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St Kitts and Nevis family holidays

A baby sea turtle in St Kitts.A baby sea turtle in St Kitts.© St Kitts Sea Turtle monitoring network
Kids learning to sail on St Kitts.Kids learning to sail on St Kitts.© St Kitts Sailing School
Kids riding a catamaran on St Kitts.Kids riding a catamaran on St Kitts.© Blue Water Safaris
Monkey-spotting on a jeep safari in St Kitts.Monkey-spotting on a jeep safari in St Kitts.© Greg's Jeep Safari St Kitts
Sunset over Nevis.Sunset over Nevis.© Nevis Tourism Authority
Botanical Gardens, Nevis.Botanical Gardens, Nevis.© Nevis Tourism Authority
Flying Time 8.5hrs
Timezone GMT -4
Currency Eastern Caribbean Dollar

Today

Overview

The charming and beautiful green island of St Kitts, lined with unspoilt beaches – on the Caribbean side to the south and the Atlantic side to the north – is relatively new to tourism, having made its money from sugar until 2005. So everything is small-scale and hence perfect for family holidays.

You won’t get hassled on the beach and you won’t encounter cynicism, and there are lots of great activities that make for fantastic family days out, including snorkelling on a coral reef, exploring the island’s rainforest, and visiting a UNESCO-listed fortress. And because the island is small, nothing is more than half-an-hour’s drive away from the centre.

A short boat ride brings you to St Kitts’ sister island Nevis, a haven of tranquility that prides itself on being ecologically forward-thinking and plans to use solar power, wind power and geothermal energy to generate enough electricity to take it off-grid. It also limits buildings to two storeys, so nothing detracts from its natural beauty.

Things to do with kids in St Kitts and Nevis

Head for the beaches on the Caribbean side, which offer the safest sea for families to paddle and swim in – the white sands of Frigate Bay and Cockleshell Bay (known locally as Reggae Beach) are the favourites. Look out for conch shells and brown pelicans (the national bird) as they soar then dive and fold neatly into a dart before plunging into the water on the hunt for fish. The beaches on the Atlantic side are quieter, with volcanic black sand and hearty waves – confident swimmers will find them great for body-surfing.

Encourage kids to try sailing or kayaking from the Reggae Beach Bar at Cockleshell Bay. Lessons start with a little orienteering, but after a very short time, children are scooting around the shallow and sheltered bay in a sailing dinghy with a teacher from the St Kitts Sailing School calling the shots. Smaller children, or those who don’t want to get in a vessel, will be perfectly happy saying hello to the pet monkey or goat.

Join the St Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network team for a leatherback eco-tour, either in the evening to observe the nesting process (April–June) or on Sunday morning to assist researchers. There are only 10 places on each, so book ahead; under-12s go along for free.

Learn about more of the island’s wildlife with a visit to the rainforest with Greg’s Safaris. Greg is a fifth-generation islander with buckets of knowledge about the plants, animals and eco-system of the island’s rainforest, and he or one of his team will pick you up from your hotel in an open-backed Land Rover and lead you under the tree canopy, where you’ll see hummingbirds and monkeys, and enormous fincas trees with ridged and roving roots. Kids love prodding mimosa pullica plants, which furl up at the gentlest touch. If they’re really lucky, they’ll find a black diamond. A tw-hour trek, involving an exciting tree-root climb to the top of a ridge, finishes with fruit punch and home-made sugar cake (an island speciality).

Take all the family on a catamaran cruise; Blue Water Safaris run day-trips from Port Zante. Children love sitting on the webbed deck at the front and getting splashed when the catamaran hits a big wave. Staff are fun and really friendly, offering free-flowing rum punch to adult passengers but quietly making sure safety rules are observed at all times. A full day-trip takes you past Frigate Bay, stops at Shitten Bay for deep-water snorkelling, and, after a delicious buffet lunch, drops everyone at Banana Bay for an hour’s beach fun before returning to Port Zante.

Hop aboard the St Kitts Scenic Railway Tour or ‘Sugar Train’, which snakes along the Atlantic coast, past former sugar plantations and stunning scenery. It’s the 
West Indies' last remaining railway and offers a characterful day out: the doubledecker train with its open top-deck chugs along 29km of narrow-gauge track, crossing ravines and passing villages where everyone smiles and waves. Drinks and snacks are served, and there’s a history lesson from the driver over the sound system.

Enjoy a riveting day out for all the family at the UNESCO World Heritage listed Brimstone Hill Fortress, which was the imposing centre of defensive army might at St Kitts, England’s first colonial outpost in the West Indies. Young kids love clambering up the ramparts, sitting on the cannons and exploring the barracks; older kids are fascinated by the bakery, gunpowder store, dorms and prison, which are set up as reconstructions, with scarily life-like models. They also love the descriptions of everyday life and gory pictorial depictions of the garrison’s punishment and torture regime. The 360° views are breathtaking, and it’s easy to imagine the sight of the French army arriving for a month-long siege in 1782.

Try the Sky Safari, a cluster of five thrilling zipwire rides in the rainforest. Children aged 6+ and adults squeal with delight as they plunge through the trees, reaching speeds of 80km/h.

Take a two-hour steel pan lesson with the Scherzando School of Music
 on Nevis, available to kids aged 6+ and adults. The trainer steel pans are marked with notes, making it easy to play a tune straight off with the help of the enthusiastic teachers. 

Learn about traditional village life at Peak Haven on Nevis, where you can see the Slarb (a man-made pond for washing clothes), the communal bread oven, an open-air church and a reconstruction of a chattel house (moveable wooden huts where slaves lived 10 to a room). There’s also a café and small adventure playground.

Those here for two weeks can take a pottery lesson with a resident St Kitts potter Carla Astaphan, making a pot the first week and decorating it the second.

Eat

The island’s great family-run restaurants and beachside cafés include Frigate Bay's Mr X's Shiggidy Shack, for lobster, mahi mahi or a burger, and simple local favourite Sprat Net, where everything comes with a baked potato, two jonny cakes (flatbreads) and corn on the cob. If you're exploring the main town of Basseterre, or visiting its market, a good lunch spot is Ballahoo, an open-sided first-floor restaurant overlooking the square. Spare ribs are a winner, and the hearty chicken salads are tempting too.

The Reggae Beach Bar and Grill, a simple café set on boards on the beach in a lovely setting on the south-east peninsula, is a must. Service is friendly and the food fantastic, with island classics such as roti chicken, mahi mahi and lobster given that bit more attention to detail that transforms the food from good to great.
If you want to try Caribbean fine dining, head to Spice Mill, with a setting a little more refined than most beachside cafés and sublime food. Islanders also like to head to the Marriott’s Calypso Restaurant for a relaxed Sunday breakfast – the all-you-can-eat buffet features everything from pancakes and waffles to a full English or even curry with all the trimmings.

When to go to St Kitts and Nevis

St Kitts’ climate is tropical marine, which means it enjoys warm weather year-round (17-33°C). Even when temperatures reach their highest, the low humidity and cooling trade winds make it ideal for family holidays. The island is most popular during the dry season, late Oct–May; the rest of the year sees heavy rainfall and occasional tropical storms.

If you like a spectacle, come from Boxing Day to New Year’s Day, when the lively St Kitts and Nevis Carnival takes place.

Cost

St Kitts’ relative lack of development means it can be better value for family holidays than many other Caribbean destinations, although the island’s need to import many foods means eating out isn’t as cheap as you might expect.

Factor in about £700 for return flights from London Gatwick to St Kitts.

By Emma Perry

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