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St. Kitts: The Rainbow Island

by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer

It's always good to return from your honeymoon with one or two solid images in your mind. Not fleeting images, but those rare mind pictures you can conjure up for the rest of your life. They stand out and clamor: yes, I really was in Anchorage or Pompeii or St. Kitts. You can't plan them, they just happen.

From St. Kitts, one of the images I'll remember is the walk from the small plane to the equally small airport. I stopped and turned around to check my bag. Behind me were two nearby mountains, silhouetted, perfectly against the sky, a sky in rapid transition from twilight to dark. The mellow orange cast sinking behind those black mountains is an image I can visualize at will.

St. Kitts is a hilly, still somewhat undeveloped island in the Caribbean. Your first clue is the number of free roaming goats and the second clue is the complete lack of high-rise structures.

The guitar-shaped island, about an hour's flight from San Juan, is gradually phasing out sugar cane production and will soon be concentrating on tourism. Marriott is building a major resort and other players in the lodging industry have expressed interest. Most everyone agrees, in five to eight years time, St. Kitts will be a different place. As with most islands in the Caribbean, it was bound to happen. Depending on your perspective it may be better or worse. So my advice...go soon to see the "before" version of St. Kitts.

Island officials are taking care with their future growth. Strict rules limit the height of buildings and they're careful with their rainforest. In fact, the rainforest on St. Kitts is one of the few that's actually expanding rather than shrinking. Let's hope it continues to buck the general trend.

On Greg's Safari's we bounced the morning away on a converted land rover. The back section was open with bench seating, affording swells of fresh air and extraordinary island views. Part of the tour included time in the rainforest and the thick canopy granted us some wonderful shade. Our driver/guide shared his expertise on the medicinal plants of this intensely verdant place. Included were two plantation stops and a refreshment break, where we gorged on fresh island fruit.

In the early days when the islands could grow wealthy from sugar, there were roughly three hundred sugar estates in St. Kitts and another one hundred on their sister island Nevis. These estates, which are also referred to as plantations, are still in evidence. Several have been reincarnated as high-end lodgings. Ottley's is a romantic hideway, covering 35 acres. It's situated on a nicely-sloped bit of property with mountains to the rear and ocean to the front.

Most travelers find their way to the fortress at Brimstone Hill. This summit was dubbed "The Gibraltar of the Caribbean" long before tourists discovered the island. The British huffed and puffed the first cannon up the hill in 1690. The fortification today is a amalgam of contrasts. Serene now, where cannons once boomed, stark stone against a backdrop of leafy hills and voluntary visitors rather than conscripted soldiers. The view of neighboring islands alone, is worth the climb. For some background detail, allow time to watch their orientation video.

Caribelle Batik is another popular stop on the tourist trail. Their grounds are especially lovely and tranquil. Housed on a 17th-century sugar estate, called Romney Manor, friendly ladies at Caribelle demonstrate the centuries-old art of batik, which utilizes wax to decorate the fabric. Somehow I just couldn't depart without a light blue batik caftan, as a memento of St. Kitts.

In terms of beaches, St. Kitts has some of the most quiet and off-the-beaten track I've ever seen. Turtle Beach is a cast your cares to the breeze sort of spot. It sits on a cove on the Atlantic side of the island, in an area known as the South East Peninsula. The beach has fine views of Nevis and a totally relaxed atmosphere--not a cell phone in sight. When lounging in the sun gets humdrum, Turtle Beach has snorkeling and scuba diving, plus a bar with munchies. Be warned, the island monkeys (green vervets, not natives, but immigrants who multiplied) will steal your lunch, if you're not careful.

On the opposite end of St. Kitts, Dieppe Bay has a volcanic black sand beach and calm water, with a sheltering offshore reef. For honeymoon privacy in grand style at Dieppe Bay, the attention to detail at the Golden Lemon will take your breath away. The Great House section of The Golden Lemon dates back to 1610. Go all-out and request a villa with a private plunge pool. The distinctive decor of each room has been produced by Arthur Leaman, the former decorating editor at House & Garden. Leaman made a point to ornament all the rooms with antiques he found locally.

For more information on St. Kitts, go to www.stkitts-nevis.com. Or you can call the St. Kitts and Nevis tourism office in New York at (212) 535-1234.


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