Just Back: Beaches and Mountains in Nevis

Luxury Travel Advisor is always on the lookout for under-the-radar Caribbean destinations — and the island that currently has our attention is Nevis. Just a 10-minute ferry or private boat ride from St. Kitts, Nevis feels a world away with its exclusive resorts and a distinct lack of crowds.

To get to the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, guests depart St. Kitts from the new Christophe Harbour aboard a private water taxi — rum punch included — en route to the resort’s private pier. Guests are then greeted on the dock by Four Seasons staff and are taken to their rooms (with a brief resort tour along the way).

The hotel has been under rehab in recent months, with all rooms and the lobby getting an update. The Crowned Monkey Rum Bar — home to roughly 120 different rums — is also new. 

Good to know: The hotel is closing from June to September to renovate its main pool and the Cabana restaurant, and to add a second restaurant just beyond the lobby. The Reflection Pool will also be sporting new cabanas when all is done. When they’re ready, be sure to book these at least a day ahead of time as they’re expected to be popular. 

Traveling with adults only? We would opt for a room in Cottages 6 to 12. These are located near the Reflection Pool. Five of the seven buildings offer beach views, but the two located behind the five beachfront Cottages still have an impressive view: Nevis Peak. Our room (No. 1128) was a Nevis Peak-View Room and we were not disappointed whatsoever. (As a matter of fact, we decided to hike the volcano, so we took pleasure in waking up looking at the challenge before us.) All standard rooms are 490 to 560 square feet and offer a king or double queen bed setup, a light color palette and jungle-themed décor points (such as seatbacks with monkeys and floral wallpaper). Guests looking for more space might consider one of the suites, which are located throughout the property. The top such options are the Luxury Suites (available in Cottages 2 and 8); although these only have one bedroom, they can connect to up to two additional rooms.

Families should consider a room in Cottages 1 to 5. The same room categories (sans Nevis Peak-View Rooms) are all available in these buildings, which are closer to the family-friendly Ocean Pool. 

Good to know: While second-floor rooms generally have better views, first-floor rooms have walk-out access to the lawn and beach; Second-floor rooms are all carpeted, while rooms on the first floor have tile.  

There are 50 villas behind the property, surrounding the golf course and up into the hillside that range from one to six bedrooms. Guests have full access to the resort and are given a golf cart to use for travel. Feeling a private chef? The resort can make that happen.

Mango and EsQuilina are the top spots for a nice dinner. Mango — also available for Sunday brunch — has a Caribbean and Latin menu, with such dishes as banana leaf wahoo, jerk rubbed pork tenderloin and grilled fajita spiced chicken thighs. Top Tip: Order the chef’s local ceviche of the day; ours was snapper and was a highlight of the meal. EsQuilina serves a buffet and à la carte breakfasts in the morning but converts to a coastal Mediterranean restaurant with a crudo bar (think raw seafood, charcuterie and fresh fish) in the evening. Sous chefs Andrew Atangan and Simonas Sungaila arranged a tasting menu for us, which was paired with fantastic wines and Champagnes. For a casual dinner, opt for Kastawey Beach Bar, which serves just three type of burger (beef, crab and, our favorite, lamb). Tip: Make a reservation for sunset to take in the views over the beach.

Want to sample the local spirits? Book a rum tasting at Crowned Monkey with head mixologist Kendie Williams, who is self-taught and award-winning. In the near future, the resort will be offering its own blend of rum — which we were able to try a sample of from the original batch. Our verdict? The smoky rum is definitely a great option on the rocks or in a cocktail.

We found the Crowned Monkey to be the heartbeat of the resort — especially after dinner. On select nights, the resort has local musicians play on the patio just outside the lobby bar.

Four Seasons Resort Nevis has 189 guestrooms and suites whose design incorporate elements from the natural flora and fauna found on the island.

The sports complex includes several tennis courts, a 24-hour gym and a pro shop. The 18-hole golf course is a huge draw for visitors. While we passed up the chance to tee off, we opted for the much-more-casual footgolf (think golf with a soccer ball). Fortunately, the courses intertwined, so we were able to scope out the golf course and the views (A-plus). Bonus: Guests may see the green vervet monkeys that make the island their home (they actually outnumber the people!). For non-golfers (or footgolfers), the hotel arranges tours to spot the monkeys on property. 

