Embedded in the gardens of a former sugar estate, Golden Rock Inn is a hilltop hideaway on St Kitts’ little-sister island, Nevis. From the hotel’s expansive grounds, views stretch across the Caribbean Sea and the island’s lush jungle; appropriately-named landscape architect Raymond Jungles has worked his magic on the rocky gardens, vibrant bougainvillea and flower-strewn terraces. Inside, the handiwork of artist-owners Helen and Brice Marden can be seen in pops of bold color, modern artwork and collection of Moroccan rugs. Here, a handful of lucky guests share the vermilion- and cobalt-hued estate with monkeys, tree frogs and friendly feral donkeys.
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A glass of the inn’s famous rum punch on arrival, plus afternoon tea with shortbread and one glass of prosecco each
11, including three suites, scattered across the grounds in villas and standalone cottages.
Noon. Earliest check-in 3pm, but if your room is ready earlier the hotel is happy to accommodate.
Double rooms from $210.00, excluding tax at 22 per cent.
Rates include à la carte breakfast with island favourites such as Nevisian-style omelettes, Caribbean French toast, eggs any way, pancakes, parfait, fruit and yoghurt, washed down with rich coffee and fresh tropical juices.
All payments include a 10 per cent service charge. The hotel has several hiking trails nearby, including the Source hiking route which heads up Mount Nevis to a natural spring; the chance to spot wild monkeys alone makes it worth packing your walking shoes.
The hotel is closed from 21 August to 4 October 2017.
At the hotel
Freshwater swimming pool; gardens; on-site parking; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: cafetière and local coffee, free bottled water, skin-friendly insect repellent, Le Labo bath products.
Our favourite rooms
All rooms are comfortable and colourful, decorated in a traditional West Indian style with no tech-y distractions like TVs (only four rooms have them), air-conditioning or phones. Appropriately named and impossibly romantic, Paradise Cottage is the stuff of holiday-hideaway dreams. Cut from ash-grey local stone, the freestanding cottage has a large back terrace shielded from prying eyes by a stand of bamboo and views towards Windward Beach. Two-storey Sugar Mill is named after the old conical mill building it’s set in; it’s ideal for families with room for up to four guests.
Resting between the treetops swaying in a jungly mist above the hotel, greenery declining away to the sea below: the pool is in a scenic spot. It’s the ideal backdrop for Instagrammable bikini snaps. Refreshing rather than heated, the freshwater pool is fed by a spring and surrounded by boughs of bougainvillea and hibiscus; palms overhead provide shade.
Bring your driving licence. Nevis is easy to explore and hire cars are cheap and readily available (keep to the left).
Wheelchair access is limited due to the hotel’s hilly location and the steps, rocky paths and cobbles throughout the grounds.
All ages are welcome, but there’s no baby kit to borrow. Because of the hotel’s cobblestone walkways, steps and rocks the property isn’t accessible with a pushchair. Extra beds can be added to some rooms for $60 a night in low season, $75 in high season.
Where possible, the hotel uses locally-sourced, seasonal, free-range and organic produce in its restaurant. All cleaning products and bath products are ecologically sound, including skin-friendly insect repellent.
All meals are served alfresco on dining decks overlooking the sea, but the hotel also has secluded supper spots around the grounds, such as inside the pavilion.
Blend in with brights or stand out in gauzy white linen; the restaurant is as colourful as the rest of the hotel.
The Rocks is renowned across the island for its modern take on Caribbean cuisine. Designed by architect Ed Tuttle (the man behind Aman hotels’ much-loved minimalism), the indoor-outdoor eatery overlooks the gardens and reflecting pools, which sparkle in the sun by day, and are lit with hundreds of oil lamps by night. Chef Ricky Finch’s contemporary Caribbean comfort food focuses on seafood, such as the hotel’s famous lobster sandwich, coconut-curried shrimps or grilled mahi-mahi with orange and clove. Fish-phobes can try spicy savouries like jerk pork with corn fritters and sizzling chicken roti, accompanied by an impressive selection of wines by the bottle.
