What It's Like Traveling to a Caribbean Island With Hardly Any COVID-19 Cases
Editor's Note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.
I'd been to Nevis twice before, but knowing the island had more mango varieties (over 40) than total COVID-19 cases made me feel comfortable when deciding to return for a third visit in March. But with safety, comes strict protocols.
I had stayed a couple of nights at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis in 2018 prior to its renovations, but back then, it was more a place to rest my head between island excursions. Now, I was to vacation in place for the duration of my seven-night trip. I could leave my room, but not the property.
The two-island federation of St. Kitts and Nevis requires a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. I uploaded a copy of my results along with a picture of my passport to the St. Kitts and Nevis travel portal, where my forms needed approval (which came via email) prior to boarding the flight. A ticketing agent in Boston asked to see proof before handing me my boarding pass. And upon arriving in St. Kitts, a health screening and temperature check both took place.
When exiting the airport, a representative introduced me to my driver, who transported me to the dock where I caught a water taxi to the Four Seasons pier. Here, hotel staff was waiting to greet me and the other guests with their trademarked Nevisian hospitality. From there, we were led to a check-in area, receiving another temperature check and two bracelets. One bracelet changed each day after a morning temperature check, while the other designated our status of vacationing in place. (The latter bracelet is removed after a negative COVID test on day 14; another test is also mandatory on day seven and/or two days prior to your departure date.)
Vacationing in Place
The resort has 189 guest rooms and suites, as well as 78 villas situated in five different "neighborhoods." My villa — part of the Hill Estate cluster that includes four secluded luxury properties — was located at the base of Nevis peak, a five-minute golf cart ride from the main resort. I followed my "escort" (another COVID-safe precaution) to the accommodations, weaving through the links as the view of the ocean grew further away.
Nestled in lush surroundings with a mesmerizing sunset view over the ocean, the setting was undoubtedly romantic, but as a solo traveler, I appreciated the solitude and various yoga and meditation spaces. My villa came with an outdoor shower that opened to a sitting area and path leading to a private plunge pool and lounge chairs.
I switched accommodations twice more — to a Pinney's Beach villa and then to an ocean-view guest room in the main cluster of cottages. Seeing these different vantage points of the property made me feel like I was somewhere entirely new each time.
Stunning views were only the beginning of the experience, though. Having explored the island on previous trips, I wondered if it was possible for the beautiful culture to come through without leaving the resort. For me, this is where the magic lies and it was important to feel connected in this way.
The director of experiences, Mac Kee, has been with the property since it opened 30 years ago and is often referred to as the mayor, as he knows all the guests' names and can be found lending a hand in any department. Mac Kee taught me how to drive "eco-bio" golf balls into the ocean. The goal, he kindly told me, was just to get the ball in the water; since it breaks down into fish food, it doesn't matter how far you hit it.
But you don't have to be a golfer to enjoy the botanical tour of the 350-acre property, which follows the greens. Mac Kee made sure to stop at all the popular monkey hangouts, explaining how they steal the mangoes when the fruit is in season. Even though I was vacationing in place, activities like this made me feel like I was traversing off-property.
The next day, I went back to the course for "Chip and Sip," a fun introduction to golf in which Mac Kee makes up all the rules as you play a few holes in non-traditional ways. (My favorite: Get the ball into the hole without a golf club.) The "sips" offered were rum punch, the local Carib beer, and a variety of non-alcoholic options.
As someone who works remotely, setting up my laptop in a beach cabana also became part of my routine, and I enjoyed dips in the clear Caribbean to keep my creative juices flowing.
During my stay, I even spent a morning with tennis pro Dave, who reminded me of muscles I'd forgotten I had. After a day on the court, I booked a treatment at the spa, which took COVID-19 precautions, also offering massages in rooms and cabanas.
And while only one restaurant was open for guests within the 14-day quarantine, there were options for chef-catered in-villa meals, as well as dining on the pier or beside the old sugar mill overlooking the golf course. The restaurant also had theme nights to mix up the menu.
One evening, I took a hot sauce-making class with chef Llewellyn Clarke. While the apricot flavored sauce was simmering, he taught me how to make conch fritters. Attempting a new skill while traveling is important, and I was surprised by how many learning opportunities arose during my trip. I also joined a rum-tasting with award-winning bartender Kendie Williams, who, much like Mac Kee, was a joy to meet.
In fact, one of the perks of being at the Four Seasons solo was really getting to know the employees. Interacting with the same faces each day gave me the privilege of time — time to ask more questions and delight in the Nevisian culture.
The biggest takeaway? In Nevis, hospitality is not a job, but a way of life. The customer service here shines — not because it's required, but because warmth and openness are simply second nature. The slogan in Nevis is: "You're only a stranger once." But I think it's more accurate to say: You're not a stranger at all.