While visiting cities and countries and spending 10 days walking around and exploring cultures and sites is certainly fulfilling, sometimes we just want to sit on a beach. We'll generally alternate between what we call "beach vacations" and "cultural vacations." In September of 2012, the t:e organization was looking for a beach vacation.
In the running was Mexico and, of course, one of the many islands in the Caribbean. The missus had visited Nevis some years back and had a wonderful experience at the Four Seasons resort. My arm did not need twisting.
First things first: you just thought "what is Nevis?" Or, you knew right away. It's that type of place. Small. Off the beaten path. And very friggin' awesome.
We flew from New York to St. Kitt's, where we were met by a car service and whisked off to the Four Seasons ferry that would take us directly to the resort on Nevis. I highly recommend this method of arriving at the resort. There's something very relaxing about pulling up to a dock at a resort, rum punch already in hand.
Our room was not yet ready when we pulled up to the dock, so we pulled up a bar stool (shocker) at Cabana, the casual beach/pool bar/restaurant, where we would be spending a lot of time this trip. The cocktail list leans toward islandy drinks, and I was fine with that.
We ordered a tuna nicoise, and what would quickly become a favorite dish: conch with pickled vegetables. This dish is fantastic. Tender conch, with pickled cucumber, some sweet peppers, a bit of fresh herb. The "broth" was briny, not much unlike the liquor from an oyster (liquor is the best part of the oyster eating experience). I ordered this dish every day. And so should you.
The Four Seasons has two basic rooms (and, of course, rooms that I can't afford). Some face Nevis Peak, and some face the water. We chose the Nevis Peak view, knowing that we'd be upgraded since it was off-season and we booked through American Express, and were very pleased with the ocean view. But I can certainly see the allure of waking up to the majesty of Nevis peak every morning.
There are several buildings, some of which are in front of pools. You might consider requesting the buildings that aren't, and request a second floor room, for additional privacy.
There are three pools, including an adults-only pool. Some basic water sports are available right at the resort, and some decent snorkeling. Lots of fish and lobsters and sea turtles. Not the greatest clarity when the sun is behind the clouds, but certainly good enough snorkeling for hobbyists.
The golf course is supposed to be pretty good (at the very least, the views are spectacular), but since I don't play I didn't care. We did, however, spend hours on the golf course, taking pictures of monkeys. There are monkeys all over the island, much to the chagrin of Nevisians, and a shit load on the Four Seasons golf course. I highly recommend taking a walk up to the back nine to check them out. They're a funny lot, and if you're vaguely interested in wildlife, they will be sure to keep you entertained for hours. Since it's a decent walk to the back 9, you might want to go to the pro shop and tell them you're going to the driving range so you can get a cart. It'll cost a few bucks, but it's worth the convenience. Conversely, you can ask the front desk to have someone bring you up. Getting back, obviously, is a bit trickier, but at least it's downhill. Did I mention it's as hot as b*lls in September? Bring water.
If you're like me, you might also spend hours on the beach taking pictures of crabs and birds and the random dog that might make its way onto the beach.
View from the room
Back to the food...
I'm not a breakfast guy. Give me a cup of coffee and a little something to nibble and I'm happy. However, put me on an island on vacation and I lose my mind. The first morning I ordered a lobster hash, which was enough food for a dinner. It was pretty damned good, but that was the last time I ordered that way for breakfast. By the end of the trip I was eating dry granola for breakfast before going to the gym. That's a lie: I never saw the gym.
Back at Cabana for lunch, the Cobb salad did not disappoint. Nor did the rum punches and cute little bottles of Skol lager.
We made our way to Mango, another restaurant at the Four Seasons, which is just a little bit of a walk. This ended up being our favorite restaurant of the two that were open for dinner (it was slightly off season and one of the restaurants was shuttered). Mango is right on the water, all open, somewhat casual, and the food was outstanding. The food was outstanding everywhere quite frankly, but we really enjoyed our meals at Mango.
The Library Bar is in the Great House just off the lobby. They've got a pretty extensive list of Scotch and cocktails, and also some casual dining. We had a pepperoni pizza which, while not at the level that I make pizza, surprisingly hit the spot. But in general I'd stick to fish at the Four Seasons. The Library Bar is the only bar that is open after Cabana closes. So if you're into drinking at night after dinner, you'll end up at the Library Bar. We generally went back to the room and retired early. Although I do recall grabbing some soda and booze from the minibar after dinner a few times and taking in the stars and sounds of the ocean.
The next day, after spending several hours taking pictures of monkeys, it was back to Cabana, where we had a lobster club, and several Skols and probably some rum punch. The fries were great, the sandwich was great, it was all great.
Another lunch at Cabana, and I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed a steak sandwich made with tenderloin (generally not my favorite cut for steak sandwich or steak in general). The steak was tender, the relish was bright and a touch sweet, and the baguette was better than you'd find in most parts of the world. The missus wanted one of the salads, but with shrimp added. Not a problem. Nothing is a problem at the Four Seasons.
Every couple of days, they'll set up The Hideaway: a small, casual dining option near the adults-only pool. Simply grilled fish, meats, simply prepared fresh vegetables, that sort of thing. Our pork chop and steak didn't disappoint. We had a nice time chatting with the chef and talking about photography. He took the shot directly below IIRC.
Friendly staff is certainly a theme here. One of the pool/cabana/server guys went as far as to pick us up on his day off and bring us into town to shop. We were looking for local honey, which we couldn't locate in two of the stores that he shuttled us to. Our man got on the phone, on email, texting, and tracked down "a guy." Apparently he knows a girl who has an uncle who makes honey. Five minutes later we're pulling off to the side of the road in downtown Charlestown doing a deal. And that's some good honey.
Other servers almost immediately knew our preferences. Managers would come over and chat with us while we were having meals. Smiles all around.
Did we order room service on several nights? You betcha. The Italian-American in me can't go very long without pasta, so it was meat sauce for me 2 nights in a row. And quite frankly I find it difficult to spend any amount of time in a hotel without ordering some sort of club sandwich in the room. The service in the room is excellent, just as you'd expect.
While we spent much of our trip on campus, and only had a few meals outside of the Four Seasons (click me for Sunshine's), I should stress that Nevis has a great food culture. One based on seafood and rum and wood-grilled meat and goat and rum and rum and rum from what I saw. There are plenty of places to eat around this tiny island, ranging from down-and-dirty bars (like the Octagon, where you'll find locals taking away chicken and "fish water" during lunch hours), to other resorts, many of which are built into abandoned sugar mills.
You'd be silly to not rent a driver for a half day to drive around the island. It's quite beautiful, and you'll get a great sense of the culture by observing and your helpful and knowledgeable car driver.
I would also definitely try to hit the compound which includes Sunshine's, Lime and Chevy's (just down the beach form the Four Seasons) at night, because based on what I heard into the evening from our room, they are having one hell of a time down there. One hell of a time indeed.