Saba (pronounced SAY-ba) is known as the "Unspoiled Caribbean Queen," and is one of the least visited islands in the Caribbean region.
This Dutch Caribbean island is off the beaten track, and distinctly different from the typical beach-lined landscapes of the region. The first view from land or sea shows a massive vertical green mountain rising 3,000 feet above sea level with a halo of misty white clouds.
Saba has resisted mega tourism, and what you will discover is an authentic island experience. There are no mega resorts, casinos, cruise ships, vendors, litter, pesky insects, traffic lights, fast food restaurants, and crime statistics. When it comes to beaches Saba has the unique distinction of having just one black sand beach called Wells Bay. This odd strip of sand comes and goes with the tide, and totally disappears by the end of summer.
Visitors come to this little island for its small town-like hospitality, majestic mountain views, hiking and more than 20 pristine diving sites in the Saba National Marine Park encircling the entire island.
ShutterstockThe base of the island is a rocky shoreline set against towering dramatic cliffs – and part of the adventure is getting there.
Saba has the world's smallest runway perched on the mountain side. Having flown in small planes all over the Caribbean, arriving on Saba is one of the most heart stopping flights I have ever experienced.
On landing it appears you are going to crash directly into the mountain side, then the pilot pulls the plane up and slams on the breaks right at the cliffs edge. The takeoff is just as dramatic – it's a roller coaster big dip as the plane runs out of runway at the 100 foot cliff. It is reassuring to know only a few pilots are certified to fly into Saba. Although the ferry ride from St Maarten can be choppy, after the flight I prefer traveling by sea to the island.
After setting foot on the island you quickly realize there is virtually no flat land – everything is either up or down. The only road on the island is simply called The Road, which is an engineering marvel. Dutch engineers stated it was impossible to build considering the islands terrain, however the locals labored 20 years to complete the project themselves, and the four villages scattered among the mountainside were no longer isolated.
Saba's tallest point Mount Scenery covers approximately 19 acres, and is a fantastic hiking adventure. Hire one of the local guides, and start out on the Windward side of the island for the 1,064 concrete step journey to the summit. At the peak you are immersed in the clouds with a breathtaking panoramic view of the Caribbean Sea, and the islands of St Maarten, St. Barths, St. Eustatius, as well as St. Kitts and Nevis.
The "Elfin Rainforest," living up to its name, is like stepping into a magical storybook land. The 50-foot Mountain Mahogany trees all have an abundance of moss, ferns, orchids and air plants attached to the bark. The air plants act as sponges by soaking up the moisture from the rain and low lying clouds, and provide a steady drip of water downward to the mango trees, exotic flowers and other tropical foliage.
The island’s uniform white houses with red roofs, green shutters and well maintained gardens provide a European feel to this charming little island. There are a limited number of hotels and guesthouses, approximately 12 restaurants, and unique shops offer local art and crafts. The island is not known for its nightlife, however on Friday and Saturday there is entertainment at some of the hotels and restaurants. For a little more excitement, plan your vacation around the Summer Carnival during the last week of July.
Dutch is the official language as Saba is part of the Netherlands, however English is the primary language spoken on the island. Papiamento is also spoken as in the other Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
Did you know? Saba was used as the "Skull Island" backdrop of the original 1930's King Kong movie.
Written by Linda Thompkins, author of Travel 2 the Caribbean travel blog. With more than 15 years of experience as a Caribbean Destination Specialist, Linda retired to pursue travel writing, blogging, social media and travel. She is a professed "beach bum," and her favorite destination is anywhere in the Caribbean.
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