When you tell others that you are traveling to Nevis, you may receive a puzzled look. They may have heard of its sister island, St. Kitts, which lies just two miles off the coast, but Nevis has not come upon their radar. Nevis is a 36 square-mile island, the center of which is Nevis Peak, rising to 3,232 feet. Christopher Columbus discovered Nevis on his second voyage in 1493, naming it “Nuestra Senora de Las Nieves,” “Our Lady of the Snows,” referring to the small cloud, resembling snow, which is nearly always present at its peak. To its north, you will find St. Kitts, to the east, Antigua, and to the south, Montserrat. Although not as well known as the surrounding islands, those who know the island appreciate that Nevis offers something unique, something for everyone.
For the adventurers…
Nevis is the place for adventure, whether your pleasure is biking through the local parishes, climbing up the slopes of Nevis Peak, sailing the surrounding waters, or exploring the coral reefs below the surface. You don’t have to be a mountain climber to enjoy the rainforest and coconut plantations along the slopes. There are a variety of hikes you can take, exploring the wide variety of trees and plants, ravines, and caves, tailored for a variety of fitness levels.
The treasures of Nevis are found on the water as well. Sail around the islands on a sailboat, kayak, or paddle board, and explore beyond the beach. There are many areas accessible only by boat which are worth a visit.
Below the surface, there are coral reefs and habitats of many unique and endangered creatures, including coral and sea turtles. The Nevis Turtle Group and the Sea Turtle Conservancy monitor sea turtle activity, and promote awareness to protect turtle nests. Visitors can “adopt” a sea turtle, attend the launch of the “Tour de Turtles,” and track their turtle’s migration throughout the region.
For the nature lovers…
Nevis is alive with color, particularly when the Poinciana or Flamboyant tree is in bloom. It is the national flower of St. Kitts and Nevis, and the tree is nicknamed the “Shack Shack” tree, the sound produced when shaking the dried seed pods of the tree. Although there are beautiful plants and flowers to be seen everywhere you look on Nevis, those with a passion for tropical gardens can find the best in botany at the Botanical Gardens of Nevis.
It would be unusual if you didn’t spot a green vervet monkey while on the island. Green vervet monkeys were reportedly brought to the island of St. Kitts with slaves from West Africa in the mid-1600’s. The monkeys are a delight to tourists, but don’t be surprised that residents of the island may not have the same love for these playful creatures. The monkeys tend to be pests, eating whatever they get their hands on, including residents’ crops.
Monkeys aren’t the only creatures you will see as you explore the island. Goats and donkeys wander the island and pass by often, so watch your speed as you circle the island. Nevis is teeming with life.
For the history buffs…
The island of Nevis was colonized in 1628 by settlers from St. Kitts, and soon thereafter, it was rich with the production of tobacco. With the rise of tobacco production in America’s colonies, the island of Nevis turned to sugar production. With its economic production exceeding that of other British colonies at the time, Nevis earned the nickname, the “Queen of the Caribees.”
Sugar ultimately gave way to tourism as the primary industry, although the island’s sugar mills remain sprinkled throughout the landscape. You can dine in the sugar mill at Montpelier Plantation, or hit your ball from the tee alongside the sugar mill on the Four Seasons’ golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones II.
You won’t go very far on Nevis without running into history. Follow the Nevis Heritage Trail, and you will find over two dozen sites of historical significance. You’ll see St. John’s Figtree Anglican Church, c. 1680, famous as the home of the marriage certificate of Frances (Fanny) Nisbet and British Naval hero, Horatio Nelson. Although the marriage certificate can be found at the St. John’s Figtree Church, they were married at another historical site, Montpelier Plantation, a former sugar plantation, and now a hotel. Nisbet Plantation, another site on the trail, was the home of Fanny Nisbet, and on those grounds you will now find the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club.
With the recent success of the musical, “Hamilton,” visitors are now, more than ever, aware that Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, was born on Nevis. At his birthplace, not far from the ferry port in Charlestown, you will find the Museum of Nevis History, or take a short drive out of town to visit the ruins of the Hamilton Estate.
For the foodies…
Enjoy the view of the island and spectacular island dishes at Bananas, perched above the Hamilton Estate just outside Charlestown. Have a taste for a juicy burger? Don’t miss the DD Burger at Double Deuce. Do you have a taste for Indian food? Indian Summer can’t be beat. Up for wood-fired pizza? So many options can be found at the Yachtsman Grill. An order of conch fritters and a Mangojito at the Cabana Bar at the Four Seasons always hits the spot. Want a variety of options because you just can’t decide? Try Turtle Time on Pinney’s Beach, and don’t forget to order the Hakka Shrimp, a spicy treat you won’t find on the menu. There are so many options for every taste and at every price point.
From the most high-end restaurant to the casual beach bar, you will be impressed by the personal service. The chef at Coconut Grove will stop by your table to make sure you enjoyed your evening. Your waiter at The Gin Trap will take the time to help you explore the 100+ gins they offer to find just the right one. Sunshine will give you a hug like you’re old friends and sit down to chat. His bartender, Chilli, will stop what he’s doing to share a story, in addition to mixing up your favorite cocktail. Most striking from each of our visits to Nevis was this personal attention. You are a welcome guest, as if you are already close friends or family.
For those who just need to relax…
Tourism began early in Nevis with the opening of the Bath Hotel in 1778, said to be the first hotel constructed in the Western Hemisphere. The hotel was constructed over the site of one of the island’s famous hot springs, and was sought out for its therapeutic waters. Although the hotel has since closed, the structure remains, and you can take a dip in the healing waters.
Nevis is not short on hospitality. We were guests at the AAA Five-Diamond Four Seasons Nevis, located just a short walk from all the great beach bars on Pinney’s Beach. If you prefer the Atlantic side of the island, opt for the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club. Want to stay in the midst of a historic sugar plantation? Choose Hermitage Plantation or Montpelier Plantation, a Relais & Chateaux property. Nevis has accommodations for every desire, and for every budget.
Swing in a hammock, walk along the beach, or enjoy some “Chillato,” the Four Seasons’ version of gelato. At the end of the day, it’s time to settle into a beach chair, with a cocktail in hand, and watch the sunset. After all there is to do in Nevis, you’re due for a rest!
In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting more images and stories from our June 2017 visit to Nevis, including the beaches, restaurants, and other stops around the island, both on land and sea. In the mean time, browse all our past posts about this wonderful island.
All words and images ©2006-2017 Wendy G. Gunderson. Any use without written permission is prohibited. For licensing information, please send inquiries via the Contact page.