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The caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis is the smallest country in the western hemisphere and the least populous. The smaller and less well-known of its two main islands is Nevis.

Occupying an area of just 36 square miles, the laid-back Caribbean island of Nevis is full of charm. Known as the "Queen of the Caribbees" in the 18th century, Nevis offers year-round warm temperatures, magical vacation experiences, and many reasons to fall in love with the island.

Here are just 10 of those reasons.

1. Lush Landscape

Nevis is green. Nature trails and coastal paths take you past lush vegetation that includes palm trees, bougainvillea, hibiscus and flowering poinciana. The inactive volcano rising from the center of the island dominates inland views. Dense vegetation of tree ferns, tropical fruit trees, bamboo, orchids, and other rainforest plants climb the sides of the mountain. The mist that frequently hovers over the top of the peak creates a mystical atmosphere. Take a guided hike through jungle trails and climb Nevis Peak.

Nevis Peak covered in mist, St. Kitts and Nevis
Nevis Peak. Photo: Donna Janke

Visit the tropical oasis of the Botanical Gardens of Nevis to learn about tropical plants from around the world.

2. Unspoiled Beaches

Beaches on Nevis range from sandy with white, gray, or black sand, to rocky. All beaches are public, free, and uncrowded without vendors harassing you to buy stuff. Even the most well-known and popular beach, Pinney's, which runs for three miles on the west coast, is relatively quiet. Cades Beach, also on the sheltered west side, has a wide sandy shoreline offering excellent ocean views with the southern tip of St. Kitts in the background.

The sandy beach and shallow waters of Oualie Beach at the northwest tip of the island are good for swimming and water activities. The jetty is used by fishermen and boaters. You can rent dive gear, kayaks and other equipment. Beaches on the north side of the island include the secluded Lovers Beach and the white-sand Nisbet Beach with its gentle breezes. The reefs off Herbert's Beach make it popular with snorkelers.

Chairs and palm trees on the beach, Nevis, St. Kitts and Nevis
Beautiful and not busy! Photo: Donna Janke

TIP: Bare chests and bare feet are for the beach only. Beachwear is not appropriate elsewhere on the island. Dress tastefully in public.

3. Slow Pace

If you are looking for hustle, bustle, and animated nightlife, Nevis is not for you. There are no traffic lights, no casinos, no chain stores, and no giant cruise ships. The island's population is less than 12,000 people, and there are just over 400 hotel rooms on the island. The airport accommodates only smaller planes and private jets. The pace of life on Nevis is slow. Everything is unhurried.

Goats wander alongside the road; roosters roam the alleys and sometimes even the main street of Charlestown, the major settlement. Wild donkeys serenade you at nights. Relax and take time to appreciate the beauty and charm around you.

4. Monkeys

The "Monkey Crossing" sign along the ring road circling the island may come as a surprise. African Green Vervet monkeys were brought to the island in the seventeenth century. Now there are supposedly more monkeys than people on the island. Although they're a nuisance to local farmers, the monkeys delight tourists. You may get a glimpse of the monkeys almost anywhere on the island, but they are more commonly found up in the hills in the tropical forests. They are most active in the late evening and early morning.

5. History

Originally settled by Amerindians, Nevis, along with its sister island St Kitts, was colonized by the British in the 1620s and remained mainly under British rule until independence in 1983. Remnants of this history are found in colonial architecture, sugar plantation ruins and old stone churches, many of which are still in use.

Historic church on Nevis, St. Kitts and Nevis
Nevis has plenty of history. Photo: Donna Janke

The Nevisian Heritage Village provides a look at Nevisian social history through housing, dating from the Carib Indian era. The Georgian-style building in which Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, was born now houses the Nevis Museum of History. The British Naval Admiral Horatio Nelson visited Nevis in the late eighteenth century and married a local woman. The Horatio Nelson Museum contains artifacts and memorabilia from his life.

Hot springs with reputed therapeutic waters once attracted visitors to the island. The Bath Hotel opened as the first luxury hotel in the Caribbean in 1778. Although it's no longer in operation, the building still stands. Facilities for present-day visitors to experience the hot water exist.

