Green vervet monkeys are common sightings on the Caribbean island of Nevis. // © 2014 Thinkstock
Though the Caribbean islands of Nevis and St. Kitts are bound together as one nation, they have distinctly different personalities.
St. Kitts is the more glamorous of the sister islands with its array of upscale shops, hotels and bars, plus a port of call for large cruise ships. Nevis, on the other hand, lures visitors with its off-the-beaten-path mystique and slow pace.
“Nevis is a special place, but it’s not necessarily a place for everybody, simply because it’s not like the rest of the Caribbean,” said Greg B. Phillip, CEO of the Nevis Tourism Authority. “Many travelers are looking for the Caribbean they see most — big cruise ships, casinos and partying. Nevis is not that. It’s one of those places that you go to in order to get away, to escape. People who enjoy a Nevis vacation are looking for something different.”
To get a feel for the island, Phillip recommends visitors take in the nine sights and experiences below — especially the Killer Bee.
Climb Nevis Peak
Climbing to the highest point on the island requires a certain degree of physical fitness, but the views from the top of Nevis Peak on a clear day are worth the sweat. Book a guided hike with a local tour operator and pack a camera, as the area surrounding this dormant volcano is home to a plethora of native flora and fauna.
Soak in the Bath Hotel Hot Springs
The Bath Hotel was built in 1778, and its hot springs drew in the likes of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and British naval commander Lord Nelson. Today there are two hot springs at the site that are open to the public. Set aside an hour or two to relax in the therapeutic waters or soak away sore muscles after a Nevis Peak trek.
Go Monkey Watching
No place is better than any other to spot green vervet monkeys on Nevis because the cute, nimble creatures are just about everywhere, according to Phillip.
“A lot of people think that the monkey population on Nevis rivals the human population,” said Phillip. “They’re not monkeys that will harass people — actually, they’ll run away — but you can spot them almost anywhere on the island. They live on only three islands in the Caribbean: St. Kitts, Nevis and Barbados.”
Partake in the “Dine Around”
Nevis may be small — there are only 406 hotel rooms on the entire island and approximately 12,000 residents — but that doesn’t mean the culinary options are limited or that hotel guests should only dine within the confines of one property. In fact, hotels and restaurants on Nevis encourage visitors to sit down at as many local establishments as possible — to “dine around.”
According to Phillip, Bananas Restaurant is a consistent hit with island visitors and locals for reasons beyond its garden and ocean views.
“Bananas Restaurant is where you go and relax with your friends in a truly Nevisian, rustic setting,” said Phillip. “You won’t find this food anywhere else. Each dish is the owner’s own spin on international cuisine with a Nevisian twist.”
Other restaurant favorites include Coconut Grove Restaurant, known for its well-curated wine selection and thatch-roofed dining room, and the stunning onsite restaurant at Golden Rock Inn, which sits on 100 acres of verdant land below Nevis Peak.
Participate in a World-Class Event
For athletic visitors, seeing Nevis while competing in a large sporting event may be the ultimate island experience. Optional races include less challenging courses such as 5K and 10K runs but a few events draw big crowds of locals and international visitors. Adventurers might participate in the annual 2.5-mile Nevis to St. Kitts Cross-Channel Swim, for example, or train for the brand new Nevis Marathon set for September 20.
Take an Island Tour
Nevis is home to acres of rainforest and miles of winding trails and beaches. Phillip recommends that visitors learn about island history and access hard-to-find natural wonders with local tour operators such as Sunrise Tours and Welcome Tours St. Kitts and Nevis.
Strolling in the capital city of Charlestown sweeps visitors back to the island’s colonial years; not much has been modernized, and that’s a good thing. Sites worth visiting in and around the area include the Museum of Nevis History, housed in the restored home where Alexander Hamilton was born, and Cottle Church, built in 1824 and within walking distance from town.
Visit St. Kitts
As close as the two islands are to one another, it’s no surprise that Nevis guests often spend a day on St. Kitts, and vice versa. Every day ferries carry travelers back and forth between Charlestown and Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts. The ride takes approximately 45 minutes.
Sip a Killer Bee
Don’t leave Nevis without trying the island’s most famous drink: the Killer Bee, a rum punch creation from Sunshine’s Beach Bar and Grill on Pinney’s Beach.
“I tell everyone that the Killer Bee is the most dangerous thing on the island, so they all want to go there to try it out,” said Phillip. “Of course he doesn’t tell anyone the recipe.”