One of the best things before going on holiday is that sense of anticipation: no more work for two weeks!
A feeling that only heightens as your plane swoops in low over the Caribbean Sea. The lush green hills of the island and the coast dotted with inviting beaches as you descend. And then wheels hit runway, the door opens and you step into the heat, with memories of grey, rainy Gatwick thankfully half a world away.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to St Kitts and Nevis.
MORE THAN AN ISLAND PARADISE
The two islands form one nation, separated by a short channel called The Narrows. In many ways, they are typical of the West Indies. But then, in many ways, they’re not. So, it’s a big yes to friendly local inhabitants, great beaches, golf, old plantation houses, warm seas, bars that serve a mean rum punch and top-notch hotels. But on both islands, there’s plenty more to do than just bask by a pool, if you want.
On St Kitts, you can go hiking in the crater of Mt Liamuiga or ride for 29km on a 100-year-old locomotive that used to haul sugar cane, if you’d rather let the train take the strain. Catch a game of cricket in Basseterrre. And explore a 17th-century British fort at Brimstone Hill that is one of the bestpreserved examples in the Caribbean.
Over on Nevis you can wander between the Georgian and Victorian buildings in the capital, Charlestown, and if you’re feeling up to it, climb 970m-high Mt Nevis. Hire a car – watch out for monkeys and wild donkeys – to discover more about the island where Lord Nelson was married, and where Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the USA and the name behind the smash-hit Broadway musical, was born. On Friday nights go “liming” (relaxing) with the locals for a roadside cookout accompanied by a few chilled Carib lagers.
THE NEW DAWN OF LUXURY
When it comes to luxury hotels, both islands have certainly expanded their offerings over the last few years, something that, by coincidence or design, has happened at the same time as the launch of direct* flights from London.
The Park Hyatt opened on St Kitts last year and is situated on a golden stretch of beach on the southernmost tip of the island at Banana Bay. There are 126 contemporarily-designed rooms and suites here. When it comes time to dining you have a choice of three restaurants, or explore Christophe Harbour next door where you can eat, drink and dance to local bands. There’s a spa, kids’ club, two pools – one is adults only – and the Royal St Kitts Golf Club is just 15 minutes away.
For a different perspective, consider Belle Mont Farm, in the northwest of the island, set high up on a hillside with spectacular views. Cottages offer the luxury of privacy, with outdoor bath tubs set on the verandah. At night, you can pull down a screen and bring out a projector for your very own cinema for two, complete with popcorn. There’s also a choice of one-to-four bedroom villas, crafted from local stone, and for a larger family or group of friends, there’s The Farmhouse, which can sleep up to eight.
When it comes to eating, Belle Mont prides itself on fresh, sustainable dining and 90% of ingredients at its Kitchen Restaurant are locally sourced. If you choose, you can dine outside at a large communal table while toasting the sun set, then relax over a cocktail or two at The Mill Bar.
It’s only a short hop by boat to Nevis, and Montpelier Plantation, a member of Relais & Chateaux, makes a great base if you want a two-centre stay on St Kitts’ neighbour. Situated in 24 hectares of private tropical gardens on the slopes of Mt Nevis, it’s a superb spot in which to relax and unwind. There are just 19 bedrooms here, all individually decorated, and with Egyptian cotton sheets, impressive views of the volcano and sea and most have their own private veranda. All rooms are charming but we especially love Tamarind Villa with its own plunge pool.
The resort has a pool but it also has its own stretch of beach with complimentary transfers, if you’d rather feel the sand between your toes and the chance of a dip in the Caribbean. When it comes to time to eat, there are two restaurants at Montpelier serving delicious West Indian and international dishes, with locally-caught fish a speciality. For a treat book an intimate, candlelit, five-course tasting menu for two at Mill Privée, the property’s converted 300-year-old sugar mill.