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Nevis is often lumped together with nearby St. Kitts and there are reasons, historic and contemporary, for that. Eons ago, the islands -- both discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 -- were actually part of the same landmass (they're now severed by a most miniscule two-mile-wide channel). Both were long part of the English empire; they achieved a level of independence in 1967 by becoming an associated state of Great Britain. They cut the cord pretty much entirely in 1983. Today, they share a government.
And it's true that both are dominated by sky-high mountains -- St. Kitts' Mt. Misery, at 3,750 ft., is higher than Nevis' Nevis Peak, at 3,232 ft., which means that the isles have their lush and green areas, frequently snagged by clouds.
Otherwise, you could say that as twins, St. Kitts and Nevis are far more fraternal than identical. The former is far more a bustling, touristic place (it's got the major airport and the deep water cruise ship harbor, complete with swanky new cruise terminal/shopping center); Nevis' appeal is in quieter pleasures.
Charlestown, its main city, is charming with its still-standing Victorian-style cottages and a general aura of peace, even downtown, that hovers over the place like a golden cloud. The fact that the Four Seasons developers -- picky as they are -- found an appeal in Nevis is significant in that it reinforces the fact that the island is naturally beautiful and that its people are quite welcoming.
And, as the Four Seasons folks undoubtedly figured out, fabulous beaches give Nevis at least one edge over its bigger sister isle. We found much to like in this sweet place that's relatively untouched by mass tourism, and plan to return for a longer stay.
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Other Southern Caribbean Cruise Ports:
Antigua • Aruba • Banana Coast (Trujillo) • Barbados • Bequia • Bonaire • Cartagena (Colombia) • Curacao • Dominica • Grenada • Guadeloupe • Martinique • Nevis • Port of Spain (Trinidad) • San Juan • St. Barts • St. Lucia • St. Vincent
"Killer Bee" -- a drink consisting of rum and
other "secret" ingredients -- best known at Sunshine's Bar on Pinney's Beach
English is the language of Nevis.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Nevis operates on the Eastern Caribbean Dollar; $1 ECD is worth about 36 cents U.S., but you'll want to check xe.com for the latest exchange rates. Many shops and restaurants take American cash (or euros) but you may receive change in EC.
Where You're Docked
You'll be anchored in Charlestown Harbor and tendered in to Charlestown.
On Foot: Charlestown is compact and easily walkable. For any locale beyond the town center, your best bet is to take a taxi.
By Taxi: Most cabs are minibus style and will pick up and drop off numerous folks. They line up at Main Street.
By Bus: Privately owned mini-buses, the island's version of public transportation, run around the island during the day on the main road. They have names like "Dem Say," "No Problem," and "Zion Train." To catch a bus, stand on the side of the road in the direction you are going and flag one down. Fares run between $1 and $3 EC.
By Car: Nevis is so small (eight by six miles) that renting a car isn't really necessary for a day visit but you certainly can. However, to rent a car or scooter, it's necessary to obtain a driver's license from any of the island police departments (Charlestown, Newcastle, Cotton Ground or Gingerland). Cost is $20 US for a three-month license. A valid driver's license from home is needed as well. Why bother for just the day? But if you must, Thrifty has an outpost on the waterfront.
In Charlestown, a place that is resolutely locals-oriented save for a couple of tourist shops on the waterfront, the main attractions surround the Alexander Hamilton Birthplace (Low Street, weekdays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m; Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., closed Sunday). Did you know that the American patriot was born here? His father was a Scottish colonialist who settled in Nevis; the family ultimately moved to St. Croix and from there Hamilton, who was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr (remember those American history classes?), moved on to New York, where he studied at the precursor to Columbia University. Still, he's Nevis' greatest historic achiever.
From the tender pier, head left along the waterfront; it's about three blocks beyond. A reconstructed 17th century manor on the waterfront, the museum contains various artifacts (Hamilton spent the first 17 years of his life here before heading to colonial America). The space also includes the Museum of Nevis History.
What's just as intriguing is the nearby art gallery. Cafe des Arts offers fabulous fun, take-home souvenirs from original artwork by noted regional painters (my favorite is St. Kitts' Kate Spencer), ceramics, and other fabulous tchockes. It's also a cafe, as the name suggests, and each of its whimsically mismatched table setups is located under a different tree in the expansive yard that borders the seafront. For a quick snack, try the sandwiches; breakfast is also available.
Bocane Ceramics and Gift Studio offers charming locally designed and created bowls, mosaics and other functional art pieces. It's within walking distance from the tender pier (it's on Main Street; upon reaching Main from the tender pier, turn right).
