On the 20-minute boat ride from the St. Kitts airport, guests get their first view of Nevis, a remarkable island that bears an uncanny resemblance to one inhabited by Gilligan, the Skipper and their friends.
When the Four Seasons' private ferry pulls up to the dock, guests step off onto a little slice of paradise. A one-minute walk carries them past the beach and pool and into the opulent lobby of the island's sole resort. (A handful of inns, occupying former sugar plantations, offer the only other accommodations on Nevis.)
With just 196 rooms, the Four Seasons is able to provide the personalized service that has repeatedly won the resort the only American Automobile Association five-diamond award given in the Caribbean.
Guest rooms, with maid service three times daily, are located in 12 cottages along the beach on either side of the main building. The "standard" rooms are quite spacious and deluxe, dwarfing those of most hotels, and offer an enormous bathroom with oversized tub and separate shower, a screened terrace and every conceivable amenity, down to the stainless steel cocktail shaker and fresh nutmeg on the minibar. The pricier rooms are even more spacious.
The pride of the resort is the 18-hole Robert Trent Jones golf course, whose pro shop is a two-minute stroll from most of the rooms. With views of towering Mt. Nevis, ruins of an old sugar mill and endless palm trees, the course is a sheer delight, far better than most resort layouts. Gluttons for punishment will delight in the signature 15th hole, which adds the course's only set of black tees, offering the golfer a 240-yard forced carry to the fairway on a par 5 that eventually plays to 666 yards.
For non-golfers, the resort offers 10 tennis courts, several of which are lighted and four of which are stunning red clay and well maintained. Lessons and rental rackets are available. Adjacent to the tennis courts is a well manicured, regulation-size croquet court.
The heart and soul of the property is the beach, which shares the pool cabana bar and restaurant with two large swimming pools. Beach service is impeccable, with fruity tropical concoctions delivered promptly to your lounge chair, while the attendants supply cool towels and spray your face with Evian spritzers.
Windsurfing, Hobie cats and various other water sports are offered beachside, along with instruction. The resort's ferry can be used for shopping excursions to St. Kitts, and a catamaran makes daily snorkeling runs to some of the island's excellent dive sites. A nearby dive shop also operates daily trips, picking up passengers at the private dock.
Despite the abundance of activities, relaxing with a cigar is easy here. The resort's gift shop offers a varying selection of top Cuban brands, including Montecristo and Cohiba, which can be enjoyed at the Library Bar, poolside, or while watching a sunset on the Ocean Terrace. Out on the golf course, you can celebrate a great shot with a cigar delivered by the course's beverage cart.
The menus at every food outlet on the property are changed daily to ensure variety, even at the poolside cabana. Executive chef Martin Frost's food reflects the Caribbean setting, from the plantain pancakes and pineapple fritters at breakfast to the spiny lobster and fresh fish at dinner. Dinner is served in either the Grill Room or the more formal Dining Room; guests can choose from either menu.
A "dine-around" option gives guests the opportunity to leave the property and have dinner at one of the plantation houses that grace the island. One popular choice is the Montpelier Plantation Inn, known as a vacation spot for Princess Diana.
Four Seasons recently added 12 villas around the golf course and may build a couple dozen more by the end of the year. Privately owned but rented out, these villas come complete with maid service and the other resort amenities. Large and well furnished, many of the homes offer gourmet kitchens and private pools, and they can be booked through Four Seasons reservations.
While it is possible to fly into Nevis on small locally operated planes, the boat service from St. Kitts is faster and more convenient, connecting directly to major airlines. Besides, after a stay here, you'll need the 20-minute ride to help with the painful readjustment to reality.
Larry Olmsted is a Vermont-based writer.
Four Seasons Resort Nevis
Pinney's Beach, Charlestown
Phone: (809) 469-1111; fax: (809) 469-1112
Room rates: $250 to $2,900 per night low season, $575 to $3,500 per night high season