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pearlk Oct 9th, 2006 06:41 PM

Four Seasons Nevis or Caneel Bay
My husband and I are planning a 10th anniversary trip for June 2007. We have narrowed it down to the Four Seasons in Nevis and Caneel Bay St. John. We are looking for a beautiful beach, great resort and good options for romantic outdoor restaurants. Any suggestions?

A_Traveller Oct 9th, 2006 07:59 PM

Both are great resorts but the islands are very different. St. John is hilly, a bit on the arid side but still somewhat lush and 2/3's of it is a National Park. Nevis is mountainous, with very lush rainforests and lots of old ruins to explore.

Caneel Bay offers you 7 different "light sand" beaches with lots of vegetation. There's some excellent off-beach snorkeling on most of the beaches. The rooms at CB are slightly smaller and not as well appointed as those at 4S - some describe the rooms as spartan. If I recall there are 4 dining room options at CB; the Turtle Bay Estate House (indoors), The Wine Room at Turtle Bay (indoors), the Equator which is an "open air" restaurant and the Caneel Beach Terrace restaurant. The rooms at the resort are spread out around the entire property.

The Four Seasons is on a bueatiful palm tree lined "darker sand" beach. There are a couple of man-made breakwaters off shore where you can snorkle but all you'll see is very small fish (nothing to write home about). The 4S has 4 dining options - The main formal dining room which offers indoor and screened pourch dining, Neve which is a less formal indoor dining room, the Pool Cabana which is beach front open-air restaurant/bar and Mango's an open air waterfront restaurant. The rooms at the 4 Seasons are all close to the beach.

Both islands have several very good to excellent "off resort" restaurants that offer "open air" dining and that can be considered romantic.

Note, my reply talks of "open-air dining" rather than "outdoor dining". You'll find most restaurants on both islands will be in "open air" buildings rather than fully out doors. That's done to protect patrons from the ubiquitious tropical shower which can occur from time to time. Occasionally you'll find outdoor dining at some of the beach bars around the island but most will have some srt of roof structure to protect patrons.

Hope this helps.

JimC Oct 10th, 2006 06:44 AM

I think it comes down to how much snorkelling you want to do. If you love it, I would say go to Caneel for sure. If you're not so interested in undersea life and want a nice long beach to walk, go to Four seasons. As mentioned, rooms are better appointed at Four Seasons.

pearlk Oct 10th, 2006 05:56 PM

Thanks for the helpful information. I'm down to two issues; the "darker" sand of Nevis versus the "tired" rooms of Caneel Bay. Are the rooms that much better at the Four Seasons? I have seen pictures of the Four Seasons beach and it looks great. Does the sand and water seem so dark?

A_Traveller Oct 10th, 2006 07:25 PM

A lot of people get "hung up" on white sand beaches which, of course, is what you see in just about every marketing photo featuring the Caribbean. Don't let the discription of the darker sand beaches of Nevis disuade you. True they have a brownish tint, not white or gold, but it is a very picturesque setting. The beach is quite wide (probably 125' from the edge of the landscaped area to the water's edge) and you can easly walk unobstructed along the beach about a mile south toward Charlestown and except for a short detour across the parking area by Mangos restaurant you can walk about 1.5 miles north. The entire length of the beach is lined with hundreds and hundreds of naturally growing palm tress and other local vegetation. The waters off of Nevis appear steel blue due to a combination of the darker sand and overall depth of the waters surrounding the island. Visually it's a very stunning beach. It's not better or worse than a white sand beach, it's just different - and as the say in France - viva la difference!

To answer your other question, IMO yes, the rooms at 4S are much better than the rooms at CB.

xkenx Oct 10th, 2006 08:09 PM

IMO the rooms at Caneel are fine; they are in keeping with West Indies casual. Caneel is one of the most romantic places we have ever seen. The grounds are so extensive, you can nearly get lost, with no development to be seen anywhere---just sky, water other islands. Gently rolling hills, so there are incredible views from everyehere. And those SEVEN gorgeous beaches!! You can get a room on the sand only 20-30 feet from the water through the shade-providing sea grape trees. Check the video on their website, which does not begin to do the place justice.

