At the beginning of the year, Bloomberg named St. Kitts and Nevis as one of the hottest destinations to visit in 2018. In fact, out of 22 cities and countries, St. Kitts was the only spot in the Caribbean to get a shout-out.
So, how does a tiny island like St. Kitts steal the spotlight from some of the major players like Jamaica, Cuba, and Antigua and Barbuda? The answer, says Paul Minich, marketing consultant for St. Kitts Tourism, is actually quite simple: too many Caribbean destinations have been done-to-death by all-inclusive fanatics, and this year, travellers are demanding an authentic representation of the places they visit.
“Although St. Kitts and Nevis has been a destination for years, the two islands are coming back into the awareness of more seasoned travellers seeking an experiential vacation, not the all-inclusive predetermined package,” Minich explained. “Combine this with the emerging luxury of the sustainable Belle Mont Farm, the Park Hyatt, the yacht club, and the amazing culinary offerings nestled around the islands and it’s no surprise to me that Bloomberg liked what they saw.”
With Air Canada Vacations offering direct flights from Toronto to Basseterre, as well as an offer of $600 per couple for those who book by Jan. 31, 2018, the destination is gearing up for a record 2018 season.
What’s St. Kitts All About?
St. Kitts and Nevis rests in the upper stretch of the Caribbean islands, with Puerto Rico to the west, and Antigua and Barbuda to the east. The capital city, Basseterre, in which roughly 13,000 of the country’s 55,000 residents live, is located in St. Kitts, whereas the sister island Nevis is about a three-kilometre boat ride away. St. Kitts faces the southwest edges of Basseterre Bay, and sits within Basseterre Valley. A quick drive around the island not only puts your vehicle right on the edge of the ocean, but also provides an incredible backdrop of rolling green hills and mountains, where, up in the highlands and at the base of an extinct volcano called Mount Liamuiga, the temperature is always just a bit cooler.
“St. Kitts is a safe island with so much to explore. It has amazing sightlines with unique topography, an incredibly rich history and embracing culture, amazing culinary and great beaches - all while packaged up with an authentic Caribbean vibe,” Minich said. “Combine this with unique properties and resorts, adventures like zip-lining in the rainforest plus island hopping to Nevis and you quickly grasp why a traveller fatigued with the all-inclusive formula would gravitate to St. Kitts for their next vacation experience.”
Surviving Hurricane Season, Unscathed
Unfortunately, many beloved Caribbean destinations were hit hard by Hurricanes Irma and Maria back in September. And, although St. Kitts lies in a stretch of hurricane zone, it miraculously came out untouched as both category five storms swept through the Caribbean.
While the hurricanes wreaked havoc on a great deal of existing properties and planned projects in neighbouring islands, St. Kitts was able to carry on with its plans of promoting itself as a top-selling luxury destination for 2018, which included advertising the brand new 126-room Park Hyatt which opened in November.
There’s so much for Canadians to do here, but despite how bustling the island sounds, at any moment, thanks to the breathtaking natural landscapes, you always feel as though you’re in a quiet, undiscovered paradise all your own.
Stay in Style
While the St. Kitts Marriot Resort and the Park Hyatt St. Kitts still provide the well-known comforts of a trendy resort, there are also many emerging, boutique-style hotels, who are putting their own mark on the island. The best part? No matter which hotel you find, unlike many resort-towns throughout the Caribbean, the properties in St. Kitts are ready to show off just how warm and friendly this little slice of paradise truly is.
“You won’t find a fence or a compound around any of the hotels, but rather a very accessible island that encourages travellers to venture out and explore one end of the island to the other,” Minich explained. “This has huge appeal for today’s travellers and is part of the reason why visitation is on the increase to the Federation.”
