visitors looking for an exclusive place to dine, Ottley’s is a sure bet. Set in the stonewalls of the Plantation’s old sugar factory, Ottley’s presents guests not only with savoury Caribbean-International dishes but also an environment filled with beautiful old school charm. Their dinner menu changes nightly so stop by for delicious food and easy elegance and make sure the restaurant’s renowned Sunday Brunch is also on the schedule.
The Kitchen at Belle Mont Farm:
A ‘Farm to Table’ experience at the new Kittitian Hill development. Located at the Great House, along with its bar, The Mill, the Kitchen offers sweeping views of rain-forested mountains and farm-to-table fare. Here, guests come together in a kitchen table atmosphere to enjoy the best food in the West Indies – which is fished, farmed and foraged from the ocean and land around Belle Mont Farm – introducing diners to ingredients they’ve never heard of, and dishes they may have never tried before.
Carambola Beach Club:
Located on the picturesque South Friar’s Bay beach, Carambola offers modern European cuisine with Caribbean influences as well as a tapas menu and a sushi/oyster bar, while one of its defining features is its 4,000 bottle wine cellar with select vintages from nearly every wine-growing region in the world. For those in need of extra pampering, there are beach beds and a dedicated massage area, with access to a range of watersports.
Pavilion Beach Club at Christophe Harbour:
The luxury and exclusive Pavilion Beach Club at Sandy Bank Bay now offers dinner reservations for non-Christophe Harbour members. Highlighting the epitome of exclusivity and elegance in the Christophe Harbour environment, guests receive high-end treatment as well as delicious menus. Enjoy gourmet cooking, excellent drinks, and spectacular views all from the comfort of the club.
Additional dining options include restaurants at several of St. Kitts major hotels including the brand new Samurai Tepanyaki restaurant at the Sugar Bay Club at Frigate Bay where exquisite Japanese cuisine is skilfully prepared for guests at their table.
At Timothy Beach Resort right by the Caribbean sea, its restaurant Sunset Bay features family favourites and there is a special Caribbean buffet on Sundays; while at the St. Kitts Marriot Resort and Royal Beach Casino, there are no less than 8 restaurants including the popular Blu Seafood Restaurant and Italian, La Cucina.
Other notable beach venues are Shipwreck and Jam Rock at South Friars Bay.
The island’s signature drink, Rum Punch, is served almost everywhere. Every bar has their own twist on the recipe and it’s usually a bit of a secret. It’s agreed that it must have four particular ingredients to work; rum, lime juice and two types of fruit juice. Angostura bitters are added and a sprinkling of nutmeg to give the punch an extra punch!
Roti is a flour pancake or wrap, like a tortilla but the Caribbean version is a bit lighter. It has various fillings including curried or fiery jerk chicken, mutton, shrimp or chick-peas for a veggie option. They’re the perfect snack for a day on the beach spent ‘liming’ (chillin’) with friends and Reggae Beach Bar and Grill is the perfect location.
Lobster is plentiful in the waters around St Kitts so it’s offered on many menus. The Blue Seafood Restaurant is just one of eight restaurants at the beachside St Kitts Marriott resort you’ll be spoilt for choice trying to decide which to eat at.
These little golden balls of loveliness can be found in any St Kitts’ restaurant worth its salt. They’re made of deep-fried unleavened bread and are slightly sweet. Sometimes coconut is added too. Great dipped into your goat water or sliced open with some salt fish or smoked wahoo slipped inside. You must not leave St Kitts without trying Johnny cakes!