Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Adventures in the Caribbean: A Visit to Nevis

One of my favorite things about getting to travel regularly is discovering new places and learning about all of the amazing things that they have offer. Such was the case recently when I traveled to the Caribbean island of Nevis, a place that you wouldn't think would be a home for outdoor adventures, but nevertheless has much to offer those looking for a nice blend of active pursuits and relaxation.

This wasn't my first trip to the Caribbean. In fact, quite the contrary. I've been there several times, and have always enjoyed the beautiful water, fantastic landscapes, laid-back atmosphere, and the culture and history. Nevis didn't disappoint in any of those departments for sure, but one of the things that I liked best was that the island was quieter and less "touristy" than some of the other places I've visited in the region. You won't find any massive resorts lining the beaches there, nor are there gigantic cruise ships pulling in on a daily basis, expelling passengers into Charlestown or any of the other villages on the island. Instead, you'll get a unique – more authentic – experience that allows you to explore everything that Nevis has to offer at your pace.

Located in the West Indies of the Caribbean, Nevis sits just across the water from St. Kitts. The two sister islands function as a single country in most regards, although the atmosphere is unique to both places. Covering just 36 square miles (72 sq. km), Nevis is home to roughly 12,000 people, all of whom seem friendly, accommodating and content. Most everyone I met during my brief stay on the island were outgoing, happy to meet visitors from another country, and eager to provide the island's famous hospitality. As much as I enjoyed all of the adventurous activities on the island – which I'll get to in another story – it was the wonderful people of Nevis that left the most lasting impression.

The best way get to Nevis is to first fly into St. Kitts and then grab a water taxi over to the island. That is exactly how I arrived, and it was a great way to sample the scenery of both places, which are bordered to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Caribbean Sea. Taking the boat across from St. Kitts to Nevis took about ten minutes, with some lovely views of the water and the towering landscapes along the way.


Both islands are volcanic in nature, although they have remained dormant for centuries now. Nevis Peak, which stands 985 meters (3232 ft) in height dominates the center of the island and is pretty much never out of view. It is also a popular destination for hikers to go up to the summit, although it does require a fairly good degree of fitness, a sense of adventure, and some rope skills to reach the top. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make that trek do to timing, but I did take another hike later on that gave me a sense of what it is like to explore Nevis on foot.

It may have been more than 100,000 years since the volcanoes on the island erupted, but that doesn't mean there isn't some geothermal activity at work on Nevis. In fact, there are a few places where fumaroles can be found, and hot springs bubble up in a couple of different locations as well. One of those spots is right in the middle of the capital city of Charlestown, where locals and visitors alike can take a soak in the hot springs, which stay at temperatures ranging from 104ºF (40ºC) to 108ºF (42ºC) at all times. That means you'll want to skip a visit to the Bath Springs during the heat of the day, but it is a great place to relax first thing in the morning or after the sun goes down in the evening.

Although Nevis has been home to indigenous people for more than 2000 years, it was first spotted by Europeans when Christopher Columbus sailed past back in 1493. In the years that followed, it became a popular place for ships from Europe to stop when coming and going from the New World. The island itself was first colonized in 1628 however, kicking off a rich history that included Nevis becoming one of the wealthiest places in the region thanks to the sugar trade. Today, the remains of the sugar plantations can still be found dotted the landscape, and the production of that commodity played an indelible role in how the island developed. If you're going to visit Nevis, it is beneficial to know a bit about that history and how it shaped the first several hundred years of its existence.

Despite its diminutive size, Nevis is making large steps toward protecting the environment. The country has announced that it is attempting to become the first country in the world to be completely carbon neutral, and it is making good progress towards that goal. As you travel about the island you'll find wind and solar farms that are helping to generate power, and it is working on tapping into the geothermal forces beneath the surface to help create even more energy. The hope is to reach the goal of carbon neutrality within the next few years, and the people that spoke to about this initiative seemed focused on making that happen. Not only does it make good economic sense for a place relies heavily on foreign oil, but it is good for the country's environment too. As the erosion of the shoreline becomes an ever more important consideration, and sea levels continue to rise, every effort – big and small – becomes vital to the future of the island.

While visiting Nevis I stayed at the amazing Hermitage Plantation. This boutique hotel mirrors the personality of the rest of the island nicely, being a quiet and charming refuge at the end of the day. The hotel features individual cottages that look like the kind of place Ernest Hemingway would stay on his escapes to the Caribbean. The rooms are very comfortable, unique, and fun, with plenty of space to spread out if you need to. My cabin – the aptly named "Blue House" – featured two stories, a spacious living room and bedroom, four different porches, a kitchenette, hammock, and plenty of outdoor furniture. Isn't any wonder I spent parts of each day while I was there writing on one of those balconies?

Nevis has no shortage of great restaurants to indulge in while you're there either. I'd personally recommend the Golden Rock, Bananas Bistro, and The Gin Trap, although there are plenty of other places to enjoy as well. Obviously, fresh fish is a good choice at any location, although I found plenty of other delectable things to eat as well, including surprisingly good steaks, wonderful burgers and pizza, and of course delicious desserts too.

If my description of Nevis sounds like an island paradise so far, I haven't even gotten to the good stuff just yet. My intention with this article was to set the stage to a degree and introduce readers to the island. Tomorrow, I'll share some stories about the more active adventures that the Caribbean country has to offer. Those outdoor pursuits help to immerse you in the culture and history of the place even  more fully, and are a great way to explore the island. Suffice as to say, there is plenty to see and do and I was lucky enough to get a brief taste while I was there.

I'll be back with more stories about my recent trip to the Caribbean. But in the meantime, you can discover more about Nevis here.

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