The small size and lack of beaches may make it seem as though the tiny Dutch island of Saba is more of an afterthought than a Caribbean island worth visiting. Yet despite its comparable lack of tourism, there are very few islands in the Caribbean that offer a nature experience like the one available in Saba. The island is considered the ideal spot to scuba dive, hike, and admire the unspoiled natural foliage comprised of Eucharist lilies, orchids, mahogany trees, and more that has earned it the nickname of the “Unspoiled Queen”.
Saba was once known for its active shoe industry. In fact, some believe its name is derived from a Dutch variation of the word for “shoe”. Others think its name origins come from the word “siba” used in the language spoken by the Arawak tribe which translates to “rock”. After it became part of the Netherlands in the 1800s, the major industries switched from shoe production to sugar, rum and subsequently fishing. Saba settlements from the 1600s can still be seen towards the western side of Saba.
The few people who call Saba home (less than 1,500 people reside on the island) has lead to a large growth of families who have rich histories in the island and come from African, Dutch, and Scottish descent, although there is a small presence of Irish due to the 1625 exile by King Charles I of England. Dutch is the official language on the island but English has also become very common. The Saba University of Medicine is populated with a large diversity of local students and those from neighboring countries. Due to the lack of activities that don’t involve the environment, many students can often be found in the bars so they’re a good source for learning more about the culture.
Saba favors naturists and “ecotourists” more than vacationers seeking active nightlife or sprawling beaches. Thus, it offers some of the most impressive natural sights to explore in the Caribbean. The Elfin Forest Reserve is popular for its diversity of wildlife and rich collection of plants. Its high elevation also causes a steady mist to permeate throughout the forest. The large inactive volcano on the island is incredibly deep which makes for some amazing panoramas and unusually deep diving spots, giving Saba the status as one of the top ten diving destinations in the world.
Windwardside is the one of the four villages in Saba and it’s where the hotels, shopping destinations and restaurants exist. Visitors can also take a ferry from the island to reach St. Maarten so it’s definitely worth at least a day visit. Also be sure to explore the only road that exists on the island which is known simply as “The Road” and the largest village referred to as “The Bottom”.
While there are large Saba villas to explore, the real estate options in Saba tend to focus more on traditional homes and cottages with an average of three or four bedrooms than something with six bedrooms which aren’t quite as prevalent. It’s worth noting that because of Saba’s heavy reliance on nature instead of construction, the views available from the collection of homes up for purchase or rent are among the most spectacular in all of the Caribbean.
In the village of Windwardside for example, two story homes with three bedrooms are available. The perk of owning one of these Saba properties is being able to expand upon the property to suit individual needs. The lower levels of these homes can, in many cases, be converted to include additional bedrooms or they can be turned into a separate apartment. In fact, owners can turn the entire property into a bed and breakfast if they so choose. These homes also come with very large living areas, outdoor decks encircled by gardens and the natural foliage of Saba along with fully equipped kitchens.
The Saba village of Hell’s Gate is known for its one and two story cottages which come already furnished and offer just over 4000 square feet of living space. These cottages include a pool deck and tropically inspired kitchens in addition to private master bedrooms which have their gardens, wraparound decks and bathrooms.
Saba real estate is unusual in that the properties available allow for a very uncommon degree of creative freedom when it comes to renovation and how owners wish to use their property. Thus owners can opt to use a Saba home or cottage as rental property for the convenience of outside vacationers seeking a temporary residence during their stay Caribbean stay or they can turn the property into some kind of business.
Queen’s Gardens Resort
The Cottage Club
The Gate House
Willard’s of Saba
The Netherlands Antillian Guilder (ANG) is the official currency of Saba.
Calling Code: (5994)
Top Level Domain: (.an)
Cable providers: TELBO
Saba is an island in the Netherlands Antilles, which is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Valid Travel Documents: Required upon exit and entry
Government Issued Photo ID: Required
Saba has a tropical climate with little variation.
Tips for when you get there:
Saba cannot be reached by large planes or cruise ships, so most guests arrive via a fifteen minute flight from Saint Maarten. The airport is small, but they have taxis for rent if you'd like to explore the island. There are no scooters available but the island is small enough that taking a tour on foot is possible. There are also rental cars available but not many so if you're seeking one, be sure to reserve one in advance.
What to do
Saba is a very quiet and tranquil island in the Caribbean. Its title as the Caribbean's smallest inhabited island has created its appeal as an extremely private getaway. A well preserved natural habitat and a lack of full-scale commercial and residential developments make Saba very isolated and serene.
The most obvious natural attraction on the island is Mount Scenery, a heavily forested high altitude mountain encompassing nearly the entire island which allows for activities such as camping and hiking. There's also a 1,064 step staircase to the summit that provides panoramic views of neighboring islands.
Additional attractions include a garden with the Black Eyed Susan the island’s official flower, a museum with centuries old pottery and other artifacts and Ladder Bay which is an abandoned port with a trail running through it that is good for sightseeing.