Traveling off the beaten path with kids can involve multiple flights and multiple headaches — like language barriers and lack of kid-friendly amenities. But St. Kitts
is uniquely in a sweet spot — American Airlines just started non-stop flights to the eastern Caribbean island, which still has no traffic lights.
St. Kitts also boasts near-perfect weather; year-round temperatures hover around 80 degrees, and the Northeast Tradewinds offer delightful breezes. You don’t need to dip in the ocean or Caribbean Sea to cool off, but you are drawn to it because it’s so clear and clean.
There is just one large resort on the island, a Marriott that has all the amenities a family with young kids needs: several restaurants, three freshwater pools, a Kids Club. And for the eco-traveler, the hotel has a bonus; built to take advantage of the breeze, the resort has an open-air lobby and halls, which require no air conditioning. We even turned off the AC in our room and opened the balcony door to get fresh ocean breezes.
The island has a diverse terrain, with a rainforest and volcanic mountains. One side of island, where the Marriott is loacted, has soft honey beaches; the other, side has black volcanic sand. You can get a sense of the small (68 square mile) island with Greg’s Safaris tours, in Jeep 4X 4s, which kids may enjoy as much for the off-road thrill as the scenic ride. There are different tours; one to old sugar plantations, and a couple to the rainforest. One combines an easy rainforest hike with an island tour and a visit to a batik factory; even young kids can handle the hike. The terrain is not stroller-friendly, but you can bring a backpack carrier.
Train buffs can’t miss The St. Kitts Scenic Railway, a three-hour ride through the now-dormant sugar cane fields. The narrow gauge rail was built between 1912 and 1926 to transport sugar cane from plantations to the factory; the ride takes you through back areas of the island, in a double decker car that is open up top.
The Marriott, where I stayed with my soon-to-be-10-year-old, Nora, offers a “Princess for the Day” spa treatment for girls 6 and up; they get a manicure, pedicure, glittery make-up and an updo, readying them for dinner at one of the resort’s fancier restaurants. The steakhouse, seafood and Italian restaurants all are perfect places to take your dressed-up daughter, and all, along with the more casual Caribbean restaurant, offer varied children’s menus.
The spa also has a “Teen Escape” package for girls 16-18, which includes a pedicure and an herbal deep cleansing facial. The spa offers wonderful, relaxing treatments for adults, too. A mango sugar body scrub gets rid of dry skin, and hot stone massages use St, Kitts’ own volcanic rocks.
The Marriott has free family activities throughout the day, including volleyball and backgammon tournaments, shuffleboard and a giant trampoline. There is also a water trampoline, the “ Rave”, that costs $5 for 15 minutes; you have to be able to swim in the ocean to it. On the beach, you can rent snorkeling equipment, a kayak or a pedal boat. There are also free scuba diving clinics in the pool. The pool chairs all have sun canopies so you can make sure your little ones don’t get burned, and the beach has a number of free open-air huts so you can set up your chairs out of the sun.
The main pool has a wading area for toddlers, and one of my daughter’s favorite features — a swim-up bar where you can get unusual and refreshing smoothies like guava passion fruit.
If you need a break, the Pirates Kids Club has activities for 5- to 12-year-olds, with theme days and evening programs. There are free family movies on Tuesday nights in a cushy theater.
There are also outdoor yoga classes for adults and kids, all free, and a nice fitness center for ages 16 and over. Also for adults, there is a casino, and an 18-hole golf course; even if you don’t play, the Clubhouse Grille, overlooking the course, is a nice place for lunch.Info
—St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino. www.stkittsmarriott.com
—Pirates Kids Club is $35 for a half day, 9am–noon or 1-4pm, and $55 for a full day, with lunch. Evening programs are on Wednesdays and Fridays, 6-9pm, $30 (with dinner).
—Greg’s Safaris has a four-hour rainforest tour, or a sugar plantation and factory tour, both with lunch, $60person. www.gregsafaris.com
—The Sugar Train is $89 adults, $44.50 kids 3-12, free under age 3. Free drinks and sugar cookies included. www.stkittsscenicrailway.com