By JANIS TURK
Published: 19 October 2013
NEVIS, West Indies — Want a sweet getaway this winter in a warm Caribbean clime?
Stay on a historic sugar cane plantation on the Old West Indies island of Nevis.
Once called Dulcina (Sweet Island) and known as the Queen of the Caribbees, Nevis (pronounced knee-vis) is a civilized place that stands apart from other tourist destinations with their typical high-rise hotels pulsing with party animals.
Nevis is breezy and beachy, tropical and tranquil, and offers a classic colonial Caribbean experience.
A sister island to nearby St. Kitts, Nevis covers just 36 square miles. The landscape is lush and tropical, and monkeys outnumber people, so you won’t find crowds, college kids and T-shirt shops. Instead, boutique lodgings and luxury properties are set on the sites of old plantations that produced sugar, lime and coconut.
Sure, Nevis has open-air beach bars with reggae music and dancing under the stars, and it practically rains rum punch there year-round. But mostly it’s a quiet place, where sea turtles nest and lay eggs in the moonlight, and the past and the present bump elbows along ancient mountain trails leading back down to the sea.
For a West Indies paradise where wooden cottages stand open to the wind, hammocks hang from every porch, and mangoes fall about your feet, explore these unique plantation inns.
Hermitage Plantation rests 800 feet above sea level on the grounds of a 100-acre sugar plantation. This small property of wooden guest cottages boasts a main house said to be the oldest surviving wooden house in the Caribbean (circa 1680-1740). Decorated in a timeless British West Indies cottage style and featuring modern comforts, each cottage offers a sitting room, kitchenette, screened porch and windows open to the island breezes. Mangoes and other tropical fruits are part of every meal, and the bartender grates fresh nutmeg atop his secret-recipe rum punch.
An enormous fig tree greets guests to Montpelier Plantation & Beach, an 18th-century sugar plantation that’s now a Relais & Châteaux property. British naval hero Horatio Nelson and his bride married on the estate in 1789, and centuries later Princess Diana and her royal sons visited, too. Set 750 feet above sea level in the foothills of Nevis Peak, 6 miles from its private beach, the inn is surrounded by 60 acres of tropical gardens. With a recently renovated pool, bar and lounge, the hotel is known for its ancient sugar mill, a tall brick tower now used as an intimate dining space — the perfect marriage proposal spot.
At Golden Rock Inn, set on 100 acres on the slopes of Nevis Peak, 11 sea-view guest rooms are hidden among bamboo stands, mango trees, coconut palms and flowering trees. This stunning boutique hotel is decorated in a contemporary style, with an orange-red color theme juxtaposed against green tropical vegetation. Timeworn stone ovens and sugar mills still stand on the estate. The pool area has arresting views, and the touch of contemporary American artists Helen and Brice Marden is evident throughout the recently restored and expanded property.
Four Seasons Resort Nevis is set directly on the beach on what was once Clarke’s Estate, a 1790s sugar and coconut plantation.
This, the largest modern luxury resort on Nevis, recently completed a two-year renovation, with refurbished suites and an expanded fitness center.
Against the backdrop of a tropical forest filled with monkeys, an ancient stone sugar mill towers near the golf course.
Named the first AAA Five Diamond property in the Caribbean following its opening in February 1991, the hotel has continued to collect accolades. It has private beach cabanas, a world-class spa, three pools, four restaurants and even a private ferry to shuttle guests to and from St. Kitts.
You can even dive with chef Kai Autenrieth for your own lobster dinner that he’ll prepare that evening.
Mount Nevis Hotel occupies 17 acres of what once was an 1800s lime plantation called the Rose Hill Estate. A family-owned small hotel for 23 years, it’s home to some of the best views in Nevis. Mount Nevis features 32 rooms in four two-story pavilions.
The hotel restaurant chef relies on the hotel’s large organic garden, where guests can forage for their favorite things. Al fresco dining here is a treat — views of the sea from the verandas are splendid.
Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, the Caribbean’s only traditional plantation inn located directly on the beach, was first a 1700s sugar, and later a coconut, plantation. The estate was once home to Frances Nisbet, who married Royal Navy Capt. Horatio Nelson. With 36 cottages set on 30 acres, the hotel centerpiece is the Great House, built circa 1778, from which a palm tree-lined path sweeps down to a white sand beach. Fine dining in the house and surf-and-turf barbecues with dancing on the beach make Nisbet Plantation a favorite of Travel + Leisure readers, who recently named it the No. 1 resort in the Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda.
Janis Turk is a travel writer and photographer living in Seguin.
When you go
Multiple airlines fly from Dallas to St. Kitts. From St. Kitts’ small Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw International Airport (SKB airport booking code), a shuttle van transports travelers to a large double-decker ferry leaving for Nevis almost hourly for a 45-minute trip across the bay. (Note: the newer Sea Bridge ferry trip takes only about 20 minutes.) There is also a car ferry available from St. Kitts.
Click your way to more information about Nevis’ historic plantation inns:
Four Seasons Resort Nevis: fourseasons.com/nevis
Golden Rock Inn: goldenrocknevis.com
Hermitage Plantation: hermitagenevis.com
Nisbet Plantation Beach Club: nisbetplantation.com
Montpelier Plantation & Beach: montpeliernevis.com
Mount Nevis Hotel: mountnevishotel.com
Learn more about Nevis from the official site of the Nevis Island Tourism Authority at nevisisland.com.