Beaching it. You can book a safari cab for $10 to Pinney's Beach but it's actually a nice, 10-minute walk (if you're brisk); turn left at the tender pier and follow the coastline.
Scuba diving at Ft. Ashby; the settlement of Jamestown fell into the sea in the late 17th century -- thought to have been caused by an earthquake -- which lends to plenty of interesting underwater sightings. Visit scubanevis.com for more info.
Nevis Botanical Gardens (Montpelier Estate, daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.). Lying in the shadow of the peak of Mt. Nevis, the eight-acre garden has lagoons, waterfalls, streams and a rain forest, among other natural diversions. There's a fun re-creation of a plantation house, Martha's in the Garden, which has indoor/outdoor dining with fabulous views (try to snag a table on the wrap-around porch); if the local lobster salad served in the shell is on the menu, order it! Martha's in the Garden also serves locally influenced dishes like curry chicken and lots of light fare choices -- salads and sandwiches. The restaurant is part of the Montpelier Plantation Inn, which operates one of the island's top restaurants; there's a great gift shop at Botanical Garden Nevis, too.
Golfing at the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course at the Four Seasons Hotel (Pinney's Beach)
Highly Recommended: Beach Addiction St. Kitts and Nevis
Been There, Done That
Horseback riding on Oaulie Beach; the Nevis Equestrian Center is just beyond the Oaulie Hotel.
Take a ride in a historic Victorian horse-drawn buggy at the Hermitage Plantation and Restaurant (St. John Fig Tree Parish, about 10 minutes from Charlestown). A ride costs $55 for a half-hour (two adults, two kids). The restaurant is open for lunch (noon until 2:30 p.m.) and welcomes visitors; try the flying fish, lobster and roti. The Oaulie Hotel also offers horse and buggy rides.
Best Beach for Active Types: At Oualie Beach, you can rent all manner of watersports equipment, from sunfish sailboats to kayaks. You can even rent mountain bikes (for inland exploring, natch)! This is also a central location to hook up with scuba diving, deep-sea fishing and snorkeling trip operations. At the Sea Life Education Center you can sign up for a half educational, half action-oriented program called "Touch and Go"; folks learn about the underwater environment here and then don snorkeling equipment for a guided experience. Or, check out the petting zoo at the Nevis Equestrian Center.
Best Beach for Relaxin': At Pinney's Beach, you can find free lounge chairs and the island's most hopping bar/restaurant: Sunshine's.
Best Beach for Romantics: Lover's Beach, on north side of the airport near Hurricane Hill, is secluded.
If you like funky and arty ambience, check out the aforementioned Cafe des Arts in Charlestown, right next to the Museum of Nevis History (and walkable from the tender dock); opt for casual fare. Another casual in-town option is the Downtown Cyber Cafe (both an Internet center and a cafe); it offers sandwich-style fare and one hot dish a day, which is the highlight -- you know you're getting some Nevis cuisine. Options, depending on the day, include beef and cheese, seafood, lasagna, grilled snapper, and barbecued ribs.
At Pinney's Beach there are a variety of places. Nearest the tender pier (see the 10-minute walk option above) is Double Deuce (near Pinney's Beach Hotel). Value for money, locals say it's the best restaurant on the beach; the chef used to work at the far more upscale Montpelier's Plantation Inn so he's serving high quality food at bar prices. Next is Chevy's, a locals' joint (known for Caribbean mutton and wings). Beyond that is the famous Sunshine's. And if upscale calls, the last restaurant bar on Pinney's is the Four Seasons' Mango; it is built out over the water and offers fabulous views of St. Kitts.
The aforementioned Martha's in the Garden at the Botanical Garden Nevis.
Hiking along the Golden Rock Nature Trail, which highlights Nevis' flora and fauna.
Touring the isle's plantation inns; the tour usually stops at The Hermitage, Golden Rock and Nisbet plantations.
Go mountain biking along the ring roads that circle Mt. Nevis.
Sea kayaking, along the coastline from Oaulie Beach to Pinney's, offers a gentle adventure.
Staying in Touch
The aforementioned Downtown Cyber Cafe is a great all-in-one spot for Web surfing and noshing, and there are tables out in front if you have no need for the Internet. It's located at Main St. and Low, opposite the Nevis Museum. Internet rates are 20 Eastern Caribbean dollars for an hour, 5 EC dollars for 15 minutes.
For More Information
On the Web: www.nevisisland.com
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Caribbean
The Independent Traveler: Caribbean Exchange
--Updated by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor.
Images appear courtesy of Nevis Tourism Authority.