Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from well-known Caribbean destinations such as St. Maarten, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Bart’s is Saba. Though this small island may not feature luxurious beaches, it makes up for that fact in other ways.
Saba is home to around 2,000 residents, the highest point in the Netherlands, a highly regarded medical school, and some of the most beautiful environments in the Caribbean. With an expansive rainforest ecosystem, a marine park known around the world, a handful of quaint villages, and delicious food, this little island will pull you in and make you wonder how easy it would be to relocate and become a Dutch citizen.
Here are nine iconic experiences that make Saba a place to write home about.
Survive the plane ride to the island
Okay, this one’s a bit of a given (unless, of course, you were planning to arrive via ferry) — but it’s still worth including. The small aircraft that delivers locals and visitors to Saba lands on the world’s shortest commercial landing strip, which also happens to be located right on the edge of a cliff. Needless to say, it makes for an exciting takeoff and landing experience. While anxious flyers may dread this 12-minute flight because of the cramped quarters in the small hopper plane, the dramatic sight of Saba appearing in front of you completely makes up for it. If you can, angle for a window seat and keep your camera at the ready — this is a view you won’t want to miss!
Hike through the rainforest
If at all possible, take a guided hike with (the, dare I say, legendary) Crocodile James. Descended from a long line of Sabans, James knows everything there is to know about the island’s flora and fauna, and he’s happy to share all of his intel as he leads you along one of the 12 trails through the island’s rainforest. If you want to climb the tallest point in the Netherlands, head to the top of Mt. Scenery, but for an equally beautiful route that doesn’t include so many steps, take the Sandy Cruz trail instead.
Head under the sea
The waters around Saba are pretty special — they’re part of a protected national marine park, and have been since 1987. The Saba National Marine Park’s underwater world remains relatively untouched by some of the hazardous actions that have diminished other well-known reefs around the world. Today, Saba is slowly gaining international recognition as one of the best places in the world to go diving and snorkeling. Book a trip with Sea Saba Dive Center, grab your bathing suit, and don’t forget your towel! An incredible underwater world awaits.
Meet the island’s creatives
The island’s beauty must inspire its residents, because there is an abundance of creative craftspeople on Saba. From JoBean Chambers, who has been creating glass jewelry and figurines in her studio since 1992, to the 15 or so “Lace Ladies” who meet every Thursday afternoon to keep the Saban tradition of lacework alive, and the dozens of other artists whose work are proudly displayed and sold at Kakona: Keepsakes of Saba and Every’tings and the Five Square Art Gallery, it’s clear that something is truly special about Saba’s creative community.
Take a walk through Windwardside
Saba is home to nearly 2,000 people and only four villages — Windwardside, the Bottom, St. John’s, and Hell’s Gate. You’ll likely visit (or at least pass through) all four during your visit, but be sure to take a leisurely stroll through Windwardside in particular. The town features plenty of typical Saban architecture (i.e. the iconic white houses with green shutters and red roofs), offers views of the ocean, and features several museums, churches, shops, and plenty of places to stop for a bite to eat. If you’re feeling up to it, head up Booby Hill to take in the entirety of Windwardside from above.
Keep an eye out for wildlife
If you decide to head out on a snorkeling or diving trip, you’ll make plenty of underwater friends, but be sure to watch for wildlife on land, too. Saba is home to four cows, but at least a thousand goats. These zany creatures will be in the streets, on the sides of the road, and in the rainforest, always munching on something. The island also features 10 percent of the world’s population of white-tailed tropicbird, and the endemic Saban Anole lizards, who lounge in the sun along the island’s only road. You may even befriend the café cat at Tropics who begs for pieces of pancake each morning at breakfast — I’m talking about you, Zion!
Drive along the road that couldn’t be built
The single thoroughfare on the island doesn’t have a name, per se, but it’s known as “the road that couldn’t be built.” Given Saba’s steep stature, in the early 1900s it was deemed impossible to build a paved road that traversed the mountainous hills between the four villages. But Josephus Lambert Hassell was convinced he could make it happen, and set out to prove everyone wrong. Eighty years later, the “road that couldn’t be built” is the best way to explore the island itself. Winding from the airport at Fort Bay up through Hell’s Gate, across to Windwardside, through St. John’s, down the twisting hill that leads to the Bottom, and continuing on to the Harbor, this road provides some of the best views of Saba itself, and the sea beyond! If you look closely, you might even spot a few of the island’s giant iguanas sunbathing on the stone walls that line the road.
Taste the Caribbean
You won’t find a single Starbucks or McDonald’s on Saba, but you will find an island full of locally owned businesses and, most importantly, restaurants. Each is slightly different, but all are wonderful. From the French-Mediterranean cuisine with a Caribbean twist at Brigadoon and the rotating menu at Chez Bubba, to the island-inspired pancakes or delightful pasta options at Tropics, and the fresh seafood offered by nearly every kitchen, you can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants on Saba.
Get to know the people of Saba
The people of Saba couldn’t be kinder. On an island as small as this one, you’re bound to run into some of the same residents during your stay, and those people will only further enrich your experience as a whole. Don’t miss out on learning about Saban life from a few of the 2,000 people who make this special place their home.
Saba is the perfect getaway destination in the Caribbean — featuring beautiful landscapes, incredible food, friendly residents, and plenty of land and sea adventures.