Sister islands St. Kitts and Nevis share a long history dating to settlements by ceramic age people in 500 BC. Today, the island nations are a beacon for sun, sand and a unique vibe you won’t find elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Like most other destinations, St. Kitts and Nevis closed their borders when COVID-19 took hold. But the islands coped well during the pandemic, reporting 40 cases and no deaths. They recently reopened to international travelers while looking to maintain their low COVID rates. Thus, they have put in place numerous requirements for those seeking entry, including submitting a form, providing a negative RT-PCR test taken within three days of arrival at an accredited laboratory, securing reservations at an approved hotel (the ones mentioned in the “Where to Stay” sections below are on that list) and quarantining at the property for 14 days (if you receive a negative RT-PCR test after a week, you can book select excursions arranged by the hotel; if you get a negative test result after two weeks, then you’re free to roam the islands). Consult this website for details and the most up-to-date information on restrictions.
When you’re ready to travel, here’s a guide on what to see, do and eat in the West Indies.
Once known as the gateway of the Caribbean, St. Kitts (and its Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport) is the gateway to your twin island retreat. St. Kitts has a welcoming atmosphere, a laidback approach to hospitality and people with a deep love for the island. It makes you feel right at home.
Where to Stay
Make your way to Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Park Hyatt St. Kitts Christophe Harbour. The hotel looks modern with clean, sleek lines and neutral tones. But splashes of West Indian colors in decorative touches and nods to local culture, like huts and berths reminiscent of the structures that used to dot the coastline, showcase the island’s playful charm.
Situated on the peninsula and facing Nevis’ distinguishing peak, the hotel allows you to spend quarantine sunning on the beach, playing water sports and relaxing poolside. You can get a glimpse of the water from many of the suites — they come with private pools and face the turquoise sea. Try the 905-square-foot Plunge Pool Rooftop Deluxe Suite, which adds on 1,305 square feet of deck space so that you have plenty of room to spread out and gaze at Nevis.
Where to Eat
If you want to stick close to the Park Hyatt, visit The Great House for an alfresco breakfast overlooking the sea with sweet baked goods, Johnny cakes and saltfish, or Fisherman’s Village for ocean-to-table dining over the water (the paella is a must-have).
Nearby, there are more casual options, like Reggae Beach Bar & Grill, where you can kick off your shoes, meet locals and tourists alike and enjoy a lobster sandwich, conch ceviche or fresh grilled fish. At the base of Cockleshell Bay, this eatery is a great destination for a sunny beach day.
One of the most striking seats on the island is a sunset booth or an overwater hammock at the open-air Salt Plage at Christophe Harbor. No matter your appetite, there is something for everyone here. Unwind and enjoy the West Indian music over a chilled bottle of rosé or sip a Ting grapefruit soda and vodka as the sun dips below the horizon of the broad sea. Go for the mahi mahi ceviche with crispy garlic, grapefruit and cilantro or the chimichurri lamb lollipops, and don’t fret if minutes stretch to hours at this elegant yet cozy beachside lounge.
Venture farther out to the Green Valley Pub in Cayon, where you will see a bright mural of a St. Kitts flag on an adjacent wall. Order a Carib beer and the cook-up — a traditional one-pot dish made with chicken, saltfish, pigtail, vegetables, rice and pigeon peas — and soak up the music and lush nature at this outdoor venue. For another authentic dish, ask for the goat water, a slowly simmered stew made of tender meat, papaya, onion, herbs and bay leaf with light dumplings and often served over rice. Locals claim goat water will boost energy and vitality.
What to Do
Only 16 years ago, a train regularly chugged through the fields of St. Kitts’ sugar estates, hauling loads back to the main factory, which was built from 1910 to 1912 in the outskirts of the capital city of Basseterre. Now, the cane train runs as the St. Kitts Scenic Railway, a three-hour tour that loops around the island. The narrow gauge train travels across steel bridges over ghuts (or canyons) and near cane fields, Mount Liamuiga and village storefronts while conductors tell stories spanning 300 years.
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the best-preserved fortifications in the Americas. Designed by British engineers and built by enslaved Africans, it’s made of basalt blocks and a rubble core. The impregnable fortress was dubbed “The Gibraltar of the Caribbean.” From the bastion, take in sweeping views of the sea, the steep Brimstone Hill and the complex where cannons were mounted.
