More and more superyacht owners and captains are catching on to St Kitts, an alternative Caribbean destination with lashings of charm, explains Dominique Afacan…
“Folks are always looking for new destinations and off-the-beaten-path experiences, and St Kitts and Nevis is very young as a destination. It still has that old Caribbean feel to it, which is part of her charm.” The words of Buddy Darby, owner of S/Y Andromeda la Dea and the discerning founder of Christophe Harbour, a 250-berth marina complex and residential resort in St Kitts that is quietly making a name for itself among the superyacht set.
The US$100m investment in the project was arguably a gamble, given the popularity of existing Caribbean hubs like Antigua and St Barths – but the traffic so far speaks for itself. “We had a record-breaking year last year,” says Darby, “and we welcomed 200+ yachts to our waters. That’s a 20% year-on-year growth in large yacht traffic for the fourth year running.” If anything, it seems the marina, which accommodates yachts up to 91m, is a complementary addition to the other offerings in the region, opening up the eastern Caribbean to larger yachts.
On closer inspection, the growing popularity of this marina is no surprise. The plot surrounding the natural harbour ticks every developer’s box, and the island itself has the added benefits of soaring hillsides, white sand beaches and a mellow local culture. Darby likens the discovery of the site to finding a four-leaf clover – and even better, he had total freedom when it came to planning and construction. Vitally, he was also able to bring his wisdom as a superyacht owner to the project. After all, who better to understand the needs and desires of the marina’s future customers?
Darby is clearly detail-oriented by nature, and very much aware of what it takes to ensure that an owner or a charter guest experience is the best it can be. As he explains, “I think it’s that first-hand knowledge and experience that’s driven my desire to create something specifically for superyachts, but that is also a harbour and shoreside for yachts of all sizes.” Unusually, the natural harbour was built from the ground-up as opposed to retrofitting an existing facility, meaning every last detail has been considered and delivered to the highest possible standards. A new private jet terminal brings guests to the marina in less than 15 minutes, and on site, there’s 24/7 security and a new state-of-the-art fuel farm, capable of providing tarmac-to-castoff service in under 30 minutes. For charter boats, this makes Christophe Harbour a no-brainer for starting and ending trips.
For owners, there is also a residency advantage when it comes to buying a berth. St Kitts and Nevis has one of the oldest, most reputable citizenship by investment programs of its kind in the world, and purchase of real estate at Christophe Harbour provides eligibility for the program. Unlike the traditional leasehold model, the berths here are freehold, which translates to a deeded title and ownership of a property in perpetuity. And who wouldn’t residency in this two-island nation? Its rich history, culture and sugar industry legacy makes this much more than a sun, sea and sand destination. There are beautiful hikes, including trails around dormant volcano Mount Liamuiga – and the Brimstone Hill Fortress Park, 240m above sea level, has even been awarded Unesco World Heritage status. The Sugar Train, which chugs around the island’s coastline, offering fantastic views over the plantation houses and rainforest, is yet another draw.
Looking to the future
In the coming months, things are on the up and up. A new Park Hyatt will open this spring within the Christophe Harbour development, overlooking The Narrows – the straight separating the two islands of St Kitts and Nevis. The 134 guest rooms will help to accommodate the new spike in visitor numbers to this previously almost untouched destination, offering rooftop swimming pools, a resort spa and three restaurants. In addition to the marina’s existing facilities, including The Pavilion beach club and SALT Plage beach cafe (named one of the top eight beach cafes in the world by Condé Nast Traveller) – this is a fast-transforming luxury destination. As Buddy admits, “to have 2,500 acres is pretty rare in the Caribbean, and it allows us to control the experience for our guests and deliver something really special.”
By the summer, Christophe Harbour’s Customs House will open, the anchor of the marina village and home to the customs and immigration services, a crew lounge, fitness centre, boutiques, cafes and more. A Tom Fazio golf course is scheduled to follow – and then phase two of the marina village will bring yet more activity to this new hub. For Darby, much of the joy lies in creating a new community with enduring potential. He concludes, “Seeing our members coming together and creating new friendships and watching our community come to life; that’s the rewarding part – knowing that you’re creating something lasting.”
Find out more
PO Box 2131, St. Kitts, West Indies
General enquiries: +1 869 466 4557
Marina enquiries: +1 869 465 9755