In fall 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria wreaked havoc from Barbuda to the Florida Keys — yet many nearby islands were miraculously spared by the ferocious storms. The best way to support the Caribbean is to book a trip there — and there’s no better place to start than with Nevis, an unspoiled oasis just northwest of Antigua in the West Indies. While many islands in the region are filled with all-inclusive resorts and hordes of tourists, Nevis is a less crowded, more laidback and quite elegant version of paradise.
Where to Stay
Just 13 miles separate St. Kitts from its lush — and lesser-known — sister island. Several different ferry services make the 45-minute trip between the two throughout the day. Guests staying at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Four Seasons Resort Nevis, however, are shuttled straight to the hotel from St. Kitts’ Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport on a private water taxi. The Four Seasons is also part of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s One Caribbean Family initiative, which allows hotels in the region to donate a portion of their bookings to neighbors in need.
Built on a former sugar and coconut plantation, Four Seasons Resort Nevis opened in 1991 as the brand’s first Caribbean resort, providing luxury accommodations on the island. Still glowing from a $24 million renovation in 2010, the gorgeous property is in the midst of a three-year project that will result in enhancements to all 196 rooms and suites, public spaces, retail outlets, restaurants and pools.
While the Four Seasons is Nevis’ biggest hotel, several other historic sugar plantations across the island have also been repurposed into elegant properties. The secluded Nisbet Plantation Beach Club offers 36 cottage-style rooms and suites just steps from the ocean. Montpelier Plantation & Beach features 19 West Indian cottages set on 60 lush tropical acres as well as The Little House, a two-bedroom villa with Nevis Peak views, and the two-bedroom Tamarind Villa with ocean vistas and a private plunge pool.
The bohemian-chic Golden Rock Inn provides 11 private guest cottages (and a two-story sugar mill) tucked between tropical foliage on the slopes of Nevis Peak. The hotel, which is owned by two artists, features surprises around every corner, from a breathtaking garden and a hidden-away natural pool to the island’s African green vervet monkeys plucking mangos from the trees.
Where to Eat
For an island no bigger than 36 square miles, Nevis has a considerable amount of excellent options for dining and drinks. The Four Seasons’ Mango features a gorgeous ocean vista and is one of the best places to take in a romantic sunset meal starring fresh, flavorful dishes like banana leaf wahoo with coconut lemongrass sauce. Enjoy a five-course rum-paired dinner or a tasting with the hotel’s “rum-melier” Mark Theron, who will guide you through some of the bar’s 101 selections from France, Spain and the Caribbean.
While rum is undoubtedly the most widely consumed spirit on the island, The Gin Trap features 101 different types of the namesake botanical liquor and crafts some of the best cocktails in Nevis. After partaking in a sunset happy hour at the bar or on the patio, stay for dinner and nosh on local seafood with a native twist (think Creole-spiced scallops with pickled mango and spiny roasted lobster with coconut rice).
Be sure to also book dinner on the rooftop terrace of Bananas Restaurant, which overlooks a tropical garden with a panorama of the Caribbean visible through palms. Start with the Taste of Nevis meze platter, composed of local specialties like conch gratin, salt fish, johnnycakes and Nevisian goat water (goat stewed in a flavorful brown broth). After a West Indian feast of guava barbecue pork ribs and curried vegetable roti, choose from a wide variety of aged rums and Cuban cigars.
Have a daytime meal in the Caribbean sunshine at Golden Rock Inn’s alfresco restaurant The Rocks. Breakfast overlooking the property’s lush tropical gardens brings dishes like banana pancakes with guava pineapple jam and ginger syrup, while the lunch menu includes the hotel’s signature lobster sandwich and conch chowder.
And no trip to Nevis is complete without a visit to Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill on Pinney’s Beach. Settle into one of the spacious, no-frills cabanas with friends, feast on platters of fresh grilled meat and seafood and see how easily Sunshine’s potent Killer Bee (passion fruit rum) cocktails go down. You’ll find it’s easy to kill hours here before hopping to neighboring beach bars, Lime’s and Turtle Time, for DJ-spun reggae and dancehall.
What to Do
All of the beaches on Nevis are open to the public, so you’ll find yourself spending plenty of time bathing in the turquoise waters. The Four Seasons can arrange a variety of exciting water activities with local outfitters, from kayaking to windsurfing to scuba diving. Caribbean Catch organizes half- or full-day deep sea fishing trips, and Leeward Islands Charters leads catamaran sail and snorkel excursions to private coves.
Or challenge yourself by climbing the 3,200-foot Nevis Peak, a dormant volcano in the center of the island. But do note that the steep, slippery five-hour climb should not be done without the accompaniment of a skilled local guide and is not for the faint of heart.
If staying at sea level is more your style, the Four Seasons offers a verdant 18-hole golf course with beautiful ocean views and 10 tennis courts. After the action, soak in the therapeutic hot mineral waters at Bath Spring, a natural spa that has attracted visitors to the island since the late 1700s.
History buffs will want to tour the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. See the home he was born in, now the Museum of Nevis History in Charlestown, that tells the story of the island’s colonial past. A self-guided walking tour follows the route a young Hamilton would have taken from his Jewish school, past the slave market and down a path known as Jew’s Alley. Afterward, go to the Cottle Church — built by planter John Cottle in 1824 so his family and slaves could worship together — and be sure to stop at St. James Anglican Church to see one of just three black crucifixes in the Caribbean.
Come in early December to catch the end of low season rates before carnival season begins. Between Christmas and New Year’s, the streets come alive with color and calypso for the St. Kitts & Nevis National Carnival (also known as Sugar Mas). In April, the Nevis Blues Festival takes place at Oualie Beach — the annual event will take a break in 2018, however — while the same site also hosts the Nevis Mango & Food Festival each July.
Speaking of mangoes, the island is home to 44 different types of the juicy fruit — thought to be some of the best in the Caribbean — which makes the weekend-long festival the perfect time for restaurants to cook mango-themed dishes and for celebrity chefs like Judy Joo to teach master classes involving the luscious treat.
And since Nevis doesn’t export the fruit, the only way to try it is by traveling to the island. But don’t worry; if you don’t eat the mangoes that fall from the tree, the resident monkeys gladly will.