If you want a more active outing, hike Mount Liamuiga, the stratovolcano that forms the western part of St. Kitts. At the peak, some 3,800 feet up, you will find the crater and then can look down across its rainforest-covered slopes and appreciate why, in the early days of settlement, the mountain was called “Misery,” by those who were unfamiliar with life in the tropics and as a reflection of the realities of the African slaves who worked the lands.
When you are ready for a different type of history lesson, visit Romney Manor’s Caribelle Batik, which has been making beautiful batik fabrics since 1976. While browsing the art and clothing made from the vibrant and original patterns, you also can observe a batik-making demonstration. Set aside time to stroll Romney Manor’s gardens and tour the adjacent Wingfield Estate’s ruins and Amerindian petroglyphs, some of the finest examples in the Lesser Antilles.
For a quiet and idyllic getaway, head to slow-paced Nevis. With no traffic lights, no cruise ports and no fast-food restaurants or major chains, the island radiates an old Caribbean feel. Immerse yourself in rich history, traverse the lush volcanic forests, experience the quaint capital of Charleston or embark on a sail.
Where to Stay
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this month, Four Seasons Resort Nevis delivers quintessential luxury service mixed with Nevisian warmth. Upon landing at St. Kitts’ airport, a Four Seasons staff member will greet you with chilled water, scoop up your luggage and then escort you via shuttle to Christophe Harbor, where you will take a speedboat to the resort. If you rented a car on St. Kitts and want to drive over to Nevis on the ferry, the Four Seasons team will assist with bookings.
This recently renovated hotel will impress with expansive views of St. Kitts and the sun rising over Nevis Peak; the new Limin’ Pool, which has one long sightline from the lobby to the sea; and the sprawling grounds, which are home to both charming gingerbread-trimmed buildings and modern, sleek villas with plunge pools.
Speaking of villas, the five-bedroom Stewarts Estate is great for families. It comes with a separate cottage for the in-laws, a pool and covered verandas. Contemporary, monochromatic rooms are punctuated with West Indian artwork and tropical vistas.
Where to Eat
Four Seasons Resort Nevis’ On the Dune is a relaxed yet elegant beachside restaurant for a creative cocktail or locally sourced seafood with Caribbean flavors. If you want to stay put in your suite or villa, room service is a treat — order the thoughtfully designed picnic basket for impromptu meals on the beach or a day trip.
During lunch, try Golden Rock Inn’s The Rocks, which is perched above a verdant canopy of trees. Sitting on 100 acres across Nevis Peak, the inn offers breathtaking views, blossoming flora and early 19th-century ruins, including a stone-cut mill. Cool off with a rum punch that’s dusted with just the right amount of freshly grated nutmeg. Then move onto the delectable conch chowder and the West Indian roti, accompanied by a fresh mint and cucumber raita. But save room for the fresh-baked-daily pies, cakes and hand-churned ice creams and sorbets.
For an exclusive dinner, visit Montpelier Plantation & Beach, a 300-year-old former sugar plantation. Dine by candlelight in the hotel’s Mill Privee, a historic sugar mill, savoring a multicourse meal with dishes like barbecued lobster tail or seared sea scallops with wine pairings. After dinner, explore the 60 acres of gardens or sit by the mosaic pool with a cocktail.
If you want a casual bite, head to Lime Beach Bar, which sits close to the Four Seasons Nevis. Your worries will disappear as you sip a Carib, vibe to the reggaeton and nosh on a conch fritter or mahi burger.
What to Do
In Charleston, peruse the Alexander Hamilton Museum, a two-story, Georgian-style building that was the childhood home of the first secretary of the treasury and, more recently, the subject of the popular Hamilton musical. Learn about Hamilton’s life, his love for Nevis and his contributions to both the West Indies and the United States. Then glean more information about the island at the Museum of Nevis History on the first floor.
Or head outdoors with the Nevis Equestrian Centre. Daily horseback rides lead you through beach trails and can be timed with sunset. This adventure is especially good for the little ones. Tours are fun and informative — the family-owned business takes pride in both its horses and in sharing its island knowledge.
When you’ve had your fill of beach and rum punches, a visit to The Botanical Gardens of Nevis is a good antidote. Orchid terraces, fountains and lily ponds fill this haven, where British naval hero Horatio Nelson and Fanny Nesbit married in 1797. Take a break at the Oasis in the Gardens Restaurant, where you can nosh on Thai fare while sitting on the veranda and admiring Nevis’ natural beauty.