‘Rush Slowly’ the signs said as I arrived in St Kitts in the Caribbean.
After a ten-hour flight from London, I had no plans to rush anywhere.
I was on Caribbean time and ready to sip my first rum punch.
St Kitts (originally named St Christopher by Christopher Columbus) is located in the West Indies, close to Anguilla, Antigua and Saint Martin, and just a few kilometres away from its island partner Nevis.
At 68 square miles, it’s tiny in comparison to the likes of the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
But its size is what makes it perfect for a week’s getaway – there’s just the right amount to keep you busy.
Stunning views and fascinating history
A magical mix of paradise beaches, rainforest, Caribbean charm and history, it’s an island that offers a lot.
While neighbouring islands shout about their all-inclusive deals, honeymoon resorts, casinos and tax-free shopping, St Kitts has remained relatively undeveloped. It’s the ‘real’ Caribbean.
Yes, you can still live it up in luxury, but there are plenty of options for adventurers, or those on a budget.
With the average temperature a balmy 26 degrees, it’s a destination that works anytime of year – but remember, it’s the Caribbean!
With a tropical climate you may also encounter some pretty exciting storms.
Let’s head back a few hundred years. St Kitts was once the richest of all the English colonies in the Caribbean.
Top of the chain when it came to sugar cane, the island’s economy was built on rum and sugar.
The island was covered in plantations, but after the abolishment of slavery and the gradual decline in the industry, the plantations closed.
While these days the economy is fuelled by tourism, there are plenty of old plantations and sugar chimneys to spot as you travel around.
It’s hard to miss the gigantic cruise ships docking in the island’s capital, Basseterre, but don’t let that put you off.
The colourful capital doesn’t feel overcrowded or spoiled.
The busiest area has the nickname Piccadilly Circus – but you certainly won’t be fighting through crowds here.
It’s also home to a traditional market (one where fishermen sell their catches on the beach) and wonderful art-haven-come-café The Gallery Café.
St Kitts is mountainous, with Mount Liamuiga (a dormant volcano) its highest point at 1,156m.
Those feeling adventurous can hike to the top, but for me the beauty came from looking up and seeing its peak shrouded in a blanket of fluffy cloud.
Every June the island comes alive as music stars jet in for the St Kitts Music Festival.
Staying true to the island’s roots, it features a mix of R&B, reggae, hip-hop, calypso and jazz, with Dionne Warwick, Lionel Richie and Jason Derulo performing over the years.
But even if you’re not jetting in for one of these special events, there’s plenty to do on the island all year round.
What to do
800ft up sits Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Designed by British military engineers, it’s a great place to soak up the island’s history, while enjoying the panoramic views beyond the huge canons.
You can’t visit the Caribbean and not get out on the water.
Take your pick from jet skiing, stand up paddle-boarding and kayaking at St Kitts Water Sportson Cockleshell Bay.
Guess what? It’s possible to swim to the island of Nevis! Every March, swimmers attempt to cross the 4km channel on the Nevis To St Kitts Cross Channel Swim.
Feeling less energetic? Take the easy option and hop on board a catamaran with Blue Water Safaris.
After snorkelling with turtles and checking out old shipwrecks, grab a Killer Bee cocktail at Sunshine’s bar on Nevis.
The rainforest provides the perfect contrast to a day at the beach, and there’s no better way to explore it than with O’Neil who’s lived on the island all of his life.
He’ll tell you which trees will bring you luck, the plants that can cure disease and which vines to swing on for the ultimate Tarzan moment!
Built between 1912 and 1926 to transport sugar cane is the St Kitts Scenic Railway.
The 3-hour tour takes you on a 30-mile journey around the island and offers spectacular views along with an all-inclusive bar! Pina colada anyone?
Where to eat
From jerk chicken BBQ’ed on the street, to lobster at a fine-dining restaurant, there’s somewhere to suit every palate and budget.
Spice Mill is one of the island’s top beachside bars and restaurants serving high-end Caribbean cuisine.
It’s the perfect place to try the local fish ‘wahoo’ washed down with a zingy passion fruit caipiroska.
Open seasonally, sophisticated beach shack Arthur’s sits on the shore of Dieppe Bay.
It’s described as a ‘sea to fork restaurant’ so expect to see mahi mahi, snapper, ceviche and lobster on the menu.
Long wooden benches, sport on TV and a reasonably priced menu make Sprat Net a great spot to spend the evening too.
Most locals claim it’s the best place for a pizza on the island, but they also serve delicious BBQ prawns, chicken, ribs, and lobster.
Palm Court Gardens & Brasserie is a picturesque lunch spot with two beautiful pools overlooking the bay of Basseterre. Don’t miss the shrimp tacos or the fruit smoothies.
Cool waterside bar Salt Plage is a fashionable, upmarket spot for a few drinks as the sun sets.
It’s one of the few bars on the island where you can arrive by boat, so if you’re living the Made In Chelsea life, it’s perfect!
Where to stay
For a taste of the high life, check into the stunning Belle Mont Farm located on Kittitian Hill – a 400-acre estate of organic tropical farmland featuring hotels, villas and the world’s most edible golf course.
It’s the most luxurious place to stay on the island, with some villas costing over $3,000 a night.
Soak up the island’s history at former sugar plantation, Ottleys Plantation Inn.
It’s a great option if you’re looking for a private, luxurious retreat, with great food, swimming pool and panoramic views.
Perfect for those on a budget, Timothy Beach Resort is located right on the edge of one of the island’s sandy beaches, right next to ‘The Strip’ – the bars that come to life as the sun sets.
Overlooking the bay of Basseterre, Ocean Terrace Inn is a modern hotel with great service, a lagoon-style pool and top views of the bay.
Finally, the only big hotel brand on the island, St Kitts Marriott Resort sits right on the edge of the Atlantic, and provides everything you’d expect from a large resort, including eight restaurants, several bars, pools, spa, golf course and casino.
How to get there
British Airways flies to St Kitts twice a week.
The British Airways sale is on, and offers seven nights at the 3* Timothy Beach Resort from £569 per person for selected departures in May and June 2017 (book by September 21).
For added luxury in St Kitts, you can book into the Yu Lounge. This is a fancy private airport terminal, which includes meals, wine and a chauffeur driven trip to the plane.
NB There are two currencies in circulation – US Dollars and Eastern Caribbean Dollars. USD are accepted everywhere, but depending on where you are, you may receive change in ECD.