America Airlines flew us to the intriguing island of St. Kitts from Miami on a 3 hour fully booked flight – lots of vacationers had chosen the sleepy islands of St. Kitts and Nevis for their prized winter vacation. Grabbing a cab, we followed a serpentine route down to the sea from the hilltop airport; our destination clearly visible for the entire ride. The four diamond St. Kitts Marriott Resort and Royal Beach Casino stretched out along the shoreline in grand style. (More on the hotel in a moment).
About The Island
The island of St. Kitts is shaped like a giant turkey drumstick with rainforest peaks at its center, a ring road that circles the island, and an array of pretty beaches and bays along the narrow South East Peninsula. Many of St Kitts’ hotels are located in the south east region where sun worshipers can find white-capped rolling waves along the Atlantic side or clear calm lagoons on the Caribbean Sea side. Beaches are most often a smooth cappuccino color – dark volcanic sand underneath and golden grains on the surface. Be sure to bring beach shoes along as the dark sand gets extremely hot. My croc sandals weren’t quite enough…. I was doing a quick step all the way down the beach as sizzling sand seeped in the sides. Thank goodness the water was lovely and cool so I quickly headed for the lapping waves.
Although St. Kitts and Nevis have been claimed by France, Spain and England over the centuries, it’s British rule that won out. Driving is on the left and you’ll meet a substantial number of visitors from the UK during your vacation. St. Kitts is also home to a well respected Veterinary School, Nursing School and Medical School, who all attract a diverse population of international students. Don’t be surprised to see students walking past the hotel in scrubs.
The St. Kitts Marriott Resort
Smiling bellmen set the stage welcoming you into the St. Kitts Marriott Resort. The large brightly decorated lobby invites you to wander through its center to the grand staircase leading down to the tiled courtyard below complete with whimsical replica sailing ship. Beyond awaits several pools, lots of shaded lounge chairs, a variety of restaurants and a long stretch of soft sand beach. Our room was comfy and large, done up in traditional Marriott shades of calming pastels. We chose the Blu restaurant on the waterfront to dine on our first evening and had a memorable dinner of 3 local fishes sauteed to perfection. Mornings found us chomping on a carrot nut muffin in the lobby cafe which were not only yummy, but totally big enough for two.
One laudable characteristic of this hotel is that it appears to be completely assessable for guests with mobility challenges. We saw several guests making their way around the resort in ‘Hoveround’ style mobility chairs and they appeared to be navigating all areas of the main hotel with ease.
Everyone who enjoys a large modern resort style hotel with spa and golf amenities will feel right at home at the St. Kitts Marriott. The Royal St. Kitts Golf Club is located along the entry road to the hotel and the hotel is noted for their great golf getaway packages. While gambling isn’t top of my personal list of things to do, we did poke our head into the Casino and it appeared to be have lots of happy patrons. Many of the guests we met were actually staying in the Marriott Vacation Club which occupies the space between the hotel and the beach. Every one of the Vacation Club members we met were raving about St. Kitts units.
Buck-A-Beer Happy Hours & Rocking Beach Parties -
Who Knew St. Kitts Was A Party Paradise?
A test of a great island experience is as much about the kind entertainment you find as it is about beautiful scenery. It turns out that Kittitans (what locals call themselves) are experts at throwing rocking beach parties and you’re invited. Exuberant beach bars line many of St. Kitts’ nicest beaches, so come “Limin” with the locals and try a Ting-With-A-Sting (grapefruit soda with rum, or I opted for vodka – way too good).
4:45 pm saw us walking out the front doors of the Marriott hotel for a brisk walk down to Frigate Bay where happy hour begins at the Timothy Beach Hotel’s Dock Bar promptly at 5:00 pm each day. Grab your bar stool in the sun or shade and line up to watch a dramatic sunset as Clovis serves up Carib Beers for a buck! (Key West you’ve been knocked off my list of favorite places to watch a sunset).
As day falls to night, it’s a natural progression down Frigate Bay visiting beach shack after beach shack searching for the best local grub – there are lots of contenders. Mr. X’s Shiggidy Shack is a must on Thursday and Friday nights. On Thursday night arrive by 6pm to snag a table for the famous beach bonfire and firewalker dance. We dug into heaping plates of fresh caught snapper spiced up with local seasonings, sensational yams and rice & beans. Yummy! We’ve heard the jerk chicken, ribs, and grilled lobster are delicious as well. Next comes the floor show with the local fire eater – limbo man… and then a pumping band. (It’s harder dancing in the sand than you might think – the more your foot twists the deeper you go!!) At midnight as we reluctantly called it a night, we’re told to come back on Friday when the Reggae party goes from dusk until dawn. Phew…. I’ll have to do some serious beach napping at the Marriott to save up enough energy for that!
Other beaches and local joints worth a visit:
Taking the taxi ride to Cockleshell Beach is reason enough to go. Beautiful hidden beaches are revealed as you traverse the winding mountain road making your way to the very end. The offshore island of Nevis provides a constant scenic backdrop to your journey. Arriving at Cockleshell, most visitors begin their visit with a cold drink at the Reggae Beach Bar where you’ll not only meet the bartender, but a menagerie of adopted pets as well. Wilbur the 700 pound pig wanders by clearing everything in his path. There’s a Ververt monkey, goats, horses, donkeys and who knows what else all vying for a spot in the shade. Wander up the beach to find a colorful cockleshell and you’ll see the sand turn from volcanic black to pure white by the time you reach The Spice Mill – an elegant restaurant on the beach. Snorkelers and scuba divers will want to head for Whitehouse Bay where two shipwrecks are located in less than 10 feet of water just offshore.
A Few Words About The Cruise Ships…..
I was disappointed to see just how much the arrival of cruise ships has affected the tourism product on St. Kitts. (Sorry cruisers that’s my opinion). On most days of the week you will find multiple ships docked in Basseterre (capitol of the island) where the town has taken on the appearance of every other t-shirt happy cruise ship town from Alaska to Williamstead. Just how many Columbian Emeralds are all you people buying?? We asked about an island tour in Basseterre and were quoted $80 for a one hour tour. We asked again from the taxi drivers near the Marriott and were quoted $80 for 3 1/2 hours! This is a great example of the get-em in, get-em out, cruise passenger mentality that affects tour products. Clearly both type of travelers need their services, but be sure if you’re a land traveler that you do some extra investigation and select tours that will get you off the cruise ship fast lane. Also be sure to inquire about which days of the week fewer cruise ships are in port so you can visit sites without the crowds.
As we depart St. Kitts we have smiles on our faces as we remember the good times we’ve had, the friendly folks we’ve met and the delicious food we’ve consumed. That’s a lot of good vibes for one destination.