Family Vacations to Saint Kitts

Family Overview - Saint Kitts
Saint Kitts' Brimstone Hill Fortress, ripe for historic exploration (PhotoDisc)

Saint Kitts Highlights

  • Hike the rainforest.
  • Explore one of the largest historic forts in the Caribbean.
  • Take a scenic train ride around the island.
  • Stroll along and snorkel off white- and black-sand beaches.
  • Encounter dolphins, stingrays, and tropical birds at the new Marine World Saint Kitts.

Sister islands Saint Kitts and Nevis have traditionally appealed to different travelers. The largest property on Nevis is the 196-room Four Seasons, the nightlife is modest, and the island can only accept small ships such as those of Windjammer cruises. As a result, Nevis tends to aim at up-market travelers seeking a luxurious getaway with plenty of relaxing evenings. Saint Kitts, on the other hand, has the 477-room Saint Kitts Marriott Resort and Royal Beach Casino, more clubs than Nevis, and Port Zante, a cruise terminal equipped to handle mega-liners. While you won't see crowds on Nevis, Saint Kitts' capital, Basseterre, bustles with daytrippers on cruise days. Saint Kitts offers both black- and white-sand beaches, diving and snorkeling, a rainforest for hiking, and an historic fortress prime for exploration.

For beach play, head to Cockleshell Bay and Banana Bay, which together offer two miles of soft, white sands. With teenagers, head to busy Friar's Bay South for water sports and people-watching. Pump Bay, in Sandy Point, is a black-sand beach with some snorkeling.

Additional snorkel spots are clustered off Dieppe Bay's black-sand beach and off Turtle Bay Beach. There are several good dive spots accessible by boat. At Sandy Point National Marine Park, you can view massive barrel sponges up to eight feet in diameter. The wreck of River Taw, sunk in 50-feet of water, is easy to swim through, and is one of the best wreck dives in the Caribbean. Along with wrasse and snapper, Black Coral Reef showcases (not surprisingly) tall, black coral.

The island's newest major attraction is Marine World Saint Kitts at South Friar's Bay Beach. Scheduled to open mid-2007, the four-acre, $16 million facility will have dolphin encounters, a stingray lagoon, a tropical bird aviary, and sea lions.

For the active-minded, try the toughest island trek, a five- to six-hour roundtrip hike up the 3,792-foot high Mount Liamuiga, suitable for in-shape teens and others. Be sure to go only with a guide. Less rigorous half-day hikes are also available. And for those who don't want to hike while on vacation, there's the Saint Kitts Scenic Railway, a.k.a. the Sugar Train, since the double-decker cars use the same tracks that once hauled Caribbean sugar cane. Although offering scenic mountain and coastal views, the three-and-a-half-hour trip can drag a bit.

Brimstone Hill Fortress, about nine miles from Basseterre, is one of the Caribbean's best preserved forts. A UNESCO World Heritage site and part of a national park, the 38-acre fortress rises nearly 800 feet, affording panoramic views. Explore the barracks and parade grounds, then traipse along some of the park's trails in search of the green vervet monkeys that live here.

Tip: Avoid the Saint Kitts Scenic Railway and Brimstone Hill Fortress on cruise days when these attractions are crowded.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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