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St. Kitts

St. Kitts Cruise Port: Attractions, Beaches, Weather

St. Kitts cruise port mall © 2018 Scott S. Bateman
St. Kitts cruise port mall © 2018 Scott S. Bateman

The St. Kitts cruise port is climbing in popularity because of new and improved terminal and several noteworthy attractions.

The island is showing up more often as a destination on eastern Caribbean cruises that include such ports as St. Maarten, San Juan and Grand Turk. The most popular months to visit St. Kitts are January and March, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

Cruise visitors will disembark at Port Zante next to the capital city of Basseterre on the southern coast of the island. They will find the mostly oval-shaped island is easy to tour because of its small size—69 square miles.

Unlike many islands, St. Kitts doesn’t just have a cruise terminal that consists of one or two buildings. It has an entire cruise mall.

Quick Travel Tips

  • The St. Kitts Scenic Railway is a popular and unique shore excursion.
  • Getting to the best beaches requires a taxi, rental car or excursion bus.
  • The new Port Zante cruise terminal is massive and offers plenty of shopping and dining.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Walking Around Attractions

St. Kitts Cruise Port Map

The Port Zante cruise terminal is a duty-free shopping district with more than 60 shops selling the usual variety of goods in Caribbean cruise ports. Visitors can spend a couple of hours doing nothing but shopping and dining at outdoor restaurants.

On some days, colorful performers entertain visitors with dance and music. The district also is the starting point for various shore excursions.

People who walk a few hundred yards through the Port Zante district will reach the city of Basseterre, beginning with The Circus. The Circus is an octagonal plaza that resembles a small version of London’s famous Piccadilly Circus.

Visitors often photograph the Berkeley Memorial Drinking Fountain and Clock. Erected in 1891, it commemorates a 19th-century politician and estate owner.

Cruise visitors can hardly miss the National Museum of St. Kitts, which is right between Port Zante and The Circus.

Another option within walking distance of the cruise ship terminal is the Basseterre Ferry Terminal. It is only a brief walk to the west of Port Zante. Visitors take a 30-minute ferry to visit the nearby island of Nevis, which offers some nice beaches.

Port Zante also is the starting point for various shore excursions, including the ones that go to Nevis for the beaches and other activities.

Shore Excursions

Every Caribbean destination has beaches, shopping and nightlife, but practically none has a train for tourists except St. Kitts.

The St. Kitts Scenic Railway is a narrow gauge train that takes visitors on a three-hour, 30-mile circular tour of the island. The tour consists of 18 miles on the train and 12 miles on tour buses. Tickets start at more than $100 per person with discounts for children. The excursion costs about $130 to $140 per person depending on time of year and other factors.

The train had been used to transport sugarcane from the island plantations to Basseterre from 1912 to 1949.

Like many Caribbean cruise ports, St. Kitts has a facility where visitors can swim with dolphins. Prices vary with the programs, but they usually range between $100 and $150 per person.

The Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a well-preserved fort dating back to 1690, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Brimstone is one of the best preserved forts in the Caribbean. It is 30 minutes northwest of the cruise docks and available as a shore excursion. The fort is often included in guided tours of the island, which cost about $60 to $75 per person.

St. Kitts is one of the islands in the Caribbean with a Dolphin Discovery where visitors can swim with dolphins. Prices usually start at more than $100 per person and depend on which program visitors choose.

Other popular attractions include climbing the 3,800-foot Mount Liamuiga and a 30-minute ferry ride to nearby Nevis at about $8 a ticket.

Mount Liamuiga, a dormant volcano that is 3,792 feet high, dominates the western half of the island and acts as one of the major attractions. Adventurous souls can hike to the top of it for expansive views of the island and the sister island of Nevis. Shore excursion prices start at about $75 per person including transportation.

One major road along the coast circles the island and the volcano, which allows visitors to reach various attractions quickly and easily. Because of the volcano, a large part of the island is not easy to visit except for the most fit and adventurous cruise visitors.

Nevis is known for beaches, hiking and other nature-based land activities. It is a quiet island that is known more for its natural attractions and a handful of hotels and resorts.

Some excursions will take visitors across the water to see the island. Shore excursion prices usually start at about $100 per person including the ferry ride and beach amenities such as chair, umbrella and beverages. Anyone going on their own can simply spend $8 on a ferry ticket.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

Brimstone Hill Fortress
Brimstone Hill Fortress; ©Roger Brisbane, Brisbane Productions

St. Kitts is not known for its beaches, but it has several within driving distance of Basseterre. If taking a taxi to the beach, be sure to ask for rates before getting into a cab.

Some cruise lines offer Frigate Bay as a shore excursion for about $40 to $50 per person. It has a one-mile stretch of white sand and many activities including windsurfing and waterskiing. It also has nearby bars and restaurants. The duration is about four hours.

South Friars Bay on the Caribbean side of the island is a popular choice with local amenities. More active visitors might prefer North Friars Bay on the Atlantic side. It has a much stronger surf.

Anyone thinking about seeing Brimstone Hill Fortress can combine that trip with a visit to the black sands of Pump Bay beach.

Otherwise, most shore excursions combine something adventurous with a beach visit. They include ATV and 4x4 rides. Prices for these excursions usually range between $75 and $150.

Note all excursion prices are subject to change.

Shopping and Restaurants

The port has two docks, but the newer and more popular dock is Port Zande.

Visitors will immediately see exhibits, displays and cruise operators as they walk off the ship.

Right past this point is the Zande duty-free shopping area, which offers fine jewelry, liquor, souvenirs and restaurants.

Next is Pelican Mall, the ground floor of which houses the headquarters of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority. Stop there for any questions about things to see and do on the island.

Also nearby are the National Museum and the Circus, an octagonal plaza that is similar to a miniature version of London’s famous Piccadilly Circus.

In the center of the Circus is the Berkeley Memorial Drinking Fountain and Clock, erected in 1891. Around the edge is more duty-free shops, banks and restaurants.

Getting Around / Transportation

The St. Kitts cruise port is a walking destination. The mall area is massive, and it’s right next to Basseterre. So a few hours of walking to shop, dine and view local attractions is a given.

Taxi rates are posted rather than metered. Each location on the island has a specific fare.

A car rental is a good idea for any cruise visitors with enough time to spare because St. Kitts has a number of decent attractions around the island.

Like other destinations, most of the car rental agencies cluster around Basseterre and next to the nearby airport.

Most of the agencies are locally owned. At least two international companies have a presence—Avis and Thrifty.

However, drivers need a permit that costs $24. Cruise visitors who plan to visit more than one attractions around the county may find that renting a car is less expensive than taking two separate tour buses.

St. Kitts Weather

St. Kitts lies close to Antigua and St. Maarten and shares common weather patterns.

Average monthly high temperatures range between the low 80s Fahrenheit in the winter to the upper 80s in the summer. They make the island a warm destination year round.

Rain is moderate except for a brief rainy season in May and a spike in rainfall in September through November during the annual Caribbean hurricane season.

As such, eastern Caribbean cruises that include St. Kitts hit a high point from December through March during the dry season. They reach a low point in the fall during the a time of heavier rains.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
December 19, 2023

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