“Welcome to Sugar City” is what Kittitians (pronounced Ki-TEE_shuns) will say when they greet you upon arrival. “We are sweet just like our sugar cane”.
For many years St. Kitts has been a layover destination to it’s posh island neighbor Nevis. Albeit the island of Nevis is truly beautiful with their beaches and hotels I’d say it’s time to give St. Kitts a closer look. For the simple traveler who’s looking for character, culture, and a non-compound vacation in the Caribbean St. Kitts will avail.
The island sits quietly in the West Indies with lush wooded mountains rising out of the sea climbing dramatically into the clouds. Most of the island’s interior is too steep for habitation with a ring island road giving life to small fishing villages settled along the coast.
I’ve been to St. Kitts a few times throughout my career. The first time on my way to Nevis only to be grounded on St. Kitts by a terrifying tropical storm which later gave birth to Hurricane Sandy. The second time was on assignment to feature the island of St. Kitts and was greeted with magnificent weather.
Here’s my TAKE on the perfect trip to St. Kitts...
Start your trip with a visit to Basseterre, the two-island nation’s capital and largest port. It’s a bustling little city full of Caribbean style and charm. Meander the streets on foot and you’ll immediately feel the heart and soul of the island. Kittitians are warm open armed hosts curious about their guests. They take great pride in making you feel right at home. If someone asks how you are doing, your reply “Cookin’ on gas”, letting them know that things are going good.
The farmers market is a great place to learn about the island’s local products. Get there early for the best pickings and enjoy eating fresh fruit while shopping and prattling with the locals. Like most Caribbean islands St. Kitts prides itself on their homemade hot sauces and locally grown fruit. There are more than eighty different types of mango trees on the island and as a mango lover myself i couldn’t have been happier.
Tea time at The Gallery Cafe in Basseterre is pure heaven. This little gem is nestled in the back of the Rosy Cameron Studio where you’ll find a perfect colonial island style cafe. Enjoy English tea and polite conversation while eating freshly baked scones with the gallery owner’s daughter, Leah. Cameron’s colorful paintings are indicative of the island’s vibe and culture displayed perfect salon-style.
Ital Creations would make any hipster or health nut drool. Prepared to perfection Judah Fari has created the ultimate juice bar. You’re a traveler, not a tourist, so you don’t want to drive past this oasis. It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking so keep an eye out for a makeshift sign with patriotic flags snapping in the wind. Behind the juice shack Fari has carefully grown his fruit orchard to supply his signature drinks. If you ask politely he’ll give you a tour of his orchard and you’ll realize the passion Fari has for his fruit trees. Chances are you’ll be accompanied by one or two of his many children who give their father the utmost respect. As you drive away you’ll tell yourself, “That’s all we really need, a piece of land, fruit trees, and a place to call home”.
BEST HOTELS IN BASSETERRE
BEST RESTAURANTS IN BASSETERRE
BALLAHOO RESTAURANT (Thai, Chinese)
THE GALLERY CAFE (Tea and snacks)
ITAL CREATIONS (Juice bar and snacks)
MR. X'S SHIGGIDY SHACK BEACH BAR (Caribbean Seafood)
To really plunge into St. Kitts' cultural scene I highly recommend attending one of the many weekend cricket tournaments at Warner Park stadium. Like the average person I wouldn’t know where to begin in explaining the rules of the game but the atmosphere is sublime and the people watching is awesome. Like Napoli is to their football Kittitians are obsessed with cricket. In Basseterre St. Kitts has a dedicated in the round cricket stadium full with Jumbotrons and sponsored cheerleaders. In between plays you’ll start to dance carnival style while drinking Carib beer.
Now it’s time to travel north counterclockwise on the island road. Don’t forget to drive on the left side of the road or else you’ll be reminded by oncoming traffic. Your destination will be Kittitian Hill. Winding trough village after village along the coast the bustle and noise of Basseterre are simply forgotten. Black sand beaches with spotted palm trees line the perimeter of the northeast island. When you get to Dieppe Bay Town and find the sign to Kittitian Hill you’ll head up towards the mountains.
Your arrival and check in will be specifically directed up to the Great House so you can take in the view of the newly developed 400 acre property nestled into the mountainside. Take a deep breath of cooler air and you’re on vacation. Kittititan Hill is the first development of this magnitude on this part of the island and has encouraged a thriving economy to the nearby local villages. The staff are very eager to please and show great pride in what they do.
Belle Mont Farms is the official name of this heavenly mountain plantation hotel with equal scale to that of a fortress. It’s doors have been softly opened with an official opening date sometime in 2016. On the hill sits 84 beautifully constructed private shingle sided villas all with ocean and mountain views. The rooms are presidential with giant french doors opening to a private infinity pool and the deep blue ocean beyond. Wake up feeling rested thanks to luxurious bed linens and walk out to a secluded outdoor bathroom. Enjoy a soak in a claw foot tub or the outdoor shower while picking bananas right off the tree.
