Welcome to St Kitts cruise port guide!
Officially named the Federation of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis, St Kitts and Nevis is a small country formed by two islands in the Leeward Islands chain of the West Indies. Basseterre, the capital city of St Kitts, was founded in the 17th century and is one of the oldest seaports in the Eastern Caribbean. With its capital city Charlestown, Nevis island is smaller and situated around 3 km/2 miles south of St Kitts. Due to its stunning nature, beautiful beaches, and rich historical and cultural heritage, St Kitts (with Nevis) is one of the major Caribbean ports often included in the Caribbean itineraries. In this article, read about:
- St Kitts cruise port (St Kitts cruise terminal, getting around, helpful cruise info)
- Top 9 things to do in St Kitts and best St Kitts shore excursions
St Kitts Cruise Port
Cruise ships dock at Port Zante in Basseterre, the capital city located on the southwest coast of the island. Due to its deep water harbor, Port Basseterre has two berths that can accommodate both large cruise vessels and cargo ships. Sometimes, cruise ships anchor at the cargo port located a couple of miles further, and in that case, the tender boats are provided to transfer the cruise passengers ashore. On the west side of Port Zante, a small yacht marina is where the tenders normally drop passengers off when the ship is anchored.
Port Zante is located within a short walking distance from the historic center of the city and the port itself is developed and offers a wide variety of facilities. Upon exiting the gangway, after several minutes you’ll reach a vast square filled with restaurants, bars, a casino, souvenir shops, duty-free stores, and international brands including Diamonds International, Effy, Harley-Davidson, and many others. You will also find a tourist information center, restrooms, tour booths, and a taxi rank. The shore excursion meeting place is usually in the Arrivals Hall located at the terminal entrance (always double-check the tour ticket, though).
St Kitts ferry terminal is situated next to the cruise port terminal (a 5-minute walk) and provides daily ferries between Basseterre and Charleston (Nevis).
- Basseterre city center is only a few minutes’ walk from the cruise port and can be easily explored on foot. The port area is flat and suitable for people with walking difficulties and wheelchair users.
- Port Zante boasts over 60 duty-free stores, selling watches, jewelry, cosmetics, clothing, and handmade souvenirs. There is also a small craft market (“Amina craft market”) where you can buy artwork and handicrafts made by locals.
- Public transportation is available, however, taxis are definitely the best way to explore the island. I always suggest checking with the tourist information center for guidelines on taxi rates.
- Transportation used in the Caribbean are usually minivans or mid-size buses with little space for storage.
- The official currency in St Kitts and Nevis is the East Caribbean Dollar (XCD; currency symbol – X$). 1 USD equals 2.70 XCD. US dollars and credit cards are widely accepted. Check in advance if your change will be given in US dollars. See the currency converter
- The climate in St Kitts and Nevis is hot and tropical. The driest period is from February to May, while rains and tropical storms are frequent between June and December. For useful packing tips, check out my article What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 50 Cruise Essentials
- Check out the best hotels in Basseterre
Top 9 Things to Do in St Kitts Cruise Port
Always take into consideration the ship’s scheduled time in the port when planning your day ashore. Most cruise ships will arrive early in the morning and leave before sunset. St Kitts is a small island but you can find yourself easily stuck in traffic. If it is your first time here, consider taking an organized shore excursion as they guarantee your return to the ship.
Before I share with you the best things to do in St Kitts, I invite you to sign up below and get my insider SHORE EXCURSION GUIDE for FREE!
1. Basseterre Old Town
Upon exiting the terminal area, you’ll find yourself on Bay Road street filled with numerous shops, restaurants, and a few historic landmarks. Basseterre’s historic old town is located a stone’s throw from there. To get there, turn left after you exit the terminal and in a couple of minutes you’ll reach an old, arched 19th-century building housing the National Museum, where you can enjoy exhibits on local history and learn about St Kitts’ rich cultural heritage.
After you pass through the archway, walk straight and you’ll come across Berkeley Memorial, a green iron clock tower standing in the middle of the Circus Square, a small yet busy roundabout that used to be the site of slave auctions back in past. Watch out for the cars here and be careful when posing for a photo, because the area is packed with cars, taxis, street vendors, and tourists.
Turn right to Bank street and you’ll reach Independence Square, a beautiful park with a fountain and benches to sit and relax. The square has a lot of trees and shade and is dominated by the impressive Immaculate Conception Catholic Co-Cathedral, built out of a grey stone in the early 20th century on the site of an old church.
If you continue to walk along Fort street, north of Circus Square, you’ll stumble on another architectural gem – Saint George with Saint Barnabas Anglican Church with a stunning bell tower, built on the site of a former Notre Dame Catholic church dating from the 17th century. Right next to it, a peaceful Wesley Methodist Church is another place of worship worth your attention. These two churches are surrounded by beautiful, well-maintained grounds a bit further from the hustle and bustle of the Circus.
2. St. Kitts Scenic Railway
Do not miss this unique sightseeing tour on the “Last Railway in the West Indies”, the only and last operational railway in the Caribbean! Enjoy the Caribbean countryside and learn all about the history of St. Kitts on a 30-mile circle route by train and a small sightseeing bus.
