It's mid-afternoon as the flight nears my final destination. The lush green island of St. Kitts comes into view, nestled like an emerald jewel in the sea of clear blue water that surrounds it. St.Kitts is one of the Leeward Islands, one of the dots of land in a string that separates the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. It's home to about 35,000 Kittitians, as they are known, on its 65 square miles, served by an international airport near the main city of Basseterre. Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport is serviced by the usual commercial carriers, but today I'll take advantage of something special this tiny island has to offer.
The usual hussle ensues to leave the plane as the hatch is opened and the first rush of hot, humid air enters the cabin. It's a full flight and there will be a line to get through customs. As I descend the stairs into the sunlight, sure enough, there is the usual line of passengers moving at their swiftest pace to be near the front of the line. Many are peering over their shoulders as they pass. A Porsche has pulled up right next to the plane's stairs, the smartly dressed driver waiting for his passenger to appear on the tarmac.
I smile. He waits for me.
This is one of the newest services on offer in St. Kitts: The YU Lounge. It's a private air terminal, tucked just next door to the main terminal, servicing private jets, their owners and passengers. It is a service also available to those arriving on commercial flights, with some hotels and resorts incorporating the service into the packages offered to their guests.
I am on my way to one of the island's newest resorts ““ Belle Mont Farm ““ and they offer just such an inclusion.
The driver greets me by name, takes my luggage and passport, and in seconds I am in the backseat of a luxury car being whisked the few hundred yards from the main terminal to the YU Lounge. In moments, I am settled into the private terminal's lounge, sipping a glass of Champagne, as the YU Lounge's staff takes care of my documents and luggage. Certainly, the swiftest, most civilized arrival in any country I have visited.
The lounge itself is worth entering the country this way. Elegant, comfortable, equipped with private washrooms, showers, a pool, ample space to relax, work, wait and experience the service of the well-trained staff.
It seems all too soon (barely one glass of Champagne time) until my passport is returned and I'm off to my home for the next few days: Belle Mont Farm.
I've heard a lot about this new hotel before I arrive. The entire project is based around a model of sustainability; not just environmentally, but in every possible way. Care has been taken in every detail: land, water management, agriculture and food sourcing, training and education of locals to work on the property and attention to how the entire project fits into the landscape and values of St.Kitts itself.
“My vision is to bring together community and culture, mindful conservation of natural resources, along with rewarding activities and learning opportunities,” says founder Val Kempadoo. “This means we can offer an unforgettable experience, while bringing lasting, life-changing benefits to the local people and economy.”
The master plan includes a golf course ““ something that seems to go against all practices of sustainability ““ but the project is being touted as the first “edible golf course,” one that will take advantage of natural plants and topography, maintaining many of the existing fruit trees and edible plants.
Designed by Ian Woosnam, every hole of the par 71, 18-hole course features enchanting views across the sea. The course weaves through tropical farmland and fruit orchards, transforming natural obstacles into challenging opportunities for all skills levels, while remaining true to the vision of sustainability.
Walking is encouraged, and caddies from the local golf academy will share their tips on the course ““ including where the ripest, juiciest fruit is ready to pick and eat in the shade of a wild calabash tree. The course is scheduled to open in mid-December.
Belle Mont Farm is about a 30-minute drive from the airport, just enough time to get a good glimpse at this lush green landscape, mountainous, winding and flanked by the sea.
As the twisting road to the property opens up, there is what I have been waiting for. A resort discreetly tucked into the tropical forest. “The Potting Shed” is the main point of arrival and meeting place, from here staff take guests via golf cart further up the hillside on a winding trail through thick vegetation, slowing down for the occasional monkey stopped for a snack. The guesthouses are charming cottage-style bungalows dotted along the hillside, all facing out to the view of the ocean.
All of the accommodations are designed by the award-winning architect, Bill Bensley. They have been crafted in harmony with the natural landscape, boasting views of the ocean and forest that never fail to impress. Behind my guesthouse are the verdant green slopes of Mount Liamuiga, and from the front verandah, across my private pool is the Caribbean Sea.
One-bedroom guesthouses at Belle Mont Farm are dotted around the Greathouse, where you'll find the main pool, restaurant, bar and the Lookout, a gorgeously designed space with the very best views.
These private cottages are meant to wrap guests in comfort, privacy and relaxation. A cozy daybed offers a space to curl up with a book, if you can tear yourself away from your private pool overlooking tropical forests and the ocean view.
Inside, the cottages are stunning. High ceilings, crisp bed linens, dark wood touches and shuttered doors that open up the entire front of the room to the outdoor space. A refreshment area is laden with fresh fruits and juices ““ delivered daily ““ and half-a-dozen bottles in the fridge that were carefully selected by the Sommelier.
This seems like the perfect place to truly escape and spend every minute relaxing, but if you are feeling adventurous, the forest and farm are waiting for you to explore.
Start the day with an early morning nature walk, and learn about natural plants and traditions while getting in your workout before breakfast. The long winding trail under the lush forest canopy is an easy stroll going down, but you'll have to work a bit to get back up to the main house for breakfast. Various walks and hikes can be arranged, as well as yoga classes and spa treatments.
Farm-to-table enthusiasts will want to take advantage of participating in the daily vegetable harvest, and explore the property's expansive plantings and groves. There are miles of fertile farmland, tropical forest, cane fields and fruit trees to explore.
For a special occasion, reserve your spot at The Farm, where farm-to-table dining is taken to new heights, with the dining table setup next to the garden, and the menu prepared in front of you from the day's harvest.
If you are in the mood for some sand between your toes, hop on a bike and explore the trails and paths that weave down to The Golden Lemon Beach Bar for a leisurely swim and beachside cocktail and then hitch a ride in a golf cart back to Belle Mont Farm ““ leave your bike to find its own way home.
What's Next in St. Kitts
The new development of Christophe Harbour includes a world-class mega-yacht marina and marina village, a variety of breathtaking beachfront real estate and a future Tom Fazio golf course. Opening in March of 2017, a 134-room, five-star Park Hyatt will be set along the shores of Christophe Harbour's Banana Bay. This is a large-scale project in transition, with some aspects ready for you to enjoy now, and many more to come. Salt Plage ““ the coolest spot on the island to indulge in a craft-made cocktail and enjoy the sunset ““ has been open for some time and well worth a visit. The Park Hyatt St.Kitts is taking reservations now for stays commencing March 1, 2017.
If you go:
St. Kitts Tourism
Belle Mont Farm
Christophe Harbour & Park Hyatt St. Kitts