More than five years ago, I was lucky enough to find myself vacationing on the island of St. Kitts, a lush, 68-square mile volcanic island in the West Indies. I fell in love with the people, the culture and the sweet air of the small island nation, affectionately dubbed, “Sugar City.” On my return, this time with boyfriend along my side, I wondered: would the taste of rum cake, the sting in a ting, and the charming local population, Kittitians, hold the same allure for me? Not only did I fall in love with the island all over again, but the surrounding landscape, blue waters and warm hospitality of St. Kitts allowed us to not just explore the island, but experience romance with each other.
St. Kitts Beach
It sounds obvious to say that there are no shortages of beautiful, pristine beaches on St. Kitts, but if there is a must-see beach destination it is Cockleshell Bay. A secluded stretch of white sand located on the Southeast Peninsula, it is over two miles long and gives visitors a magnificent view of St. Kitts’ sister land, Nevis. Our destination was the Spice Mill, a romantic oceanfront eatery serving up delicious and fresh Caribbean cuisine. The turquoise waters invited us to place our things on our private canopy beds, and jump right into the warm waters. With Nevis to our backs, we floated and basked in the hot sun until it was time to chow down. The owner, Roger, greeted us at our table in the restaurant designed in the local style. We were offered fresh watermelon rum cocktails as we ate jerk chicken, island-spiced battered tilapia and the Spice Mill Salad. The food, fresh and cooked with local ingredients, was tasty and succulent; the service, lacking and a bit on the slow side, left something to be desired. I chalk it up to “Island Time,” which normally I can deal with on vacation, except when waiting for another watermelon drink! One can’t really be that upset when the ocean is beckoning, so back into the blue waters we went until our drink was eventually brought to us there.
St. Kitts Beach Explore
The lush rainforest and mountain peaks of St. Kitts rise to over 3,000 miles in height. Exploring the natural landscape of the island was a must for us and we connected with Greg’s Safari for our jeep tour. A native, Greg has been giving tours since 1988 and is a seasoned professional who provides not only interesting factual tidbits along the way, but also his own personal stories to enrich the experience. Customers can choose from four different tours and depending on fitness level (one involves strenuous hiking to the volcano crater rim at Mt. Liamuiga can opt for one that fits their needs. We took the Off-the-Beaten Path Plantation Tour, which focused on the 350-year history of sugar on St. Kitts. After driving past his very own home, Greg served us a picnic with homemade cookies and fresh fruit picked from his garden. We explored an old abandoned plantation home, the ruins of a windmill and sugar factory at Estridge Estate, and St. Mary’s Anglican Church. With a cup of rum punch in hand, we gazed at the sweeping vistas from inside the rainforest’s lower peaks; the highlight of our tour.
St. Kitts Glide
If exploring by jeep or hike isn’t for you, opt for gliding through the rainforest with Sky Safaris, a scenic zipline flying over Wingfrield River. Combining eco-adventure with awe-inspiring views and knowledgeable tour guides. There are a choice of three tours: 1) Full Tour (2 hours) exploring all ziplines, 2) Half Tour (1.5 hours) exploring some of the ziplines, 3) Fly and Walk (2 hours)- explore some of the ziplines and easy walk through St. Kitts Rainforest. There are five ziplines varying in length and height: The Boss, at 1,350 feet in length, is the longest and tallest line at 250 feet above the rainforest; MangoTango (1000 feet long); Brimstone Blast (900 feet long); Monkey Trainer (140 feet long); and River Rocker, a dual race line (500 feet long). Speeds of the zipline can reach up to 50 miles per hour! But don’t worry: the harness is safe (and comfortable); designed after a paragliding harness, you can sit comfortably in leg and back supports as well as a chest strap.
St. Kitts Sail
After doing land and air, it was about time for us to explore by sea and no better way to do that than on a sunset catamaran cruise out of Basseterre’s Porte Zante. On a vessel provided by Leeward Islands Charters, we headed out for our two-hour excursion. On board, a platter of sushi, cheese and crackers, and other snacks awaited us. The lively crew, after quickly explaining safety procedures, introduced themselves as the calypso and dancehall island music poured out of the speakers. With a beat in the background, the crew passed out rum punch drinks and the local favorite, ting (rum) with a sting (a grapefruit soda) – and yes, it tasted just as good as I remembered! We sat on the netting at the front of the boat with the ocean breeze hugging us as we sailed out into the sunset with Nevis ahead. Once the sun said its goodbye for the day, our captain turned us around and returned back to St. Kitts as the lights from the island’s capital twinkled in the distance.
St. Kitts Dance
With sting from the boat still in our system, a night on the town was next on the agenda. With the advice from the crew, it seemed “The Strip,” located in Frigate Bay, was the next destination. Lined with open-air bars and beach shack lounges, we found locals, tourists and expatriates alike, dancing, drinking Carib and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (both brewed on the island) and “liming.” With a Brinley mango rum drunk, also produced on St. Kitts, in hand, we let the live steel drum music guide us down the road, from Mr. X’s Shiggidy Shack to Monkey Bar and Buddies Bar & Grill to Inon's. While the party kept going into the early hours of the morning, we enjoyed a few and headed back to our nearby resort.
St. Kitts Stay
Situated on the shores of Frigate Bay, The St. Kitts Marriott Resort and Royal Beach Casino was home for our stay. During my last time on the island, I stayed at the 26-acre oceanfront resort and was eager to return; but this time, after a $3 million renovation in early 2012, the property offered even more. With nearly 400 well-appointed guestrooms, our accommodations in the five-story Frigate Bay House gave us a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean and four-mile stretch of tanned sand along its shores. With a private balcony and lush bedding, we found that taking breakfast in bed was a necessary daily ritual during our stay. Our favorite spot to relax on the property was the newly revamped Bohemia Beach Bar by the resort’s main pool (one of three free form pools on the premise). The 3,000-plus square foot bar served up delicious local bites (the conch fritters were a personal favorite) and signature Caribbean cocktails. When the pool was not an option (on one very rainy morning), The Emerald Mist Spa was the perfect hideaway to unwind with a rejuvenating couples massage.
Dining at the resort is certainly a treat and we partook every night during our stay. The Royal Grille Steakhouse, the property’s flagship eatery, was the culinary highlight: with a menu of Caesar salad made tableside, succulent surf and turf, and warm bananas fosters. The Blu Seafood Restaurant, with a 180-degree panoramic view of the ocean, had superb crab dip and the antipasto buffet at La Cucina barely left room for our fine Italian entrees (although we somehow managed). After our meals, we frequented the 35,000 square-foot casino, the largest in the Caribbean, with live entertainment after 9:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
The resort is also home to the Royal St. Kitts Golf Club, featuring an 125-acre 18-hole golf course, with holes on facing both the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Sadly, time on this trip to the island didn’t allow for us to play a game. But, we figured that was okay -– it gives us a reason to come to St. Kitts another time and fall in love all over again.