There are several fabulous public beaches on the island as well. The best one -- in fact, one of the best in the Caribbean -- is the reef-protected Pinney's Beach, which has crystal-clear water, golden sands, and a gradual slope. It's no accident that the Four Seasons chose this location for its chic and superexpensive Nevis resort. Beaches are public on Nevis, and hotels are forbidden to restrict access. However, hotels can protect their private grounds from trespassers.
Pinney's is just a short walk north of Charlestown on the west coast. You'll have 5km (3 miles) of sand (often virtually to yourself) that culminates in a sleepy lagoon, set against a backdrop of coconut palms. It's almost never crowded, and its calm, shallow waters are perfect for swimming and wading, which makes it a family favorite. It's best to bring your own sports equipment; the hotels along this beach have only limited gear that may be in use by its guests. You can go snorkeling or scuba diving here among damselfish, tangs, grunts, blue-headed wrasses, parrotfish, and other species. The beach is especially beautiful in the late afternoon, when flocks of cattle egrets fly into its north end to roost at the freshwater pond at Nelson's Spring.
If you're going to be around for a few days, you might want to search out the other beaches as well, notably beige-sand Oualie Beach, known especially for its diving and snorkeling. The location is north of Pinney's and just south of Mosquito Bay. The beach is well maintained and rarely crowded; you can purchase food and drink, as well as rent watersports equipment, at the Oualie Beach Hotel.
Indian Castle Beach, at the southern end of Nevis, has active surf and a swath of fine-gray sand. Indian Castle is definitely for escapists -- chances are, you'll have the beach all to yourself except for an indigenous goat or two, who may be very social and interested in sharing your picnic lunch.
Newcastle Beach is by the Nisbet Plantation, at the northernmost tip of the island on the channel that separates St. Kitts and Nevis. Snorkelers flock to this strip of soft beige sand set against a backdrop of coconut palms.
The beaches along the east coast aren't desirable. They front Long Haul Bay in the north and White Bay in the south. These bays spill into the Atlantic Ocean and are rocky and too rough for swimming, although they're rather dramatic to visit if you're sightseeing. Of them all, White Bay Beach (sometimes called Windward Beach), in the southeastern section, east of Gingerland, is the best (especially for surfers). But be careful, as the waters can become turbulent suddenly.
Scuba Safaris, an outfit that operates independently on the premises of the Oualie Beach Hotel, offers boat charters to Turtle Beach, which can make for a great day's outing; it costs $65 round-trip (minimum of four people). Although it gives preference to guests of the Four Seasons, another good boat outfitter is Leeward Islands Charters (tel. 869/465-7474; www.stkittsleewardislandscharters.com). The captain, Lennox, also built the boat, a 15m (49-ft.) catamaran called Caona. A typical cruise is across the 3.2km (2-mile) passage to St. Kitts, where the snorkeling is better than it is on the western side of Nevis.
In 2007, recognizing that the smooth, unjagged coastline of Nevis does not offer an abundance of anchorage spots for oceangoing yachts, the Port Authority of Nevis sank at least 100 permanent moorings deep into the sea bed off the island's relatively sheltered western shore. A key component of each of those moorings is a 5m (16-ft.) aluminum "corkscrew," which is screwed into the seabed with barged-in equipment in ways that cause a minimum amount of damage to the marine ecology. All that's recognizable from the surface is a bright yellow buoy, a talisman which yacht owners prize, and pay steep rentals for, as a means of providing at least some kind of shelter from tides and howling storms. Most of these buoys lie in 18m (59 ft.) of water, enough for the draft of even very large yachts, which from now on can be moored safely offshore Nevis's northwest coast, in a series of staggered moorings positioned offshore in an unbroken string between Charlestown and Oualie.
Nevis Water Sports (tel. 869/662-9166; www.fishnevis.com) offers the best deep-sea fishing aboard its custom 9m (30-ft.) fishing boat. The boat holds up to six; a 4-hour trip costs $500, while an 8-hour trip is $1,000. Snorkeling trips are available for $50 per person, including equipment.