In fact, perhaps the only thing that isn’t too popular in St. Kitts right now is the all-inclusive style format—and for good reason. “With the uniqueness and proximity of the dining scene in St. Kitts being so strong, it could be argued that if an all-inclusive option were to be available travellers would be disappointed by the obvious restriction of their travel package,” Minich said. “As an example, 'The Strip' is a collection of beach bars and restaurants that you can walk to from the St. Kitts Marriott Resort, The Royal St. Kitts Hotel and Timothy Beach Resort that is right on the water, where you’ll find beach fires, local cocktails, great food and music at one place after another. Travellers love these types of culinary and social adventures, making the EP concept very desirable in St. Kitts.”
Properties that offer luxury accomodations in an EP-etyle format, like the Belle Mont Farm, are becoming very popular with visitors to St. Kitts.
Opened in November 2017, the brand-new St. Kitts Park Hyatt is a five-star offering which represents the first Park Hyatt property in the Caribbean, featuring 78 rooms and 48 suites. The arrival of the Hyatt property is proving very successful, playing to the North American and European crowds who are used to EP-style with luxury offerings.
In contrast, many properties in St. Kitts are recognizing the importance of sustainable development, and incredible properties like the Belle Mont Farm at Kittitian Hill delight guests in search of authentic adventure, with a farm-to-table concept on 400 acres of resort up in the mountains, as opposed to right on the beach.
The Belle Mont Farm at Kittitian Hill
Boutique hotels are becoming more and more popular with the rise of experiential travel and adventure tourism, but as Minich points out, “the larger properties have responded to this by adding more services and many off property excursions and experiences to feed this trend, so all offerings are experiencing a surge in interest from Canadians.”
Things to See and Do
Those who have never been to St. Kitts & Nevis will quickly realize there’s a whole world of adventure waiting here. Unlike the “traditional” Westernized sense of the Caribbean that many North American travellers have come to know (think resort staff in costume, all-you-can-eat buffets with American-style cuisine, resort activities), St. Kitts prides itself on its island culture and heritage, and doesn’t shy away from sharing it with visitors.
“Kittitian culture and history are evident throughout the island, and that authentic Caribbean feel very much exists,” Minich said. “Recently it was announced that St. Kitts was installing its first set of traffic lights ever! This is an indication of the simplicity and pace of life that visitors love to immerse themselves in as they explore and feel all aspects of the destination.”
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is a cultural treasure of St. Kitts and a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built by the British in 1689 during the Nine Years War, the fort served as a military base as the British and French fought for control of the island, and was used by the British up until 1853. The cannons and walls are well-preserved, and visitors can come to read about the history, as well as enjoy panoramic views from the top of the 972-foot hill.
Photo credit: Caribbean Tourism Organization
For travellers looking for a sense of culture, or simply a beautiful souvenir to bring home, Caribelle Batik at Romney Manor is a must. Romney Manor was once owned by the great-great-great-grandfather of Thomas Jefferson, and after being acquired by the Earl of Romney in the 17th century, Romney Manor became the first estate in St. Kitts to abolish slavery. Batik is a popular Indonesian artform in which dyes are resisted by wax, with the end result being beautiful garments or objects that will last a life time. All of the pieces found at Caribelle Batik at Romney Manor have been hand-crafted by local Kittitian artisans, which means the proceeds all go back into the local economy as well.
Photo credit: Caribbean Tourism Organization
Timothy Hill, just 20 minutes from the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport, gives travellers a glimpse of one of the most phenomenal landscapes in the Caribbean. On the left, the rough Atlantic Ocean can be seen, and on the right, divided by a range of hills, the warm and inviting Caribbean Sea rolls in.
Of course, no trip to St. Kitts would be complete without taking the 20-minute water taxi over to the sister island of Nevis, where, although so close by, is utterly different. Cruising through the three-kilometre stretch that separates St. Kitts and Nevis, known as “The Narrows”, where cascading waterfalls, tropical flowers, and an equally beautiful array of boutique hotels await.
For more information on St. Kitts & Nevis, visit www.stkittstourism.kn