Most visitors to St. Kitts are primarily concerned with its beaches. The narrow peninsula in the southeast that contains the island's salt ponds also boasts the best white-sand beaches. All beaches, even those that border hotels, are open to the public. However, to use the beach facilities of a hotel, you must first obtain permission and will probably have to pay a small fee.
Until the Dr. Kennedy Simmonds Highway (named for the nation's first prime minister) -- a 10km (6 1/4-mile) road beginning in the Frigate Bay area -- opened to the public in 1989, it was necessary to take a boat to enjoy the beautiful, unspoiled beaches of the southeast peninsula. To travel this road is one of the pleasures of a visit to St. Kitts. Not only will you see some of the island's most beautiful scenery, but you'll also pass lagoonlike coves and fields of tall guinea grass. If the day is clear (and it usually is), you'll have a panoramic vista of Nevis. The best beaches along the peninsula are Frigate Bay, Friar's Bay, Sand Bank Bay, White House Bay, Cockleshell Bay, and Banana Bay. Of all these, Sand Bank Bay gets our nod as the finest strip of sand.
Both Cockleshell Bay and Banana Bay also have their devotees. Together these two beaches run a distance of 3km (2 miles), all with powder-white sands. So far, in spite of several attempts, this area hasn't filled with high-rise resorts.
A live steel band plays on Sundays from 12:30 to 3pm at the Turtle Beach Bar and Grill, Turtle Bay, making this the place for afternoon cocktails on the beach.
For excellent snorkeling, head to somewhat rocky White House Bay, which opens onto reefs. Schools of rainbow-hued fish swim around a tugboat sunk long ago -- a stunning sight.
South Friar's Bay is lovely, and many locals consider it their favorite. Frigate Bay, with its powder-white sand, is ideal for swimming, windsurfing, and water-skiing.
You may also want to visit Great Salt Pond at the southeastern end of St. Kitts. This is an inland beach of soft white sand, opening onto the Atlantic Ocean in the north and the more tranquil Caribbean Sea in the south.
The beaches in the north of St. Kitts are numerous but are of gray volcanic sand and are much less frequented than those of the southeast peninsula. Beachcombers like to visit them, and they can be ideal for sunbathing, but swimming is much better in the southeast, as waters in the north, sweeping in from the Atlantic, can often be turbulent.
The best beach on the Atlantic side is Conaree Bay, with a narrow strip of gray-black sand. Bodysurfing is popular here. Dieppe Bay, another black-sand beach on the north coast, is good for snorkeling and windsurfing, but not for swimming. This is the site of the island's most famous inn, the Golden Lemon, which you might want to visit for lunch. Warning: If you should be on this beach during a tropical shower, do not seek shelter under the dreaded manchineel trees, which are poisonous. Rain falling off the leaves will feel like acid on your skin.
The Royal St. Kitts Golf Course, Frigate Bay (tel. 869/466-2700; www.royalstkittsgolfclub.com), is an 18-hole championship course that covers 64 hectares (158 acres). It features 10 water hazards, not including the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, which border it. It's open daily from 7am to 6pm. Greens fees are $150 to $180 for 18 holes. A bar and an on-site restaurant open daily at 7am. The course is part of the St. Kitts Marriott Resort.
Trinity Stables (tel. 869/465-3226) charges $60 for a half-day tour through a rainforest. You might also get to see the wild lushness of the North Frigate Bay area and the rather desolate Conaree Beach. You must call for a reservation; you'll be told where to meet and offered advice, including what to wear.
Scuba Diving, Snorkeling & Other Watersports
Some of the best dive spots include Nag's Head, at the south tip of St. Kitts, an excellent shallow-water dive starting at 3m (9 3/4 ft.) and extending to 21m (69 ft.). A variety of tropical fish, eagle rays, and lobster is found here. The site is ideal for certified divers. Another good spot for diving is Booby Shoals, off the southeast Atlantic coast near Cockleshell Bay. Booby Shoals has abundant sea life, including nurse sharks, lobster, and stingrays. Dives are up to 9m (30 ft.) in depth, ideal for both certified and resort divers.
A variety of activities is offered by Pro Divers, at Turtle Beach (tel. 869/660-3483; www.prodiversstkitts.com). You can swim, float, paddle, or go on scuba-diving and snorkeling expeditions from here. A two-tank dive costs $105; night dives go for $80. A PADI certification course is $420, with a resort course going for $125. Snorkelers can also sign up for a 3-hour trip costing $50.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.