Pier into Paradise

Pier into Paradise

Ready to swap the winter blues for the blue skies and seas of the Caribbean? Angela Taylor from our Howard Street branch did just that recently as she visited St Kitts & Nevis as the (very privileged!) guest of Azure Collection … and it was luxury all the way

The Caribbean is of course hugely popular and high profile as a cruise destination, but there is also much to be said for opting for an island destination holiday which allows you to soak up the atmosphere as well as the sunshine. I chose to combine St Kitts and Nevis for my personal idyll of laid-back luxury … and it’s a combo I would heartily recommend to anyone wanting to relax, recharge and re-energise.

British Airways from operates a regular, not-quite-direct service from London Gatwick, touching down in Antigua for approximately one hour before passengers switch to the plane to St Kitts, a 20 minute hop away. From London to St Kitts takes around ten hours, a lot of travelling, particularly when you have to add the flight to London into the equation, so you may well feel that upgrading is worth the added investment. I certainly felt that flying BA Club Class made the journey feel like the holiday started as I checked into the well-equipped Club Lounge and looked forward to take off

On arrival, my party was formally met by the local tourist board and we were led straight into an executive room with air conditioning and a steel band playing, welcoming us to the island. A refreshing cold towel, along with a bottle of cold ‘Ting’ (the local grapefruit lemonade) went down well whilst waiting for our passports and immigration details to be checked. Excellent staff from St James Travel & Tours, identified our luggage and saw us safely off for our forty minute transfer to the Park Hyatt Hotel. I felt like travelling royalty!

The 5* resort-style Park Hyatt, on the delightfully named Banana Bay in the south of the island of St Kitts opened in October 2017 so everything is absolutely fresh and new. This is a large resort but, as rooms are thoughtfully laid out in blocks set in beautifully manicured gardens, the mood is of intimacy rather than large scale. Little golf buggies are readily available to transport guests from their rooms to all the facilities and restaurants of the hotel, and there’s a friendly smile and wave from all the drivers and staff as they pass by.

The Park Hyatt fully deserves its 5 star rating, with an excellent choice of accommodation styles.

For families I would particularly recommend the connecting rooms on ground floor close to the large family pool, itself designed with a clever beach-like ambience. The Beachside room options are on the ground floor level with a furnished terrace and just a short walk from the poolside – again perfect for families.

Children and infants are well catered for at meal times and there is a super children’s club for 3-12 year-olds, offering a good variety of activities throughout the day. Baby-sitting services can be arranged on request.

The Park Hyatt offers a range of accommodation styles and I found myself enjoying its Sea View category, fabulously well designed and open plan in style. The bedroom living area with bed, bath washbasin, rain shower (Bliss!) were all in one space, with a separate toilet adjoining. The room was finished to a very high standard, well air conditioned and facilities included an iron and board, Espresso Machine, complimentary water, hair dryer, 50” plasma television, bath robes, slippers, safe … even mosquito spray and cream. Perhaps best of all, you can literally have a bath in the most amazing tub, whilst looking out to the Caribbean Sea and views of Nevis.

For even more luxury, there is also a choice of gorgeous, beautifully-appointed suites, some of which have their own plunge pools!

The beautiful adults-only infinity pool with its breath-taking views of nearby Nevis island proved a hotel highlight, enhanced by charming pool staff who were constantly on hand with drinks, snacks and even a cooling frozen fruit stick as temperatures soar. Sun cream and complimentary water are thoughtfully placed beside each sun bed so that all you need to do is relax and enjoy!

Given its beachfront location, beach life is naturally very much part of the Park Hyatt experience. Crescent-shaped and sheltered, Banana Bay offers both motorised and non-motorised water sports and there are a number of fairly laid-back tours available to visitors – I’d particularly recommend the lovely journey to Salt Plage, 15 minutes’ away by water taxi. Costumed dancers meet the taxi and put on an amazing show for guests who revel in the lively atmosphere of this amazing Caribbean beach bar. Fab food, brilliant cocktails and a sunset that will live in your memory for ever!

Within the hotel complex itself there are plenty of activities on offer such as hiking, golf, tennis and yoga (which I really enjoyed). There is also an excellent spa. A charge is made for many of these activities.

The hotel offers a wide range of dining options, all spread out around the glorious gardens of the resort, so you really do feel you have a host of destinations within easy reach … and they are all super-accessible, since the buggy service will pick you up and take you where you want to go. Simply use the buzzer at your door and a friendly driver will soon be on your doorstep.