Use the Heritage Trail map provided by the Nevis tourism authority as your guide to the island's historic sites.

TIP: The best way to explore Nevis and its history is by car. One main road circles the island with smaller roads leading off it. Watch carefully for signage because it is sometimes obscured by foliage. But the island is small. If you miss a turnoff, it is easy to backtrack. Driving is on the left side of the road, and you will need a Nevis driver's licence, which can be purchased at the local police station or arranged via your car rental company. You will need to show proof of an existing valid licence issued in your home jurisdiction.

6. Plantation Inns

History merges into modern day with several former sugar plantations that have now been turned into elegant inns. These estates give you the sense of being transported to another time while still surrounded by modern-day comfort.

The great house at Hermitage Plantation Inn was built around 1660 and is decorated in period furnishings. Montpelier Plantation hosted the wedding of Admiral Nelson in 1787 and was a vacation spot for Princess Diana and her sons in the 1990s. Nisbet Plantation Beach Club is the only plantation inn located on a beach. Golden Rock Inn, restored by its artist owners, features 40 acres of gardens and sea views toward Antigua and Montserrat.

7. Accommodations for Liming Out

Other places to stay on the island include luxury hotels, villas, guest houses, contemporary condos, and private Airbnb rentals. Whether in the hills or on the beach, all offer stays where you can relax and chill out, or "lime" in Caribbean lingo. The largest hotel on the island is the Four Seasons Resort with 196 rooms and 44 villas, but most of the other resorts contain less than 40 units. You won't feel lost in the crowd here.

8. Delightful Dining

Hotel restaurants, beach bars and other eateries offer meals ranging from simple to sophisticated, featuring traditional West Indian dishes, fresh seafood, contemporary Caribbean cuisine, and international flavors. A dinner at one of the plantation inns is a chance to experience the gracious colonial ambience even if you're not staying at one. Enjoy a West Indies buffet on the verandah of the Hermitage.

Sample genuine Nevisian food at Rodney's Cuisine. Rodney cooks local dishes such as "goatwater", a traditional meat stew. You're likely to be greeted and offered meal suggestions by Rodney herself, and if you're lucky she may even tell you the history of her restaurant.

The shaded outdoor Café des Arts is a nice place to linger over coffee, breakfast or lunch. Oasis in the Gardens at the Botanical Gardens of Nevis serves Thai cuisine. Mems Pizzeria is known for its pizza and burgers. The plantation-style Bananas Restaurant is surround by lush gardens and features food ranging from local lobster to grass-fed beef tenderloin. The Gin Trap, whose menu features conch chowder, surf and turf options, homemade pasta, and a wide array of gin and other cocktails, is popular with locals and visitors.

For casual beach dining, try the lively Sunshines Beach Bar, famous for its Killer Bee rum punch, or the relaxed Chrishi Beach Club, where you can watch the changing colors of the Caribbean Sea at sunset as you enjoy steaks, seafood or burgers on their wooden patio. On Friday evenings, roadside cookouts pop up around the island. For something deliciously local, try the barbecued chicken and ribs at the Water Department Barbecue on Pump Road on the outskirts of Charlestown.

Charlestown, Nevis. Photo: Donna Janke

9. Relaxation and Pampering

The easy pace, Caribbean air, ocean breezes and scenic surroundings should have you feeling relaxed in no time, but if you want to enhance the experience of "liming", there are several spas on the island offering massages, facial treatments and yoga treatments.

10. The People

Nevis is a place where everyone has time to talk to each other before getting down to business. With all its charms, it is the people of Nevis who are most likely to entice you back for return visits. They offer genuine welcomes and greet you when you pass in the street. They are willing to help with friendly smiles. As the saying goes, "You're only a stranger here once."

You can get to Nevis by air or by sea, but you will need to make your way to another Cairbbean island first. There are scheduled flights into Nevis from several Caribbean islands, including St Kitts, Puerto Rico, St Maarten and Antigua. The 45-minute ferry ride from St Kitts is scenic with stunning views of the island as you approach. Whichever way you get to Nevis, the island is certain to enchant.

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