Nevis, the Caribbean’s Best-Kept Secret

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Nevis Travel - Relaxing on the beach on the island of Nevis. Photo by Janna Graber
Relaxing on the beach on the island of Nevis. Photo by Janna Graber

“Watch your step,” our guide says as we follow a narrow path up the mountainside. The trees are so thick that only narrow rays of sunshine reach the forest floor. I can hear monkeys moving in the brush, and feel droplets run off leaves left damp from a recent rain.

We haven’t seen another soul during our hike to the waterfalls at Russell’s Rest. That’s not unusual, says Baba Tyson, our guide. The island of Nevis is not crowded or overrun with tourists. There’s plenty of space to explore, and today we have the forest to ourselves.

Nevis is the smaller of two Caribbean islands that make up the nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. While St. Kitts is fully developed with large mansions, high-end shopping and luxury hotels, Nevis is quiet and unspoiled. Just 36 square miles in size, Nevis has no street lights or huge developments. What they do have is a small-town welcome.

Nevis Travel - Hiking guide Baba Tyson points out local flora and wildlife in Nevis. Photo by Janna Graber
Hiking guide Baba Tyson points out local flora and wildlife in Nevis. Photo by Janna Graber

Though Nevis isn’t for everyone, the Caribbean island is popular with seasoned travelers who like raw nature and a relaxed way of life. Visitors are warmly received here, and those who take time to chat with the locals will discover a rich culture that fuses Amerindian and Afro-Caribbean traditions with remnants of its British past.

Reminders of that past can be seen in the island’s colonial architecture and the plantations that still dot the island. Many of the plantations have been restored as inns. This week, I’m staying at the Montpelier Plantation, a former 17th-century sugar plantation that has upscale cottages and excellent dining. A large sugar cane mill still stands on the grounds overlooking the sea.

Beautiful view from my cottage at Montpelier Plantation in Nevis. Photo courtesy Janna Graber
Beautiful view from my cottage at Montpelier Plantation in Nevis. Photo courtesy Janna Graber

What to See and Do in Nevis

I’ve spent many hours relaxing at Montpelier, but I’m eager to explore Nevis. Most travelers rent cars during their stay here, but we’ve decided to use a local taxi service.

As Champ, our driver, scoots us around the island, I see why this was a good choice. He is a wealth of information.

Nevis Travel - Our taxi driver, Champ, was a wealth of information. Photo by Janna Graber
Our taxi driver, Champ, was a wealth of information. Photo by Janna Graber

“Visitors always say how relaxed they feel here in Nevis,” says Champ, “how they like the flowers, the sea and the nice people. Taking people around I get to see the island through their eyes, and I’m reminded of what we have in Nevis.”

Champ has to keep his eyes on the road while he talks because animals roam freely all over the island. We pass wild donkeys and then herds of goats and sheep along the road. One time, we stop and wait patiently as a mama pig and her baby cross the street.

Following island tradition, Champ gives a little welcome honk to everyone he passes. I notice that most streets in Nevis have no street names or house numbers, but that’s no problem.

“As long as people can give me a villa name or a landmark, I can get folks where they need to go,” he says.”

And how does the postman deliver the mail when there are no addresses?

“Oh, that’s not a problem,” Champ says with a laugh. “The postman knows the names of most of the people who live on his route so he can deliver mail to them.”

Ah, the island life.

With its warm sunshine, Nevis has many beautiful gardens. The Botanical Gardens has got to be one of the best. Photo by Janna Graber
With its warm sunshine, Nevis has many lush gardens. The Botanical Gardens has got to be one of the best. Photo by Janna Graber

My time on Nevis soon turns into a welcome blend of new experiences and relaxing ways to unwind.

We visit the Nevis Botanical Gardens, a lush oasis created by Philadelphia couple Joseph and Martha Murphy. Their tropical rain conservatory houses tropical plants and Mayan-type sculptures, while the gardens have flora from around the world. My favorite part of the visit is the refreshing purple drink made from Free Butterfly Pea Flowers at their Oasis Restaurant.

Preparing for the West Indian Pig Roast and Buffet at Hermitage Plantation on Nevis. Photo by Janna Graber
Preparing for the West Indian Pig Roast and Buffet at Hermitage Plantation on Nevis. Photo by Janna Graber

Dining in Nevis

Dining in Nevis is a pleasure, I find. Many of the island plantations serve special dinners weekly for locals and guests. One night, we attend a West Indian Pig Roast at Hermitage Plantation.

The buffett at Hermitage Plantation is so large that it barely fits on the huge center table. We sample local delicacies of sweet yams, curried Mahi Mahi, cheesy breadfruit and dishes baked in traditional clay pots.

Meals at beachside eateries like the Oualie Beach Resort and Sunshine’s at Pinney’s Beach are also just as delicious. Food tastes especially good when it’s served up with incredible seaside views. (Tip: Be sure to try Sunshine’s Killer Bee Rum Punch, but drink slowly, because it packs a punch!)

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