Discovering Nevis, Loving The Four Seasons Resort–and Finding Alexander Hamilton
The flight from New York was long but the arrival at the St. Kitts airport was painless. No crowds, no fuss. As soon as I disembarked from the plane, I was transferred to the luxurious and private YU lounge, where I received a cold drink from an open bar and a warm welcome. I sank into a comfy couch while I awaited my luggage and while immigration and all the arrival protocols could be done. (The cost for this experience is $300 round-trip.)
My bags were carried to a waiting ferry, where I was again treated to cold drinks and snacks while the boat made its way to the Four Seasons Nevis, which was built in 1991, the first property built on the Four Seasons brand and the only one in the Caribbean.
Check-in at the property was quick and I was escorted to my inviting second floor accommodations, located just the way I like them – close to the main building (the Grand House) and the place where breakfast is located. I had all the amenities I’d expect from a Four Seasons: a spacious balcony, an exceedingly comfortable bed, down pillows, a cozy robe and slippers, a spacious bathroom with a great soaking tub, a DVD player, cable TV, WiFi, a newspaper delivery, twice-daily turn-down service, bottled water and so on. But the real luxury was to come, as I discovered the pleasures of the resort and this extraordinary island of 12, 1000 people.
The Four Seasons Nevis has 196 rooms/suites and 45 over-the-top rental villas with breathtaking views “built into the environment,” a phrase that reflects the care and thoughtfulness with which tourism has developed on Nevis. There are only 420 rooms on the island and “nothing is taller than a coconut tree,” another phrase I often heard. The government has no interest in mass tourism, so Nevis has been developed in a way that strikes a balance between what is modern and what the Caribbean used to be. That means no junky chain stores, no giant cruise ships bringing huge crowds (Azamara ships are the largest ones allowed) and no fast food.
In fact all the food on the island is organic, even the fruits and vegetables you see at roadside stands. The food at the resort’s five fine restaurants (all with ocean views) was outstanding. My favorite meal is breakfast and the breakfast buffet at Neve featuring so many fresh items, including fruit and smoothies and freshly made nut butters, as well as eggs, pancakes, waffles, breads and pastries. (Always present were the hot sauces made by Chef Llewellyn Clarke right out of his home.)
Almost every meal was memorable, notably the succulent steak at the Coral Grill and the Spiny Lobster, the new favorite dish I ordered at several restaurants. A beach barbecue by Chef Jason Adams offered yet another opportunity to love that spiny lobster, cooked this time on an open grill.
Room service is often a weak spot, even at top hotels, but here a real effort is made to achieve “in the minute” experience—and it pays off. My breakfast latte was piping hot. A bagel was delivered with a full-size toaster, so that it, too, would be piping hot.
During my time on Nevis, I discovered that it is the greenest island in the Caribbean, with hopes of becoming “the greenest place on earth. It is the only island that has a wind farm and a plan to shift from diesel-fired electrical generation to 100 per cent renewable geothermal energy (Nevis is home to active hot springs and a large geothermal reservoir). Also planned: a waste-to-energy program that will consume virtually all of the daily household and commercial waste that the island generates. This small island has one of the strongest endangered sea turtle conservancy programs, along with an annual Sea Turtle Conservancy weekend.
Obviously the Four Seasons is an important player in keeping Nevis green. The resort celebrated Earth Day in 2016 by incorporating new sustainable cleaning and maintenance, by cleaning the three-mile-long Pinney’s Beach and planting new trees (sourced from a local nursery) on the property.
One of my favorite experiences at the resort was the botanical (and monkey) tour, when I learned more than I’d ever known about the local plants and their practical or medicinal uses. First I discovered that there were 16 varieties of palm. Next I made the acquaintance of the soursop fruit, the cashew tree, cannonball tree (used for perfume), elephant ear leaves (used in an island codfish stew), the lint brush tree, the coward shrub, the glue tree, the lint brush tree and the nail polish tree. I even learned about the sex life of cinnamon, though that’s a story for another day.
Traveling through the property, I saw goats, sheep and chickens roaming free. I was told that at day’s end, they somehow find their way home, and this was something else that added to my sense that this was an idyllic and “natural” place. For comic relief, I saw African green vervet monkeys scampering about. I was told they were brought to the island back in the 17ith century; today they are a big attraction for visitors. Although the monkeys are shy with people, they love unripe green mangoes, so occasionally they can be tempted by a bit of fruit to come close enough for a photo.
And just so I could glimpse how the one-percent might live on Nevis, I toured some of the villas. One owner spent $2 million on landscaping, planting some species found only in the Nevis Botanical Gardens. Another villa has a steam room and a state-of-the-art sound/media room. But the star was a spectacular duplex with drop-dead views and swimming pools. The tab for that one was between $4,000 and $7,000 a night, depending on the season. (The villas along the golf course rent for a mere $2,000-$5,000 a night.)
I felt like a one-percenter myself the day I settled into one of the beach houses that can be rented from 9 a.m. until sunset. My beach house encompassed 200 square feet of space and had an open sundeck with lounges; a living room with a couch and a dining table nook; WiFi (in case I actually wanted to work); an entertainment center (flat screen TV, DVD player, video on-demand and iHome station); telephone (for when I wanted room service!). Of course I ordered lunch, another of the splendid spiny lobsters that are succulent and tender and taste like no others. In between checking email and reading a junky beach book, I waded in the sparkling blue Caribbean and took dips in the free-form, infinity-edge Ocean Pool. (There is also an adult-only pool with an adjacent mini-lounge and bar.) The day was simply sublime.
My sense of well-being was enhanced by my visit to the full-service spa, which had an idyllic setting: adorable gingerbread cottage treatment rooms, tropical gardens, two hydrotherapy pools (a volcanic stone whirlpool and a Japanese-inspired bold plunge pool. I chose the Island Ceremony treatment package. My therapist Lesley took me on a journey that began with a tiny rake-like device to wake up my circulation. A facial with extractions, then hydration. After my treatment, I stretched out on a lounge on the Sala deck, where I gazed out on the peaceful vistas of Nevis Peak and daydreamed, feeling more relaxed than I had in a long time.
I should mention that the resort has an air-conditioned sports pavilion with state-of-the-art equipment; I fulfilled my exercise regimen by touring the place.
As I don’t have a prayer of getting tickets to the award-winning Broadway hit that bears Hamilton’s name any time soon, I did at least visit the place where he was born. I saw artifacts and documents relating to his life and I read the beautiful letters he wrote to his wife, including the especially touching one that preceded the duel that killed him. The Four Seasons currently offers a package that includes a visit to the Museum of Nevis and Hamilton House, a private guided tour through the estate and a candle-lit beach dinner with a Nevisian historian who shares stories about the island’s culture during Hamilton’s time.
When it was time to return home, I couldn’t imagine why it had taken me so long to discover this magical island. In the past, I had wondered why so many of all the Condé Nast listed Caribbean properties are on Nevis. And now I understood.