01 of 08
Founding Father and Paradise Found in Nevis
What do mangos, monkeys, sugar mills, killer bees, Princess Diana and Alexander Hamilton have in common? Nevis!
Hamilton the musical is hotter than hot right now, especially after winning so many Tony awards, but not many people know much about the hot little tropical outpost where U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton was born. St. Kitts’ sweet little sister island is located only a few miles away, but Nevis is worlds away from the typical touristy Caribbean vibe, and lately it’s been attracting a lot more interest due to its Hamilton connection.Continue to 2 of 8 below.
02 of 08
Hamilton's Humble Home
You’ll find Hamilton's birthplace home still intact right in the downtown of tiny Charleston, restored as a museum in his honor. The stables of the original Hamilton plantation have also been converted into a museum, which is more about the entire island’s history. The ruins of the Hamilton family estate, just outside town, also can be visited.
Some might be disappointed about the dearth of Alexander Hamilton’s early lore: there’s not a lot to tell about his time on the island because he was only 10 years old when he moved away to St. Croix with his mother. His birth father -- a Scottish immigrant -- had abandoned his wife and son early on, saying he did not want Hamilton's mother to get charged with bigamy (she was married to another man at the time).
Hamilton didn’t have the happiest of childhoods in Nevis. As an illegitimate child, he was bullied and not allowed to join the church or attend a church-funded school. Instead, he was tutored by a Jewish teacher and educated... himself by reading. It’s said that he devoured every book he could get his hands on, and maybe his unorthodox education was a blessing in the long run as it bode well for his future success in writing and in business.
Hamilton's second-class citizen status might have had something to do with his empathy for the plight of slaves. He was one of the strongest advocates for emancipation later in his life in America, never personally owned slaves, and was a founding member of the first abolitionist organization in New York.Continue to 3 of 8 below.
03 of 08
Nevis Beyond Hamilton
Beyond all the Hamilton hoopla, Nevis has always been well worth seeking out for many other reasons. It’s lush, lovely, and laid-back, with dormant volcanic peaks and punctuated with all kinds of cool little historical sites, extremely friendly locals, and beautiful beaches. There are a handful of resorts -- the majority are restored sugar plantations except for the Four Seasons Nevis, which is an entire community unto itself sprawling over 350 acres and boasting the island’s only golf course. The Four Seasons has recently added some very luxe new villas to their offerings, and their stand-alone indoor/outdoor spa on site is an enchanted oasis well worth visiting even if you’re not a guest at the resort.Continue to 4 of 8 below.
04 of 08
History, Horses and More
It may be only eight miles long and six miles wide but there’s a lot more to this little island than meets the eye; you just have to know where to look!
A good way to seek out the local critters and creatures and nature is take an ATV tour with Funky Monkey: you can cover a lot of ground in half a day with them, and they take you to some great off radar spots. And you must take a tour of the old sugar mill ruins; there are more on this island than any other, and make sure to stop in to see the ones that have turned into resorts like the Golden Rock Inn, Montpelier Plantation, and Nisbet Plantation – the latter is the only one located seaside.
Also of historic note is the Hermitage Plantation Inn, the oldest wooden house in the Caribbean and now a hotel. You can’t help but note its equestrian theme; the owners are avid horse lovers and big sponsors of the island’s horse racing circuit, due to recommence this December after a two-year hiatus.
Another interesting heritage building is the... current government headquarters in Charleston, which was the first hotel built in the Caribbean. It dates back to 1778 as the old Bath Hotel, named for the natural hot springs that sit in front of the building. Today, the springs are a public “spa” with one covered and two small open pools. It’s rumored that there is interest in converting the building into a hotel again.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
See a historic Jewish cemetery and an early integrated church
There are many old churches to explore on Nevis, and the remnants of an old Jewish cemetery can be spotted right downtown. But the church of most import is the Cottle Church, still standing except for the roof. This was the very first church built to hold integrated services for slaves and their owners. John Cottle, a former president of Nevis, commissioned it in 1824 so all could worship together, but it was never officially consecrated, as it was illegal for blacks to attend white church at the time.Continue to 6 of 8 below.
06 of 08
From Lord Nelson to Princess Di
Nisbet Plantation is another must stop, first for the gorgeous stairway and arch leftover from the sugar works, and second for dinner at the Great House -- always an elegant and delightful affair. This charming, cottage-style resort is also chock full of history: it's where Lord Admiral Nelson, hero of the battle of Trafalgar, met his wife Fanny Nisbet, the plantation owner’s niece. They later married at Montpelier Plantation, also now an upscale resort. Montpelier also is where Princess Diana went to heal after her separation, and she is fondly remembered for hopping into the back of a pick-up truck barefoot and wearing cut-off shorts to drive down the hill and enjoy the hotel's famous beach barbecue.Continue to 7 of 8 below.
07 of 08
'Queen B' and killer bees
This island is no stranger to celebs seeking escape from the prying eyes of the world; many notable visitors have been spotted more than once on Nevis, like Oprah, Kelly Ripa, Meryl Streep, Debra Messing, Eric Stonestreet, and most recently Beyonce and Jay Z. The new Paradise Beach resort hosted Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family last Christmas over the holidays. And all who visit- celebs or not- eventually end up at legendary Sunshines Beach Bar for their famous “Killer Bees”- a secret potion of potent rum punch.Continue to 8 of 8 below.
08 of 08
Green monkeys and mangos
And then there are the monkeys. Nevis has more monkeys than people, and with a human population of only 12,000 and change, it’s not hard to imagine. Green vervet monkeys were left behind by the Spanish, who kept them as pets, and have literally taken over the forests. Visitors find them charming and fun to watch -- go to the golf course at Four Seasons to see scads of them -- but the locals don’t always find them quite so amusing. They are skillful and notorious garden raiders, and eat all the mangos they can get their hands on -- often taking just one bite and then throwing them away!
And Nevisians love their mangos in local cooking, so much so that that this year they celebrated their second annual Mango Festival, a week of culinary creations using the 20-odd varieties of the fruit that grows so abundantly here. Celebrity chefs from afar join the best local talent to present mangos in all kinds of creative culinary ways, with plenty of cooking demonstrations. Mango cheese, mango ice... cream, drunken mango corn bread, and even mango wine can be sampled. Look for next year's festival around the end of June or beginning of July -- it all depends on when the mangos ripen!
For more on Nevis visit: www.nevisisland.com