The spa has 11 treatment rooms — seven of which are in their own private cabana on the spa grounds. There are also two relaxation pools, a sauna and steam room. An over-the-top option is Spa Under the Stars. Guests reserve private use (after 6 p.m.) of the entire spa — which they can use for ultra-private treatments, or even a dinner in the tranquility of the setting. This must be reserved at least 48 hours in advance.

General Manager Gonzalo Güelman Ros ([email protected]) is the life of the party and can take requests from advisors.   

Another Option

For a much different take on Nevis, head 1,000 feet up into the mountainside for a stay at Golden Rock Inn. The property, which comprises just 11 accommodations, is surrounded by 40 acres of gardens (and growing). The former plantation, which dates back to the early 1800s, opened as a hotel nine years ago and is constantly being updated, including the addition of thousands of plants property-wide and brighter, more contemporary furniture in the guestrooms — something management is in the process of doing now.

Golden Rock Inn — from the villas to the gardens to its dining pavilion — looks like a work of art. And that’s because American minimalist artist Brice Marden and his wife, Helen, are its co-owners. In fact, Marden keeps a studio on property, and you can even book the adjacent room, Windward. (The couple has a house on site that they use during their stay; they visit several times a year for a week or more.) 

The dining pavilion was our favorite spot at Golden Rock — it makes for an outstanding Instagram photo — although, with its dome and tiered koi ponds (ask a staff member for some bread to feed them), it better resembles an Asian property than the Caribbean. The reasoning? The expansion was designed by the team that has worked on numerous Aman projects.

The 11 accommodations are spread out in seven buildings: Four two-accommodation hillside villas that can be booked separately or individually and three individual accommodations. The crème de la crème is the Sugar Mill Suite, our home during our stay.

Great for families or couples, the Sugar Mill Suite is located in just that — the plantation’s former sugar mill. The two-story, cylindrical stone building has two twin beds, a couch, desk, TV and bathroom on the first floor; up the curved staircase, guests will find a king bed, desk and bathroom. There’s also a cell phone (to bring around the island if you don’t have service), a coffee / tea kit and a selection of delicious homemade cookies. It’s located just between the main building / dining pavilion and the pool, meaning it’s right in the middle of everything, but it’s set off from the path through the gardens and is surrounded by plenty of lush shrubbery, so that it actually offers plenty of privacy. The patio has two lounge chairs where you can relax — or, as we did, opt for a massage.

Top Tip: Be sure to wake up early one morning (if that’s not your usual M.O.) and watch the sunrise from the cushioned bench window of the top-floor bedroom. It offers a great vantage point above the trees. 

Good to know: While we saw a variety of ages at the hotel, Golden Rock Inn only accommodates one family at a time, so it will likely never get too loud (which we really enjoyed).

The other two standalone accommodations are Paradise and Dar. Both still have wooden furniture, versus the brightly colored and eclectic décor of the hillside rooms; however, they will soon be updated with the bright furniture. 

Golden Rock aims to have its guests disconnect, so only four rooms have TVs (Wi-Fi is available property-wide); these rooms include the Sugar Mill, Paradise, Windward and Cocoa Walk. 

Golden Rock Inn has 11 accommodations, surrounded by 40 acres of gardens. The rooms have bright, contemporary furniture and eclectic décor. 

There’s just one restaurant (plus one bar) and it serves three meals daily. The signature dish is the “legendary” lobster salad sandwich, which comes on incredibly soft, home-baked bread. You can pair it with fries or salad; we would recommend the latter for a light but filling lunch. There are seats both inside and out on the pavilion, which we would recommend so long as the weather permits. There are also tables and gazebos set up around the property where you can dine. Our favorite option, however, is under the dome on the corner of the pavilion. It was usually open when we ate, so all you need to do is ask. If you have a special dinner planned, it would be best to request that table in advance.

At the pool, which is spring-fed (so there’s a very minimal amount of chemicals), there are loungers in the sun, as well as a gazebo to provide shade. There’s also an honesty bar and a cell phone to request any food or beverages you might be craving. A must is the homemade ice cream. We tried (really) to not eat too much, but each flavor we sampled was superb. 

We could — and did — wander the grounds in nearly all of our free time; however, for a more educational stroll, request a tour with Keith Higgins, the head gardener. Golden Rock Inn has sourced its flora from the world over, and Higgins can talk about the uses of several of the local plants. If you have a particularly green thumb, you can even help with planting; we felt it was best to simply observe. 