The cool, cave-like setting of the hotel’s bar is ideal for escaping the sun and sampling a glass of fiery, house-rum-laced punch, ubiquitous across the island. Pull up a spindly-legged stool in the vaulted former sugar mill and try the potent signature cocktail, the Mount St Helena (Absolut vodka, jalapeño, fresh rosemary, lime and cranberry juice).
A la carte breakfast is served 8am–10.30am and lunch is a leisurely 11.30am–3pm. Night owls will need to adjust their timings accordingly as dinner is served 6pm–9pm. The bar opens at 10am and closes at the end of dinner service.
Part of Golden Rock Inn’s charm is its secluded location, so getting there might take a little longer than other islands in the Caribbean.
Fly to Robert L Bradshaw International Airport (SKB) on neighbouring St Kitts and from there take a ferry or water taxi to Nevis. Nevis is well connected to the USA and Caribbean Islands via smaller airlines and ferry services. Alternatively, fly direct to one of the larger Caribbean Islands such as Antigua or St Maarten, around a 30-minute journey, with Winair, Tradewind or LIAT.
You can easily hail a taxi on the island, but to make the most of the rugged scenery and blissfully secluded location you’ll want to hire a car. Find a car-hire kiosk at the airport or enquire at the hotel, who can arrange for car to be delivered to you. The car hire company will help you obtain a local driving license which costs $25. Once you’ve arrived, driving around the various beachy towns and jungle settlements is a breeze.
Fly into St Kitts and take a taxi from outside baggage claim to the ferry terminal at Basseterre for a scenic, 45-minute crossing to Nevis ($11). Otherwise, book a private water taxi with the hotel to cross the two-mile channel; sailing from St Kitts to Oualie Beach in the north of Nevis takes about 30 minutes and costs a flat fare of $80 for up to four people. A taxi driver will meet you on the Nevis side for the drive to the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Submerged in lush, colourful jungle and overlooking the sparkling waters of the Caribbean, Nevis is topped off by a slumbering volcano and ringed by dreamy white sand beaches – in short, it’s the stuff of Caribbean fantasies. Lesser-visited than its more travel-accessible neighbour St Kitts, Nevis is an island of simple pleasures. Hiking boots are a suitcase essential for exploring the local jungle and only your most colourful swimwear will do for lazing on local beaches. Drive 20 minutes north and you’ll find the blissfully soft sands of Newcastle and Nisbet beaches, the ultimate contrast to the tangled greenery of the interior. In the same amount of time you could head west to the tiny capital, Charlestown, or the golf courses and manicured lawns of the Four Seasons Resort.
The Coconut Grove is aptly named, given its location in the heart of a coconut plantation in the northwest of the island. It’s a tiki-inspired, thatched affair dishing up Franco-Caribbean fare, including a ‘cornucopia of the sea’ salad and locally-landed yellowfin tuna prepared two ways – it’s also home to the only wine cellar on the island.
Pinney’s Beach is home to arguably the most famous watering hole on the island, Sunshines Bar & Grill, which hosts monthly Full Moon parties and nightly bonfires. Take a seat on the sands and watch the sunset while sipping a Killer Bee cocktail (loaded with rum, of course) and a fresher-than-fresh Caribbean lobster.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in Nevis and unpacked their duty-free rum and hot pepper sauce, a full account of their Caribbean break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Golden Rock Inn in Nevis…
New York escape artists Helen and Brice Marden have created a masterpiece in Golden Rock Inn, a riotously colourful island hotel splashed across unspoilt jungle on the tiny isle of Nevis. They've concocted a winning holiday formula; the pool shimmers magnificently, like an island amid the greenery, the cottages are cool and calming, with restful terraces, and dining largely consists of fresh seafood in innovative dishes. Any serenity-spoiling distractions are done away with: there are few TVs, no noisy air-conditioning or ringing phones… However, the hotel’s WiFi-connected, so you can switch on or off as you please. You’ll likely choose ‘off’ mode – monkeys swinging through the jungle canopy, tree frogs croaking and twittering birds entice you to put the devices down and enjoy the scenery.
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