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Have we ever mentioned that we’re not really beach people? We’ve never stayed at an all-inclusive, never been on a cruise, and have only once before traveled to a tropical place with the sole intention of relaxing.
The prospect of being relegated to a beach for a week or longer is, frankly, terrifying.
We don’t think we’re alone in this, which is why we assume most beach resorts come equipped with lots of kayaks and snorkel gear and in-water trampolines. And free-flowing frozen drinks.
Anyway, the idea of spending two weeks in St. Kitts & Nevis sounded great to us for the weather portion of the equation. But paired with the potential of two weeks on the beach? Thanks but no thanks.
So, we dug in on the research, trying to find the perfect Caribbean island with enough non-beach stuff going on to sustain travelers who only need a dose of beach every second or third day.
St. Kitts is two mountainous islands with lush rainforests, and lots of juicy history? That sounds more like it.
Hiking in St. Kitts is actually well-documented, thanks to a guy who used to live here and thought it important to explain – in detail – all of the great hikes to do on the island. He no longer updates the site, but there are enough recent comments from other hikers to get a good picture about the status of a trail before setting off yourself.
As an attempt to add to the online literature about hiking in St. Kitts, we present our two favorite hikes on the island, with slightly fewer technical details, and more photos of us sweating. Because we’re nice like that.
Shitten Bay Hike (AKA, The One With The Shipwreck)
Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room that this is the worst named bay we’ve ever heard of. Come on, people. Couldn’t you think of something slightly less eyebrow-raising? Creating puns for Shitten Bay got us through the hardest part of the hike, and for that we are proud.
The most spectacular part of this hike is the shipwreck. From the moment we caught a glimpse of the rusted hull through the trees, we couldn’t get down to the rocky beach fast enough. We felt like freaking Magellan, discovering an uninhabited land, strewn with treasure. Or like the scientists who had the first glimpse of the Titanic underwater in their little robotic submarine. It was totally and completely epic.
Until the snorkeling tour showed up, but we’ll save that bit for later.
The hike to Shitten Bay begins on Major’s Bay. As you approach the bay, the car ferry to Nevis is straight in front of you. A sandy dirt road to your right takes you along the stretch of beach. This is a great beach for weekend picnics, devoid of tourists. Park as far down the road as you can get.
The first part of the hike is on a trail parallel to this bay. Up a ways, you’ll see the remains of another (small) ship. Once you are alongside that small ship, the trail veers inland, up a dry river bed.
There are orange trail markers, and small piles of stones to let you know you’ve arrived at the turn.
Here’s the not-so-secret-secret about this hike. You want to go up to the top of the hill and back down the other side, where Shitten Bay, and the ghost pirate ship, lie waiting for you. The river bed is the easiest way to get up and down, as the rest of the terrain is full of very dry brush and lots of nasty thorny bushes.
We were able to follow the orange markers the entire way up the hill and back down without much issue at all. In the few moments when we lost the markers, we just kept walking up and over, knowing where we were ultimately heading.
Bottom line, it’s hard to get lost.
Once you get down the river bed on the back side of the bay, the shipwreck will be your – quite obvious – clue that you’ve arrived. To return, retrace your path back up and over the hill, down Major’s Bay and back to your car on the beach. Easy enough. For more details, here is the blog post we read to prepare for the hike.
A few important notes about this hike in St. Kitts:
- Make sure to save time for swimming at the shipwreck as well as back at your car. The snorkeling isn’t as great as we expected around the wreck, but there are lots of artifacts to examine and photos to take.
- There is very limited information about this shipwreck available online. We’ve looked. We have no idea how old it is and other than it appears to be a fishing vessel, we’re still clueless.
- If you have water shoes, like the kind we had at age 6, now would be a good time to wear them. The beach is strewn with random stuff from the ship – pipes, ropes, canvas, metal – so be careful.
- In the late afternoon, some tour operators bring snorkeling tours over to the shipwreck by boat. We preferred the beach all alone, but your choice. Most of the day, the area is completely deserted.
This hike took us about 90 minutes in total, including about 20 minutes hanging out by the ship. Allow for 45 minutes walk each way, though you’ll probably move a little faster than that.
St. Kitts Bat Cave
We picked this hike entirely for the name. What’s not to like about visiting your very own rainforest bat cave?
It’s hard to find two more different hikes in St. Kitts than these. While Shitten Bay is all desert brush and beating sun, the walk to the Bat Cave is rainforest and moss.
The Bat Cave hike begins in the village of Challenger, west of the capital city Basseterre and beyond the entrance to Ross University. You’ll soon come across a long green cement wall in front of a primary school. The short road to the trail head is to the right. Again, the much more detailed post on this hike is found here.
The first part of the hike is a well trod trail, through an overgrown sugar cane field. After five minutes or so, the trail ends at a river bed, which extends left and right. Walk up the bed, to the right. The openness of the previous trail will quickly give way to dense rainforest on both sides, long hanging vines, creepy thick spiderwebs, and loud birds.
It’s a peaceful hike, not very vertical at all. There are large stable rocks to guide you, and other than watching out for more slippery moss-covered stones, it’s not hugely taxing. In fact, in the cool shade, it’s quite a pleasant place to spend some time.
The one and only adrenaline rush on the hike to the Bat Cave is the boulder ladder, a ladder propped up to scale the one rock on this whole trail that is too large for human consumption. The ladder is quite secure, roped in up top and cozy against a rock base below.
It’s not scary, per se, just enough excitement to get the blood pumping.
As you near the Bat Cave, you’ll start hearing the screeching of the bats. You really can’t miss it. We kept saying to each other, is that the cave? It looks like a cave! No. You’ll know it when you’re there. The sharp smell of guano, thumping wings and squeals will tip you off.
Maybe now is a good time to mention that if you have a fear of bats, skip this hike.
We took a few minutes to rest, taking lots of (grainy) photos and video, and then went back the way we came, down the riverbed, down the boulder ladder, and back to our car. Thanks to the shade, we arrived at the end of the hike wishing it had been longer, which is the first time that’s ever happened to us.
A few important notes about this hike in St. Kitts:
- In the detailed post about this hike, there is a mention of a fork in the riverbed, where you veer left. When we did the hike (February 2017), the right fork was mostly blocked by a downed tree, and the small pyramids of stones directed us left. It would have been difficult to go the wrong way at the fork.
- You’ll also see in the detailed post that there is an option to continue past the Bat Cave to a waterfall. We visited in the dry season, when the waterfall is more like a trickle, so we didn’t bother with it.
- The Bat Cave would be the perfect place to practice your tripod photography, long shutter speeds, etc. because it’s difficult to capture the bats or cave clearly without it.
This hike took about 45 minutes each way, and we hung out at the cave for an additional 15 minutes or so. Nice and easy.