“Caribbean” and “quarantine” aren’t two words we’re used to seeing in the same sentence. But if you want to vacation in the islands any time soon, you should know that destinations like Anguilla, Barbados, and Grenada currently require it.
To be fair, “quarantine” isn’t the term the government of St. Kitts and Nevis uses to describe the mandatory isolation that visitors to the two-island federation must complete before they’re free to roam. They call it a “vacation in place”—a term cleverly coined to conjure images of rum punches being delivered to a beachfront chaise instead of rations dropped off outside your room door.
The quarantine is just one part of a program of strict protocols St. Kitts and Nevis has instituted to protect its population of 53,000, as well as international visitors. Travelers must apply online for advance travel authorization, and show proof of negative test results from a PCR naseo-pharyngeal swab test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
Then, after you touch down at St. Kitts’ Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport, there’s a health screening and swift transportation (via approved taxi) to your resort, where your vacation in place may last for up to two weeks (there’s testing on days 7 and 14) depending on how long you plan to stay.
During the “VIP” you can enjoy all the facilities of your resort—there are currently four hotels each on St. Kitts and on Nevis that are approved for international visitors—but you aren’t allowed to leave the property. Neither can you split your stay between more than one hotel or travel between the islands during this time. So, when I accepted an invitation to visit Four Seasons Nevis for three nights, I knew it’d be “all Four Seasons, all the time.” What I didn’t know was how it would go.
The resort, which turns 30 this year, is fresh off a renovation that took more than two years to complete and which, because of the pandemic, relatively few guests have yet seen. All rooms were redecorated and seven new suites were created, bringing the count to 189. There are also approximately 50 one- to six-bedroom rental villas on the 350-acre property, perfectly placed for play on the 18-hole golf course. But it’s in the public areas that you can really see where the money went.
The now-white and airy lobby leads to The Crowned Monkey Rum Bar, the former Library Bar reimagined as an elegant gathering spot with large paintings featuring the Green Monkeys that outnumber Nevisians three to one. The former Neve restaurant is now Esquilina, open for breakfast and Mediterranean-influenced dinner. And On the Dune is a new restaurant and bar steps from the sand, where you can dine with sweeping views of the sea and St. Kitts in the distance.
During my first 24 hours at the resort, I was fully occupied, acquainting myself with the changes since my last visit four years ago. I toured a couple of the villas, noting that those in the Pinney’s Beach neighborhood are perfect guests in search of a contemporary residence that’s walking distance from the resort’s beach. And I checked out the kids’ club, now relocated to its own ocean-view building, complete with a splash pad and shaded playground. I peeped into the new meeting space The Hamilton Room (formerly the Coral Grill) and checked out Kastawey Beach bar, where casual Nevisian fare is on the menu.
Proof is in the Productivity
Still, I worried that once my professional obligations were complete, vacationing in place restrictions might mean I’d be bored for the remaining two days. I needn’t have worried. Four Seasons Nevis is doing its best to keep guests entertained, operating several activities within vacation-in-place limitations.
After a morning spent relaxing at the new ocean view Limin’ Pool, I wandered down the beach to meet director of guest services, Mac Kee France, for a round of eco bio golf. France patiently coached my swing as I tried to launch “golf balls” made of fish food encased in crushed lobster shells into the water from a portable tee set up on the sand. Sadly, even after a bucket of balls I still wasn’t ready for the LPGA tour. My consolation: the fish just offshore were well fed.
I’m the mistress of the microwave but it didn’t take much to convince me to join a cooking class with resort chef Llewellyn Clark, whose Llewellyn’s Hot Pepper Sauce is sold island-wide. Scotch Bonnet peppers at the ready, he taught me how to make an apricot-flavored version of his fruity but fiery condiment, as well as the finer points of making fish fritters. (The key to the fishiest fritter: season the fish chunks first and then fold in the batter ingredients, not the other way round.)
The resort’s spa is currently open by appointment and, after a massage, its relaxation pool and terrace were the perfect excuse to spend hours staring at the cloud-crowned heights of Nevis Peak, the majestic volcano that sits at Nevis’ center. In between activities (and more than one poolside snooze), I’d stroll the brown sugar sands of Pinney’s Beach, only mildly disappointed that I couldn’t venture all the way to Sunshine’s, the classic beach bar where a Killer Bee rum punch has punctuated all my previous trips. “Next time,” I promised myself on my final afternoon as I headed to meet Mac Kee at the golf course clubhouse, from where we’d be setting off just before sunset on his much-loved botanical and monkey-spotting tour.
Seconds after pausing our golf cart convoy on the par 71 course, a family of green monkeys scampered out of the bushes eager to sample what they know Mac Kee always brings: bananas. If you’d told me a week before that I’d be sitting on the grass, caught in the penetrating, amber-eyed stare of a monkey as it sidled over to swiftly snatch a bruised banana from the ground beside me—all while quarantining on a Caribbean island—I’d have asked when you hit your head.
But, sure enough, during three days of hotel “confinement” I’d not only hand fed wild monkeys but also learned to make fish fritters, tried golf, and enjoyed a muscle-melting massage. My advice: If this is what a VIP can be, better reserve some PTO!