There’s a certain bend in the road from St Kitts airport to Christophe Harbor that always elicits an awestruck reaction from first-timers, my driver tells me as we climb the rugged terrain. It’s 9 p.m. on a clear, warm night in June, and I can’t help but feel let down that I’ve arrived in darkness. Silhouettes of swaying palms whir past the window, and we turn a bend in the road when I see it: the southeast peninsula in all its glory, with undulating hills that appear to rise straight from the Caribbean Sea, creating dramatic peaks against the satin night sky. My driver looks back with a glint in his eye and says, “Every time.”
Though St. Kitts and Nevis are known as one of the most mountainous island nations in the West Indies, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of awe when you first lay eyes on the landscape. It’s dramatic, to say the least. Defined by three distinct groups of volcanic peaks, every bend and dip in the road reveals a new delight: quiet turquoise bays, 17th-century ruins, mighty fortresses, and orange-tinged rusty shipwrecks are just a few of the attractions waiting to be found. Here's why it's worth planning a trip to this up-and-coming patch of paradise—if not for winter, then before everyone else does.
A relative spec among the smattering of islands in the Caribbean, St. Kitts has gone under the radar for years, dwarfed by better-known neighbors like Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands. That is, until 2005, when the European Union ended three centuries of buying local sugar—spurring the nation to quickly invest in tourism and welcome hotels to undeveloped parts of the island, like Christophe Harbour. Spared by the hurricanes that ravage the region, it's just one of the reasons St. Kitts is quickly emerging as the number one Caribbean island to visit.
Where to Stay on St. Kitts
Though there are many hotels and resorts to consider, one development is causing a serious buzz on the island. Park Hyatt St. Kitts, possibly the most anticipated hotel opening in the region, launched in winter 2017 with a bang, ranking on almost every top travel list from The New York Times and Conde Nast Traveler to Vogue. The five-star resort is nestled to the south of the island in Banana Bay, Christophe Harbor, with prime views of Nevis and an on-site spa.
Blessed with one of the most picturesque parts of the island, Park Hyatt St. Kitts sprawls across Banana Bay, with direct views of the neighboring Nevis from almost every room. The interior décor is understated, yet serene. White wood paneling and floor-to-ceiling windows flood the bedrooms in natural light, sculptural bar stools invite guests to indulge in one more alfresco cocktail, and curved teal rattan chairs add a burst of color to the otherwise neutral reception area. You won't find any kitschy beach artwork or tropical-print linens here.
The hotel has 78 rooms and 48 suites that form an arc around the resort and face the Caribbean Sea. Each premier suite has an exceptional private plunge pool or a swimming pool that appears to disappear into the horizon, and all rooms have a spacious tub and rain shower. The beds are ridiculously comfortable and plush (you'll be nagging concierge to tell you where the pillows are from), and Le Labo bath amenities will spark a serious internal conflict about whether to take a dip in the standalone tub or plunge pool.
The hotel's somewhat remote location has its pros and cons. It's about a 30-minute taxi ride to many of the main towns and attractions, so they've clearly put thought into curating on-site offerings, including the on-site spa. In addition to body treatments that incorporate local sea salt and ginger, there are also custom-curated experiences that include meditation and yoga in a re-created sugar mill.
Three on-property restaurants offer diverse dining options. Choose from casual fare at the Great House, family-style dining at the Fisherman's Village, or high-end cuisine with an Indian inflection at the Stone Barn.
What to Do on St. Kitts
The island has a good road network, so it's easy to rent a car and explore the towns and coves in your own time (although it's worth noting that as a former British colony, they drive on the lefthand side of the road). Your first stop should be Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating back to the 1690s, the landmark was designed by British military engineers and built and maintained by African slaves. Now, it gives important insight into the island's colonial past and offers panoramic views of the coastline.
If you don't venture to the other side of St. Kitts, make the most of your position near Nevis and get the ferry across The Narrows. The public ferry takes about 45 minutes. When you're there, head to St. Thomas' Lowland Church, the first Anglican church in the Caribbean, or spend the day at postcard-perfect Pinney's Beach.
At days end, head to Salt Plage for a craft cocktail. The waterfront bar and cafe is the perfect spot to watch the sunset from a hammock suspended over the water, with the faint thrum of reggae beats in the background. It's bliss.
Though St. Kitts' commitment to tourism will help fill the gap left by the dwindling sugar industry, it's also the mark of a new chapter for the island. At the moment, it's possible to have a varied trip, with road trip adventures and unspoiled beaches by day and access to world-class restaurants and five-star amenities by night. Private condos and a new luxury hotel in development mean it won't last for long, though. Here's to hoping that no matter how much the island evolves, the reaction caused by that little bend in the road remains unchanged.
This trip was hosted by Park Hyatt St. Kitts. The editor's opinions are her own.