If you're looking for the perfect tropical escape, the Caribbean is always a great choice. The region is well known for offering travelers plenty of sunshine, beautiful beaches, and lovely resorts where they can relax and forget about life for awhile. But, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of things for adventure travelers to see and do there as well, as we learned on a recent visit to Nevis.
The sister-island to St. Kitts, Nevis is a bit off the beaten path compared to some of the other islands in the Caribbean. But, that is part of its charm, as it is even more relaxed and quiet than most other places, with no large resorts dominating the shoreline and no massive cruise ships dropping by to expel passengers onto its beaches. Instead, you get a more authentic and natural experience that blends history and culture seamlessly. Here's what we recommend you see and do while there.
Hike the Source Trail
Nevis has a number of excellent hiking trails on the island, but one of the best is the Source Trail. So named because it takes trekkers into the surrounding cloud forest and up to the island's source of fresh water, the hike isn't especially hard, although slick rocks and mud can make footing precarious at points. The warm, humid forest is lush, beautiful, and home to many of the island's vervet monkey population, which you may spot swinging through the trees. The trail begins at the Golden Rock Inn and winds its through a couple of small villages before entering the forest.
While the route is easy to follow, and doesn't require a guide, for safety reasons it is a good idea to hire one nonetheless.
Climb to the Summit of Nevis Peak
For a more challenging hike, consider make the climb up to the summit of Nevis Peak. At 3232 feet (985 meters), it is the tallest point on the island. This trek definitely requires hiring a guide, as it involves some steep grades, scrambling over tough terrain, and even some rope work. But, the view from the top is spectacular, and worth the effort. We recommend contacting Sunrise Tours to help safely see youth the top.
Go Road Cycling
Nevis is a small island, just 36 sq. miles (93 sq. km) in size. This, coupled with the fact that it is a very bike-friendly place, makes an excellent destination to explore on two wheels. Riding the ring road – which runs for 21 miles (33 km) – around the parameter of the island only takes a couple of hours to complete, but some of the views along the way are completely spectacular. On one side you'll find towering peaks, on the other white-sand beaches with the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean lapping at their shores.
Bike rentals are easy to find, but be warned. The roads do have some serious hills at certain points which can catch first-time riders by surprise, including the infamous "Anaconda Hill" leading out of Charlestown.
Go Mountain Biking
Nevis is dotted with old sugar plantations that date as far back as the 17th century, and there is no better way to see them than on a mountain bike. The trails around the island are definitely not technical in any way, making it easier for non-mountain bikers to come along for the ride. Again, there are some steep hills in certain points, but the payoff is worth the effort. I even rode through and open meadow surrounded by cloud forest as vervet monkeys dashed out of the grass and into the trees.
It was a wonderful experience to say the least. We recommend contacting Nevis Adventure Tours to set up your ride.
Scuba Dive and Snorkel
As with most of the Caribbean, Nevis is a great place to go scuba diving and snorkeling too. There are numerous dive sites within a short boat ride from shore, with coral reefs, thousands of fish, and even a few wreck dives ready to welcome visitors. The water off Nevis is incredibly clear and calm – particularly on the Caribbean Sea side – with depths that vary from fairly shallow to quite deep. There is even a certified gold level PADI dive center on the island that can provide information and connect travelers with guides.
Take a Funky Monkey Tour
Another great way to explore the history and culture of the island is to join a Funky Monkey Tour. These 2+ hour long excursions take travelers into some of the more remote areas of the island aboard a 4x4 ute vehicle. Along the way, you'll visit old sugar plantations, drive along beaches and through the cloud forest, and leave the pavement behind to see some of the oldest historical sites in the entire Caribbean. If you're lucky, you may even spot a namesake monkey or two along the way as well.
Test Your Athletic Prowess
While the lifestyle on Nevis is definitely laid back and relaxed, that doesn't mean they don't take their endurance events seriously. In October each year, the island hosts an annual triathlon that attracts athletes from all over the world. And in March, swimmers take to the water to compete in the Nevis to St. Kitts Cross Channel Swim, which covers 2.5 miles (4 km) of open water between the two islands. Either one of these events is a true challenge of dedication and endurance.
Where to Stay
The Hermitage Boutique Resort
While Nevis isn't filled with glitzy resorts, it has its fair share of amazing places to stay. For instance, the Four Seasons has a lovely hotel on the island, although those who are looking for a more authentic Caribbean experience may want to forego that spot in favor of the historic and absolutely beautiful Hermitage instead. Here, visitors will stay in quaint cottages that are as comfortable and inviting as they are unique and quaint. Nestled in the hills above Charlestown, the Hermitage offers a quiet escape from the town below.
Take a dip in the pool, grab some dinner at the restaurant, and soak up the atmosphere on the grounds of this family-owned and operated establishment.
Where to Eat and Drink
Golden Rock Inn
The aforementioned Golden Rock Inn isn't just the starting point for the Source Trail, but also a lovely restaurant and bar as well. The delicious food, which includes fresh fish caught locally, is matched by the beautiful ambiance, this is simply enchanting at any time of the day, but especially in the evening. The lush gardens are worth a stroll as well.
The Gin Trap
One of the newer eating establishments on the Island, The Gin Trap offers a menu filled with tasty dishes, including an excellent steak and plenty of sea food as well. Definitely try the poached lobster, and wash it down with one of the numerous cocktails that can be found on the menu. With 101 different types of gin to sample, you're sure to find something here you like.
Excellent barbecue ribs in the Caribbean? Who knew! That's just one of many delicious dishes you'll find on the menu at Bananas Bistro, which combines rustic charm with great food and amazing drinks. Hidden away on the Hamilton Estate (Yes, that Hamilton), this is a wonderful place to grab lunch or dinner when you want to escape to a more quiet corner of the island. Save room for dessert, the banana crème brûlée is wonderful.
This is just a simple taste of what Nevis has to offer. I didn't even have time to mention the opportunities to soak in the hot springs for instance, nor that the island has its very own drag strip. But that leaves you with some things to discover on your own, which is one of the joys of travel after all.