Why Visit Nevis In Summer? Mangoes, Mangoes, Mangoes
Mangoes are beloved in Nevis, but nobody buys them. They don't have to. Nearly ever Nevisian has a mango tree or three in their backyard and even if you don't have one, in the summer it literally rains mangoes and people can't give them away fast enough. There are officially 44 different kinds of mangoes in Nevis; the Amory Polly, Julie and Long mangoes are just a few of the most prized. Known throughout the Caribbean as St. Kitts' smaller, more luxurious sister island, Nevis has the laid-back luxury you'll crave after tiring of the ritz and glamour of St. Barts. Here you can chase monkeys barefoot or sit by the pool sipping an iced almond milk latte. Just one road circles the whole island, an easy 45-minute drive to circumnavigate.
Since the last sugar mills shut down in the 1930s, the former British colony has come to depend on tourism and they've taken a careful approach to development. There are no large cruise ships, all-inclusive resorts or chain stores in an effort to preserve the island's traditional Caribbean charm.
To boost tourism in the slow summer months, the tourism authority began the Nevis Mango & Food Festival five years ago, capitalizing on mango season, which typically begins in June and lasts through early September. Tim Thuell, the general manager at Nisbet Plantation Inn and chairman of the Nevis Tourism Authority board, says that the festival is still in “an embryonic stage” but they're already drawing culinary stars like Judy Joo and Seamus Mullen to teach cooking classes and cook multi-course mango dinners alongside local Nevisian chefs. There are classes and dinners throughout the weekend but the Sunday grand tasting is the most popular event among locals, featuring 10 Nevisian chefs sampling their favorite mango dishes.
A mango tasting at Cades Bay Agriculture Station is especially insightful, showcasing how mangoes come in all shapes, sizes, flavors and textures. There's the Teeny mango that you eat in one bite, the custardy Haden mango and viscous Bull Stone mango. Most Nevisian mangoes are sweeter and much more fibrous than the Indian mangoes you'll find in the States, so be prepared to floss after enjoying these juicy stone fruits.
Last year the department of agriculture purchased a mango pulping machine from India and processed purée to freeze and sell to local restaurants and bars. So for the first time, Nevisians could enjoy local mangoes year-round. Nevis can't export fresh mangoes due to quarantine restrictions, but the department of agriculture is hoping to develop an industry where they export the frozen pulp. For now though, to taste the mangoes of Nevis you'll have to visit in person.
Fly into St. Kitts and take a short and scenic ferry ride over. Don't forget to grab a bottle of Llewellyn's mango hot pepper sauce at the airport on your way home.
There are only a handful of hotels in Nevis and the Four Seasons Resort Nevis is the largest with the highest room rates and a collection of 80 private residences. The guestrooms feel quite dated, but the property is home to the only golf course on the island and you can rent stand-up paddleboards, jet skis, wakeboards, kayaks, snorkels or a Hobie Cat catamaran to sail the ocean from their private beach.
For a more local and authentic Nevisian experience, try staying at one of several former sugar plantations that have been converted into boutique hotels. At Montpelier Plantation Inn, there are just 19 rooms and villas spread across 26 acres, so even when the hotel is full it doesn't feel crowded. Book a plantation room rather than a premier room, as they're a little larger and were renovated a couple years ago with a simple blue and white nautical theme. Bathrooms still need an update, but the staff at this Relais & Chateaux hotel are superb. Continental breakfast room service and a breakfast buffet are complimentary, along with tea, cake, and scones each afternoon. Couples can book a candlelit seven-course private dinner in the Stone Windmill too.
Nisbet Plantation Beach Club is another former plantation, with 36 rooms across 15 sunny yellow cottages. Nisbet is the only plantation resort with a beach on property, and conch fritters, spicy shrimp salad and mahi mahi taquitos are served right at the ocean's edge at Sea Breeze. Thuell and his wife Tina take guests on a 90-minute morning hike three times a week, a healthy way to start the day and socialize with their guests.
The spa at Nisbet is small but charming, converted from a former guest cottage, and spa director Valencia Griffin is a local powerhouse, also running s a day spa, Compassionate Touch Spa & Salon, just down the road. You'll definitely need a massage after climbing Nevis Peak.