A stay at the Relais & Châteaux Montpelier Plantation & Beach on the island of Nevis is like visiting an old friend’s getaway home; it’s warm, welcoming, and comfortable. But your friend just happens to own a fabulous, well-appointed island estate with three stellar restaurants on one of the most breathtaking and unspoiled islands in the Caribbean. To amplify the experience of visiting old friends, Montpelier’s flawless hosts—owner Muffin Hoffman and manager Helen Kidd—refer to you as “house-guests” rather than hotel guests upon arrival.
Situated on 60 acres of lush tropical hillside, with the Caribbean Sea and Nevis Peak, a 3,232-foot dormant volcano, as backdrops, the boutique hotel is a dreamy hidden treasure characterized by its intimate and homey qualities and unparalleled tropical surroundings.
A former British colony, the West Indies island of Nevis is only eight miles long and six miles wide yet offers adventure, history, allure, and, most of all, relaxation. This petite island is old-school Caribbean. Its people are the salt of the earth (or sea)—friendly, kind, and gentle. There is no nightlife to speak of (just a few bar shacks at Pinney’s Beach) and no deep port for ocean liners or mega yachts. It lacks the couture shops of St. Barth’s and the commercialization of so many other islands. The modest yet colorful homes dotting the landscape conjure Malvina Reynolds’ 1960s folk song “Little Boxes”—“There’s a pink one and a green one and a blue one and a yellow one.” The pace is so slow that some of the most public people in the world, including the late Princess Diana as well as fashion icon Anna Wintour, have chosen to holiday here.
Nevis is a short boat trip from big sister island St. Kitts, and together they create a dual-island nation. Whether you decide to hike its peak, explore its abandoned rural roadways, tour its historic plantations, or simply soak up the sun on its soft sandy beaches, you won’t be disappointed in this truly magical place. And Montpelier provides the most exquisite base camp for exploration. However, once you get settled into this luxurious and inviting accommodation, you may choose not to leave.
Upon entering the ancient stone walls of Montpelier, you are met by a massive centuries-old silkwood tree and the main house beyond. Composed of rustic stone, the main house looks as ancient as the beautifully gnarled and weathered tree, although it was constructed just a few decades ago. A vervet monkey skips by and disappears over a wall. The scene stirs imaginings that you have been transported back in time.
And this thinking isn’t far off. Once an 18th-century sugar plantation, the property was transformed in the 1960s into a resort with 19 plantation rooms and three villas; all have private terraces capturing panoramic views of the island and sea. The main house’s great room, with thick stone walls, French doors, 12-over-12 windows, and two bars is a charming gathering place for guests. The plantation-style interior, with several intimate seating areas for cozy conversations, was designed by Muffin. The space also houses an art gallery with works by Canadian artist Kirk Machar, who paints on Nevis.
It’s late in the day when I arrive, and I head to my room to freshen up before meeting Muffin and Helen and the rest of my writers’ group in the great room for an aperitif. The elegant space is softly lit with incandescent lamps and hurricane lanterns. I sip on a classic rum punch to kick the evening off and welcome my emerging island demeanor. Muffin and Helen make an effort to meet everyone and often host predinner cocktails during the week to foster friendships among guests. It’s all so civilized and sophisticated—there is an air of English formality mingled with Caribbean warmth. After everyone is introduced and has imbibed, we head to dinner across the stone courtyard and through the evening air to Mill Privée.
For our small group, our hosts have booked this ancient sugar mill turned dining room. We ascend the stone steps to an enchanting round table set with white cloth, china, silver, glassware, and votives surrounded by delicate fuchsia orchids. The room glows softly with torchlight. The setting is mesmerizing and we know we are in for quite a treat. Relais & Châteaux properties are known for their five-star dining, and this is no exception.
Sailcloth topping the conical structure flutters in the wind. The sound adds to the atmosphere of otherworldliness. The meal unfolds over six courses, beginning with a chilled strawberry soup that is followed by salmon tartar, pan-seared red snapper, and filet mignon grilled to perfection with just enough Caribbean rub to give it a flavorful island kick. Banana mousse and passion fruit caviar are on offer for dessert. Each course is paired perfectly with the sommelier’s wine selection. Fully satiated and completely transported, I walk back to my room down a path bathed in moonlight. Once inside, I open my windows and drift off to sleep, lulled by the gentle breezes and chirping frogs.
The next morning, I am up early to experience a Pilates class in the property’s barn: a three-sided structure with views of sheep and goats dotting a pastoral hillside. Vanessa Pearce, lead instructor and owner of London Pilates Studio, notices that I can’t get into every pose and thoughtfully modifies some of the movements. She takes the time to chat after class and I share that I suffer from lower back pain. I learn that she too struggled with back pain but has been able to overcome her injuries. I’m grateful for her sharing her story and hopeful that one day I will be pain free. Again I take note of the kindness and consideration shown by everyone involved at Montpelier.
After the early morning workout, I decide to take the shuttle and further unwind at the plantation’s private, secluded beach complete with its own bar service. The aqua-blue water beckons and I take a restorative swim. Then I head back up to the inn for its 60-foot mosaic pool before heading to my massage appointment at the the outdoor spa surrounded by tranquil tropical gardens. At this point in the trip, I have completely disconnected from my hectic, stress-filled life back home. I decide to spend the rest of the day in a hammock overlooking the sea.
I am decidedly transformed by this world-class getaway. Montpelier’s mantra is “live fully,” and this home away from home has given me the opportunity to do just that. montpeliernevis.com