St. Kitts and Nevis aren’t noted for seemingly endless sensuous strands, yet beachcombers will find enough variety during their holiday. The finest beaches are fairly developed (Frigate Beach on the Caribbean side, with one bar after another, is a party-hearty destination on weekends), but both islands offer surf-lashed Atlantic stretches fine for R&R a deux if not swimming.
Both islands have appealing beige-hue beaches, such as Pinney’s or those garlanding St. Kitts’s Southeast Peninsula. Many abutting the Atlantic feature earthier colors, ranging from warm mocha to taupe-gray. Some Atlantic beaches are wind-whipped and wilder, such as Cona-ree, ideal for bodysurfing, though they’re not regularly maintained so otherwise soft sand competes with seaweed, shells, and driftwood.
Beaches on St. Kitts are free and open to the public (even those occupied by hotels). The best beaches, with powdery white sand, are in the Frigate Bay area or on the lower peninsula. The Atlantic waters are rougher, and many black-sand beaches northwest of Frigate Bay double as garbage dumps, though locals bodysurf at Cona-ree Bay.
All beaches on Nevis are free to the public (the plantation inns cordon off “private” areas on Pinney’s Beach for guests), but there are no changing facilities, so wear a swimsuit under your clothes.
Banana/Cockleshell Bays. These twin connected eyebrows of glittering champagne-color sand—stretching nearly 2 mi (3 km) total at the southeastern tip of the island—feature majestic views of Nevis and are backed by lush vegetation and coconut palms. The Rasta-hue Lion Rock Beach Bar (order the knockout Lion Punch) and Reggae Beach Bar & Grill bracket either end of Cockleshell. The water is generally placid, ideal for swimming. The downside is irregular maintenance, with seaweed (particularly after rough weather) and occasional litter, especially on Banana Bay. Follow Simmonds Highway to the end and bear right, ignoring the turnoff for Turtle Beach.
Friar’s Bay. Locals consider Friar’s Bay, on the Caribbean (southern) side, the island’s finest beach. It’s a long, tawny scimitar where the water always seems warmer and clearer. Unfortunately, the new Marine World development has co-opted nearly half the strand. Still, several happening bars, including Shipwreck, Mongoose, and Sunset Grill, serve terrific, inexpensive local food and cheap, frosty drinks. Chair rentals cost around $3, though if you order lunch, you can negotiate a freebie. Friar’s is the first major beach along Southeast Peninsula Drive (aka Simmonds Highway), approximately a mile southeast of Frigate Bay.
Frigate Bay. The Caribbean side offers talcum-powder-fine beige sand framed by coconut palms and sea grapes, and the Atlantic side (a 15-minute stroll)— sometimes called North Frigate Bay—is a favorite with horseback riders. South Frigate Bay is bookended by Sunset Cafe and Oasis. In between are several other lively beach spots, including Cathy’s (fabulous jerk ribs), the Monkey Bar, and Mr. X Shiggidy Shack. Most charge $3 to $5 to rent a chair, though they’ll often waive the fee if you ask politely and buy lunch. Locals barhop late into Friday and Saturday nights. Waters are generally calm for swimming; the rockier eastern end offers fine snorkeling. The incomparably scenic Atlantic side is—regrettably—dominated by the Marriott (plentiful dining options), attracting occasional pesky vendors. The surf is choppier and the undertow stronger here. On cruise-ship days, groups stampede both sides. Frigate Bay is easy to find, just less than 3 mi (5 km) from downtown Basseterre.
Sand Bank Bay. A dirt road, nearly impassable after heavy rains, leads to a long mocha crescent on the Atlantic. The shallow coves are protected here, making it ideal for families, and it’s usually deserted. Brisk breezes lure the occasional windsurfer, but avoid the rocky far left area because of fierce sudden swells and currents. This exceptionally pretty beach lacks facilities and shade. As you drive southeast along Simmonds Highway, approximately 10 mi (16 km) from Basseterre, look for an unmarked dirt turnoff to the left of the Great Salt Pond.
White House Bay. The beach is rocky, but the snorkeling, taking in several reefs surrounding a sunken tugboat, as well as a recently discovered 18th-century British troop ship, is superb. It’s usually deserted, though the calm water (and stunning scenery) makes it a favorite anchorage of yachties. There are no facilities and little shade, but there’s also little seaweed. A dirt road skirts a hill to the right off Simmonds Highway approximately 2 mi (3 km) after Friar’s.
Newcastle Beach. This broad swath of soft ecru sand shaded by coconut palms is near Nisbet Plantation, on the channel between St. Kitts and Nevis. It’s popular with snorkelers, but beware stony sections and occasional strong currents that kick up seaweed and roil the sandy bottom.
Oualie Beach. South of Mosquito Bay and north of Cades and Jones bays, this beige-sand beach lined with palms and sea grapes is where the folks at Oualie Beach Hotel can mix you a drink and fix you up with water-sports equipment. There’s excellent snorkeling amid calm water and fantastic sunset views with St. Kitts silhouetted in the background. Several beach chairs and hammocks (free with lunch, $3 rental without) line the sand and the grassy “lawn” behind it. Oualie is at the island’s northwest tip, approximately 3 mi (5 km) west of the airport.
Pinney’s Beach. The island’s showpiece has soft, golden sand on the calm Caribbean, lined with a magnificent grove of palm trees. The Four Seasons Resort is here, as are the plantation inns’ beach clubs and casual beach bars such as Sunshine’s, Chevy’s and the Double Deuce. Regrettably, the waters can be murky and filled with kelp if the weather has been inclement anywhere within a hundred miles, depending on the currents.