The Four Seasons, Pinney's Beach (tel. 869/469-1111; www.fourseasons.com/nevis/golf), has one of the most challenging and visually dramatic golf courses in the world. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. (who called it "the most scenic golf course I've ever designed"), this 18-hole championship course wraps around the resort and offers panoramic ocean and mountain views at every turn. From the first tee (which begins just steps from the sports pavilion), through the 660-yard, par-5 18th green at the ocean's edge, the course is, in the words of one avid golfer, "reason enough to go to Nevis." Nonguests of the hotel pay $205 for 18 holes. Rental clubs are available at $40 for 9 holes, or $70 for 18 holes.
Hiking & Mountain Climbing
Hikers can climb Mount Nevis, 970m (3,182 ft.) up to the extinct volcanic crater, and enjoy a trek to the rainforest to watch for wild monkeys. This hike is strenuous and is recommended only for those in good shape. Ask your hotel to pack a picnic lunch and arrange a guide (who will charge about $35 per person). The hike takes about 5 hours; at the summit, you'll be rewarded with views of Antigua, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, Guadeloupe, and Montserrat. Reaching the summit means scrambling up near-vertical sections of the trail, requiring handholds on not-always-reliable vines and roots. It's definitely not for anyone afraid of high places. Information on guides can also be obtained at the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society, based at the Museum of Nevis History, Main Street, Charlestown (tel. 869/469-5786; www.nevis-nhcs.org). Sunrise Tours, Gingerland (tel. 869/469-2758; www.nevisnaturetours.com), is run by a husband-and-wife team, Lynell and Earla Liburd, who offer an unusual assortment of hikes, not just the usual climbs around the slopes of Mount Nevis. They'll take you to little-known areas such as Devil's Copper, New River Spring, and three magnificent waterfalls. Rainforest and hidden ruins are also part of their hikes, which also include trips to rarely visited local villages.
If you're looking for a local to guide you through the logistics of virtually any aspect of Nevis, consider Top to Bottom (tel. 869/469-9080; www.walknevis.com). For a fee that's fair and equitable, they'll accompany you on any of at least a half-dozen walking tours either through downtown Charlestown or through some of the most vertiginous and isolated terrain on the island. Dialogues focus on the island's history, flora, fauna, natural topography, and ecology.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
Some of the best dive sites on Nevis include Monkey Shoals, 3km (2 miles) west of the Four Seasons. This is a beautiful reef, starting at 12m (39 ft.), with dives up to 30m (98 ft.) in depth. Angelfish, turtles, nurse sharks, and extensive soft coral can be found here. The Caves are on the south tip of Nevis, a 20-minute boat ride from the Four Seasons. A series of coral grottoes with numerous squirrelfish, turtles, and needlefish make this ideal for both certified and resort divers. Champagne Garden, a 5-minute boat ride from the Four Seasons, gets its name from bubbles created from an underwater sulfur vent. Because of the warm water temperature, large numbers of tropical fish are found here. Finally, Coral Garden, 3km (2 miles) west of the Four Seasons, is another beautiful coral reef with schools of Atlantic spadefish and large sea fans. The reef is at a maximum depth of 21m (69 ft.) and is suitable for both certified and resort divers.
Snorkelers should head for Pinney's Beach. You might also try the waters of Fort Ashby, where the settlement of Jamestown is said to have slid into the sea; legend has it that you can still hear the church bells and see the underwater town when conditions are just right. So far, no diver, to our knowledge, has ever found the conditions just right.
Scuba Safaris, Oualie Beach (tel. 869/469-9518; fax 869/469-9519; www.scubanevis.com), on the island's north end, offers PADI scuba diving and snorkeling in an area rich in dive sites. It also offers resort and certification courses, dive packages, and equipment rental. A one-tank scuba dive costs $69; a two-tank dive, $99. Full certification courses cost $400 to $550 per person. Snorkeling trips cost $50 per person (minimum of four people).
There are no public courts on Nevis. Guests at the big hotels play on their courts for free. Nonguests can play on the courts at the Hermitage Plantation (tel. 869/469-3477). Tennis is free for those who visit the restaurant. There's also a somewhat battered public tennis court in Charlestown, immediately adjacent to the Secondary School, which can be used -- if the net is up at all -- without charge during daylight hours only.
The waters here are often ideal for this sport, especially for beginners and intermediates. Windsurfing Nevis, at the Oualie Beach Hotel (tel. 869/469-9682), offers the best equipment, costing $25 for 1 hour.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.