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Looking for an under-the radar Caribbean getaway away from the crowds of mass tourism? An island where you can float among sea turtles, spot monkeys dangling from the treetops and eat your weight in fresh mangos daily?
Then you should definitely consider the beautiful island of Nevis, St Kitts and Nevis, in the British West Indies. There are so many things to do in Nevis, it should definitely be a candidate for your next Caribbean vacation.
Even before I floated in the clear blue sea, my only companion a giant sea turtle who glided past — just his leathery head peeking out of the water — I was tempted to declare that Nevis might be my new favourite Caribbean island.
I’d spent a few blissful days swimming,basking in the sun and eating mangoes while attending the Nevis Mango & Food Festival and was already halfway convinced that this little island, the smaller, quieter sister to Saint Kitts (check out my post on the Carambola Beach Club if you only have one day in St. Kitt’s), had everything I loved about the Caribbean. Then, I ate a perfect lobster roll and I was smitten.
Here are five reasons I think you should consider the island of Nevis for your next Caribbean vacation.
1. Enjoy Beautiful Beaches Away from the Crowds
I walked the beach each morning at Nisbet Plantation Beach Club (the Caribbean’s only historic plantation inn located on a beach) and rarely saw anyone apart from a few snorkelers heading out for a morning swim.
Nisbet Beach offers a mix of fine golden sand sprinkled with black volcanic dust that glint in the sunlight and although it faces the Atlantic, it’s actually quite swimmable thanks to rocky breakers built to protect the shoreline and waters.
With no undertow or enormous waves to pull an unsuspecting swimmer under, it’s a welcoming beach for non-swimmers. A string of tidal pools along the shoreline makes for interesting beach combing.
Unlike other volcanic islands where you’re likely to find mostly black sand beaches, Nevis has been blessed with a surprising number of white and golden sand beaches to choose from.
On the Caribbean side, Pinney’s Beach is one of the best beaches in Nevis.
The beach at Four Seasons Resort Nevis is also relatively free of crowds and if you splurge on a private beach cabana, you’ll score butler service, a choice of comfy loungers, excellent WiFi and of course easy access to the translucent blue waters.
Don’t be surprised if you spot a celebrity or two. Nevis is a top hideaway for jet-setters, celebrities and A-Listers.
Just check-out the Wall of Fame at nearby Sunshine’s Beach Bar (a short walk along the beach from the Four Seasons) and you’ll recognize Beyonce, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and many others among the photos.
If you’re concerned about sargassum seaweed in Nevis and the rest of the Caribbean, scroll down for an update on current seaweed conditions and details on the seaweed forecast for 2019.
2. Eat Mangos at the Nevis Mango Festival
The Nevis Mango & Food Festival, a 3-day annual culinary extravaganza in July is well worth adding to your calendar and is one of the top things to do in Nevis. In between dining on mango-themed fare, you’ll get to meet celebrity chefs such as Natasha Corrett and even Iron Chef UK, Judy Joo, who helms Jinjuu Restaurant in London and Hong Kong.
Get a taste of the island of Nevis with our easy recipe for No-Bake Mango Pie!
Also worth planning to attend is the St. Kitts Carnival in December and January. This lively party features local cuisine, J’Ouvert costumed dancers, parades, beauty pageants and plenty of calypso and soca music.
Typical festival fare includes grilled spiny lobster, an open-air food market in Charlestown, lots of street vendors (note to the unadventurous, beware of ordering the “tree mutton” which is actually monkey) and plenty of beach bars such as Sunshines — all of which adds up to a happening food scene.
Read more about what to eat and drink in Nevis in my article The Best Places to Eat on the Island of Nevis for Travel Age West
The Nevis Mango & Food Festival is an annual event featuring cooking demonstrations, mango-themed dinners prepared by local and visiting celebrity chefs, a street fair and more. It takes place each July, when the mango crops are ripe. Check the Nevis Tourism Authority website for exact dates and details.
3. Soak Up Some Alexander Hamilton History
Interest in Nevis is booming due to the smash Broadway hit “Hamilton”, a musical that tells the story of the Nevis-born Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father of the United States. Visiting the Museum of Nevis History, which sits on the site of Hamilton’s birthplace in the capital city of Charlestown, is one of the top things to do in Nevis.
You can visit the museum while taking a walk through historic Charlestown. It’s the island’s capital and is small, walkable and still-authentic, not overrun with duty free shops or fast-food outlets.The leafy town square is circled by a fine selection of 18th and 19th century Georgian-style buildings with wooden second stories built above stone foundations.
Nearby, several historic churches and the Market Place make for an interesting way to spend several hours.
4. Enjoy the Great Value Nevis Resorts and Hotels Offer
But the growing interest in the life and times of Alexander Hamilton hasn’t prompted price increases on the island. For now, Nevis still offers excellent value when it comes to hotels.
