Three hours from Miami lies the gateway to the Caribbean – the Leeward Islands. Here, St. Barts, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Antigua form a trifecta of legendary destinations famed as much for their glittering white sand beaches as they are for their luxury accommodations. Each island has a personality all its own, pick one and immerse yourself in the local culture, or take advantage of the region’s extensive network of puddle-jumpers to experience the exhilarating diversity these islands have to offer.
St. Barts - The Caribbean Epicenter of Glamour
Branded the St. Tropez of the Caribbean, forever buzzing St. Barths stands alone as a sliver of haute Europe in the laid-back Caribbean. This celeb-studded French-speaking island is the place where A-listers flock and the good life and real life are one in the same. Across this well-manicured island, even the celebrites people watch and the daily agenda rarely strays from sun worshipping, fine dining, yachting, and credit card swipping.
A stroll through the harbor city of Gustavia, the island’s picturesque capital, recalls the world’s finest shopping districts with luxury outposts such as Cartier and Louis Vuitton, as well as dozens of chichi boutiques. Set sail on a state-of-the-art yacht or catamaran for an afternoon of champagne and snorkeling on secluded Colombier Bay. Private charters are the norm, but outfitters also offer reasonably priced group trips that include open bar. Watch the sunset over St. Jean Bay at star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s celebrated On the Rocks restaurant, later partying into the wee hours with the rich and famous at Le Ti St. Barth. Rest your weary head at the boutique Hotel Taiwana or Hotel Christopher and you’ll wake up to stunning beaches, lush gardens, and tropical chic design.
St. Kitts & Nevis - Picturesque Sister Islands
Separated by a narrow channel, the English-speaking islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are united by similar landscapes of volcanoes and cloud forests, legacies of British rule, and unfussy vibes that foster an ambience of complete escapism.
Nevis, the smaller of the two islands, dominates the luxury market and is home to the Caribbean’s sole Four Seasons resort, as well as nearly a dozen 18th-century sugar mills reinvented as rustic inns. Days on Nevis involve little more than ambles on pristine beaches, good reads in a hammock, exploring the mountainous terrain (keep an eye out for the monkeys), and self-guided tours to the rock-hewn relics of the sugar cane industry. Get to know some of the locals at one of the cozy roadside restaurants that serve up hefty portions of stewed saltfish, coconut dumplings, and pelau (a spicy fried rice with meat, pigeon peas, and veggies).
Across the channel on St. Kitts, few find reason to leave this self-contained family-friendly resort destination, but the island’s true treasures lie beyond the resorts. Rent a car and spend a day exploring the Georgian architecture of Basseterre and the pastel-hued villages that dot the island’s principal highway, take a horseback ride along Frigate Bay, or relax aboard the coastline-hugging St. Kitts Scenic Railway.
Antigua – Your Idyllic Basecamp for Adventure
This tiny sun-kissed island-nation is host to an improbable 365 white sand beaches – one for each day of the year. Living history unfolds at Nelsons’ Dockyard National Park, named after former resident Admiral Horatio Nelson. The restored naval dockyard dates to the 17th century and today hosts Antigua Sailing Week, one of the Caribbean’s most anticipated spring events. For the brave at heart, zip-line high atop the rainforest canopy. Brag-worthy catch tempts fishermen off shore and dive outfitters take full advantage of the scores of vibrantly colored tropical fish along the reefs of Dickenson Bay. As an added bonus, Antigua’s V.C. Bird International Airport, a hub for small aircraft, offers multiple daily flights to both St. Barts and St. Kitts and Nevis, making this the perfect jumping off point for a true Caribbean adventure.