"I'm not sure who would want to stay here," a fellow writer remarked as we walked to our bungalows at Turtle Beach, in Basseterre, St. Kitts. "There's nothing around."

Precisely, I thought -- wishing I had a weekend here alone with my husband in the luxurious bungalow complete with plunge pool, gazebo, outdoor shower, private beach and a view of the nearby island of Nevis. Why wouldn't you want to come here?

Turtle Beach BungalowsAlthough remote, the four bungalows are among the newest, and definitely the most luxurious, of the hospitality offerings on St. Kitts, which has a surprising lack of major resort developments for a Caribbean island.

In fact, we had just finished our first day exploring the island, and while we passed the only major resort -- the 700-room Marriott -- and spotted a cruise ship in Basseterre, we had yet to run into another tourist.

Even that evening, as we headed to a few local bars and one of the best lobster dinners I have ever had (at the beachfront Shiggity Shack), it seemed that everyone we talked to were locals.

Likewise, the next day, as Greg Pereira from Greg's Safaris took us hiking around the island's rain forests (the weather was too wet for our planned hike to the island's volcano), the only creatures we encountered were a few friendly dogs who seemed intent on holding up the rear.

The four bungalows are located on what used to be called Mosquito Bay, along the island's largely deserted southeastern peninsula and just around the corner from Shitten Bay (originally called Smitten Bay until a typographical error was made on the map). But those seeking the solitude they afford might want to hurry up and visit.

"St. Kitts is changing at a hell of a rate, even with the downturn," said yacht builder and sailor Philip Walwyn, who lives in a house owned by his family since 1790.

One of the biggest drivers of change is expected to be the owners of the bungalows, the Christophe Harbour Development Co., a division of Kiawah Partners that developed South Carolina's Kiawah Island.

The four bungalows are just the first stage in a 2,500-acre real estate development that will include luxury homes, two top-end hotels, a yacht harbor, marina village, private beach club and what the developers say will be "without a doubt the best golf course in the Caribbean."

Though originally built next to the development's first restaurant as a place to house prospective buyers of Christophe Harbour's luxury home sites, the Turtle Beach Bungalows now also are rented to the public for $400 to $500 a night.

They are 20 minutes from town, but there are a few restaurants and beach bars nearby, and the on-site concierge can arrange everything from beachside massages to hikes and private yacht excursions for fishing or snorkeling; Caribbean cooking classes; or visits to the reopened Four Seasons resort and golf course on neighboring Nevis. (When we got to the Four Seasons, my colleague remarked, "Now this is the kind of place I would come back to." I couldn't argue with that. Read more about the Four Seasons Nevis in the box below.)  

Within about two years, the developers hope to have at least one of two planned beachfront hotels open at Christophe Harbour. No deal has been signed, but sales executive Thomas Liepman says the first hotel will likely be a Mandarin Oriental.

Although the development of Christophe Harbour has been slowed by the economy (Kiawah bought the property just before the downturn), Tourism Minister Ricky Skerritt said that the project already is raising the profile of the island, whose main tourism market right now is cruise ships, and has attracted the attention of a "more sophisticated, affluent destination traveler and second-home investor to St. Kitts."

St. Kitts dogsThat fits in with the long-term goals of the island, which lags behind many of its neighbors in the tourism arena, as it has been only five years since the government decided to move from a sugar-based economy to tourism.

After extensive research, Skerritt said the government decided to carefully choose its investments to "target this more discerning visitor and also act in accordance with our strict policies for sustainability."

"Although we clearly want to optimize the potential for our tourism industry, it is important to preserve those attributes that make us attractive in the first place," Skerritt said.

"We have been in a process of a slow but steady shift of our market balance toward the higher end of the market. We are not focusing on the mass-market, 'all-inclusive' type of tourism. We dearly cherish our own small-island environment and culture and want to manage tourism's impact carefully," Skerritt said.

In addition to Christophe Harbour, four upscale resorts currently are in development: Kittitian Hill to the north; Silver Reef Resort and Ocean's Edge Resort in Frigate Bay; and the Cockleshell Bay Resort on the southeastern peninsula, featuring the Caribbean's first Park Hyatt hotel.

Skerritt said that it is unclear whether Christophe Harbour will attract more than the two hotels it is required to build under its agreement with the government.

"The truth is that if the existing and proposed projects all come to fruition, we will not be looking for too many more hotel investments in the near future," he said.

Visit www.christopheharbour.com.


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