Head over to the Great House famous for its Sunday brunch and taste the true essence of a sustainable living farm. The majority of what the restaurant serves is grown right on the property or sourced locally. My guess is you’ll go right back to your villa to wind down even further and bury your head into a book glancing up ever so often to the sea. There is a hefty price tag associated with this style of vacationing that starts around $2,250.00 per night, but if you can swing it you must indulge.
For someone who cares less about the "extra" comforts I highly recommend The Golden Lemon. This is a group of villas situated right along the black sand beaches of Dieppe Bay Town. Kittitian Hill has slowly purchased this property and will rent out villas at a much lower cost, at least for now. For the sea lover pick a villa that sits right over the water and wake up to the sun shining through your window shades while listening to the calming sounds of waves crashing underneath. The rooms are very simple with Caribbean style decor. Some villas have a pool that extends into the living room from outside through swinging slatted doors. Ignore the TripAdvisor reviews on this peaceful gem and with these expectations you'll love it. On the mellow scale of one to ten it's easily a ten.
To dive into the old sugar cane plantation lifestyle of the island Ottley’s Plantation Inn offers a classic colonial experience. It’s a beautiful old hotel restored during the 18th century and sits on 35 acres of immaculately manicured land above Ottley’s Village. The rooms are timeless with stone foundations decorated in colonial Caribbean style. The Royal Palm Restaurant on the property serves delicious Caribbean style food with nostalgic old world club like service. Read a book during tea time on the grand porch with frequent too close visits from the local fauna.
Time to hit the island road again still continuing counterclockwise. If it’s Sunday and you’re feeling brave (or guilty) i suggest stopping off at St. John’s Anglican Church near the village of Belle Vue and crash their Sunday Mass. Churchgoers welcome you with open arms and you should expect to introduce yourself followed by a friendly chat with the locals. It’s an experience not to miss regardless of your faith. Church is a way of life for most Kittitians and will only expand your knowledge of their culture.
THINGS TO DO HEADING SOUTH ON THE WEST ISLAND ROAD
CARIBELLE BATIK (Handcrafted Batik Fabrics)
BRIMSTONE HILL FORTRESS NATIONAL PARK (For the History Buff)
The driveway alone to Caribelle Batik is worth the visit as it winds through gigantic banyan trees with lush undergrowth. Caribelle produced it's first batik in the 1970's and today it has become one of the most sought after batik products in all the Caribbean. Learn the ways of batik and you'll be inspired to take a few pieces of fabric home.
The construction of the Brimstone Hill Fortress began in the 1690's and that continued intermittently for just over 100 years until completion. It is a monument to the ingenuity of the British military engineers and the African slaves who built and maintained it. It is considered one of the best preserved historical fortifications in all of the Americas.
RESTAURANTS HEADING SOUTH ON THE WEST ISLAND ROAD
NIRVANA (Thai, Cantonese, Chinese Food In Boyd’s Village)
SPRA NET (Seafood, Local Catch in Old Road Town)
You’ll cruise along the island road and drive around Basseterre heading towards the favored white sands of Turtle Beach. But before getting to Turtle Beach there are a few noteworthy spots to check out along the way. Grab a quick lunch and a swim at Shipwreck Beach Bar and Grill along South Friars Bay while you watch gangs of wild vervet monkeys sneak attack cocktails unattended by passed out sunbathers. The queen conch fritters and Coco Lopez slushies are heavenly leaving you just enough energy to crawl onto a beach chair under the shade of a thatched roof umbrella.
For a trendier scene swing by Salt Plage near Christophe Harbour just before sunset and enjoy the peaceful waters of White House Bay. Hang over the water sitting on their dock’s beautifully constructed ship nets eating tapas and sipping down cocktails. Easily the best spot to watch the sunset and slip into the night scene. You’ll be " bustin’ a limin’ ".
A steep winding road along the peninsula brings you to the end of the sandy island road finally reaching Turtle Beach. You’ll find a plethora of water activities, clear blue water swimming, captivating people watching, and classic Caribbean style nosheries. Spice Mill Restaurant will reward you with the best island style meal perfect for lunch or dinner with Caribbean ethnicity, marrying flavors from across the world . The local catch sandwich is usually a guarantee and ask for the owner's signature Ting-and-passion-fruit punch.
BEST BEACHES SOUTH ISLAND PENINSULA
SOUTH FRIARS BAY
WHITE HOUSE BAY
SAND BANK BAY
BEST RESTAURANTS SOUTH ISLAND PENINSULA
SPICE MILL RESTAURANT (Caribbean Cuisine)
SALT PLAGE (Caribbean Cuisine)
SHIPWRECK BEACH BAR AND GRILL (Caribbean Cuisine)
LION ROCK BEACH BAR AND GRILL (Caribbean Cuisine)
THE PAVILLION BEACH CLUB (Caribbean Cuisine)
You’ll be sad to leave St. Kitts when it’s time to go home. Bring back some homemade Kittitian hot sauce to put on your eggs in the morning. It’ll remind you of your time spent on the island and certainly you’ll be going back to get some more.
Story and photographs by Noe DeWitt