St Kitts, West Indies (CNN) — "If your name is James, you go by Jim. If your name is Christopher, you go by Kit."
That's how calypso singer Socrates explains the name of his island, St. Kitts.
Technically, the island's proper name is St. Christopher. But many tourists who arrive are confused, thinking they might have ended up in the wrong place.
Unfortunately for Socrates, most of the tourists he ferries around the island in his part-time gig as a tour guide are from the United States, where a kid named Christopher is more likely to be nicknamed Chris than Kit.
But this rose of an island, no matter the name, always smells sweet. St Kitts and its sister island Nevis are both gorgeous, lush and full of cultural experiences -- and, unlike many of their neighbors in the Caribbean, they were largely unaffected by 2018's deadly hurricane season.
While the residents of St. Kitts' sister island Nevis will say they visit the larger island to experience the hustle and bustle of a big city, odds are that a traveler from a larger urban area will still get that relaxed island vibe without stressing about where to find a pharmacy.
In other words? The time to visit is now. And here's what to eat and where to relax when you do.
Get your bearings
The Co-Cathedral of Immaculate Conception is on one side of Independence Square.
Many of the people who visit St Kitts by cruise ship head straight to the beach -- not that we can blame them.
But if you have a little more time to spend on the island, the capital of Basseterre is small and easily navigable, meaning you can learn a lot in a short amount of time -- and impress the locals by demonstrating you really do want to see all the sights.
Basseterre means "lowland" in French, and is not to be confused with a different Caribbean capital -- Basse-terre, Guadeloupe, which is distinguished by its hyphen.
The nation of St Kitts and Nevis was a British colony (and, before that, a French one) before gaining its independence in 1983, so there are still some glimpses of that colonial history around.
For example, there's Basseterre Circus, a traffic circle in the heart of the capital, where you can find a mostly-just-for-Instagram red phone box left over from the old days.
From Basseterre Circus, walk over to Independence Square -- it's a metaphorical walk from British control to Kittitian self-rule.
Along the east side of the square is the Co-Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, a stunning centerpiece whose architecture was partly inspired by Notre-Dame in Paris.
A few blocks away is the St Kitts National Museum, where you can explore the nation's history and learn about some of the most significant historical figures.
(Pro tip: All you have to do to make any local feel proud is mention Kim Collins, a sprinter who represented St Kitts and Nevis in the Olympics and won medals in just about every other world competition -- the highway is named after him, just to give you a sense of his celebrity.)
When it comes to history, you also can't miss the nation's sole UNESCO World Heritage site, Brimstone Hill Fortress.
Designed by the British military and built by African slaves, the remains of this fort are perched on one of the island's tallest points.
The views are stunning in every direction, and the acoustics are good -- perfect, if your tour guide decides to break out into a spontaneous calypso performance.
Oh, and about those famous beaches? Yes, you should definitely get some sand time in. Arguably the best-known St Kitts beach is Frigate Bay, near Basseterre, which is a good urban choice -- you're close to many major hotels, as well as restaurants and bars if you want to break for a midday meal or grab a beer.
On the southern tip of the island, facing Nevis, are Banana Bay and Cockleshell Bay. Smaller cruise ships often dock here during the day, and by night bars and cafes like Reggae Beach -- we'll get to that in a minute -- keep the party scene going with live music.
The water on this side of the island is calm and easy to swim in, so it's also a great spot for kids or novice swimmers.
If you prefer a more remote -- and picturesque -- beachside view, head to the rockier northern coast of the island for the Black Rocks, a craggy, dramatic formation of volcanic stone.
Llewellyn Clark is a butcher at the Four Seasons, but his homemade hot pepper sauce is making him famous on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean.
Ceviche and cocktails
Two of St Kitts' best restaurants are within walking distance of each other, but provide very different vibes -- Spice Hill and Reggae Beach, both along the beautiful Turtle Beach section of Cockleshell Bay.
Reggae Beach is a classic Caribbean beachside cafe,
Spice Mill is one of the best spots for a waterfront lunch.
where the menu is small but every single item is perfect -- lobster and fries, plantains and rice is the go-to, along with a bucket of local Carib beers.
You can usually count on great live music (yes, it's often reggae) and cheerful locals happy to chat with visitors. Service is usually solid, unless a whole packet of cruise-shippers all show up at once.
If a sit-down meal is more your speed, head to Spice Mill instead. This beachfront restaurant offers an upscale Caribbean menu, with some Mexican and African influences, plus -- true to form -- plenty of colorful spices.
The healthy, delicious bites on offer include chickpea salads, shrimp cooked in a smooth coconut-milk curry and a range of fresh fruit and vegetable juices -- along with cocktails, of course.
The restaurant also has a small, thoughtfully curated shop where you can pick up jewelry and crafts made by local artisans.
Sometimes, the best meals are in the most unexpected places. Pelican Plaza Mall is a pretty typical shopping center in Basseterre packed with cheesy T-shirt and souvenir stores.
But if you walk into Caribbean Gifts & Liquor, you'll find a semi-hidden spot where Indian-inspired rotis are made to order. You can order a few, grab some cold beers from the fridge, and hang out on the picnic tables outside for a perfect and inexpensive afternoon.
Reggae Beach Bar + Grill, Turtle Beach, St Kitts, +1 869-762-5050
Spice Mill, Cockleshell Beach, St. Kitts, +1 869-762-2160
Caribbean Gifts & Liquor at Pelican Plaza Mall, Bay Rd., Basseterre, St. Kitts
Sun, surf and sleep
Belle Mont Farm is an oasis on St Kitts.
There's no better place in St Kitts -- or possibly anywhere in the Caribbean -- to lay your head than Belle Mont Farm. This working farm is also a luxurious resort, where guests stay in private cabins and swim in an infinity pool that appears to perch at the side of a cliff.
The property is perched on top of Kittitian Hill, the island's highest point.
In addition to its understated, comfortable elegance, Belle Mont is home to the island's most coveted dining experience -- a by-reservation-only dinner for no more than 12 people, cooked and curated by the hotel's chef in a covered outdoor spot known as The Kitchen.
Tickets are pricey and often sell out months in advance, and they're not exclusive to hotel guests, which means getting in can be competitive. If you are able to get a seat, though, you'll realize it's all worth it.
The meal, which extends to seven courses and is cooked in an outdoor oven next to the dining table, is all sourced locally -- vegetables come from the property's farm and are paired with fish caught just offshore.
Served at dusk, by the time you're midway through the meal it'll be completely dark, and on a good night you'll have an incredible view of the stars. Need to get back to your room -- or find a bathroom -- in the pitch blackness? A hotel staffer will personally escort you by flashlight or golf cart.
Sunset at the Park Hyatt St Kitts.
Courtesy Park Hyatt
The new kid in town on the St. Kitts hotel front, which opened on Banana Bay in 2018. The luxury brand chose St Kitts for its first-ever Caribbean property, which is anchored by an outpost of the ultra-luxe Miraval spa.
Off the main hotel row, the Park Hyatt has a nice mix of accessibility (you can walk over to Spice Mill) and remoteness. The sleek, elegant private suites have plunge pools and balconIes with waterfront views, and at night you're more likely to hear birds chirping at night than you are a loud party or -- worst of all -- other tourists.
Belle Mont Farm, The Village Kittitian Hill, Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis, +1 869-465-7388 Park Hyatt, Banana Bay, South East Peninsula, Parish of St. George, St. Kitts, St. Kitts & Nevis, +1 869-468-1234