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St Kitts guide

St Kitts national flag

St Kitts at a glance

ST KITTS is a lively, attractive island; developed in parts, with quite good air access and popular with cruise ships. There are a few beaches, some secluded; a limited range of accommodation, but a couple of delightful plantation house hotels and some smaller independent hotels.

Read about St Kitts History, Population and Politics in Island Essentials.

The Definitive St Kitts Guide gives you independent reviews, listings, and information from top travel journalists and Caribbean specialists.

Best for:
Cruise ships, casinos, golf
What for:
Art & Artisans, Corporate/Incentives, Culture & Heritage, Weddings & Romance
Not for:
All-inclusive, Sailing, Naturist
How to get there:
Direct flights from the UK and US or via Puerto Rico, Antigua, Anguilla and St Maarten.
Top tip:
Enjoy sister islands St Kitts & Nevis by spending the day or a few nights on Nevis

St Kitts in depth

By James Henderson

About ST KITTS...

The views of St Kitts from its sister island Nevis are some of the loveliest in the Caribbean. It rises from the Caribbean Sea in graceful green slopes culminating in cloud-topped heights that stand striking against a surreal blue sky. Set in the north of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, St Kitts lies near the tip of the diminishing arc of vast volcanic islands that starts in the South with Grenada. It is relatively small, just five miles across by 18, but it soars to over 3500 feet.

There are two halves to the island, which are distinct in geography and in their atmosphere. The North of the island is immensely lush and green, with a patchwork of steep green slopes. The coastlines are dotted with traditional West Indian villages, churches, agricultural plots and the occasional windmill or brick chimney from an old sugar estate works. Until recently all the flatlands in this section of St Kitts were carpeted with sugar cane, but the industry came to an end in 2005.

This is the Kittitians' St Kitts. Life is fairly typical of the Caribbean, a fairly simple agricultural and light industrial existence. Their capital Basseterre lies in the lee of the mountains, a small, busy town of stone buildings set on the Caribbean waterfront. The population is about 36,000 (there are another 11,000 or so on Nevis next door).

If you head for the south of the island, over the hill from Basseterre, the atmosphere changes completely. You arrive first in Frigate Bay, the island's tourist heartland. Hotel complexes line the beaches on both coasts (Atlantic and Caribbean side), there is a golf course laced among them and there are other facilities such as watersports (mainly on the Caribbean beach).

Beyond here, the whole south-eastern peninsular is lower-lying and drier than the north of the island. It is consequently less green, but in compensation it has the best beaches on St Kitts. They are gradually being developed with tourist businesses.

In the main, St Kitts has gone squarely for mid-range tourism, with mid-price, sometimes large hotels. You can find a passable holiday here at a good price. But it is worth looking beyond this too, because back in the North of the island, St Kitts has a couple of excellent plantation house hotels set in restored historic buildings, some of the most atmospheric and delightful in the Caribbean. They are not on the beach, but they offer the best in traditional Caribbean elegance.

St Kitts and Nevis have been united politically since 1882 and became independent from Britain as the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis in September 1983. The Kittitians themselves are a demonstrative people (unlike their cousins in Nevis, who are generally quieter) and so life in downtown Basseterre is lively. Expect to be accosted, by busmen and taxi drivers for obvious reasons, but also by people out in the street. It pays to take a little time to join in.

Time was when St Kitts was fiercely battled over. In the 1620s it was known as the Mother Colony of the West Indies because it was the first non-Spanish settlement in the area. Later Brimstone Hill, the vast fortress built to keep intruders out, led it to be known as the Gibraltar of the West Indies. Nowadays St Kitts' has no importance in a strategic sort, and it accepts its guests in a more peaceable way.

 

The Definitive Guide to St Kitts island (St Kitts Nevis) is maintained by a team of top
travel writers and our own in-house team of Caribbean specialists. The guide contains independent reviews about St Kitts, its accommodation, things to do, places to seegetting around, how to get there and links for travel to St Kitts & Nevis. 

Contributors include Jane Anderson, Deana Bellamy, Peter Ellegard and Sara Macefield. Picture editor, Holly Cocker. Senior Picture Editor, Alexander Gray.

Or read our other island guides

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St Kitts weather

St Kitts weather chart

When to go and weather

Looking for inspiration?

  1. Discover the north of the island on the Scenic Railway
  2. Hike through the rainforest to Mt Liamuiga Volcano Crater
  3. Visit Caribelle Batik at Romney Manor for a taste of culture
  4. Have a flutter at one of Frigate Bay's Vegas-style casinos
  5. Take the ferry across to Nevis for a day's sightseeing

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