After a series of travel delays, it was dark when I stepped off the plane in St. Kitts. I couldn’t see the palms, but I felt them sway as I descended down the stairs to the tarmac. A tropical breeze can bring a smile to even the most tired of travelers. Especially a solo traveler who was going to wake up in a new place for the first time.
The midnight boat ride from St. Kitt’s to Nevis was fast. And I don’t exactly mean that in an “efficient” sort of way. I mean, I held onto my seat as rough waters tried to send me skyward, plumes of the Caribbean grazing my skin. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. What was I getting myself into?
All good love stories start with an adventure before being lulled into a dream state. And my falling for Nevis was no different.
My first glimpse of the island in daylight couldn’t have been more magical. I awoke at Golden Rock Inn, which, if you aren’t familiar, is this majestical boutique hotel with lush gardens and meandering paths that lead to these peaceful little plots of land where you can simply relax, meditate or pause to take in the lullaby of the tropics.
If I didn’t have a new island to explore, I could’ve easily spent my time just perusing the grounds of Golden Rock Inn. But, I’m not one to sit still for very long.
My first trip to Nevis also took me to downtown Charlestown, where vibrant colored buildings and friendly locals made me have one of those moments where you know this isn’t a place you just visit once.
Because it was the week of the Food and Mango Festival, I also had the unique experience of participating in cooking classes right in the middle of the street in Charlestown. Celebrity Chef Seamus Mullen taught us how to prepare mahi-mahi with a mango salsa. Chef Michael Harrison of Barbados led us in another version of the fish. Both delicious, of course, but the experience itself was an unexpected delight.
On the way to more eats (foodies, get here!) I dipped my toes in an ancient hot springs, known for its geothermal energy and therapeutic benefits. In the background, visitors will notice the site of Bath Hotel, which was the first luxury hotel built in the West Indies back in 1778.
To counter the warmth of the hot springs, a trip to Sunshine’s Bar and Grill was in order. Of course, sampling Sunshine’s famous Killer Bee concoction is encouraged. This beachside hangout also serves up tasty barbecue with sounds of reggae serenading your meal. If you have a vision of the Caribbean in your head, this spot holds up to that iconic island scene.
A walk down Pinney’s Beach gets you from Sunshine’s to the Four Seasons, where I spent the other half of my wake-ups. If luxury resort-life is on your agenda, you’ll be pleased with the amenities. Pool hop, swing a golf club, get your cabana on, book the spa appointment. It’s all here. Personally, I took note of how down-to-earth the staff was, which I always appreciate and remember.
Touring the Nevis Botanical Gardens was also a highlight. I especially enjoyed all of the different Buddha statues around the property. Ask for a Purple Rain cocktail (or mocktail). Between the drink and the sunset from the upper deck, your Insta content will get a colorful boost.
An island so nice- I’ve come back twice
On my next trip, I got a Nevis driver’s license. Why? Well, again, adventure was calling. In order to drive a side-by-side or four wheeler on the main roads, a local license is a must (and easy to obtain).
I had three passengers with me, whom I’d just met. These brave souls had no choice but to trust that I would swerve around all the donkeys and avoid deep puddles. One of those held true. (But a little mud makes everything more fun.) Funky Monkey Tours brought us from the mountains to the ocean, with the guide sharing extensive history of Nevis.
Another new activity this time around was a catamaran ride at sunset. Having the opportunity to see Nevis from this perspective was a treat.
My accommodations were at Montpelier Plantation and Beach, a property I had toured and fell in love with the year before. It’s hard to choose where to stay on Nevis because each place is filled with unique charm. With the exception of Four Seasons, there are no other “chain” hotels, which I think contributes to the overall character of Nevis. Nisbet Plantation is beautiful as is Hermitage and the villas at Paradise Beach. I’m a bit of a hotel nerd. I could spend an entire trip just touring different properties.
Before I tell you my absolute favorite thing about Nevis, I have to talk about mangoes. I remember the first time I tried mango. I was in second grade and my sister had brought one to me when she visited from Florida. Instantly, it was my favorite fruit. Which, as a Mainer, made it challenging and expensive to find them at the grocery store. Fast forward many (many) years and I’m sampling dozens of different mango varieties. You bet I went to the agricultural farm both trips to get the low-down on my beloved fruit. The Mango Festival is fascinating to me. Local chefs infuse such creativity into the dishes they create. They use mango in ways you could never imagine. What’s also fun to see is how this mango culture is expanding to other islands. Last year, chefs from Barbados, Antigua and St.Kitt’s took the stage with chefs from Nevis for a classic mango cooking competition judged by Iron Chef Judy Joo.
So what do I love most about this Caribbean nation? Nevis is a small island with a big heart and you can’t help but feel the love. Not every destination can make travelers feel that welcomed and comfortable. The friendships I’ve made in Nevis are the ultimate souvenir. Each time I return, I know I’ll come home with a new one.