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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 mangoes daily?
Then you should definitely consider the beautiful island of Nevis, part of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, located in the Leeward Islands where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean.
There are so many things to do in Nevis, it should definitely be a candidate for your next Caribbean vacation.
On my first visit to Nevis, it didn’t take long before I was a fan. 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 review of Carambola Beach Club), had everything I loved about the Caribbean.
Then, I ate a perfect lobster roll and I was smitten.
Here are the top reasons I think you should consider the island of Nevis for your next Caribbean vacation AND the very best of what to do when you’re on the island.
1. Experience the Sugar Cane History of Nevis
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Nevis was the wealthiest sugar economy in the British West Indies. Today, all that remains of the former sugar cane industry are the ruins of plantation estates and sugar works, such as chimneys and the gigantic bowls called coppers used for boiling up the juice.
Soak up this sugar plantation history at New River and Coconut Estates, an open air attraction on the island’s east coast. Wander among the remains of two estates, built upon an earlier Arawak Indian settlement, and see the remains of the former Great House, the tower, windmills, cistern and stone building with the steam engine that once powered the mill.
While many of the other sugar processing estates are shrouded in jungle overgrowth, some have been converted into atmospheric inns. One of my favourites is the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, the Caribbean’s only historic plantation inn located on a beach.
2. Lounge on the Best Beaches of Nevis – Pinney’s Beach
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 spend a day on one of the best beaches in Nevis, head to Pinney’s Beach. If you splurge on a private beach cabana at the Four Seasons, 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.
3. Sample a Legendary Killer Bee Cocktail at Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill
Worth a stroll down Pinney’s Beach is Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill, a casual hang-out spot for island regulars and celebrities. Just check out the Wall of Fame and you’ll recognize Beyonce, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and many others among the photos.
Top highlights of the menu include grilled spiny lobster and barbecue baby-back ribs served with Llewellyn’s Hot Sauce, a tasty local hot pepper salsa. Be sure to order a Killer Bee, Sunshine’s legendary (and potent) rum punch.
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 2021.
Another island cocktail worth seeking out is the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club’s a Ting With a Sting, a cocktail that’s popular throughout St. Kitts and Nevis. It’s made from Ting, a fizzy grapefruit soft drink and a cane spirit.
4. Go Scuba Diving in an Underwater Paradise
While not as well known as other famous scuba diving destinations such as Bonaire and Cozumel, both St. Kitts and Nevis offer plenty of opportunities for underwater adventure.
With visibility of 80 – 100 feet, the pristine waters feature ledges, caves, wreck sites and reefs dotted with sea fans and sponges.
Based at Oualie Beach on Nevis, 5-Star PADI certified Dive Center Scuba Safaris offers a diverse range of services. Take a snorkel trip, scuba at up to 40 different dive sites, book a private charter or sign up for a certification course.
All dives are led by an experienced dive master.
5. Eat Your Weight in Mangoes
With its fertile volcanic soil producing at least 40 varieties of mangoes, one of the top things to do in Nevis is indulge in eating fresh, sweet mangoes.
The Nevis Mango & Food Festival, a 3-day annual culinary extravaganza in July is well worth adding to your calendar.
In between dining on mango-themed fare, you’ll get to meet celebrity chefs (past chefs have included 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!
6. Sample Local Nevisian Cuisine
Beyond mangoes, Nevis offers plenty of other tasty things to eat – from grilled spiny lobster, the bustling open-air food market in Charlestown, street vendors and beach bars.
Insider Tip: Note to the unadventurous, beware of ordering the “tree mutton” which is actually monkey.
Foodies won’t want to miss the Wednesday night West Indian Buffet at The Hermitage Plantation Inn, a historic estate that dates back to 1670.
On Wednesday nights, the buffet held in the Hermitage’s Great House features a range of delicious dishes such as stewed goat, tannia fritters, short ribs in rum, Johnny cakes and more.
Many of the dishes are served in the red-clay pots created by the island’s Newcastle Pottery cooperative using traditional techniques.
7. Hike to the Peak of Mount Nevis
If you’re feeling adventurous, one of the top things to do on Nevis is hike the steep slopes of Nevis Peak, a stratovolcano soaring 985 metres in the centre of the island.
Even the name of Nevis is derived from the Spanish Nuestro Señora de Los Nieves or Our Lady of the Snows given by Columbus when he sailed by the cloud-draped island in 1493.
8. Soak Up Some Alexander Hamilton History in Charlestown
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 definitely one of the top things to do on a day of sightseeing in Nevis.
