Seven days in St Kitts

Garry Steckles finds seven days of activities for you to do while in St Kitts and Nevis

Charlestown. Photograph by Michael HeadFrigate Bay Beach. Photograph by Michael HeadNorth Friars Bay. Photograph by Michael HeadThe main fort at Brimstone Hill. Photograph by Michael Head

This, I have to tell you, isn’t the easiest of writing assignments. It’s not that the idea of seven days in this off-the-beaten-track Eastern Caribbean hideaway isn’t extraordinary pleasant—it’s just that one of the island’s prime attractions is that it’s laid back and relaxed and doesn’t overwhelm you with an array of “tourist attractions” that’ll have you needing a holiday at the end of your stay if you try to take them all in.

So here’s a very personal list of seven should-do things in St Kitts.

Day one: Okay, you’ve just arrived, you’re starting to get your bearings, but you’re still on big-country time. First thing you should do is ditch the cell phone, forget about work and start to kick back. Hey, you’re on vacation. You’re on St Kitts time. Things take a bit longer to happen here, just as they do everywhere in the Caribbean.

The best way to slow down to is make Day One a beach day. Don’t plan on doing anything more strenuous than taking a leisurely dip—swim if you must—in the warm blue Caribbean waters, and perhaps forcing yourself to stroll to one of our laid-back little beach bars for a cold one. Or two. South Friars and Frigate Bay are the two most popular beaches, and if you’re staying in the Frigate Bay tourist area, they’re easiest to get to and offer the best options for beach-bar food.

Day Two: Time for something a little more strenuous. You don’t want to overtax yourself, but you do want to see what the island’s all about…And the scenic railway’s the perfect way to spend a few hours steeped in history while relaxing in comfort.

The railway, which has become one of St Kitts’ most popular attractions in the few years it’s been in operation, takes you on a magical trip through our lush countryside, with towering mountains on one side and blue water on the other. The train runs on tracks that once were used by sugar-cane trains, and the sense of history is with you from start to finish.

But the highlight of the trip is the smiling faces and friendly waves from local people all along the route. And when a classroom full of munchkins come running out of their school to shout and wave and show you how happy they are to see you, you’ll fall instantly in love with the people of this special little island.

Day Three: More excitement. And this time it’ll last all day. A day trip to our exquisite sister island of Nevis—even smaller than we are—is one of the few “musts” on any vacation in St Kitts. “Nevis is nice” is a local catchphrase, and it’s true. With a population of only 10,000 or so, Nevis is even quieter and more laid-back than St Kitts, and is a favourite getaway of the rich and famous.

Best way to get there is by ferry from Basseterre, but if you’ve rented a car, the recently launched car ferry from the tip of the southeast peninsula allows you to drive on and drive off and to have wheels from the second you arrive in Nevis.

When you’re there, a drive round the island is mandatory, as is a pit stop at the world-famous Sunshine’s beach bar on Pinney’s Beach, just steps from the swish Four-Seasons Resort.

And if you stay late, you can find some of the best pizzas in the Caribbean at Caggie’s bar in the capital of Charlestown, along with down-to-earth local ambiance and pulsating reggae music.

Day Four: Time for the big one. And I do mean the big one, Mount Liamuiga. At 3,792 feet, the dormant volcano is the highest point in St Kitts, and if you’re up to the challenge, a day trip to its peak is a vacation memory you’ll treasure for life. Don’t take my word for it—I’ve never been up there, but I’ve spoken to plenty of people who have, and they’ve loved every minute of it.

Several local tour operators offer trips to the top of the mountain, as well as less demanding excursions for the faint of foot in the lush foothills and rain forests.

Day Five: Somewhat less strenuous, but this one’s a priority: Brimstone Hill, a World Heritage Site, is a living, breathing slice of St Kitts history. Built by the Brits—or, to be more accurate, by African slaves working for the Brits—in the days when they were slugging it out with the French for control of the island, and much of the rest of the Caribbean, it wasn’t really impregnable—the pesky French snatched it from the Brits not too long after it was completed—but it’s undeniably magnificent, for its architecture, its views, and, most of all, for its palpable sense of taking you back to another age.

Day Six: I’m arbitrarily making this a Friday—after all, we started with a day of rest—and I’d also suggest you make this a day of rest, because it’s going to be a long, long night.

The occasion: Friday night on Frigate Bay beach. Fridays have long been the big night on Frigate Bay, but over the past two or three years they’ve taken on a whole new dimension, as an array of beach bars, ranging from the ritzy to the ramshackle, have sprung up along the half-mile or so of white sand. The action starts late, and it’s hot, hot, hot, with everything from live music—St Kitts’ great calypsonian Socrates is a regular attraction—to high-decibel sound systems pounding out reggae, calypso, dancehall and Latin beats.

The crowd’s an eclectic mix of locals and veterinary students taking a break from their studies at Ross University, and many of them are still partying hearty when the sun comes up.

Day Seven: Recovery’s the order of the day, and what better way to recover than a leisurely day trip on a catamaran?

St Kitts has several elegant cats, among them the famous Spirit of St Kitts, and they offer memorable day cruises to Nevis, with picnic lunches, snorkelling stops, and—although you may not appreciate this after Friday night—an open bar. The lively crew members (some of whom you may have crossed paths with a few hours earlier) are sure to get you in the mood for still more partying, and the music’s an added enticement.

Where to stay

From the first glimpse of Rock Haven Bed and Breakfast, the gingerbread fretwork trim tells you this will be an experience that reflects authentic Caribbean living.

There are some surprises inside, where a creative architectural fusion successfully blends tradition with contemporary touches—vibrant fuchsia walls, a modern, oversized kitchen, and a sense of openness and airiness.

Here you can enjoy the legendary Caribbean breakfasts of owner Judith Blake, whose guests often write to her after their visit to say that both her hospitality and her cooking exceeded all their expectations.