The railway was constructed in the early 20th century to transport sugar cane from St Kitts’ sugar plantations to the sugar factory in Basseterre. The railway tour normally takes 2 hours and 45 minutes (2 hours by train, 45 minutes by bus) and takes you around the eastern part of the island. You’ll ride for approximately 30 km/18 miles on double-decker railcars allowing you to enjoy breathtaking views from the top. The bus portion includes around 20 km/12 miles on small, air-conditioned sightseeing buses.
This tour is one of St Kitts’s highlights and allows you to take in the stunning views of the coast, mountains, forests, villages, farms, canyons, and bridges. You’ll see landmarks such as St. Paul’s Village, Brimstone Hill Fortress, and Old Road Town. It is a scenic train ride and stops at sights are not included.
A ride from Port Zante to the departure point of the railway takes only 10 minutes. This tour is not wheelchair accessible, as the buses and train don’t have a lift and there are steps to be managed. Also, buses cannot take wheelchairs and scooters as they are small/mid-sized. Make sure to check with your Shore excursions team for ticket availability, as departure times are mostly reserved for cruise ships when in port. You can also check for tickets on the official page www.stkittsscenicrailway.com
3. Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
This spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site was built by the British military to protect the island from a French sea attack during the European colonization in the Caribbean. The fortress was constructed by African slaves between the 17th and 18th centuries and sits on a steep volcanic hill providing stunning views of the island’s countryside, coastline, and nearby islands.
Fort George Citadel is one of the areas you can explore and here you can visit Fort George Museum displaying exhibits and interesting historic artifacts. You will hear stories of the soldiers, slaves, and local people, and watch a short video about the fort’s history in an air-conditioned room.
Brimstone Hill Fortress is located on the west shore of the island, approximately 17 km/10.5 miles or a 30-minute drive from Port Zante. The road will take you along the scenic coast, with Mount Liamuiga on your right-hand side.
The entrance fee to the fortress is $10 for adults aged 15+ and there is a significant amount of walking uphill involved, so be mindful of that. Allow at least one hour to walk through the rooms and explore the fortress. Make sure you bring water, sunscreen and wear comfortable shoes.
4. Mount Liamuiga Volcano
Discover the tropical flora of St Kitts on a 6-mile up-and-down hike through the rainforest to 3000 ft above sea level to the crater of this inactive volcano! Mount Liamuiga is 3.792 feet (1.156 m) high and its peak is one of the tallest ones in the Caribbean archipelago. From the top, you can get amazing panoramic views of the neighboring islands including Saba, Statia, St Barths, and Nevis.
This experience is considered extremely strenuous and you must consider your physical fitness level and medical history when deciding whether this activity is appropriate. Make sure you bring close-toed shoes and long pants if you consider taking a hiking trip.
5. Take a Trip to Nevis
If you are familiar with St Kitts, then take a trip over to his sister island Nevis! From the Port Zante pier, there is only a 5-minute walk to the ferry station from there you can take a 45-minute scenic boat ride over to Nevis.
The ferry pier in Nevis is located at Charlestown, the capital city and birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. You can visit several landmarks within a short walking distance from the pier, such as The Museum of Nevis History (the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton), Jewish Cemetery, Nevis Hot Springs, and Charleston Methodist Church. Botanical Gardens are nice to see, but you need to take a cab and ride for around 10-15 minutes to get there.
Beaches in Nevis are truly stunning and you can relax on a golden sand beach or cool off with a swim in the tranquil waters of the Caribbean. The best Nevis beaches are Pinney’s beach (2.5 km/1.5 miles from the Charlestown ferry pier. You can either walk 30 minutes or take a 5-minute taxi ride), Oualie beach (8.5 km/5.3 miles from Charlestown, approximately 15 minutes drive to the north), Paradise beach (4.5 km/2.8 miles, less than a 10-minute drive from the pier), Lovers’ beach (9.5 km/ 5.9 miles, around 15 minutes drive from the pier to the north), and Nisbet beach (13.5 km/8.4 miles, or a 20-minute drive to the north).
The ferry from St Kitts to Nevis departs around ten times per day (usually once per hour) and there are several different companies offering ferry rides. The ticket cost is approximately $10 each way plus $1 tax. However, be mindful when buying a round-trip ticket because you’ll need to select a specific return time. Ferries are quite small, so don’t wait for the last ferry, and make sure you plan your day accordingly to your ship schedule.
6. Island Sightseeing
If this is your first time in St Kitts and you want to get to know the island, make sure you start your day on a guided tour of St Kitts and learn the history and lores of St Kitts. Many of these tours will make stops at several landmarks providing you with the opportunity for great photo stops. One of them is Timothy Hill located at the southern end of the island where you can see the stretch of land that separates the Caribbean sea and the Atlantic Ocean (on a clear day you can also see the island of Nevis in the background).
Timothy Hill viewpoint is located only a 10-15 minute drive from the St Kitts cruise terminal and what you’ll see there is absolutely breathtaking! The area is quite busy and you’ll see many locals selling stuff and offering pictures with wild monkeys (agree on the price first!).
