Want a break from the Caribbean crowds? Escape to the Tropical Paradise formally known as St. Christopher Island.Located 1,200 miles southeast of Miami, 69-square-mile St. Kitts may not be as large or as well-known as neighbors such as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. But the island, which is part of a federation with Nevis, had an impressive sugar trade for more than 360 years that ended in 2005. These days, the Caribbean country is focused on tourism, offering visitors a chance to “get away from it all” in a relatively unspoiled environment, including one of the few rain forests on the planet that is actually growing. With its rich colonial history, breathtaking natural attractions, new upscale developments like Christophe Harbour and Kittitian Hill, and the bustling capital city of Basseterre, the island formally known as St. Christopher is ready for its close-up.
EAT: Part of Christophe Harbour, The Pavilion offers locally inspired cuisine in an exotic locale, surrounded by palms, stone arches and stunning views. Nirvana Restaurant, adjacent to the Fairview Great House, is equally swanky, pairing exciting seaside views with inventive Creole-fusion food. For a more traditional taste of Kittitian cuisine, Sprat Net Bar & Grill is a fisherman-owned beach joint serving up fresh-caught lobster and mahimahi to a lively reggae soundtrack.
DO: Visitors can get an overview of St. Kitts’ history from viewing the engaging exhibits at the St. Kitts National Museum in Basseterre’s Port Zanté or by taking a ride on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway, which has been in use since 1926 and runs around the island, providing excellent scenery and a view of its sugar-production past. The grande dame of St. Kitts’ historical attractions is Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on a volcanic hillside overlooking parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Constructed over the course of 100 years (beginning in 1690), “the Gibraltar of the West Indies” was restored in the 1970s and ’80s and remains a must-see site today. Nature enthusiasts will love taking one of Greg’s Safaris’ rain forest hikes into the wild, mountainous heart of St. Kitts, which is protected as a national park. With hummingbirds, butterflies, ancient trees and waterfalls along the way, it’s akin to walking onto the set of Jurassic Park.
Reggae Beach Bar is the place to be: You can rent Hobie Cats, kayaks, Jet Skis and snorkeling gear or simply lie in the sun while soaking up stunning views of the neighboring island of Nevis. Shipwreck Beach Bar & Grill in South Friars Bay is arguably the island’s best spot from which to view the sunset, with a laid-back Caribbean vibe and live music every Sunday. At Spice Mill Restaurant, located on St. Kitts’ southeast peninsula, patrons can sip a cocktail by the sea in one of the four-poster beds along the water’s edge.
STAY: There are a half-dozen luxury resorts scheduled to open on the island in the next two years, in addition to the current upscale lodging options. The St. Kitts Marriott Resort boasts a popular casino, a massive beach lined with shaded cabanas and all the recreational activities a water-lover could desire. Ottley’s Plantation Inn is steeped in history: Built as a sugar plantation in the early 1700s, it was transformed into a charming two-story inn, with cottages that match the colonial-era architectural style and the remains of the old sugarcane-processing plant providing the foundation for its restaurant.
American Airlines offers one to two daily flights (for a total of 11 per week) between Miami (MIA) and St. Kitts (SKB), three flights a week (on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays) between New York (JFK) and St. Kitts (SKB) and one flight every Saturday operated by US Airways between Charlotte (CLT) and St. Kitts (SKB).