Saba, a tiny speck on the map of the Caribbean but definitely a place you need to consider for your next Caribbean adventure. I use the word adventure here on purpose because despite her tiny size, Saba is the perfect destination for the adventure traveler.
At only 5 square miles, she is the smallest in the Dutch Caribbean, but please do not let her size fool you. She also boasts the highest point in the Dutch Kingdom with her peak, Mount Scenery at 887 meters. Saba also features phenomenal diving and hiking and is known for her airport, the smallest commercial airstrip in the world. For such a tiny island, she sure comes with quite a few badges of honor.
Saba is magical and that is just one way to describe this peaceful little island also known as the Unspoiled Queen. Unspoiled because of her 50 shades of green, her lushness, her breathtaking vistas. Don’t come here looking for miles of sandy white beaches, casinos and all inclusive resorts. She’s not that kind of island. Instead, come here for the adventure, the quiet and the enchantment.
But before you start packing your bags, here are a few unknown facts about the island of Saba.
Yes, the landing is known as one of a kind and has been featured on several sensational TV shows like “Most Dangerous Airports in the World”. I am here to tell you that it is hardly the most dangerous. The Juancho E. Yrasquin Airport on Saba has a phenomenal safety record. It is common knowledge here and on the surrounding islands, that only the really talented pilots are able to land here.
So, don’t worry. Sit back, make sure you take a seat on the right side of the aircraft, so you can enjoy the sight of Saba as the plane is preparing for arrival and enjoy the ride. Really, it is still one of the most exhilarating landings and lift-offs I have ever experienced in my life and I’m ready to book another flight to Saba, if not for the landing and lift-off alone.
Not all Caribbean islands come with sandy beaches and palm trees. Please! Palm trees are not even indigenous to most Caribbean islands anyway. While Saba might be known more for her formidable diving and spectacular hiking, you will not automatically think of Saba when you think sun, sand and sea. But, did you know that Saba does offer some rather stunning swimming holes? Take Cove Bay and Wells Bay for instance. What they might lack in white sand, they definitely make up for in spectacular backgrounds.
Imagine sitting in the calm waters of Cove Bay and watching the sea splash against rocks just a few meters away. Or take a swim at Well’s Bay, weather permitting. This beach may not be there all year round but she is beautiful whenever it is. Hell, it’s beautiful even when there is no beach.
Saba is small. Yes, we have already established that. The wonderful thing about that little fact is that this makes Saba one of the friendliest and safest places to visit for anyone, especially for solo female travelers. Crime is pretty much non existent, as is harassment. People here are used to visitors and appreciate them. There is a certain curiosity and respect towards visitors here. At least that has been my experience.
Saba’s small size means a small harbor and an even smaller airport. She therefore depends heavily on her neighbor and big sister St. Maarten. Naturally not everything is readily available here. Yet. The restaurants here are amazing. I had a fine time tasting my way through Saba.
There’s the fancy lunch at Queen’s Garden, the poolside lunch at Juliana’s, the delicious wraps and smoothies at the Bottom Beans Café, the great pizza at Long Haul, the awesome fish pita at the Hideaway, the small lunch at Bizzy B’s and the Caribbean breakfast with a view at Scout’s Place. And these are only a few of the places that I actually got to try.
Walking trough Windward Side I was surprised to see burial sites on private properties all over. The graves were well taken care of and were on display in the backyard for all to see. Coming from a bigger island, this seemed at first a bit strange to me, but when I asked my local friend, Ingrid about it her answer made so much sense. You see, before the towns were connected by the “road that could not be built”, the people in the different villages were isolated with only hiking trails through the hills taking them from one village to the other. The journeys were sometimes hard and treacherous. Now imagine doing this carrying a body. Exactly. Backyard burial it is.
By now everyone has seen the devastation caused by dear old Irma and her sidekick Maria. What you might not have known is that tiny Saba was actually also in her path. Compared to St. Maarten and others though she has escaped practically unharmed. A few roofs were lost and the lush forest up in the hills suffered some damage as well, but overall the damages in comparison with big sister St. Maarten and neighbors St. Barth and Anguilla, were quite minimal. By the time I visited there was almost no evidence left of a hurricane anywhere.
It is beyond me that the Unspoiled Queen remains relatively unknown to the general traveler, yet I am happy that she is not getting overrun with mass tourism. It should be a must on every traveler’s bucket list. Take it from me, Saba is simply magical.
Would you consider Saba for your next Caribbean adventure?
*All the above is based on my personal experiences and opinions.