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St. Kitts: The Little Caribbean Island With Large Tourist Appeal

Updated on May 22, 2023
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MsDora grew up, received early education, and taught school in the Caribbean. Read her love and pride of the region, people, and place.

Tourists who visit the 69-square-mile Caribbean island of Saint Kitts (St. Kitts) either say it’s their favorite, or one of their favorite islands. They recommend it as a must-see listing the features that make the island a treasure: the genuine hospitality of the natives, the relaxed atmosphere, the authentic Caribbean cuisine, the delightful variations of cultural entertainment, the white sand beaches and other attractive scenes of natural beauty.

Basseterre, capital of St. Kitts.
Basseterre, capital of St. Kitts. | Source

Visitors to St. Kitts are also drawn to Nevis its sister island, separated only by a narrow channel about two miles wide. This 36-square-mile island, approximately 7 miles long and 5 miles wide, boasts black sand beaches, restored architecture from the sugar plantation era and natural vegetation that is unparalleled.

Brief History

1493. Christopher Columbus identified St.Kitts on his second voyage. He named it St. Christopher either after his own name, or after the patron saint of travelers.

1624. An Englishman Sir Thomas Warner and a small group arrived from England to settle on the island.

1626. The English were joined by French man Pierre Belain d'Esnambue and his group.

Within a year, the English and French succeeded in eliminating the native Caribs and Arawaks and began to establish sugar and tobacco plantations.

Enter the Africans to work as slaves, and the cultural mix of African, European and Caribbean traditions which still influence St.Kitts, as the island is affectionately known today.

 Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park.  Designed by British military engineers and built by African slaves in the 17th century.  Photo by Ukexpat
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. Designed by British military engineers and built by African slaves in the 17th century. Photo by Ukexpat | Source

1628. Settlers from St. Kitts colonized the island of Nevis.

1728. The British won in their battle with the French for ownership of St. Kitts and Nevis..

1983. The islands gained their independence from Britain. They share the same government and are now referred to as the Federation of St.Kitts and Nevis.

Tourism is presently their main industry.

Annual Events

  • (1) The St. Kitts National Carnival

The carnival is a popular festival which attracts visitors from many countries. The celebration extends through the Christmas holidays into the New Year.

It features parades showcasing clowns, moko-jumbies (walkers and dancers on stilts) and masquerades (actors wearing masks and costumes).

The dances include movements that resemble elements of both African and European genres. Dancers in the street as well as spectators standing in homeowners' front yard to enjoy the view maintain lookout for The Bull. Someone in a red bull costume makes a mad dash through the crowd, creating temporary havoc and heightened humor.

Performers in the National Carnival
Performers in the National Carnival | Source
  • (2) The St. Kitts Music Festival

The mission statement of the St. Kitts Musical Festival which started in 1996 is “to establish a world renowned (annual) festival of different genres of music, that would attract broad based international participation, expose artistic excellence and promote St Kitts and Nevis as a major tourist destination.”

It is held towards the end of June and features calypso, reggae, R&B, jazz, street style, gospel, country and western and rap, with local and famous overseas artists. It is the main activity for visitors during the tourist off-season (May to October).

  • (3) Culturama

The Nevis equivalent of the St. Kitts Carnival is Culturama beginning at the end of July and lasting through the first Monday in August (August Monday). There is a queen show, calypso competition, local and guest bands and many street jams.

Tourist Attractions

There is no scarcity of places to see and things to do on the island of St. Kitts. Here are just five of the many reasons why visitors return again and again.

  • (1) St. Kitts Zipline Canopy Tour

Choose the 2 ½ hour tour and soar above the St. Kitts rain forest on a state-of-the-art, five-line zipline system, in which the last line flies to a river pool for the opportunity to cool down; or the 2-hour fly and walk tour which ends with a walk to the natural river pool. There is an orientation briefing before the tour begins.

Ziplining over the island's rain forest.
Ziplining over the island's rain forest. | Source
  • 2) St.Kitts Railway Tour

Tour the 30-mile rail circuit on the island. The luxurious rail car features an open-air observation deck on the upper level, and air-conditioned vaulted windows on the lower level. Tourists listen to a narration of the history of the Caribbean, and folk songs and hymns by the St. Kitts Railway Choir.

At the end of the train ride, they transfer to a sightseeing bus and continue a 12-mile journey along Island Main Road. The route passes under Brimstone Hill Fortress and through small villages and towns before returning to Basseterre, the island’s capital.

Scenic Railway 30 Mile Route. . . displays another view of the beautiful island
Scenic Railway 30 Mile Route. . . displays another view of the beautiful island | Source

(3) St Kitts Shore Excursion: Pelican Cove Snorkel Tour

Enjoy the beautiful Caribbean waters as you snorkel among colorful fish and other sea life. Drive from the cruise ship to a secluded beach at Pelican Cove, and admire the pelicans that give the cove its name.

A qualified guide introduces the underwater world of St. Kitts’ shores, with a variety of fish in a rainbow of colors, coral and other sea life.

There is also time enough on this 3 hour tour to relax on the beach.


(4) Volcano Crater Hiking Tour in St Kitts

Experience the 3,792-foot height of St. Kitts at the top of Mt. Liamuiga, an extinct volcano. This 8-hour round trip tour passes through the rain forest, providing close-up views of giant forest trees and swinging vines. At the top, view the entire island, the beautiful Caribbean Sea and neighboring islands including St. Barts and Nevis. The trip includes a picnic lunch.

(5) Beaches

  • Get a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean from Sandy Bank Beach, Conaree Beach, Half Moon Bay, or Frigate Bay-North.
  • View the Caribbean Sea from Friars Bay or Frigate Bay-South. Dive or snorkel at Pump Bay in the shadow of the Brimstone Hill Fortress, or at Dieppe Bay Beach where the tanning process is enhanced by the shiny volcanic sand.
  • Get a close-up view of Nevis, the sister island from the powder-white sand of Cockle Shell Beach.

Experience as many of the more than a dozen beaches as a swimmer, a photographer or just a plain fun lover looking for a perfect getaway. Make beach memories worth remembering for a lifetime.

Cockle Shell Beach
Cockle Shell Beach | Source

© 2011 Dora Weithers


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