There’s a disturbance in the treetops. It’s unclear what is behind the feverish rustling; there is so much dense foliage in the jungle canopy on the hillside of Mount Liamuiga, the dormant volcano on the island of St. Kitts.
All I know is that disturbance keeps getting louder, more primal, more animalistic.
Usually, I would be pretty laid back about a Kittitian [rhymes with beautician] disturbance in the trees—there are zero snakes nor particularly dangerous animals on the island, but I happen to be witnessing the fracas with a head full of shampoo under an outdoor shower in all my natural glory. So, yeah, I am a little uneasy.
Finally, a pair of chattering vervet monkeys, small and feline-like, reveal themselves in the trees and I breathe easy and resume my al fresco shower off the side of my cottage. These are the sort of moments that happen in St. Kitts—exciting close-ups with nature amidst posh trappings on an island as raw and timeless as it is erupting with new, modern possibilities.
Old School St. Kitts
Separated by a narrow sea channel from its sibling island nation, Nevis, the 70-square-mile St. Kitts is somewhat of a new entry to the Caribbean tourism game. Neighbors St. Maarten, Anguilla and St. Barts have long been beacons for luxury island travel but until about a decade ago, St. Kitts was essentially a stop for mega-cruise ships with much of the island’s beauty a well-kept secret.
But a modern airport capable of receiving big jets and the island’s natural bounty of beaches and activities have begun to command a larger share of Caribbean travel. Frigate Bay on the Atlantic side of the island is easily the most developed area of the island with “The Strip,” a hot-spot of bars and restaurants that comes alive at night, and Basseterre, the island’s bustling capital where a large grid of shopping awaits tourists. From there branch out for fun-in-the-sun on one of many wonderful stretches of sand such as the Reggae Beach where you can munch on fresh lobster at the Reggae Beach Bar and Grill. The island’s countryside is also dotted with historical sites aplenty; none as impressive as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Brimstone Hill Fortress, a 17th-century fort that sits atop an 800-foot bluff overlooking the sea. Down closer to sea-level take in the island’s vistas aboard the St. Kitts Scenic Railway, a 3-hour tour of the island on one of the few remaining operational railroads in the Caribbean.
Today the island is buzzing with two major developments that should not only propel St. Kitts into the rarefied air of luxury island travel, but also should set new standards for travel development worldwide.
Located on the southeastern peninsula of St. Kitts, the 2500 acre campus of Christophe Harbour brings to life the vision of former Kiawah Island developer, Charles P. “Buddy” Darby III, who literally carved an idyllic setting out of the island’s turquoise-blue waters and verdant hillsides.
Starting with a deep-water marina for super-yachts (purchase your own berth starting at only $1,875,000), the development offers custom-built homes, home sites and turnkey villas (prices range from $400,000 fractional ownerships to $7.8M oceanfront lots) for the lifestyles of the rich and famous sect. A private beach club called The Pavilion and a spectacular public beach bar called the SALT Plage have begun to show up on many of the world’s “best of” lists. But even if your ship hasn’t come in on that grand of a scale yet, you can experience Christophe Harbour by renting one a villa by the night or booking a room at the brand new Park Hyatt St. Kitts resort. And more elements are still coming together: next year an 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed golf course and a number of high-end retails shops are scheduled to open, surely accelerating the buzz.
On the northeast-facing side of Mount Liamuiga sits Kittitian Hill, another development that is straight out of a fairy tale. Belle Mont Farm positions 5-star luxury amidst multi-million dollar ocean views, a lush jungle and a working farm. An architect’s playground, the property’s buildings are an homage to former sugar plantations utilizing volcanic stone, mahogany, sea coral, iron, brass, and reclaimed woods throughout its beautiful campus.
You can rent or buy the villas and cottages, many which include private infinity pools and stylish outdoor plumbing (such as my outdoor shower). These are pure modern construction yet still feel centuries old, skillfully incorporating modern features like Roku set-top boxes into the antique designs. With air so pure it almost hurts your lungs, guests are encouraged to enjoy the bounty of the land and pick pineapples, mangos, bananas, avocados or other natural delights that are growing by your room or partake from the property’s restaurant, The Kitchen, which uses the farm’s produce to create radically delicious flavor-profiles like marinated heirloom tomatoes with passion fruit, white chocolate pancakes or pork tenderloin with bittersweet dark chocolate. For sport play some tennis or 18 holes on Irie Fields, the world’s most edible golf course where you can pick and eat fruit as you play with ocean views hole after hole.
After a week on the island, my family packs up and heads to the airport. My 10-year-old son, Zach, asks me what I thought of St. Kitts. “Real good, buddy. Real good,” I said contentedly.
He pauses for a moment, and then offers: “I think it was more like ‘surreal good,’ Dad.”
Thinking about the sites we took in: the tranquillity of beaches, the majesty of Brimstone Hill Fortress, the rustic opulence of Christophe Harbour and the elemental beauty of Belle Mont Farm, I think a 10-year-old better summed up St. Kitts than any travel writer ever could. Surreal good it surely is.
Know If You Go
A great resource to plan your trip is at stkittstourism.kn. Except for certain times of year when Delta offers a few direct flights from New Orleans, you will need to fly American Airlines and stop in Miami (MIA) to reach the Robert L. Bradshaw Airport (SKB).
St Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino, a family-friendly resort with a casino, golf course, three pools and that has recently refreshed its guest rooms and redone its lobby, is a perfect jumping off point for the Frigate Bay area and beyond. Doubles start at $135 a night.
While Christophe Harbour is still rolling out phases including its golf course and Marina Village, it’s still a spectacle of gorgeous wealth. If you are looking for a place to park your superyacht, invest in land or just escape, this is your place. For just a small slice of paradise you can rent a seaside villa or book a room at the all-new Park Hyatt St Kitts which will be accepting reservations after November 21st.
Likewise, Belle Mont Farms at Kittitian Hills, is ready for action but also still rolling out phases including a forthcoming spa and a mixed-use village which is slated to have high-end retail and even a cinema. Rentals of cottages start at $425 per night, villas $800. Holiday rates start at $650 and $1200.