The Great House is at the heart of the resort and offers all day dining, with a stunning breakfast selection on offer. Choice really is the order of the day here, with all dietary requirements can be catered for and every type of milk imaginable. Fisherman’s Village down at the pier, served lunch and dinner, with fresh to the plate seafood its speciality offer. Seafood is a speciality here and I was told it was excellent!! The Stone Barn restaurant is adults only, with food is served from a hot hearth. Gastronomic perfection in a wonderful setting!

St Kitts is known for its rugged coastline, with small beaches seemingly hidden around every corner, and boasting very safe waters. This island is alive with Caribbean charm and local people who welcome and enjoy their visitors. You may arrive expecting the beautiful beaches and lush vegetation, but perhaps the island’s rich history will be more of a surprise. St Kitts once was the world’s leader in sugarcane cultivation and a visit to a plantation is an absolute ‘must do’. If you visit just one plantation make it Romney Manor which has acres of beautiful gardens to stroll around.

In my short time I also visited Brimstone Hill fortress, which was built as a look out for any unwelcome guests to the island. A bracing rum punch to helped us to hike to the top for stunning views. The 300-year-old Fairview Inn Greathouse, formerly once owned by a French family and now available to hire out for weddings or special occasions, is als well worth a visit.

Transfer to the nearby island of Nevis was via catamaran … a mini cruise in fact, complete with snorkelling, then sunbathing on deck, listening to music and, of course, having one or two Caribbean rum punches.

At the shortest point, Nevis is only two miles from St Kitts. There is even an annual swim between the two islands which is very popular with both locals and tourists alike; hundreds take part every year.

I stayed at the 5* Four Seasons Hotel for two nights, a beachfront resort with a delightful colonial feel to its elegant décor.

Just as before, I found myself in a delightful room, in one of several well-designed blocks of accommodation placed around beautifully maintained gardens and with a golf buggy service available for those not wishing to walk too far.

I was in an Ocean Front Room with pool and ocean view, a lovely choice and one which will be getting steadily lovelier in the coming months as the entire complex is benefiting from extensive renovation. The work is being sensitively handled, block by block, and I have to say I was totally unaware of any disruption. All is on schedule for completion by the end of 2018.

The resort takes full advantage of its fantastically lush location to invite its guests to reconnect with nature … you can even play golf alongside the mischievous local Green Vervet Monkeys or go horseback riding along the wonderful beach! Tennis facilities are great here too, and motorised and non-motorised sports are offered on the gorgeous beachfront, although I have to admit struggling to leave the beautiful loungers grouped there and around the resort pools (one for families and one for adults-only) in order to get active! This is the perfect place to relax and unwind and its wonderful spa completes that scenario!

Dining at the Four Seasons is wonderfully varied, whether you opt for a romantic private meal served on your own terrace, choose the Kastawey Bar for a casual toes-in-the-sand experience or go for fine local cuisine in the lovely waterside, open air Mango. Breakfasts are worth a special mention, for their combination variety and sheer visual impact … impossible to look at that choice each morning without saying ‘Wow!’

The Coral Grill offers a truly romantic setting with a great choice of fresh seafood and meats served indoors on the top floor of the Great House, while Veve is the perfect stop for burgers, wood-fired pizza or ahi-tuna tacos – a casual poolside restaurant, great for beach-day lunch breaks or sunset cocktails at the sit-down bar.

The Library Bar with its intimate, wood-panelled seating area is the place to meet up for pre-dinner cocktails, or you might indulge in a moonlit nightcap on the terrace at the elegant, British-style lobby bar.

All the resort bars are convivial and the perfect spot to sample local rums: you can become more expert in your select ions with a little help from resident ‘Rum-melier’ Mark Theron!

Given so much choice, it would be possible (delightful even) to stay within the resort, but Nevis is a beautiful and historic island and you ought not to leave without seeing something it its natural beauties and cultural and historic highlights. The main town of Charlestown is lovely, with plenty to occupy a visitor, and I would also recommend a visit to the nearby hot springs which locals believe offer great health benefits.

Actually I think that Nevis itself offers health benefits, for it is hard to imagine anywhere as naturally beautiful or with such a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere … except perhaps St Kitts! These twin islands, together, make the perfect holiday destination.

Now finely tuned to luxury, I wasn’t disappointed on the return leg of my travels, checking into the Yu Lounge at St Kitts Airport. This is a stand-alone private terminal with bespoke fast track in and out of the Robert L Bradshaw International Airport. Here in the Yu Lounge you can relax in the Asian-style space, enjoying your champagne and canapés whilst staff manage your luggage and check-in, before being whisked to the steps of the waiting aircraft in a Porsche jeep!

What a final memory of two fabulous Caribbean islands!