Saba is a Dutch Caribbean island about 28 miles southwest of St Maarten and the perfect backdrop for Skull Island in the original 1933 King Kong movie for her rugged and lush vegetation. Side note for you beach lovers — there are no beaches here in Saba. This island is for the active traveler who loves hiking, diving and quiet little Saban holidays since there is not much else to do here.
Mount Scenery is a potentially active volcano and also the highest point in the entire kingdom of the Netherlands. The 90-minute hike up to Mount Scenery will reward you with the most breathtaking and sweeping views of this five square mile island. The steps can be strenuous at times and extremely slippery so wear appropriate shoes and bring enough water with you.
Diving in Saba
There are plenty of other amazing hikes here but the real draw is beneath the shore. As an avid scuba diver, I get antsy when I’ve been on land for too long. I try to plan a dive trip every few months to keep my sea legs in check. This year I had the opportunity to dive in Saba during their Sea and Learn month, which is held every October. Sea and Learn is a non-profit foundation that was started in 2003 by Lynn Costenaro of Sea Saba. It’s a month long program where experts are invited to come and educate the children and residents of Saba about the value of Saba’s diverse nature and importance for conservation. All events are free and open to the public.
I attended some of the evening presentations and did a specialty dive with Evan Tuohy, a grouper specialist. He gave a brief presentation on how to identify grouper species and then we went diving to see how many we could find. We learned that color is the worst way to identify groupers as they are known to change colors to camouflage themselves. It was fascinating to learn and made for a completely different dive experience. Saba truly is a divers paradise with its warm Caribbean waters and biodiverse marine life. We saw everything from giant groupers, turtles (so many turtles), octopus, fireworms, nudibranchs to caribbean reef sharks.
The “Unspoiled Queen” of the Caribbean
If you are looking for a different type of Caribbean getaway this winter, consider Saba — the “unspoiled queen” of the Caribbean. For those that abhor the Caribbean islands with massive tourist flooded beaches and cruise ship port towns, you will love Saba. It’s the perfect anti-Caribbean off the beaten path holiday that is safe, friendly and utterly charming! The locals say that Moby Dick looks over the island, can you spot him in my photo?
The quickest way to get to this island is via a 12-minute flight by Winair from St Maarten to Juancho E Yrausquin airport (world’s smallest commercial runway) or via a 90-minute ferry ride. There are different ferry companies running daily ferries to and from St Maarten so be sure to check the schedules beforehand. Reserving your ferry tickets in advance is highly recommended especially in high season. If you tend to get seasick consider flying or taking some Dramamine before the ferry ride. You will also need your passport for the immigration checkpoint entering and exiting both St Maarten and Saba. Lastly, have $10 in cash when departing Saba (both by sea or air) for departure tax.
Dutch but English is widely spoken
On the Windward side
Cottage Club – clean basic rooms with fan and kitchenette
Juliana’s Hotel – nice rooms with AC (one of the only places in Saba with AC)
On the Bottom
Queen’s Gardens Resort & Spa – the most luxurious with a great spa
The Hideaway – delicious Caribbean food
Long Haul Grill – for their pizza and beers
Saba Snacks – fried grouper with rice, beans and plantains
Bizzy B – for all things breakfast and baked goods
Sea Saba – owner Lynn is one of the founders of Sea and Learn and amazingly helpful. They can also book all your accommodations for you and offer holiday dive packages.
Jobean Glass Art Studio to make your own unique glass blown jewelry
Photo by Young Lee @nakslee