St. Kitts is Just Your Size
Tucked away in the Eastern Caribbean's Leeward Islands is a place so petite, but so over-endowed with treasures, it gives new meaning to hidden gem. Think emerald-forested volcanic peaks, ruby-petaled flamboyant trees—and of course, surrounding rings of turquoise sea.
This tiny nation—the smallest in the Americas, actually—is St. Kitts and Nevis, and once you get to know it, you’re going to want to spend some time there this summer or fall. The only question is how much. Whether you’ve got anything from a weekend to a few weeks, these sister islands offer good options, especially because multiple direct flights from the US have either resumed already or will soon. Just be aware that current COVID protocols require that you stick to your resort for three days if you're vaccinated (you can explore the islands after a negative test on the fourth day of your visit).
But here's the thing: You may not even want to leave the resort. You'd be amazed how quickly you can settle into a routine of seaside breakfasts, a dip in the Caribbean, a round of tennis, fresh-off-the-fishing-boat lunch, a siesta in a hammock, a wake-up call by the monkeys scampering in the aforementioned flamboyants (the national tree of St. Kitts & Nevis), poolside massage, alfresco cocktails and dinner at the beach. Think of this as a 21st-century take on the old European practice of medically prescribed R&R in a beautiful natural setting.
Read on for the stay that suits you best.
If you crave an amazing quick escape
Given that the Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw International Airport—which serves St. Kitts and Nevis—is a direct flight from three mainland US cities and a short hop from San Juan, even a quick escape to this two-island federation feels totally worthwhile.
In fact, some places are making a stay of a few days extra-tempting. At Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour, for example, if you book at least four nights—with the option to extend—you’ll get an automatic room upgrade and free breakfast throughout thanks to The 5 Day Getaway.
Not that the deal is the only lure: Spanning a secluded, golden-beached bay, backed by rolling hills, and outfitted with all kinds of luxury amenities, the Park Hyatt is a dream destination by any standards. Some of the suites even come with their own rooftop pools and sundecks, which in turn come with stunning views of the Caribbean and Nevis across the Narrows.
Another popular and amenity-laden property that’s participating in the 5 Day Getaway deal: the St. Kitts Marriott Resort. Here, you’ll find three pools, seven restaurants—and one gorgeous private beach with plenty of room to spread out, lie back in a shaded lounger and take in the views of the sea and the island’s rolling hills. While the spa is under renovation, you'll find the best kind of stand-in: poolside massage.
If it's a truly local vibe you crave, go with the longstanding classic: The Royal St. Kitts Hotel, where the warm Kittian vibes are as beloved as the five eateries, the two pools and the endless mountain and lagoon views. And provided a negative test result on your fourth day, you can wander mere steps to access everything from a golf course to various beaches (one across the street, another 10 minutes away).
If you have a bit longer
Settling into island life comes easily here, but perhaps nowhere more so than at an icon like Four Seasons Resort Nevis—a beloved 350-acre property celebrating the big 3-0 this year on the heels of a major refresh.
Beyond the breezy new in-room décor and seven additional suites, all the public spaces have been re-imagined, one highlight being On the Dune: a new beachside restaurant and bar, where the views and flavors of the Caribbean rival one another (starting at breakfast with the Nevisian pumpkin pancakes and rum-banana compote).
The spa, along with its relaxation pool and terrace, is open by appointment, and will likely be another highlight of your stay—as will strolls on Pinney’s Beach, swims in the sea and the guided botanical and monkey-spotting tour. Vervet monkeys, as you’ll quickly discover, handily outnumber humans in these islands. And though all of the above is reason enough to stay for a while, so is the free third night for every two consecutive nights you spend here through December 16, 2021.
For the reverse perspective on the same island—that is, from 750 feet above the sea, in the forested foothills of Nevis peak—consider the Montpelier Plantation & Beach. Born as a 19th-century sugar mill estate, the secluded spread is still dotted with some of the original structures, now repurposed as everything from a great room to a private dining space. While merely being here induces serenity, consider the bonus dose on offer at the greenery-shrouded open-air spa, where you can also book private yoga sessions.
And though you won't be able to make the six-mile trip to the hotel's beach unless you're a vaccinated guest who's tested negative on day four, you may never want to leave the resort's 60-foot mosaic pool anyway, given the views of Nevis Peak and the old sugar mill—not to mention the incredibly fresh local fare on offer poolside. And from now until December 2021, you'll save 25% on a Plantation Room and 50% on dinner at the on-site Restaurant 750 or Indigo through the On a Whim package (the way so many of the best escapes seem to come together).
If you're looking for an amazingly affordable villa, check out the Marriott's St. Kitts Beach Club—the adjacent sister property to the aforementioned St. Kitts Marriott Resort. You'll have access to all the same amenities as resort guests, plus 20% off a villa stay of five nights or longer through December 13, 2021. Of course, the above is just a sampling of the islands' lodgings. Check out the international travelers' Approved Accommodations list for the full range of options.
Once you start exploring
There’s a lot to see and do on the islands once you’re cleared to do so. Here's just the short list of the adventures that await.
Take a walking tour of St. Kitts' historic center of Basseterre, where you won’t want to miss—for starters—The Circus, inspired by London's Piccadilly Circus. You'll also want to check out the 18th-century Immaculate Conception church and the Old Treasury building turned national museum.
For another important element of local history (in this case, with epic vistas), head up to the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Brimstone Hill Fortress and National Park, where African slaves used local the volcanic rock to build this arresting military installation (now a historic museum).
For an entirely different take on that same site (and on the island’s vistas) book a zipline tour. Soaring through tropical treetops and a ravine, you’ll spy not only Brimstone Hill, but also the gorgeous sea and various jungle-dwelling creatures—monkeys almost certainly among them.
If you prefer the feet-on-the-ground approach to jungle exploration and you’re in good shape, don’t miss a hike up Mt. Liamuiga. This dormant volcano is home to cloud forests, waterfalls and—when you reach the peak—surreal vistas. (For an alternative to this strenuous, four-hour hike, consider one of the island’s guided rain forest tours.)
To meet some of the underwater counterparts to the wildlife you’ve seen on land, don’t miss a snorkeling trip to Dieppe Bay Beach, where the reef makes for spectacular and convenient snorkeling right off the famous black sand beach.
And after a day of exploring, enjoy the cocktails and foodie finds along the bustling Frigate Bay Strip. Think beach bars, hyperlocal seafood and supreme island nightlife vibes.
As for Nevis…a certain U.S. founding-father-turned-Broadway-sensation hailed from this island, so you won’t want to miss a trip to colonial Charlestown, where a stone replica of the Alexander Hamilton Birthplace houses the Museum of Nevis History. Strolling around the evocative neighborhood, you’ll also find plenty of original 18th- and 19th-century buildings.
Serious history lovers will also want to check out St. Thomas Lowland Church (dating to 1643, it’s the Caribbean’s first Anglican house of worship), as well as the late 17th-century St. John’s Fig Tree Church and the 18th-century Jewish Cemetery, among several other fascinating sites.