Large resort hotels. Check.
Three to four cruise ships a day. Check.
Beach bars galore. Check.
Extensive nightlife. Check
Chain restaurants. Check.
High end jewelry and clothing stores. Check.
Casino Gambling. Check.
Those are just a few of the things you won’t find on the Caribbean island of Nevis. And all the more reason to go there. And now you can again. Nevis having happily escaped the scourge of Covid during its peak, re-opened to the international public the end of October – and has since worked hard to maintain all recommended protocols.
So yes, it’s a better description of St. Kitts, Nevis’ much more commercialized sister island, a 45-minute ferry boat ride away. And although Nevis may be synonymous with tranquility, that does not mean it’s boring. Far from it.
Case in point, we started our visit with a Pub Crawl from Nisbet Plantation, an inn founded on a former sugar mill plantation. But these are not the usual beach bars most tourists frequent. Instead they’re the local rum shops, small shacks along the road that seldom have a sign on them and rarely attract any drive-by traffic. My husband and I regularly seek them out when in the Caribbean because we relish the sense of island flavor and the excuse to talk to laid-back locals, but we’ve never seen them part of an organized activity.
Being with a large crowd detracts from that intimacy a bit but it nonetheless is a wonderful opportunity to feel comfortable going off the beaten path. Each of the five bars has its own ambience – or in most cases, lack of one – which only adds to its appeal. As one imbiber exulted: “This is great because we’re visiting places we would never go to on our own.” Not sure how the local residents felt about the influx of tourists but everyone was welcoming and eager to engage in conversation.
The Pub Crawl was a perfect segue to the Funky Monkey Tour, a three-hour ATV tour with Waz who kept us all enthralled throughout the wild ride. First stop – Lover’s Beach, where Waz said, “They don’t promote nude bathing but…” The fact that there were no people on it at all precluded any prurient interest on my part. Lack of people was to become a theme.
Next stop, more historical, less lascivious. The Thomas Cottle Church, built in 1822 and operated as the first integrated church on the island. Plantation owner Cottle believed that he and his slaves should worship together, not a common practice in those times. Okay, the inspirational part of the tour.
We traveled over a lot of roads that no self-respecting normal car would ever consider driving over. When I asked the name of the road, Waz responded, “The ‘I’m Lost’ Road.” At one point, after an exceptionally rocky part, he forewarned us that the next stretch was going to get really bumpy. We were like, “HUH?” I’m not just talking back roads here but trails glutted with rocks and roots and gulleys so as to be seemingly untraversible – or so I thought until they weren’t. But the views at the end of the stomach-churning drive were worth it. And the monkeys scurrying in the bushes provided additional distraction when needed.
Hard to categorize the total appeal of Funky Monkey. Part nature tour, part exciting adventure, part history lesson – all intermingled in rapid succession. Oh and did I mention the rum punch out of the cooler in back?
Onto another stop at Nisbet where remnants of the 18th Century plantation windmill greet you upon arrival. Waz related the custom that if you get married on the property – and there are very few more beautiful settings – they plant a coconut tree with your names on it. And, of course, you’re welcome to come back anytime to watch it grow. How’s that for a marketing ploy?
We visited a local wild herd of sheep, which not surprisingly were missing the usual wool covering. Little warm in the islands for that. Which makes them almost indistinguishable from goats except, we learned, goats have tails that go up; sheep down. In my hometown of Washington, DC, there’s a restaurant called Tail-Up Goat. Now I understand it.
When I queried Waz as to how far our lodging was, he replied, “Nowhere on Nevis is far.” And upon actually seeing another car on the road in front of him, he lamented, “Traffic? In Nevis?”
And indeed, rush hour is more likely to be a herd of goats or a family of donkeys than another car. Making up for the lack of cars are an abundance of donkeys, monkeys, goats, sheep and chickens. Another reminder of Nevis’s laid-back charm.
Waz took us to a hidden area of woods that he claimed was his private sanctuary; no trails, no paths, no clearing. And once again, no people. Since we had seen not a soul on any beach or other destination, I was beginning to wonder where the 11000 Nevisians were. This is not an island where you feel over-run by tourists! Or people, for that matter. Rum, on the other hand, was still flowing freely. Also monkeys. There are 30,000 of THEM.
Exciting adventure #3 on this island that allegedly has nothing on it? A nature hike with Baba who provided lots of information about the flora and fauna as we walked. Unfortunately, I hate flora and fauna. I was in it for the exercise so my eyes glazed over pretty quickly. We walked about two feet and smelled four plants. There are plants to cure every ailment: hangover, mosquito bites, toothaches, constipation. I was beginning to feel a little ill myself…
But looking up from the medicinal plants are bushes and trees and leaves of white, orange, yellow and red flowers among towering trees all vying for attention with the medicine cabinet below, We were walking through the Golden Rock Estate, a sugar mill plantation from 1801-1815, the remnants of which are integrated into the buildings and grounds. An old in-ground windmill, we were told, is the highlight of the honeymoon suite – having the earth move takes on a whole new meaning…
So much greenery as to encapsulate every variation of the color in the largest box of Crayola crayons – and every shape and size of multiple leaves extracted from the world’s largest protractor. It’s like being in your own personal botanical garden. The entire setting is the very definition of romantic!
As we climbed higher and higher, however, I found myself longing for more medicinal plant information – urinary tract infection anyone?
So yes, most people coming to Nevis envision living by the following five rules: 1. Pack several books. 2. Take a deep breath, exhale, relax. 3. Order a rum drink. 4. Try to forget what’s happening in the rest of the world. 5. Repeat. But be open to my own Rule #6. Be prepared to have a hell of a lot of fun!