A serene view of Christophe Harbour in St. Kitts.
By Carrie Seim
Beware the wild monkeys.
Because if the cobalt Caribbean waters, the tucked-away beaches, the lush rainforest and the sugar-sweet locals aren’t enough to make you want to stay in St. Kitts forever, the melt-your-heart primates scampering around every turn will seal the deal.
St. Kitts – the sister island of sun-drenched Nevis – lives up to its reputation as one of the most unspoiled gems in the West Indies, blessed with gorgeous seascapes, zero traffic lights and surprisingly affordable (at least for now) adventure. With ultra-luxe developments sprouting, a glossy new private jet terminal and a superyacht marina on its way, it’s also poised to become the next way station of the jet set.
Get there before the one percent, and practice saying, “St. Bart’s? How last season.”
There’s really only one way to kick off your St. Kitts’ escape: with a little “liming” (relaxing with no worries in sight). Which beach to bum? Sandy Bank Bay offers a secluded cove with captivating white sand, a coral head and calm aqua waters; the St. Kitts Marriott Resort & the Royal Beach Casino, meanwhile, sits on a surprisingly lovely stretch of sand on the Atlantic that’s ideal for snorkeling excursions, complete with a small flotilla of turtles bobbing past.
St. Kitts Marriott Resort. (Photo: St. Kitts Marriott)
After a splash in the ocean, it’s time to trek into the jungle. St. Kitts, which has been protecting its 12,500 acres of reserved rainforest since 1903, is one of the only spots on the planet where the rainforest is expanding rather than shrinking. Greg’s Safaris offers engaging, fact-filled tours led by Greg Pereira, a passionate fifth-generation Kittitian who encourages hikers to see, hear, feel, smell and even taste the treasures of the rainforest. More ambitious climbers can tackle the (dormant) Mt. Liamuiga volcano, but be warned: it’s a vigorous hike that can take six hours.
Next, wind your way up to the cannon-fortified Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO world heritage site where British and French colonialists battled for dominion in the 1780s.
More history awaits on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway, a narrow-gauge train that chugs its way on a loop through the island and pays tribute to the island’s 350-year sugar industry.
The St. Kitts Marriott Resort’s (from $179) three swimming pools, eight restaurants, Emerald Spa and cabana-dotted beach make it ideal for families, couples, or group vacationers. The afternoon pool scene occasionally gets a bit raucous, but the staff is notably warm and deft at planning local excursions. On Wednesdays, stop by The Keys Cigar & Rum Bar for a swanky mojito night, fizzing with minty cocktails and live music from the Cuban trio Havana Express.
The treed landscape of Ottley’s Plantation Inn, an erstwhile sugar estate that now sports cottages. (Courtesy: Ottley’s Plantation Inn, St. Kitts)
Boutique aficionados will revel in Ottley’s Plantation Inn, (from $199) a former sugar plantation dating back to the 17th century that offers gracefully appointed great house rooms and cottages fitted with handsome British colonial furniture.
Keep an eye out for a charming family of monkeys as you hike the property’s rainforest trails or play a round of croquet.
Be sure to leave your wooden plantation shutters open in the evening; nightbirds will sing you to sleep.
The hottest resort in the Caribbean at the moment is Kittitian Hill’s Belle Mont Farm, a 400-acre luxury property (from $800 through Nov. 15; $2,250, all inclusive, after)that soft launched this summer and officially debuts in December. Its 84 somebody-pinch-me guesthouses and seven four-bedroom “farmhouses” are perched atop a jungle ridge and endowed with soaring ceilings, verandas and private pool decks that offer stunning farm-to-sea views.
The pièce de résistance? Entirely outdoor bathrooms outfitted with clawfoot tubs, rainwater showers and vintage vanities. The Bill Bensley-designed enclave (which emphasizes sustainable development and community engagement) is nestled beneath fruit trees near a forthcoming spa, farm-to-table restaurant, rum bar and environmentally low-impact golf course. It’s all anchored by a Great House — resplendent with stone colonnades inspired by historic Brimstone Hill.
Related: More Than a View, But What a View it Is! Spectacular Caribbean Hotels
You get 400 acres to love with Kittitian Hill’s Belle Mont Farm — the island’s buzziest resort offers luxury in a jungle. (Photo: Jean-Philippe Piter)
Lunch demands a stop at local-favorite El Fredo’s. The menu changes daily, offering fresh-caught fish and Caribbean delights like chicken roti, oxtail and goat water (aka, goat soup).
For a more posh experience, sample plantain crisps, fresh greens and creole-spiced swordfish at the newly opened the Pavilion Beach Club in Christophe Harbour.
For sunset drinks and dinner, the chic Spice Mill Restaurant – with its coconut-wood beach bar, daybeds and a breezy dining room adorned with indigenous architectural details – is a must. Dig into elegantly presented conch fritters, jerk pork or a plate of seafood risotto as live steel drum music plays.
Carambola Beach Club is another haven of beachy sophistication – try the impossibly fresh sushi and their specialty bread pudding.
Steamy nights call for a bit of dancing at the Strip, a row of sandy beach bars on Frigate Bay where the entire island convenes to sway to soca and calypso, rock karaoke and party by the light of bonfires at palm-roofed spots like Mr. X’s Shiggidy Shack (869-762-3983) and Buddies Beach Hut. The crowd is a lively mix of locals, tourists, and students from the several med and veterinary colleges on the island, plus a handful of international glitterati.
Island Swank: Coming Soon
Adding another spotlight on St. Kitts as a glam go-to destination for the jeunesse dorée, Christophe Harbour has broken ground on a Park Hyatt hotel, slated (optimistically) for a late 2015 debut. Already up and running on the elegant 2,500-acre development are The Pavilion restaurant and beach club, along with a handful of private villas.
The Salt Plage, a “St. Tropez-style” bar and restaurant made of corrugated sheet metal reclaimed from a sugar factory, will serve as an arrival dock for Christophe Harbour’s superyacht marina, sure to lure more of the super-rich to St. Kitts.
And for those who never want their island escape to end: St. Kitts promises a passport to almost anyone who spends $400,000 on property (plus another $100,000 or so in fees). So if you’ve got an extra half a million lying around, feel free to click your heels and become a Kittitian for life.
Let the liming begin!
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