Halfway along the chain of Leeward Islands that reach from Puerto Rico down to Dominica, Nevis consists of a single volcanic peak that was formed 3.45 million years ago. At just 36 square miles it is possible to drive around the island in a little over an hour, passing through the beautifully named Paradise, Morning Star and Mount Lilly, and the whimsical parish of Gingerland.
Given the moniker The Queen of the Caribees because of the unrivalled success of the island’s sugar plantations, Nevis was always a special jewel in Britain’s colonial crown. The difficult history of slavery is evident across the island, with some plantation homes transformed into glorious boutique hotels and others left to be taken over by the jungle. Careful work by the Nevis Historical Society means it is possible to walk along jungle trails to these hidden manor houses, blue plaques giving a brief history of the particular plantation.
Because the peak has never erupted and since the highest slopes were too steep for even the most dedicated plantation owners to farm, the top of 1000 metre high Nevis Peak is clad in flora and fauna that has been there for thousands of years. An arduous climb hauling on twisted tree roots and well-placed ropes leads to the top. If the almost ever-present cloud has wandered off, the views stretching as far as St Maarten and Montserrat are breathtaking.
On the Atlantic side of the island the beaches are battered mercilessly by endless rolling waves. To the south is a beach with sparkling black sand, and on the east the beaches adjoining the Caribbean Sea are perfect soft sand fringed with palm trees. There are beaches covered in tiny colourful shells, beaches that are perfect for snorkelling from, hidden beaches that become private retreats, and beaches with sheltered bays that are ideal for those with young children.
And for the evenings, there is everything from the casual dining offerings of the bars at Pinney’s Beach to elegant restaurants tucked away in the hills. Bananas Restaurant has a cocktail deck that is unrivalled; the gardens of Golden Rock make a spectacular backdrop to any meal, and the Hermitage offers English charm from a bygone era. There is a place to suit every taste and every mood, from whimsy to romance to Caribbean rhythms.
Nevis is so special because it is so different to the other islands. Here, there are no bright lights, no fast food chains, no touts with racks of sunglasses interrupting a day lazing at the beach. Go for a walk and find a picnic along the way, plucking guineps, mangos, sour oranges and papayas from obliging trees. Spend idle hours watching the green vervet monkeys leap between trees, and get stuck behind donkeys, goats and sheep wandering obliviously across roads. Take a boat to neighbouring St Kitts for lunch, explore the Alexander Hamilton museum that is housed in the home where he was born, or hire bikes to travel along rutted tracks to ancient Arawak sites.
Whatever your purpose in coming to the island, whatever your hopes for a tropical island holiday, Nevis will surprise at every turn and prove herself to be unforgettable in the best possible way.