I’d only been to St. Kitts once. It was about a dozen years ago, and I was a guest aboard a charter yacht. We took the tender ashore on Turtle Beach and had lunch at a charming island rum shop. Green monkeys roamed free, waiting for the occasional handouts of sliced fruit. Fresh seafood sizzled on a kettle grill and the sound system played Caribbean music — a perfect accompaniment to the small waves lapping on the beach. The simple West Indies-style bar had a one-room apartment for rent above it, and for many years afterward, I’d pull up the restaurant’s website and think about leasing that apartment when I was craving an unpretentious island escape. So I was excited when the representative from the St. Kitts Tourism Authority said we’d conclude my recent island tour with a visit to Reggae Beach, the rum shop I had loved. To be honest, the 2 1/2-hour tour hadn’t done the island justice. During most of the day, the rep was snuggled into the van seat in front of me, mildly car sick, only weakly raising her head to point out the churches we passed. “There’s the Anglican church. … There’s the Catholic church. … There’s the Seventh Day Adventist church. … ” When we pulled into Reggae Beach, I realized the parade of churches was going to be the high point of the tour after all.Eddy Patricelli
The bad news is that my favorite haunt had changed. The place was crawling with sunburned tourists bused in from a cruise ship. Jimmy Buffett was blasting from the speakers. A T-shirt and souvenir shop had been added to the compound, and the whole setup had been relocated to a beach with less seaweed. Worst of all, the green monkeys were now caged. The good news is that most of St. Kitts and Nevis is nothing like what Reggae Beach has become, and my recent visit highlighted just how unspoiled and friendly yachtsman will find this paradise. The smallest sovereign nation in the Americas with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, this island federation is still a relatively undiscovered gem. It is a part of the Leeward Islands, and on a clear day you can see St. Barth’s and Sint Maarten to the north, Antigua and Barbuda to the east and southeast, and the volcanic island of Montserrat to the south.Debbie Snow
Its fantastic location, in addition to its gorgeous natural beauty, promises that St. Kitts and Nevis will not go undeveloped for long. Done right, development will safeguard the magnificent ecology and rich historical and cultural legacy of its host. Done wrong … well, hello Reggae Beach. So it’s encouraging that Kiawah Partners is the force behind Christophe Harbour, the ultraluxe resort development that owns 2,500 acres — most of St. Kitts’ southeast end. Chairman and CEO Charles (widely known as “Buddy”) Darby III is famous among his employees for the quote: “Our job is not to screw it up.” And all signs are they won’t.Debbie Snow
Basseterre, the capital, has an authentic charm with plenty of sunbleached wooden West Indian buildings as well as some handsome stone architecture from Colonial days. Visit Brimstone Hill Fortress, a 38-acre UNESCO World Heritage site perched on an 800-foot hill with spectacular views across the Caribbean. It’s an atmospheric place where cannons are still arrayed over the ramparts and longgone soldiers’ initials are etched into the walls. Romney Manor has stunning gardens open to the public as well as Caribelle Batik, an on-site artisans’ workshop demonstrating and selling batik crafts. Be sure and stop at the Wingfield Estate on your way up to the manor. The ruins of a former sugar plantation, Wingfield was the first land grant (1625) in the British West Indies and was owned by the great-great-great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson.Debbie Snow
Scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, sailing and fine dining are all available on St. Kitts. If you love to hike, then tackle the challenge of Mount Liamuiga, the island’s extinct volcano, which presents a nearly 4,000-foot ascent. Visitors to St. Kitts will find plenty to do but be equally tempted by the abundant chances to engage in the great tradition of “liming,” which is Caribbean for hanging out with friends, family, music and food. Kittitians regard Nevis as their island’s smaller, sleepier sibling. In fact, Nevis momentarily presented me with one of the few moral dilemmas I’ve faced in my time at Yachting: How do I honestly share my feelings about this island without exposing it to the ruinous world and accelerating its discovery and decline? And then I realized two things: The first is that you, dear readers, are the kind of people who can be trusted with this secret. I am confident that if you visit, you will not litter, pine for American franchises, campaign for streetlights or bemoan the lack of a Reggae Beach-style establishment. More important, the Nevisians know exactly how magical their island is and are not about to entrust its fate to sun-and-rumsoaked journalists. They’ve kept a wary eye on their big brother and are enforcing some rules.Courtesy Four Seasons
For instance, it’s illegal to swear on Nevis, though people are rarely jailed for it. As my taxi driver Hillary explained, the island is small enough (36 square miles and 12,100 people) that people know one another, know one another’s children and know when someone’s been up to no good. The community is actively engaged in creating new opportunities for the island’s youth and protecting what’s special about its culture and atmosphere. (Alas, Nevis had room for only two more permanent residents and two small dogs, and I have made my family’s reservations. Sorry about that.)Eddy Patricelli
As you approach across the two-mile narrows that separate St. Kitts from Nevis, your eye is inevitably drawn upward to Nevis Peak, a cloudshrouded volcano that hasn’t erupted since prehistoric times. Lush green hills flow down to a ring of sandy beaches. Several wonderful sugar plantations have been converted to chic hotels (Montpelier Plantation, Golden Rock Estate and the Hermitage are three that stand out), and there is also the Nevis Four Seasons, which delivers its tried-and-true brand of luxury and service with delightful Nevisian touches. An Aman resort is expected to start construction soon, and there are plans afoot for 100 slips at Tamarind Cove Marina and Village. Excellent dining options, beautiful beaches, a world famous hike of Nevis peak, golf and tennis options — Nevis has plenty for the ambitious to tackle, but its whole aura reeks of blissful relaxation. By all means, visit. But try and keep it to yourself, OK?Courtesy Four Seasons
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