When most people think of the Caribbean, sprawling beaches soaked with sun and dotted with palm trees come to mind and there’s aqua-blue water on the horizon and hopefully a cold, fruity drink in hand. This is the essence of the tropics.
A Caribbean Island with No Beaches
Can you imagine a lush, gorgeous island in the Caribbean with no beaches? Believe it or not, such a place exists, and it’s no less of a paradise. Saba is a small Dutch Caribbean island in the Lesser Antilles chain, located closest to Aruba and St. Maarten. There’s a reason this little-known island is called the “unspoiled queen.”
Five square miles of tropical forest and a population of just more than 1,800, tiny Saba sits atop cascading seaside cliffs and hearkens back to Caribbean days of old, when a quaint peacefulness defined island life. The island rises 5,000 feet from the sea floor, with 3,000 of those feet visible above the water. It’s made up of four main villages: The Bottom (the capital of Saba), Zion’s Hill (also called “Hell’s Gate”), St. John’s and Windwardside.
Historic cottages—some in families for generations and many over 100 years old—dot the landscape, adorned in classic white “gingerbread” style with red roofs. The Saban community, which speaks English, dates all the way back to the 1600s.
Perhaps best of all, you won’t find a chain restaurant on the island of Saba. Everything is locally owned and completely unique. Though few travelers know of Saba, the ones who do tend to fall in love and return again and again to the beauty, warmth and sense of quiet that the island provides.
Unspoiled Hiking & Reefs
The island of Saba is actually the above-ocean pinnacle of the dormant Mount Scenery volcano. It’s surrounded by the Saba Marine Park, a renowned dive site, and “seamounts,” which are underwater mountains created by volcanic activity. Though this sleepy hidden Caribbean gem doesn’t have any beaches, visitors love Saba for its bountiful hiking trails and acres of unspoiled reefs—ideal for scuba divers and the active and adventurous.
Saba is prized for its natural beauty and the island actively invests in conservation efforts—like coral reef reforestation—to preserve and maintain the island’s rich landscape for the next generations.
A thriving and vibrant reef sometimes comes with the proliferation of predators. Case in point: the lionfish. This non-native species has invaded Caribbean waters, but luckily, restaurants in Saba have taken the challenge head on. At The Brigadoon, a restaurant housed in an original 19th century Saban home in Windwardside, patrons can order grilled lionfish. Similarly, at The Hideaway, Saba’s newest restaurant and bar, it’s hard to say no to the lionfish and chips lunch special—it’s served with a side of zesty creole cocktail and tangy key lime tartar sauce.
Vacation for the Thrills
In addition, Saba has one of the most thrilling airports in the world! Up on a seaside cliff, tiny Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport is surrounded by water on three sides. And, at just over 1,300 feet long, it’s one of the shortest commercial runways in the world. Book a flight if you dare!
Whether you’re seeking a thrill or just some peaceful time away from it all, Saba is the place to go.