Visiting Saba: The Caribbean’s Unspoiled Queen

Saba isn’t your typical Caribbean destination. The island contains no beaches. Nor is it home to casinos, yacht clubs or high-rise resorts. Covering an area of only thirteen square kilometers and home to only one road (aptly named “The Road”), Saba is little more than an out-of-place fleck on the Caribbean map.

Despite the 10,000 travelers who find their way to the little island every year, Saba lies largely under the tourist radar. Those who break away from the crowds and visit the Caribbean’s Unspoiled Queen, however, will find an island that is charming, safe, stunning and wholly authentic.

To the eclectic mix of locals and expats that call Saba home, the island is a little utopia. A garden of Eden. And a quiet refuge from the monotonous hum-drum of modern life.

I visited Saba with Aqua Mania Adventures as a day trip from the island of St Maarten. Aqua Mania Adventures offers a ferry service between the two islands three times a week. The return trip takes about three hours and affords day-trippers the opportunity to explore Saba on their own for the better part of five hours.

Much like St Lucia, Saba is characterized by its lush green scenery and its volcanic landscape, rather than by its stretches of powdery sand. Dense rainforest drapes the island’s peaks, while traditional gingerbread-style houses sit cradled in its valleys. The forest that crowns the mountain’s summit resembles the cloud forest in Monteverde and is home to a remarkable array of plants and flowers.

All around, an extensive network of hiking trails offer breathtaking views of St Kitts, St Eustatius and the surrounding sea.

A special municipality of the The Netherlands, tiny Saba is as mountainous as its motherland is flat. Its highest peak, Mount Scenery, rises nearly 3,000ft from ocean level. Mt Scenery is the tallest point in the Netherlands and one of the most iconic volcanoes of the Caribbean.

I spent my day in Saba hiking to the top of Mt Scenery from the village of Windwardside. The hike to the top of the mountain passes through lush green jungle and climbs 1,064 steps to the top of the dormant volcano. It is a tough hike, with few switchbacks or stretches of level ground. I could feel the burn in my legs as I conquered the precipitous climb.

Despite the fact that climbing Mount Scenery is one of the most popular things to do on Saba, I had the entire trail to myself. The only sounds along the way were the thud of my heavy footsteps, the rustling of the leaves and chirping of the birds.

I relished the sense of solitude along the trail and stopped frequently to catch my breath and to take in the views of Windwardside and its sapphire backdrop.


The top of Mt Scenery is often encircled by clouds that obstruct the surrounding views. Unfortunately, the day I visited was no exception. So, after hiking to the top of Mt Scenery and waiting unsuccessfully for the clouds to subside, I made my way back down the mountain, toward Windwardside.

For the next hour or so, I meandered around the village’s perfectly manicured streets, ate lunch at a hole-in-the-wall cafe and admired the town’s uniform red-roofed houses.

It seemed like no time at all before I had to head back to St Maarten.

If I’d had the time, I would have loved to spend a few extra days discovering the beauty of Saba. I would have loved to hike along the island’s extensive network of walking trails. I’d have loved to venture below the water’s surface, to witness the UNESCO-recognized kingdom of colorful coral and fish. And I’d have loved to wait for a clear day in order to soak in the views of neighboring St Kitts and St Eustasius from the summit of Mt Scenery.

But despite the little time I had, I’m glad I was able to get a taste of the Caribbean’s Unspoiled Queen and to soak in the island’s unique and authentic vibe. For visiting Saba–even if just for one day–is certainly worthwhile.

Saba is a remote escape that, while well-equipped for tourists, has little in common with its Caribbean neighbors. Thus, if you are looking for the Caribbean staples–fancy resorts, buzzing nightclubs and pristine beaches–you may want to head to nearby St Maarten or Anguilla instead.

Yet, if you are a lover of the outdoors, of lush and tropical scenery, of incredible views and of places that ooze with originality and authenticity, then Saba is sure to deliver.