Another famous landmark and a frequent stop in sightseeing tours is Romney Manor, located 25 minutes drive along the west coast toward Brimstone Hill Fortress. Romney Manor was a plantation house owned by the great, great, great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson, and nowadays a part of the estate has been transformed into a gorgeous, European-style garden filled with Caribbean tropical plants. Romney Manor is also home to Caribelle Batik and in the museum, you can see artisans demonstrating the batik process.
You can do sightseeing by bus, ATV, or dune buggy – depending on your preference, physical shape, and budget. Some of the tours also include stops at Brimstone Hill Fortress and Basseterre highlights.
7. Rainforest Zipline Adventure
Fly through and over the Valley of the Giants at the historic Wingfield Estate sugar plantation ruins, located near Old Road Town, a 25-minute drive from the port of St Kitts. Experience thrills and fantastic views of local flora and fauna as you zip over the tropical rainforest and old sugar plantations!
The base camp is at Romney Manor and the whole adventure includes 5 zip lines: Line 1 (Monkey Trainer), Line 2 (The Boss), Line 3 (Mango Tango), Line 4 (Brimstone Blast), and Line 5 where you fly to a river pool for the chance to cool off! However, due to the ship’s limited time in port, not all five zip lines are available to cruise ship passengers.
Safety briefing and gear will be provided at the beginning of the tour. This activity is considered strenuous and you must check physical and medical restrictions before booking a tour. Bear in mind that this activity requires minimum and maximum height and weight.
8. St Kitts Beaches and Snorkeling
St Kitts is known for its beautiful sandy beaches, crystal clear blue waters, and great snorkeling for lovers of underwater activities. If you are a beach person, you should definitely consider spending some time at one of the island’s gorgeous beaches. Below is the list of the best beaches in St Kitts:
- South Frigate Bay – One of the most popular beaches in St Kitts, this white sandy paradise offers calm waters making it ideal for snorkeling activities – look out for sea turtles and colorful sea life, and don’t forget to bring snorkeling equipment. There is a variety of places to eat and drink (Vibes beach bar, Marshalls, Buddy’s Beach Bar and Grill, Oceans Beach Bar, etc.) and water activities and rentals are also available (kayak, jet ski). South Frigate Bay is located south of Basseterre, around a 10-minute drive from Port Zante (5.7 km/3.5 miles).
- North Frigate Bay – At this beach located north of South Frigate Bay, the waters are a little rougher as it is located on the Atlantic side. There is a good place for snorkeling close to the Marriott St. Kitts Beach Club, however, take all safety precautions if deciding to snorkel on your own. The Marriot Hotel offers a convenient Resort Day Pass for you to enjoy the hotel facilities and beach area. Food and drinks are not included, however, you can opt for the VIP package where you can get discounts on food, beverages, and spa treatments.
- South Friars Bay – This golden sandy beach is located on the Caribbean side of Saint Kitts, south of Frigate Bay, approximately 15 minutes drive from the port of Basseterre (8 km/5 miles). Here you will find the renowned Carambola Beach club, restaurants, and rustic beach bars (Shipwreck Beach Bar, Mongoose Bar, and Grill, Discovery Beach Bar & Grill) as well as water activities available for rental. This is a popular beach for cruise ship passengers due to its calm, pristine waters and one of the best snorkeling on the island (you will find an abundance of marine life in the southern part next to the Shipwreck Beach Bar).
- North Friar’s Bay – This beach is not really for swimming or snorkeling as it is located on the rough Atlantic side, north of South Friars Bay. This beach doesn’t have any amenities but is ideal for long walks along the beach and scenic views of the shore. It is located approximately a 12-15 minute drive from the port.
- Cockleshell Bay Beach – This gorgeous white sandy beach is located on the southern tip of the island facing Nevis, approximately 20 minutes drive from the St Kitts cruise port (16 km/10 miles). On Cockleshell beach, you will find local restaurants, bars (Reggae Beach Bar Grill, Spice Mill Restaurant, Fisherman’s Village), and facilities available at a fair price. Snorkeling is possible at this beach, however, it is not considered to be great. In the southern part of the beach, you will find a 5-star Park Hyatt Hotel, offering a wide variety of facilities and fantastic ocean views. Here you can opt for a Resort Day Pass, which includes 2-course lunch, lounge chairs, beach and pool access, and discounts on food, beverage, and spa services.
- Dieppe Bay Beach – If you are looking to experience a black sand beach at a tranquil location, then make your way to the northern part of the island. There are no amenities available at the beach, however, swimming and snorkeling are quite enjoyable. Arthur’s restaurant is nearby if you are looking for something to eat and drink. This beach is located a 40-minute drive from the port.
9. Taste the Local Cuisine
St Kitts offers a wide variety of tasty dishes whether you are looking for street food, casual or fine dining. From fresh fish and seafood to some more exotic meat like a goat, all served with lots of vegetables and flavored with Caribbean spices. Do not miss the opportunity to try the famous conch fritters, salt fish, spicy plantains and coconut dumplings.
Whether you decide to explore the island or hit the beaches, make sure to plan your day ahead to fully enjoy this charming port of call.
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