Small but sweet: A luxury travel guide to St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean
It might be small in comparison to its Caribbean neighbours, but the federation of St Kitts and Nevis has more than enough to entice visitors, says writer Nilufer Atik…
They say good things come in small packages. Nowhere is this truer than in the dual-island federation of St Kitts and Nevis. It might be the smallest nation in the Caribbean in terms of both land area and population (only around 45,000 people live there) but it certainly leaves a big impression on visitors.
Boasting warm climates all year round, champion golf courses, sandy beaches and beautiful tropical rainforests, there’s a lot more to these sister islands than meets the eye.
Saint Kitts is the larger of the two and is dominated by Mount Liamuiga, a dormant 3,792-foot stratovolcano situated on the western side. One of the tallest peaks in the eastern Caribbean archipelago, the slopes of this epic mountain are covered in lush farmland and dense forest, blanketed by mist from the clouds above.
With outstanding views of the surrounding land and sea, not to mention the neighbouring islands of St. Barts, St. Martin, and Antigua, it’s a definite must for hikers and nature-lovers. The climb takes around six hours however and is uphill most of the way, so you need to be fairly athletic to conquer it.
There are plenty of other, less challenging attractions to enjoy in St Kitts though, especially its beaches. The most popular with locals is Frigate Bay South, home to the area’s main tourist hotels and ‘The Strip’ – a row of beachfront bars and eateries that offer a relaxed atmosphere by day and lively entertainment by night.
The quieter and more upmarket Sand Bank beach on the south-east peninsula has white sand, a private beach club, and just a scattering of houses behind it. The aptly named Turtle Beach nearby is great for bathing and snorkeling, with plenty of dazzling fish swimming around its coral reef. The gated entrance gives the impression Sand Beach is private, but all beaches in St Kitts and Nevis are public so anyone can visit.
A 15-minute boat ride away on Nevis sits the glorious Pinney’s beach. With miles of soft white sand and numerous places to eat and drink, it’s no surprise this is where the rich and famous like to sit and watch the sun set.
Of course, all sunsets are spectacular here wherever you view them. But the best spot for some sky-watching is at Salt Plage in Whitehouse Bay, located just 15 minutes from downtown Basseterre. Featuring St Kitts’ finest craft cocktails – including the signature Plage Jumbie – Salt Plage is one of the best beach bars in the world. It boasts a fabulous waterfront location and a striking open-air design with contemporary, nautical-inspired furnishings. There’s live music in the evenings and plenty of tasty offerings on the Caribbean menu.
Virtually all the beach bars serve food, and throughout the day you’ll find locals and tourists alike flocking to them to enjoy traditional delicacies like salt fish with spicy plantain and coconut dumplings, goat soup or lobster sandwich.
For a more upmarket dining experience, you can book a table at one of the handful of five-star hotels, such as the Park Hyatt in Banana Bay. St Kitts’ newest resort, the Park Hyatt sits on the south-east peninsula, just a half-hour drive from Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport and 45-minutes from Brimstone Hill National Park.
This spectacular hotel blends contemporary décor with colonial architecture. Lily pools bordered by wood panels and walls lined with tropical plants greet guests at the entrance and all the rooms are designed to instill peace and joy with neutral colours brought to life by a touch of Caribbean flair. The high ceilings and huge windows allow in tons of natural light, creating a feeling of spaciousness.
There are 78 rooms in total and 48 suites, housed in three-storey, sea-facing buildings. All come with wall-mounted TVs, walk-in closets, a Nespresso machine and mini fridges as well as free-standing tubs in the bathroom. Premium suites also have private swimming pools and sundecks, and the uber-luxurious Presidential Villa even offers its guests their own infinity-edge pool, gym and games rooms.
There are three restaurants on site – The Great House, which serves a continental-style buffet or a la carte hot breakfast daily as well lunch and dinner, the seafood-focused Waterfront Fisherman’s Village and The Stone Barn, an adults-only dinner restaurant, serving dishes straight ‘from the hearth’, like wood-fired lamb or slow roasted spiced duck. The menu is exquisite with rum punches to match almost every dish.
The Hyatt has a wonderful spa too – Miraval Life in Balance – where you can indulge in a soothing massage or reviving facial after a long day’s excursion. It is the only spa of its kind in the Caribbean and the therapists use local ingredients such as Kittitian brown sugar and natural salts and herbs in their scrubs and oils.
If you want to take in a bit of history during your stay you can visit one of the many sugar plantations on a guided tour. While the trade had been mostly replaced by tourism, sugar is still grown on St Kitts, where there are 30 large estates as well as smallholders growing cane. All that remains of the industry on Nevis however, are the ruins of former plantation houses and sugar works.
Many have since been converted into hotels with historic décor and impressive grounds, like Belle Mont Farm. Set on a hillside overlooking miles of forests and meadows, this 400-acre former sugar plantation in the north-west of St Kitts now comprises a collection of cottages, villas and residences with terrific views across the island and Caribbean Sea.
The Belle Mont hotel itself is an upscale boutique establishment with airy rooms that come as one, two or four-bedroom cottages complete with private plunge pools and projector screen TVs. Colonial in style, the interiors are dark wood with high pointed ceilings above huge beds and tall wardrobes.
Salon doors open up to an outdoor bathroom where you can hear birds chirping in the surrounding trees as you sink into the deep roll-topped bath or stand beneath the rainfall shower. Curtains and screens can be closed for privacy but it’s quite an uplifting experience washing among nature.
Everything at Belle Mont is organic and there are three farm-to-table restaurants, one of which has a communal table set high on the slopes of a hill, where you can sit with other guests and enjoy a sumptuous array of locally foraged ingredients. The attentive waiters will even light a bonfire for you to sit around and sing post meal if the mood takes you. It’s the perfect Caribbean way to end an evening.
Images of Park Hyatt (including main image) courtesy of Park Hyatt Hotel