Emerald Street’s Mollie McGuigan finds her very own corner of paradise at a sustainable hotel on the Caribbean island of St Kitts
It was my Auntie Mo who first put St Kitts on my radar. Years ago, she returned from the island enthusing about its sandy beaches, balmy waters and friendly hospitality, and how a gin and tonic at 11am was always perfectly acceptable. My kind of place, I thought, and put it on my travel bucket-list. And this year, my time finally came.
St Kitts is a twin-island nation, officially called St Kitts and Nevis, the two connected by a half-hour boat ride. Both islands meet the exacting standards of a Caribbean holiday – manicured beaches, seas of ever-changing blues and sunsets dipping down in peachy skies – but there is, I discover, much more to Kittitian life than 11am G&Ts, with a focus on environmental sustainability.
Belle Mont Farm – where I stayed – is the perfect example of how islanders are making their natural resources work for them. The 400-acre site is home to a clutch of handsome villas and guesthouses that sweep up the mountainside and look over to the islands of Saba and St Eustatius. Each guesthouse has its own sun deck, pool and outdoor bathroom, plus there’s a main house with pool, gym and three restaurants – try The Kitchen for laidback vibes and authentic Caribbean fare.
Belle Mont seeks to match luxury with sustainability. You could happily spend each day lying in the idyllic surroundings but to do so would be to miss out on so many other elements that make it a standout place to call home – albeit temporarily. There are daily farm tours with the horticulturists who tend to the fresh produce served in the restaurants. Breakfast is when this garden-to-table approach shines, with stacks of tropical fruit, fresh juices and just-out-of- the-oven bread. Seek out anything made with sorrel – a delicious deep-red plant, often served as a tangy preserve.
You can forage for your own meals too: each morning, guests have the option to head out with one of the gardeners to pick seasonal produce including (a frankly ridiculous) 125 varieties of mango and 25 types of avocado, which is then served up as an Instagram-worthy brunch under a canopy of trees in the garden.
The rest of your day might look a little like this: a lesson in how to make your own natural body scrub, which you can use later in the privacy of your own bathroom, followed by a treatment in the spa and a guided walk along a nature trail to spot monkeys, hummingbirds and lizards. You could then go down to Belle Mont’s coastal outpost for kayaking, before heading back to base for a Caribbean tasting menu.
But it’s well worth dragging yourself away from this hillside splendour to explore the rest of the island. Hire a car and trace the coastal perimeter of St Kitts in around an hour, allowing time for stopping off at Brimstone Hill Fortress, a beautifully preserved but slightly eerie UNESCO world heritage site that dates back to the 17th century. On the journey, watch out for inquisitive vervet monkeys injecting some welcome cuteness to the drive.
Book in with Royston Tours (roystontoursstkitts.com) for a guided hike of Mount Liamuiga, the lush backbone of the island. And of course, you’ll want to dedicate part of your trip to the island’s beaches, the best of which are in the south-east. Locals will tell you their favourites; mine was Cockleshell for partying and Turtle Beach for recuperating.
A car will also come in handy for the ferry to Nevis, the smaller and quieter sister of St Kitts. For an idyllic day of beach hopping, head north to Oualie Beach Resort, a peaceful hotel and restaurant that does a good line in cocktails and sandwiches. Upmarket Nisbet Plantation Beach Club and remote Lovers Beach are also worth a visit.
A final word of advice for day trippers: as someone who had to manoeuvre into the final, tiny space on the car ferry while a constantly evolving team of islanders shouted parking instructions, I suggest arriving at the port half an hour before departure. Thankfully, chugging back over the ocean – the silhouette of Nevis fading into the distance – does wonders for your anxieties, parking-related or otherwise. Stress simply doesn’t stand a chance in St Kitts.
A stay in a private guesthouse at Belle Mont Farm starts from £455 per night B&B (bellemontfarm.com)
Relax at an informal colonial bolthole
For a more homely touch, try these low-key alternatives
Rock Haven, St Kitts
A friendly B&B, run by hospitable Brits Judith and Keith Blake, where rooms are homely and breakfast is a multi-course affair, including local fruit, salted codfish and plantains. (Doubles from £126; rock-haven.com)
Montpelier Plantation, Nevis
This picturesque and relaxed hotel, set in a 60-acre former plantation on the slopes of Mount Nevis, encompasses a spa, two restaurants, three bars and a 60ft pool. (Doubles from £157; montpeliernevis.com)
Ottley's Plantation, St Kitts
The immaculately restored 18th-century sugar plantation house overlooking the Caribbean sea is a sedate option, with most guests happy to lounge around the pretty grounds. (Doubles from £160; ottleys.com)