A wellbeing break on the Caribbean island of Nevis sees Lizzy Dening horse riding on deserted beaches and trying her first triathlon!
Craving some sunshine over the dark winter months, and looking for inspiration in my fitness routine post-injury, I leapt at the chance to visit the Caribbean island of Nevis. It combines many of my passions – wildlife, seafood, beautiful scenery and plenty of opportunities to exercise outdoors.
It feels as though the island has remained unchanged for years, in all the best ways. I’ve never before had a holiday where I’ve had white sand beaches all to myself, been the only swimmer bobbing in the sea, or been greeted like an old acquaintance by people hanging out their washing. If you like old-fashioned friendliness with a tropical twist, this could be the place for your next wellbeing break.
Nevis is famed for its various sporting events, including a marathon and a 4k swim between its coast and that of neighbouring St Kitts, and my visit happened to coincide with its annual triathlon held in November. I hadn’t planned to take part, and was in no shape for racing after a summer plagued by injury, but there was something about the island’s relaxed nature that intoxicated me. Before
I knew it, I was signing up for the ‘try a tri’ race – a mini triathlon involving a 200m swim, 5k bike ride and 2k run – despite never having actually done a triathlon before!
However, reaching the beautiful Oualie beach on the morning of the event, I felt instantly calmed by the inclusive family atmosphere and, strangely enough, the kittens prowling the sandy starting line! As the weather in Nevis is glorious, there was no need for a wetsuit, so we splashed into the sea in our cossies, tentatively crawling out and around a small fishing boat and back, before getting onto our bikes and then repeating part of the cycle route for our run. As the weather started to hot up, it was back to the beach for a glorious finishing stretch, a most welcome bottle of water and the all-important medal, of course.
Love the feeling of sand between your toes? You’ll be spoilt for choice on Nevis.
I visited as many of the beaches as possible (in the interests of good journalism, of course) and can report that I had nearly all of them to myself as I paddled, snorkelled, and generally lazed around with a beer and a book. While Pinney beach has the liveliest atmosphere, and is home to the popular Sunshine’s Beach Bar, Chrishi beach was the most peaceful for luxuriant lounging. I also explored several of them, as well as the neighbouring countryside, on horseback. My steed for the day, Little Princess, was good company as she led me through the waves and along winding roads.
As with most island retreats, Nevis is an amazing place for fresh seafood – be it mahi mahi, red snapper or even conch, fish fans are in their element here. As a pescetarian it was the first time I’ve ever felt truly well-catered for at a barbecue! My top tip is the lobster pasta dish at Bananas (bananasnevis.com). I also enjoyed the wealth of tropical fruit – as always it tastes so different fresh from a tree – and it’s just bad manners to leave the Caribbean without sampling at least one rum punch. The secret ingredient is the nutmeg grated on top!
Walk this way
The entire island can be looped by bicycle – it’s only 36 sq miles in total – and there are lots of easy routes for walking, or for a real challenge you can opt to scale Nevis Peak – the rainforest enclosed volcano in the centre. This route is best left to experienced mountaineers as it involves a fair bit of overhand rope climbing, and leaves visitors seriously mud-covered. Feeling a little stiff post-race, I decided to give this a miss in favour of a five-mile circular walk with fellow guests from the Nisbet Plantation (nisbetplantation.com), which was quite sweaty enough despite the early start. It took in several small villages, each with residents getting ready for the day, lots of fascinating plants including breadfruit trees and mangoes, and plenty of animals. The island is teeming with vervet monkeys (see the aforementioned mangoes!) as well as free-roaming donkeys, goats, sheep, dogs and cats. Almost anywhere you choose to sit and relax, you’ll be investigated by curious creatures.
British Airways offers two flights per week to and from St Kitts on Wednesdays and Saturdays from London Gatwick Airport. Nevis is a 10-minute ride from St Kitts by water taxi. For the best packages and to book, visit ba.com/stkitts or call 0844 4930758. For more information about Nevis, visit nevisisland.com or follow Nevis Naturally on social media.