Nevis' intimate, tropical retreat
19 rooms / 1 suite/ 2 villas
Situated on a 60-acre estate, 750 feet above sea level, Montpelier Plantation and Beach is a former sugar plantation set in verdant tropical gardens. Admiral Lord Nelson was the first person to fall in love with this Nevisian beauty when he married Fanny Nesbit there in March 1787. Since then, this enchanting boutique hotel has been attracting honeymooners, families, fitness fiends and water sports hobbyists alike. Aside from Nevis’ Caribbean charm, character and pace of life, Montpelier draws you in with delicious food, beautiful surroundings and the delightful and personable owners, the Hoffmans (plus their sweet Labrador Ziggy).
There are 19 light and spacious rooms, set as West Indian-style cottages, dotted around the estate. All individually designed, the look is mostly colonial splendor meets Asian simplicity with four-poster beds, Egyptian cotton, bamboo woven mats, wicker furniture and private sea-facing verandas. However, seven of the rooms debuted with a new look in 2014. Martyne Kupciunas of Miami’s The Design Garden brightened up the spaces with bold Trina Turk fabrics, free-form stone coffee tables and interesting headboards — one made of distressed metal circles that are reminiscent of the old sugar kettles nods to the property’s past life as a sugar mill. The bathrooms are a particular highlight in these newly renovated rooms, as they take on a more modern look with gray stone and rain-shower fixtures.
In addition, there’s the two-bedroom Tamarind Villa with a private plunge pool and sea views and The Little House, a renovated 100-year-old two-bedroom villa with vistas of Nevis Peak. Ask for cottage 15 — the suite where Diana, princess of Wales, stayed with her two sons, soon after her divorce. And it’s easy to see why with its incredible uninterrupted views out across the gardens. At night, make sure you throw open your white shutters and listen to the choir of insects and mountain frogs.
It’s all about French Caribbean cuisine here — and local organic ingredients. The easygoing yet stylish poolside Indigo serves lunch and dinner with delights such as jerk pork and spiny lobster tail. For a smarter fare, tuck into shrimp on sugar cane skewers and suckling roasted pig on the terrace of Restaurant 750. Best of all — and make sure you book ahead as there are only 16 seats — is a candlelit dinner in the romantic Mill Privée, the property’s original 300-year-old sugar mill. With a five-course tasting dinner (think pan-seared salmon wrapped with spinach over a shitake mushroom ragout and cilantro foam) created by French-trained executive chef Stéphane Caumont, there’s paired wine to boot carefully picked by Montpelier’s own sommelier.
You’ll want to spend all of your time outdoors here. The blue mosaic swimming pool with views of Nevis Peak is utterly sublime with a rum punch and there’s a tennis court to let off steam. Private sessions of yoga, Pilates and meditation are available as well.
About 15 minutes away, you’ll find the hotel’s strip of beach (it’s not private, since all beaches are public by law, but it’s as close as you can get) with a bar and six cabanas. Time your visit for one of the fantastic sunset barbecues that are held on the beach weekly. Sailing adventures, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, windsurfing, water-skiing and kayaking are also on the agenda. For those who prefer to stay on land, plump for mountain biking, horseback riding and golf just down the road.
Nevis, otherwise known as the “Queen of the Caribbees,” may be small (you can drive around it in 40 minutes), but it packs a punch. It’s like being stuck in a time warp — like Antigua 50 years ago — with no traffic lights, flashy cars or garish tourist trappings. Instead, it’s donkeys on the road and hens scratching in the streets.
The capital, Charlestown, is one of the island’s highlights. The childhood home of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the U.S., the town is a kaleidoscope of character and color: fantastical-looking fruit stalls, the OMG Desserts shop, the Super foods supermarket and the ironmonger with his shop window emblazoned with a bible quote. Ramble out of town and you’ll see St. James Windward, which houses one of only five black crucifixes in the world and St. Thomas, the first Anglican church in the Caribbean, built in 1643.
For a workout in the open, there’s Nevis Peak. A 3,213-foot potentially active volcano, it’s a hard hike — the most difficult mountain climb in the Caribbean — but worth it for the flora, fauna and sheer reward of the views at the top. Ask Montpelier to organize a trek with Lynell, an island legend.