St. Kitts’ tinier, polished, lesser-known neighboring island Nevis has a surprising amount to offer for a petite 38-square-mile isle that makes up part of the Caribbean nation.
From an incredible layered history to great dining and nature-driven pursuits, Nevis will intrigue, inspire and keep you coming back for more. Fortunately, St. Kitts and Nevis was essentially unharmed by Hurricane Irma last September.
Here are 5 top experiences in Nevis. You might be able to fit in two or three of them, depending on how long your shore excursion is.
Sample the history of Nevis
1Nevis is packed with incredible historical sites and ruins, and understanding the island’s textured history is essential to really taking in some of Nevis’ must-see sites. Start by visiting the Museum of Nevis History, housed at the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. Give yourself about 45 minutes to walk through the main museum and be prepared for a lot of reading. The museum is basic – don’t expect anything too interactive or over the top (though they were playing the soundtrack to ‘Hamilton’ in there as a bonus). Instead, it gives a great rundown of Nevis in pre-Columbian times through the advent and abolishment of slavery, plus it sheds light on how the island got its name (it started out with the mention of nieves, ‘‘snow,’’ that seemed to be covering Mt. Nevis when explorers first glimpsed the island).
The museum provides insight into the Caribbean in general by showcasing the island’s – and maybe the region’s – demographic shift in the 17th and 18th centuries. After you exit the primary museum, you’ll head across a grassy patch into the Alexander Hamilton museum. Americans should have a great appreciation for this, but even non-Americans will be awed by Hamilton’s life. The museum walks through Hamilton’s birth in Nevis, youth in St. Croix, followed by his move to New York City and the impact that he had on the founding of the United States – it’s inspiring and it’s worth 15 to 20 minutes to walk through.
After you’ve gotten your primer in Charlestown at the museum, explore the island’s ruins and former plantations. A number of Nevis’ premier hotels are housed in historic buildings, whether former plantations or converted living quarters. Montpelier Plantation and Hermitage Plantation are gorgeous examples of this for a glimpse into the island’s past. Rent a car for maximum flexibility. It may take you a moment to get used to the British style drive, but the island’s easy-to-navigate ring road will make exploring relatively simple, and will give you an opportunity to tour the island at your leisure.
Cost: Entry to the museum is $5; rent a car from $45 per day (plus temporary license fee) to explore solo.
Sip a Killer Bee at Sunshine’s
2You know a beach bar has done an incredible marketing job when you’ve heard of the cocktail before you’ve sipped it. There’s the requisite Painkiller at Soggy Dollar, a Bushwhacker at Foxy’s and at Sunshine’s in Nevis there’s the Killer Bee. Located on Pinney’s Beach, Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill is a must for any visitor to the island and their cocktail is a veritable rite of passage. Expect rum, passionfruit, a bit of pepper and a splash of honey for a unique and refreshing take on a classic rum punch.
For those who aren’t big drinkers (myself included), you’ll be happy to know that Sunshine’s serves up their signature cocktail in small and large sizes so you can give it a whirl without too much commitment. There are plenty of other restaurants within walking distance if you choose to sip but not dine, and beach chairs in front of Sunshine’s will set you back $5 each if you want to lounge the day away.
Cost: $6 for a small (pictured above), $9 for a large; chairs rent for $5 each
Explore Nevis on foot
3First-time visitors to the island could easily drive around Nevis’ ring road, stopping at beach bars, hotels and restaurants and miss out on another side of Nevis entirely. Nevis is small, but there’s a surprising amount to uncover. Take a ride with Funky Monkey Tours in your designated Polaris ATV for an off-roading adventure that covers beach, bush and ruins. We visited the Hamilton Plantation, hidden stretches of pristine sand, and popped by old sugar mills and a historic church to round out our day. It was a highlight from our experiences in Nevis during our recent island hopping excursion!
Cost: A half-day (three hour) tour costs about $135 per person. You can also rent a Polaris off-road vehicle for the day for roughly the same amount and go on your own off-roading adventure.
Explore Nevis' dining scene
4We’re spoiled with Anguilla’s dining scene that’s arguably a cut above the rest, but we found ourselves very impressed with Nevis. We had four great nights with four great meals, each in distinctive settings with interesting menus. We spent our first night dining à deux at Mill Privée, the 300-year-old sugar mill-turned-restaurant at Montpelier Plantation. With a candlelit walkway, private seating and our own server, it was one of the ultimate romantic dining experiences (good food but the setting was the draw).
Our other three nights were equally impressive (and admittedly, much less expensive): a stunningly romantic atmosphere at Golden Rock Inn, a tree-house inspired setting with a gorgeous rooftop sunset at Banana’s and an excellent meal with a wow-worthy wine list at Coconut Grove. Those who prefer more casual dining will have plenty on offer with local BBQ, rice and peas and West Indian specialties.
Get to know Nevis' nature scene
5Nevis’ tagline is ‘‘Nevis Naturally,’’ touting the island’s lush grounds and ability to explore the nature-laden side of this tiny island. If you arrive by plane, you'll immediately grasp the truth behind this; the island is covered in a thick sheet of green as you come in for a landing, so much so that it looks like an island purely devoured by rainforest. With our limited time there, we missed out on some of the island’s more active pursuits, though they’re on our list for next time.
For the most adventurous of the bunch, gear up for the hike to Mount Nevis (an author at Rough Guides details his Mount Nevis trek on their site). For those who want a less grueling undertaking, there are many rainforest hikes that will get you out into the jungle terrain for a few hours of exercise. For those who prefer to explore under the sea, check out Dive Nevis for scuba packages. Looking for a brush with nature that requires zero expended energy? Check out the volcanic island’s thermal baths, said to contain minerals with medicinal value for a bit of therapeutic R&R.
What are some must-have experiences in Nevis you’d recommend to a first-time visitor?This article originally appeared in The Wanderlust Effect.