Adventures in Nevis

A place to hike, snorkel, ride a horse ... and be a celebrity

By: Janice Mucalov

CHARLESTOWN, Nevis “Just 15 more minutes to the rock,” cajoled our guide, Jim, as we inched up the muddy slopes.

We were “hiking” Nevis Peak, the 3,232-foot mountain that dominates the middle of the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis. I’d been warned this would be “strenuous,” but I hadn’t expected to be pulling ourselves up by ropes tied to roots along the trail as we scrambled up through thick rainforest. I couldn’t wait to rest on the nice, big, flat rock.

Unfortunately, the rock wasn’t flat it was a vertical slab of granite, and it had to be scaled to get to the top. I called it quits.

Only after sliding back down to the bottom did Jim explain that he also offers 15 other less tortuous hikes, such as “Jessup’s Rain Forest: A Lovely Walk.”

In the past decade, Nevis (the smaller of the two islands that make up the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis) has become serious about tourism. It has welcomed the development of a Four Seasons resort and spruced up its plantation inns. It has attracted the likes of Beyonce Knowles, Catherine Zeta-Jones and best-selling author John Grisham. And it has established itself as an active, upscale vacation retreat offering everything from hiking to horseback riding, scuba diving, mountain biking, windsurfing, golfing on a championship 18-hole course and more.

Getting to Nevis from the West Coast is now a whole lot easier too. As of June 15, a late-afternoon flight with American Eagle has been added.

“A second connection out of San Juan [Puerto Rico] will allow passengers from West Coast and Midwest gateway cities to reach Nevis without an overnight stopover,” said Helen Kidd, CEO of the Nevis Tourism Authority. “This is big news. It allows us to introduce the beauty, warmth and hospitality of the island to a huge segment of travelers that might not have considered Nevis as a vacation destination in the past.”

Mind you, clients should know that Nevis isn’t exactly hopping. You won’t find casinos, shopping malls or the nightlife of many other Caribbean getaways. Goats, donkeys and monkeys are more visible than the island’s 9,000 residents. “Nevis still evokes memories of the Caribbean as it used to be,” Kidd said.

Take the lower fringes of the rainforest, where an estimated 7,000 green vervet monkeys are found. Of African origin, the monkeys were introduced to Nevis by French sailors, who brought them in as pets. A nature trail near the Golden Rock Plantation Inn is a good place to spy them, especially in the morning and late afternoon when they are feeding. Underwater is just as captivating as topside. On two reef dives with Scuba Safaris, we saw sleepy nurse sharks, spiny lobsters peeking out of crevasses, a mother and baby manta ray and schools of colorful fish.

No doubt about it, clients looking for soft adventure on their next Caribbean vacation should put Nevis high on their list.

Nevis Tourism Authority

The Stylish Inns of Nevis

No trip to Nevis is complete without either staying or dining at one of the island’s elegantly restored, 17th-century plantation inns.

A 10 percent agent commission is paid on hotel bookings.

Montpelier Plantation Inn: A gracious 17-room inn in the hills, where Princess Di retreated after separating from Prince Charles, now known for its superb dining. Lovely pool and complimentary beach shuttle. Doubles $260 until Oct. 31, then $360 through Dec. 14. Breakfast and afternoon tea included. (869-469-3462;

Old Manor Hotel: This restored historic sugar plantation has tastefully furnished suites and rooms. A deluxe room costs $170 until Oct. 31 ($200 through Dec. 14) and includes breakfast. (800-892-7093;

Nisbet Plantation Beach Club: The Caribbean’s only beachfront plantation inn, with 38 guest cottages set in lush landscaping. Doubles start at $200 until Oct. 31, then $250 through Dec. 19. (800-742-6008;

Oualie Beach Hotel: Not a plantation inn, but a comfortable three-star hotel with gingerbread cottages spread along a nice beach and a fun barefoot bar. Doubles start at $195 through Dec. 18. (869-469-9735;

Four Seasons Resort: Not an inn, but a luxurious beachfront resort with spacious rooms, lavish spa and a championship golf course. Bargain rates of $295 until Oct. 30, then $425 until Dec. 18. (800-332-3442;