Most guests here choose to rent a car, as Golden Rock Inn is at least a 10-minute drive from even the nearest attraction. It’s also possible to buy out the entire property, if you’re considering a small wedding or similar event. 

Husband-and-wife GM duo Andrei and Antonia Mocanu (who share the e-mail [email protected]) are extremely hospitable and will make you feel like part of the family. 

Getting Active on Nevis

Although it’s a small island, there is plenty to do. Charlestown is the capital, although there’s just one main road and only a population of roughly 1,500. The key site here is the Museum of Nevis History, which is the birthplace of American founding father Alexander Hamilton. The museum is located in the rebuilt building that he was born in (it had been destroyed but rebuilt brick-for-brick); next door is the building where he grew up. During our visit, the entire first floor was dedicated to Hamilton’s life. 

While Nevis no longer has any operational sugar plantations, many have been converted into boutique hotels, such as Montpelier Plantation & Beach (a member of Relais & Châteaux), The Hermitage Plantation Inn (home to the oldest wooden structure in the Caribbean) and Nisbet Plantation Beach Club (one of only plantation hotels that’s on the beach). Even if you’re not staying at any of these, you can visit for a meal or just a stroll. There’s also New River Estate, which was the last operational plantation and now serves as an open-air museum. Nevis has incredible beaches. The Four Seasons is located on Pinney’s Beach, but there’s also Oualie, Windward Sands, Herbert’s and Lovers Beach. Great to visit day or night is Sunshine’s Restaurant located on Pinney’s, a short walk on the beach from the Four Seasons. The beach bar is best known for its Killer Bee rum punches (Tip: Don’t bother asking what’s in it — they won’t spill on the recipe, but they are good and they are strong). 

Bananas Restaurant & Boutique is another go-to hotspot. Similar to Golden Rock, the hotel is surrounded by lush gardens. The best time to eat is at sunset (Note: Make reservations by calling 1-869-469-1891) and request a table on the top deck where you can sip a rum punch or The Bertini, their signature passionfruit martini. As far as eats, we would not miss the curried goat with rice and peas. It was one of the best meals we’ve had on any of our trips.  

Bananas Restaurant & Boutique in Nevis has a collection of aged rums.

About That Hike

The literal focal point of the island is Nevis Peak. Measuring in at 3,200 feet, it’s certainly not the tallest volcano out there, but it does make for an incredible hike. And it also makes for an incredible sight, no matter where you are on the island. Actually, from many points on the island, you can look inland and see the peak and then look away and see the ocean — it never gets old.

The peak hike takes nearly five hours and is pretty intense; at many points you have to use ropes to pull yourself while you walk up pretty steep and potentially wet surfaces. On a clear day, you can see the island of Guadeloupe — although don’t plan your hike around the weather; at any given moment, a cloud can come and sit on the peak. In fact, through most of our stay — despite clear, sunny weather — a cloud was formed around the peak. There’s also the less-intense waterfall hike. If you go during the dry season, as we did, it will be more of a natural-running-water hike rather than a full, gushing waterfall (rainy season is August through November). This hike combines a bit of walking on a flat trail with some steeper, more narrow paths. For those who want to continue (this hike ends around 1,500 feet up), prepare yourself for some ropes, giving you a taste of what the peak hike is like.

Definitely use a local guide regardless of which hike you opt for. Reggie from Nevis Adventure Tours (1-869-664-0992) was our guide and he is extremely knowledgeable. He was very helpful when we got to a point in the hike (read: the ropes) when we weren’t sure how to approach it. It’s better to go earlier in the day to avoid the heat of the afternoon; be sure to bring plenty of water and a snack. 

Note: If you prefer a bike tour around the island, Reggie can also arrange a trip. 

Access: You will have to fly into Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport on St. Kitts and take a ferry or private water taxi transfer to the island. Ferries operate between Basseterre on St. Kitts to Charlestown regularly, but other options can be arranged through the hotels to arrive closer to the property. We arrived with Kayanjet, a private terminal. We were picked up in a Porsche on the tarmac and were brought to the terminal to have our customs and immigration cleared while we enjoyed a glass of Champagne and a light lunch. Kayanjet can also arrange private jet charters. On Nevis, Vance W. Amory International Airport can accommodate small, regional airlines and private jets.

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