St. Kitts Scenic Railway allows passengers to hop onboard for a scenic 18-mile ride while listening to a bit of island lore. // © 2016 St. Kitts Tourism Authority
Feature image (above): The mountainous island of St. Kitts is a good option for nature-loving families. // © 2016 St. Kitts Tourism Authority
If your clients are looking for an over-the-top Caribbean family vacation with all the bells and whistles (think waterparks and mega resorts), then St. Kitts won’t meet their needs. But for a vacation that encourages families to reconnect through a mix of nature activities, wonderful beaches, a dash of history and a handful of attractions and activities that add zip to a holiday, the island of St. Kitts is a perfect fit.
Once you book your clients at a family-friendly St. Kitts hotel, you’re halfway to setting the table for a memorable vacation. Unlike some destinations in the Caribbean, St. Kitts isn’t known for its wide range of all-inclusive properties. The most familiar brand-name hotel on the island is St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino, which has plenty of appeal for families, including a kids’ club. Additionally, Bird Rock Beach Hotel offers all-inclusive rates, and at Ocean Terrace Inn, children ages 11 and under stay free and eat free from the kids’ menu.
St. Kitts is blessed with numerous beautiful beaches. The beaches on the southeast peninsula of the island are the most family-friendly; two of the most popular are Cockleshell Beach and Reggae Beach. Both are kid- and adult-friendly: Parents can kick back with a tropical cocktail from one of the beach bars while children enjoy a range of watersports.
There’s a bonus for families vacationing on St. Kitts from March to late July, as well as during October. This is when the hatchlings of endangered leatherback turtles emerge from their eggs and nests and make their way to the sea. Interested families can join nighttime tours from the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network from April 15 to June 15.
Beyond the Resort
The No. 1 attraction on the island is the St. Kitts Scenic Railway. Families can climb onboard a train that was inaugurated more than 100 years ago and that once carried loads of sugarcane until it was retired in 2005. The train was then reborn as a tourist attraction. Now, the 18-mile, two-hour ride along a narrow gauge railway line takes passengers through a scenic island landscape of mountains, farmlands and sea views. It’s a comfortable, air-conditioned ride on the double-decker train, with options for refreshments. There’s also a guide supplying bits of island lore. Some of the most memorable views may be the friendly islanders waving to the train and the children running alongside the tracks.
Families interested in zipline thrills can look to Sky Safaris Tours Inc., at the island’s Wingfield Estate. The operator has five ziplines that carry riders through the rainforest; the longest is 1,350 feet and about 250 feet high. The minimum age to zipline is six, and closed-toe shoes are required. In addition to the zipline, participants can tour the grounds of the former sugar estate, where the remains of the operation still stand.
Most kids go into full fantasy mode when touring a historic fort. St. Kitt’s Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to 1690. The stone fort has a commanding position atop an 800-foot-high hill, which affords dramatic sea and island views. If clients are lucky, they may catch glimpses of vervet monkeys, which were originally brought to the island by French colonialists.
Families with an excess of energy can tackle the hike up volcanic Mount Liamuiga. The 2.5-hour self-guided trek rewards hikers with awe-inspiring views of the mountain’s crater, which contains a shallow lake. On a clear day, the view from the 3,972-foot volcanic peak includes a host of neighboring islands, including Anguilla, Antigua, Nevis, Saba, St. Barts, St. Eustatius and St. Martin.