Local Charm on Nevis Island
“Do you want to ride in the spectator boat or do you want to go sailing?” asked one of the regatta’s organizers. I didn’t hesitate to answer: “Sailing!” I was on Nevis, sister island to St. Kitts, in the West Indies to attend the Booby Island Regatta & Sailing Festival.
Although I am prone to motion sickness, I was a sailing newbie and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try something new. I was well equipped with Psi Bands, Dramamine, and a homeopathic remedy, so I was confident my stomach would stay put. Unluckily for me, the conditions were surprisingly rough that day, and I spent the race with my eyes fixed on the horizon line and praying I wouldn’t get sick (fortunately, I didn’t!).
Despite the choppy waters at sea, things were wonderfully calm ashore. Life on Nevis truly moves at a leisurely pace. There are no chain restaurants on the small island, and there’s only one chain hotel, so it has local charm by the bucket-load. A place where monkeys outnumber people and the national tree is called the Flamboyant, Nevis is offers a unique, tranquil retreat from everyday life.
There are cabs on Nevis, but scooters are a fun alternative way to tour the island. The rental company picked us up, and after a trip to the police station to get a temporary driver’s license and several practice laps, we were on our way. Two things to keep in mind: If you’re short like me (I’m 5’2″), alert the scooter company ahead of time. You might require a smaller model. Also, Nevisians still follow British road rules and drive on the opposite side of the street. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s actually not as hard as it sounds!
There are also plenty of water sports available on the island, including snorkeling, jet skiing, and sailing. We knew we’d be sailing in the regatta, so we opted to drive around the island on scooters. Nevis is really easy to get around. The road makes a big loop with several side streets, so you can just follow the main road around the perimeter of the island, which includes Charlestown, beaches (we stopped at PInney’s Beach), restaurants, and more. The terrain is hillier toward the center of the island, closer to the Nevis Peak volcano, so you may want to consider taking a cab or renting a car when exploring those areas.
In addition to many beautiful beaches, Nevis has an impressive botanical garden that’s definitely worth visiting. The Botanical Gardens of Nevis is peaceful and luscious, with an orchid garden, Olmec and Mayan sculpture (the owner is an avid art collector), and incredible views of Nevis Peak, Charlestown, and St. Kitts.
The Nisbet Plantation Beach Club is the place to be on a Thursday night. Each week, it has a surf and turf BBQ buffet at Coconuts, a casual beachfront restaurant on the property. Dinner includes lots of Caribbean-style dishes, including grilled seafood, fresh salads, and more made from local ingredients. The food is delicious, but don’t just go for dinner. Arrive early for the pre-dinner cocktail party, where you can sip rum punch and shop handmade crafts from local artisans. End the night with a little dancing to a local band.
Bananas Restaurant is an art gallery and restaurant hybrid, with a deck that’s perfect for watching sunsets, an impressive display of paintings from local artists, and a shop with a wonderful collection of clothing, jewelry, knickknacks, and more from around the world. Tiki torches light the path leading up to the property, instantly setting the ambience for a magical evening. The food is wonderful, and it’s a great place to try Nevisian dishes. The Taste of Nevis is a must. It’s a sampler of popular local dishes, including creamy conch and salt fish.
I had the best time on the island at Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill. We went for a Friday night party celebrating the regatta, but there were plenty of locals there, too, in addition to other travelers who weren’t part of the regatta. The friendly, lively atmosphere was illuminated by a bonfire and fueled by one of the most famed rum punches on the island: the Killer Bee. Add fantastic food and an outstanding local band called the Greenhouse Band, and it was a night to remember! Sunshine’s (and yes, there really is a dude named Sunshine) is one of the best places on the island to meet new people, have a great meal, and finish it all off with dancing under the stars.
Chrishi Beach Club is another great place to grab a drink and spend time with friends. The atmosphere is festive yet laidback, with modern décor and a beachfront seating.
The only chain hotel on the island is the Four Seasons. Of course you can expect a five-star experience there, but there are plenty of local options that offer gorgeous views, impressive accommodations, and impeccable service. Montpelier Plantation & Beach is one such place. With a stunning pool area, immaculate rooms, a private beach, and a restaurant with outstanding food, it’s fit for a princess, literally. Princess Diana stayed there! If wellness is what you’re after, Montpelier also offers Pilates and yoga retreats.
If you’re into sailing, don’t miss next year’s Booby Island Regatta & Sailing Festival! It’s scheduled to take place May 6-8, 2016.