For example, while there are loads of beautiful luxury properties to choose from, including the dreamy Relais & Châteaux member the Montpelier Plantation and Beach, you can also rent a modest sea view room at a guest house in historic Charlestown.
Further afield, another affordable option is Oualie Beach Resort, a 3.5 star beachfront collection of 32 low-rise Caribbean-style cottages, offering reasonable rates . These pastel-hued cottages feature screened verandas as well as direct access to one of the nicest swimming beaches.
The location isn’t as private as Nisbet Plantation Beach Club ( the water-taxi as well as several other boats depart from the dock at Oualie Beach) but the onsite restaurant is a happening place offering live music and dancing on Tuesday nights.
I stayed at the beautiful Nisbet Plantation Inn, a sprawling beachfront property that’s ideal for those who love history and luxury.
Suites feature wifi, AC, a refrigerator with mini-bar, coffee/tea maker, bathrobes and more, all of which adds up to a luxury stay. Complimentary airport transfers from St. Kitts (SKB) or Nevis (NEV) airports are also included for stays of 5 nights or more.
5. Bask in the Nevis Hot Springs at Bath Hotel Nevis
While there are many volcanic islands in the Caribbean, there are few where you can actually soak in thermal waters as easily as you can in Central American countries such as Costa Rica. Nevis has done a fantastic job of preserving and restoring the series of natural hot springs located in front of the aptly named Bath Hotel in Charlestown.
Although the historic Bath Hotel, built in 1778 and once the playground for royalty and aristocracy, was converted to offices decades ago, rumours say it may be returned to its former glory as a hotel within the near future.
In the meantime, one of the top things to do in Nevis is visit the hot springs. It’s still possible to soak up the therapeutic benefits of the scorchingly hot natural springs for absolutely free.
Or, if you’re looking for something more swanky and private, the spa at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis offers one of the Caribbean’s most stunning settings. The treatment rooms are located within a meandering collection of spa cottages tucked beneath the palms and are just steps to a luxurious soaking pool with soothing warm waters.
The spa treatment of choice at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis is their signature Nevis Naturally Massage featuring herbs and botanicals harvested from the spa’s organic garden.
St. Kitts and Nevis Travel Guide
Nevis is Easy to Get To
There are many beautiful, secluded islands in the Caribbean, but many require a rather rigorous commitment to get there.
I’ve flown on tiny 6-seater airplanes clutching the ashtray holder as we careened past rocky cliffs, and taken ferry boats across turbulent seas, so it’s a real treat to discover a still-under-the-radar island where an easy water taxi gets you to your destination faster than you have time to finish a Red Stripe.
Travellers from North America or the UK can fly to St Kitts and then connect to Nevis via ferry or private water taxi. Another option is to fly to St Maarten and transfer to Nevis on a WINAIR flight. Many of the resorts include transfers for minimum stays.
Sargassum Seaweed Conditions in Nevis
If you’re wondering about sargassum seaweed in Nevis, it’s important to note that in 2018, much of the Caribbean Sea experienced a record-high, and extended, period of sargassum seaweed bloom.
What exactly is sargassum seaweed and why is it a problem? It’s a type of brown algae that normally floats in the open ocean in the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic. Carried by ocean currents, this mat of seaweed floats on the surface of the water and serves as a resting area and spawning ground for a vast array of life from eels to sea turtles.
While sargassum seaweed is a natural phenomenon and seaweed season normally takes place between July and October each year. However, the influx of sargassum in 2015 and 2018 was larger, thicker and more widespread in many parts of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic.
Beach reports from January 2019, show that even the beaches on the Atlantic side of Nevis are mostly clear of seaweed.
What is the outlook for seaweed conditions in Nevis in 2019 and 2020? The Sargassum Watch System (SaWS) developed by the University of South Florida’s Oceanography Laboratory uses satellite data from NASA and mathematical models to detect floating algae and track the movement of sargassum in the Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
Much depends on ocean currents in the Atlantic where sargassum develops. Based on an analysis of the data, the SaWS forecast for 2019 produced in the February 2019 Bulletin predicts a reduction of the amount of sargassum in March and April 2019 but, based on conditions in the eastern Atlantic where sargassum develops, in later months of 2019 the Caribbean Sea may experience moderate to large amounts of sargassum seaweed.
The Sargassum Watch System cautions that this information is simply a general outlook and should not be used to predict seaweed conditions on any island or any specific beach.
Learn more about the island of Nevis by visiting the Nevis Tourism Authority website.
Disclosure: I travelled to the Nevis Mango & Food Festival as a guest of the Nevis Tourism Authority. However, my opinions are my own and they did not review this story or try to stop me from eating my weight in mangoes each day.
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