eileen Oct 11th, 2006 04:32 AM

We visited both on a cruise stop last April to see if we wanted to return on a future vacation. The Four Seasons Nevis was nice but I was not wowed by it the way I was the Four Seasons Punta Mita. I actually preferred Nisbet Plantation, smaller, charming, more peaceful. We're going back to Nevis (which is just lovely) this winter and staying at Nisbet. I'm sure we will visit the FS several times as my husband will play golf there, but I didn't feel an overwhelming need to stay there after seeing it. But, after visiting Caneel Bay for the day, that's the one I really can't wait to return to (even though I didn't see the rooms). Just an incredible setting, so many beaches, so much beautiful landscaped property, we just loved the overall "feel" of the resort. It's one of several in the Caribbean developed by Laurance Rockefeller and we just love his resorts. The man definitely knew what he was doing. You can't go wrong with either island, they are both wonderful. And I think the Four Seasons service is probably better than Caneel's. But I really don't think you will be disappointed with either choice.

Michaelpl Oct 11th, 2006 05:11 AM

Having stayed a week at each resort/island, my vote for a return trip would be to Caneel/St.John. The beaches and overall beauty of the island is hard to beat. Each has their +'s and -'s but I preferred the "older caribbean" feel of Caneel. That said some might just call it outdated. You'll not go wrong either way IMHO. Have fun!

pearlk Oct 11th, 2006 05:41 AM

Thanks so much for all of your responses. It so difficult to decide. Both places sound amazing; I don't think we can go wrong. I guess I will have to plan our 10th and 11th anniversary trips and go to both.

eileen Oct 11th, 2006 07:01 AM

If you choose the 4Seasons, make sure you ask for one of the special deals they offer for summer -- they usually offer a $500 airfare credit, and/or one night free, room upgrades etc. The prices are so much more reasonable for summer than high season which is exorbitant. Also, Caneel usually does an excape to luxury rate for summer that is about 20% off their regular posted summer prices. Those rates usually aren't announced until spring so you might want to make your reservation and then rebook when the discounts come out. The other thing to consider is where you are flying from -- it's generally a bit easier to get to Caneel than Nevis because there are lots of direct flights to St Thomas and then it is a short ferry ride to St. John. For Nevis, you either have to try to take a puddle jumper flight in (connecting from San Juan) or fly to St. Kitts through Miami or San Juan and take the ferry to Nevis.

pearlk Oct 11th, 2006 08:41 AM

We will be using our airline miles to get two free flights. Is the credit at the FS still available if we are not paying for our flights?

sharona Oct 11th, 2006 09:56 AM

I'm pretty sure we got a free night in lieu of any airfare discounts when we stayed at the Four Seasons a couple of years ago. We went in November.

I've stayed at both the Four Seasons and Caneel. A_Traveller gives you great information that I agree with. The FS is definitely a more up-scale property with very nice rooms and great food on what I consider to be a so-so beach. Caneel maybe slides by a little bit on its name but it's still a nice property on stunning beaches with okay food. But there are lots of dining choices on St. John and Caneel is only a 5 minute ride to Cruz Bay where there are lots of restaurants and bars.

See, here's the thing about Caneel's rooms: they are not plush, they don't have marble bathrooms and they certainly will never be featured in Architectural Digest (unless it's a before and after feature!). But the beds are comfortable, the towels are nice and fluffy, and the rooms are air conditioned. Plus we literally walked out our door and we were on the beach.

My husband and I are beach people and Nevis is the only island we've ever been to where we spent the majority of our time at the pool. Most places we never even LOOK at the pool, much less sit by it. But the sand on Pinney's Beach is coarse and kind of brown and the water isn't that beautiful Caribbean blue that most people, including me, look for. I understand the reasons for the color of the water, that it's a volcanic island where the beach drops off fairly quickly and the water is deep, but it's still a point to be emphasized for those looking for a "beautiful beach" as our OP stated.

You didn't mention spas but I'll mention that the FS spa was one of the better ones I've been to. Excellent treatments in a lovely setting. I don't remember using the spa at Caneel.

If you've ever been to a Four Seasons before you'll know that they emphasize service and the FS Nevis certainly lives up to that reputation. Caneel in no way offers the same level of service that you will find at the FS.

So, to recap given your criteria:

- beautiful beach: Caneel, hands down
- great resort: Four Seasons
- romantic restaurants: both islands but I'll give the nod to St. John for better food overall

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