***

Disclosure: I received complementary transportation to and from Gozo in exchange for this post. However, all opinions and observations are my own.

Erika Bisbocci

Erika Bisbocci

Erika is an avid traveler and explorer of over seventy countries on five different continents. Since 2011, she has spent time studying Arabic in the Middle East, teaching English in Namibia and working as a flight attendant for a major US airline. When not traveling overseas, she loves exploring her own backyard in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Erika Bisbocci

About Erika Bisbocci

Erika is an avid traveler and explorer of over seventy countries on five different continents. Since 2011, she has spent time studying Arabic in the Middle East, teaching English in Namibia and working as a flight attendant for a major US airline. When not traveling overseas, she loves exploring her own backyard in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

16 Comments

  1. Hi Erika,

    Wow. Never heard of a Caribbean island without beaches 😉 Cool though because I like change ups more than the common, expected route. More fun to enjoy spots which aren’t as they seem. And the stunning beauty of Saba more than makes up for the lack of beaches, if you are a beach type.

    Loving the views from the top! I recall enjoying similar views from a place called Big Buddha in Phuket, Thailand. Expansive ocean gazing as far as the eye can see.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ryan
    Ryan Biddulph recently posted…10 Blogging Lessons Learned from Meeting Maxwell Ivey of TheBlindBlogger.NetMy Profile

  2. What an incredible find. You did a great job of describing the island and the photos certainly speak for themselves. I think this would be a nice diversion from the more populated islands. Nice post.

  3. When I start reading this post, I was like why would you ever wanna go to Caribbean without a beach? But then I saw the photos from your hike and I understood why you went there! Looks so magical !

  4. That is the a nice place amid the green hills. So bliss. Loved the pics. The pics looks all the same with the same colored paints.

  5. I love the Caribbean – especially since I was born and raised there! So many people think its all just beaches but the mountains and hikes are amazing! Looks like you had a lot of fun.

  6. Wow! I have had an affinity towards the Caribbean Islands but never heard of one without beaches.

    Saba hiking and Mt. SCENERY sounds like a good deal. Would love to visit someday!

    Thanks a bunch for the info. Do hop onto my travel muse here: http://www.sanetripper.com

  7. It looks so different to other places in the Caribbean but how lovely. I love islands with views, rainforest and hills. Not into flat islands as I’m more a scenery person than beach person

  8. I had never even heard of Saba and I’ve been to St. Maarten. THe views and hiking look spectacular!

  9. No beaches on the whole island? I had no idea that was a thing in the Caribbean! Regardless, I’d be interested in seeing it.
    Tamara Elliott recently posted…How my VRBO booking lead to a post-Christmas nightmareMy Profile

  10. Saba looks like such a cool island! I would love to visit and explore all the outdoor adventures they have. The Mount Scenery hike sounds like so much fun and it’s cool that you had the trail to yourself even though it’s a more popular thing to do! Great find and fantastic photos!

  11. I had never been to the Caribbeans before. I have always heard that its a beautiful place. Your photographs depict that what people have said about the place is true. But do you think that Caribbeans is an exotic holiday destination? Do you get to see a lot of tourists all year ?

  12. Caribbean is on my list for 2017! What an awesome place to be! Saba looks really charming, I wish I can visit it soon, too.

  13. Th lush green scenery and volcanic landscape of Saba is enchanting. This beautiful find has struck an instant liking with me! I would love to plan a trip to Caribbeans asap!

  14. I have never been to Caribbean’s. I try to collect information to choose where to go and stay there. From what you wrote, I would like to go to Saba. But I prefer to go for few days as you. I think a day trip is good but not enough to explore and get the vibe.

  15. I had never even heard of Saba! It looks so beautiful and I love how unique it is compared to it’s Caribbean neighbors. And the fact that it has the Netherlands tallest point is also pretty cool!

  16. Another place that I have never heard of – loved reading this. There is so much in the Caribbean and all we really think about is the beach. Nice to see there is something different. Love that image of the buildings high on the hilltop. Just a stunning looking place.

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