Why Not Go to Saba?

Saba is a true royal kingdom for eco-tourists to explore

Photo credit: © Paul Zizka | Dreamstime.com

Why Not Go to Saba?

Many think of Saba as the land time has forgotten. Comprised of four small villages inhabited by friendly islanders, Saba remains purposefully underdeveloped to prevent the natural beauty of the island from being compromised by tall buildings and busy streets.

Saba: Facts at a Glance
Currency The official currency is the Netherland Antilles guilder, although most facilities accept the US dollar. Major credit cards are also widely accepted throughout the island.
Electricity Similar to the United States, the island of Saba runs off of 110 volts.
GDP Per Capita As of 2003, the GDP per capita of the Netherlands Antilles is $11,400.
Island Size The entire island has a mass of only 5 square miles.
Language Dutch is the official language of Saba, although English is commonly spoken, as well as French and Spanish.
Population Saba is home to less than 2,000 residents.
Entry Requirements To gain entry to Saba, residents of the United States and Canada are required to carry either a valid passport or birth certificate and photo identification. Alternatively, a voter registration card may be used in lieu of a birth certificate. There are no official customs, but travelers must show proof of a return or continuing flight ticket.

Geography and Weather

As the smallest of the Netherlands Antilles islands, Saba has a total area of 5 square miles, and a population of just under 1,500 people. Much of the island is overshadowed by Mount Scenery, an extinct volcano that reaches an elevation of 2,877 feet above sea level. The rest of the island's topography consists of heavily forested lands, rich in mango trees and lush ferns. The annual temperature averages at about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, hitting around 60 degrees Fahrenheit on some winter evenings, and growing cooler as you travel higher up Mount Scenery. About 42 inches of rain a year is common, and the rain combines with trade winds to help keep the island climate bearable through the summer heat.

The small number of people that inhabit the island of Saba are primarily of British descent. A large portion of the island’s younger population is said to have abandoned the island to seek employment and alternative lifestyles, so tourists may find that the community seems to consist of either very young children or the elderly. The islanders are known as being extremely hospitable, but travelers are advised to dress modestly in respect for the locals’ traditional values. Tourists who approach natives with respect will find that the locals are friendly and willing to share their laidback perspectives on life.

Getting There and Staying There

Traveling to the island will kick start your vacation with adventure. Saba can only be reached by plane or boat. Most travelers choose to journey to the island by flying into St. Maarten, then catching a ferry ride from the Pelican Marina in Simpson Bay to Fort Bay on Saba. The boat ride only lasts about an hour, and will provide you with an interesting perspective of the island’s natural scenery as you approach the coastline.

...ranks at the top of many dive spot ‘top ten’ lists...

Once you arrive on Saba, guests will find that the accommodations on the island are not as plentiful as most other Caribbean destinations. However, a number of hotels, guesthouses, eco-resorts and charming inns offer comfortable lodging for travelers. Alternatively, there is one luxury hotel on the island for those seeking a more lavish stay. Rental properties are a popular option, and range from apartments to cottages. Guests will find that air-conditioning does not come standard with most accommodations. If you are seeking transportation on the island from your lodging facility, you may either hail a local taxi or rent a car for independent exploring.

Around the Island

Vacationers looking to spend their days relaxing on the sandy beaches of a Caribbean island should probably avoid Saba. Although there are no true beaches, Cove Bay provides a calm stretch of ocean worth checking out. Otherwise, the majority of Saba's coasts are rugged and promote rough waters. Despite the island’s lack of traditional beaches, Saba is a great location for Divingdiving. The island ranks at the top of many dive spot ‘top ten’ lists, and has locations for everyone from the inexperienced beginner to seasoned pro divers. The Saba Marine Park, which is monitored by the Saba Conservation Foundation, invites underwater tourists to explore the offshore reefs and swim with local marine life any time of year. For many, being surrounded by colorful tropical fish while discovering underwater formations makes for a much more enjoyable experience than sunbathing. Click here for more information about diving and snorkeling on Saba.

...hike through an abandoned sulfur mine, view indigenous vegetation, and revel at the island's hot springs.

The Saba Conservation Foundation is also proud of its land-based eco-tourism spots, particularly the Saba National Land Park. The Land Park is located on the north side of the island and allows visitors to hike through an abandoned sulfur mine, view indigenous vegetation, and revel at the island's hot springs. Mount Scenery trails are the most popular attraction, with many level paths for those looking for a light walk, and complicated trails that head up to the summit of the mountain. The more difficult hikes are not recommended without a tour guide.

Once you have explored the lush outdoors, it's time to learn a little bit about the history and culture of the island. Take a trip to each of the four villages on the island: The Bottom, Windwardside, Hell's Gate, and St. John's. The Bottom is largest of the villages, and is the capital city. The Bottom is where official government business takes place next to Wilhelmena Park, and is the location of Ladder Bay, where the island's first settlers landed. Windwardside is where many of the tourist attractions are located, including the shopping district and the Harry L. Johnson Museum. The first village visitor's will pass by as they leave the airport is Hell's Gate, which is perched on a mountainside. This is the best location to purchase locally crafted lace items and Saba's famous spiced rum. The final village is St. John's. There aren't many tourist attractions here, except perhaps a few restaurants you may be interested in checking out.

Eat Up!

Between underwater exploration and absorbing Saba’s rich heritage, travelers are sure to build up an appetite. The culinary offerings of this island range vastly, so vacationers of every taste will be able to locate an ideal dining facility to suit their needs. From French influenced fare to delicious Indonesian dishes, the selection provides something for everyone. Saba is known for using curry in many dishes, such as roti wraps, curried goat, jerk chicken and the local favorite of Calalloo soup. Given Saba’s location, seafood lovers will be impressed by the freshly-caught fish, lobster and crab that can be enjoyed throughout the island. Vegetarians will be pleased by the meatless options that are offered at many restaurants, such as dishes crafted with steamed rice, fresh vegetables, delicious tofu and more.

Health and Safety

Travelers will find themselves relatively worry-free when it comes to the crime and health on Saba. Although the island is tiny in size, they have ample medical facilities, including a hyperbaric chamber for injured divers. As always, tourists should be conscious of what they are eating, particularly concerning seafood. Visitors to the island will be comforted by the noticeable lack of crime on Saba, but it is advised to always apply common sense to ensure safety. Avoid displaying expensive items or jewelry, and always make sure your doors are locked. Those planning a day trip to the nearby island of St. Martin should take note that Saba’s neighboring island experiences a more significant level of crime.

The Caribbean's smallest island packs in enormous loads of adventure. If you are looking to spend your vacation outdoors enjoying tropical scenery and staying active, choose Saba. From climbers seeking to summit the volcanic crater at Hell’s Gate to history enthusiasts interested in soaking up the lively cultural influences of this island, Saba provides an excellent alternative to the typical Caribbean vacation.


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