Checklist: Nevis, West Indies

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Checklist: Nevis, West Indies

“Where?!” That’s the question you’ll likely hear first when you mention in conversation that you’re traveling to Nevis. Unless you’re speaking to people who’ve seen Hamilton, of course—then they’ll likely remember that it’s the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton.

The small Caribbean island, on which you’ll find more monkeys than people, neighbors St. Kitts, its larger and livelier sister island to the north. When Christopher Columbus sailed past Nevis in 1493 during his quests in the New World, the island had already been known as Dulcina (“Sweet Island”) by the Arawak Indians, and Oualie (“Land of Beautiful Waters”) by the Carib Indians. Ironically, the name Nevis is derived from “Nuestra Señora de Las Nieves,” or, “Our Lady of the Snows”—apparently, the clouds that settle upon the top of Mount Nevis looked like snow to the sailors. But don’t worry, it’s highly unlikely snow will fall on Nevis.

Here’s how to spend your time on the West Indies isle, from exploring Lin Manuel Miranda’s inspiration to dining on authentic cuisine.

When on Nevis, Susan B. Barnes can likely be seen on the beach with a Killer Bee in-hand.

2. Hamilton

Heard of a little Broadway show called Hamilton? You may be surprised that the show's namesake, Alexander Hamilton, was born on Nevis on Jan. 11, though there's debate on the year—either 1755 or 1757. Even Hamilton himself was unsure of his exact birthday (way to go, parents), but it's most widely considered that he was indeed born in 1755. What is known about Hamilton is that he lived in Nevis until he was around seven (or nine) years old, and eventually made his way to America to attend college. He went on to become instrumental in the Revolutionary War, was a Founding Father of the U.S. and was the country's first Secretary of the Treasury. Back on Nevis, the building that houses the Museum of Nevis History in Charlestown, the island's capital, was originally Hamilton's birthplace. Inside, an informal exhibit tells his story. Just outside of town, on a bumpy dirt road in the hills, is the Hamilton Estate, where ruins of the family's sugar plantation can be found.
Photo courtesy of Nevis Tour Authority

1. ATV

One of the best ways to get off the main road and really explore the island is in an ATV. To get a lay of the land, take a guided ATV tour with Funky Monkey Tours, and then keep the ATV for the duration of your stay to explore on your own. Careen down dirt paths, perhaps inland toward dormant Mount Nevis, where the volcano's geothermal activities make its surrounding areas lush and green, as is evident by the rainforests. Hiking trails crisscross the volcano, and the hike to Nevis Peak is the perfect mix of challenging and rewarding. Or, drive toward the water and explore the rocky coastline and sandy beaches—Nevis' location provides both. The Atlantic Ocean crashes onto the island's east coast and the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea lap onto its western shores.
Photo by Susan B. Barnes

3. Dive

Nevis' clear and warm waters make for excellent SCUBA diving and snorkeling, especially on the Caribbean side of the island. When it comes to diving, there are over 40 dive sites around the island, including dozens of reefs, wrecks, volcanic vents and caverns just minutes offshore. And, of course, there's plenty of marine life to look out for—sea turtles, fish, eels and maybe even sharks. The Narrows, an underwater thoroughfare that runs between Nevis and St. Kitts, and beyond, is known to be where "rush hour" happens and much of this marine life can be spotted.
Photo courtesy of Scuba Safari Nevis

4. Conservation

Speaking of sea turtles, Nevis is taking an active lead in protecting and preserving the species that inhabit the waters surrounding the island. For 14 years, a group of volunteers known as the Nevis Turtle Group have monitored the island's beaches during nesting season (roughly July through October) to tag sea turtles and collect information about their reproduction and travel habits. Visitors to Nevis are also invited to get involved with the group's efforts, as well as those hosted by Four Seasons Resort Nevis and its partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy. The resort is hosting its annual Sea Turtle Conversation Weekend (pictured above) July 14-17, during which guests can help monitor the beach for sea turtles nesting, fit nesting sea turtles with satellite transmitters and release the sea turtles back into the water the next morning.
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons/Mario Cisneros

5. Traditional Pig Roast and Seafood BBQ

Of course, one of the truest ways to experience a destination is through its food, and the story's no different on Nevis. On Wednesdays, The Hermitage hosts a West Indian buffet called Pig Night (pictured above); a roasted-all-day pig is accompanied by classic West Indian dishes prepared from the cooks' mothers and grandmothers' recipes, providing an authentic taste of the island. Seafood is the main attraction when Nisbet Beach Plantation Club hosts its Beach BBQ, featuring freshly caught local fish prepared in tradition Nevisian style.
Photo courtesy of Nevis Tourism Authority

6. Forest Dining

Forest bathing is gaining in popularity to calm the senses, and by the looks of it, forest dining may reach the same fame. Why not give it a try and find out? Bananas is an open-air restaurant tucked into a lush hillside that offers some of the island's best dining and cocktails. Traditional appetizers like Salt Fish and Johnny Cakes and Crispy Plantain Chips with Black Bean Dip shouldn't be missed.
Photo courtesy of Bananas Restaurant

7. Killer Bee

Speaking of cocktails, when you're ready to toast to Nevis, saddle up to the bar at Sunshine's Beach Bar & Grill and order the Killer Bee, a refreshing tropical drink on a hot, sunny Caribbean day that goes down easy. Maybe too easy: one will sting you and two, well … you're on your own if you have two.
Photo courtesy of Susan B. Barnes