9. Explore Historic Charlestown
After visiting the museum, take 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.
10. Go Liming and Enjoy Nightlife in Nevis
Although Nevis is a quieter island than St. Kitts when it comes to nightlife, there are still lively parties almost every night of the week. You can dance to live calypso and soca music, eat barbecue and generally lime or socialize with other visitors and locals at beach parties.
Another way to experience the island’s warm hospitality is to join Patterson’s Pub Crawl. This popular tour takes participants off the tourist track to explore local pubs, rum shops and hangouts.
Hosted by uber-personality Patterson Fleming from the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, you’ll “lime with the locals” and sample island food such as barbecue ribs and jerk pork.
11. Bask in the Nevis Hot Springs at Bath Hotel Nevis
One of the top things to do in Nevis is visit the volcanic hot springs.
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.
It’s still possible to soak up the therapeutic benefits of the scorchingly hot natural springs for absolutely free.
12. Get a Photo-Op at the Historic Bath Hotel
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, it’s worth a photo-op while visiting the Bath Hot Springs.
13. Relax with a Spa Treatment at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis
If you’re looking for a swankier spa treatment, head to the spa at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, set in 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.
14. Nevisian Heritage Village
This fascinating attraction and open air museum depicts the types of dwellings of Nevis through the centuries. It begins with those of the Carib indigenous people, through the backyard gardens during the colonial era to present day.
15. Explore the Botanical Gardens of Nevis, Cottle Church and other Nevis Attractions
Another important attraction to add to your Nevis holiday sightseeing list is the Botanical Gardens of Nevis, where you can explore the walking trails, flower gardens and natural beauty of cultivated gardens.
Also worth exploring is Cottle Church, the remains of a stone church built in 1824 for John Cottle, a plantation owner and president of Nevis. At the time it was illegal for slaves to worship.
Nevis is also home to several other historic churches such as red-roofed St. George’s Anglican Church, St. James Winward Church (notable for its black crucifix) and St. John’s Fig Tree Church (surrounded by 17th century tombstones). They each played a role in the history of Nevis and each have their own unique story to tell.
St. Kitts and Nevis Travel Guide
Note: This post was originally published in 2016 and was substantially updated in 2021. Be sure to double-check availability of tours and attractions due to COVID-19 restrictions.
How to Get to Nevis
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.
New for 2021: Air Canada now offers direct, non-stop flights between Toronto (YYZ) and Basseterre (SKB) St. Kitts. Flight depart and return on Sundays.
Where to Stay on Nevis – Best Hotels, Plantation Inns and Resorts
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.
Nisbet Plantation Inn
I stayed at the beautiful Nisbet Plantation Inn, a sprawling beachfront property that’s ideal for those who love history, luxury and romance.
It was the site of the wedding of Admiral Horatio Nelson and plantation owner’s daughter Frances ‘Fanny’ Nisbet in 1787 and you can still see the atmospheric remains of the 18th century sugar mill near the Great House and lobby where you check in.
Today’s elegant suites feature wifi, AC, a refrigerator with mini-bar, coffee/tea maker, bathrobes and more, all of which adds up to a luxury stay.
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.
Complimentary airport transfers from St. Kitts (SKB) or Nevis (NEV) airports are also included for stays of 5 nights or more.
Four Seasons Resort Nevis
Check prices and availability at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis on Booking.com
Montpelier Plantation and Beach
Montpelier Plantation & Beach is a memorable fairytale stay. This intimate Relais & Châteaux boutique hotel is set on the site of an 18th century sugar cane plantation and features historic buildings as well as its own beach club.
Check prices and availability at Montpelier Plantation & Beach on Booking.com.
Oualie Beach Resort
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.
Sargassum Seaweed Conditions in Nevis
If you’re wondering about sargassum seaweed in Nevis, it’s important to note that in the past few years, 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.
While seaweed conditions in Nevis can change quickly due to ocean current, the beaches on the Caribbean side of Nevis are mostly clear of seaweed.
Seaweed in Nevis tends to be concentrated in the southern point of the island around Indian Castle, an area known for its fertile fishing grounds.
What is the outlook for seaweed conditions in Nevis? 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.
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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Dividing her time between Canada, Guatemala and Mexico (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is the founder of A Taste for Travel. Her award-winning travel and food writing has appeared in Lonely Planet’s cookbook Mexico: From the Source, National Geographic Traveler, Fodor’s and 100+ other publications.
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