Last month, I had the amazing opportunity to visit both St. Maarten and Saba in the Dutch Caribbean for a press trip with Hospitality21. It was a whirlwind of a trip where I was challenged on so many levels. I think I might have tackled my fear of flying, I hiked in the jungle and I was literally on a trip with perfect strangers who have now become friends. I was gone for a week where I had a chance to stay in St. Maarten for 3 days and then we took a 15 minute flight over to Saba.
Prior to this trip, I’d never heard of Saba so when it was added to the itinerary, I quickly jumped on my computer to do a little research. According to Saba’s history the island has had inhabitants dating back to at least 1175 BC. In 1640 the Dutch West Indian Company, who had already settled on a neighboring island (St. Eustatius) brought people over to Saba in order to colonize the island. For almost 200 years after colonization the island switched hands between The Dutch, Spanish, French and English. Just like most of the Caribbean, Saba also had its share of slavery. But life was hard on the island so folks had to work together. The upside is that, because people had to work together to survive, slavery ended much sooner than other parts of the world.
Fast forward to the 20th century, transportation on the 5 square mile island was still limited. It wasn’t until 1959 that the first plane landed on the island. And then in 1972 the piers construction was finished. Needless to say, tourism to the island started pretty late in the century. Currently the population is a little under 2,000 people.
I survived the flight! Thank you Meg for holding my hand lol 🙂
One Of The Most Dangerous Runways In The World?
During my research, I’d come across a video where the Saba Airport was listed as one of the top 10 most dangerous airport runways in the world. Lets just say my excitement for the trip quickly turned to extreme anxiety! LOL! I’ve traveled almost all of my life and have been on my fair share of airplanes, but the thought of getting on a tiny plane and landing on a dangerous runway scared the shit out of me. But you know, I put my big girl panties on, got on that plane and landed safely on the island. Landing on one of the worlds most dangerous runways has been checked off my bucketlist!
Small lounge/hangout spot at the airport
Once we landed at the tiny airport (and I mean tiny) we passed through a small lounge where the locals were just hanging out. I love that!
Where did I stay?
Our taxi driver was waiting for us at the airport where he whisked us away up and down a tiny road where we all just ooo’d and ahhh’d for the next 25 minutes. The winding roads up, down and around mountains offered some pretty spectacular views. It was unreal.
We checked into the Queens Garden Resort where we were going to stay for the next 2 days. Once again, spectacular views! A small resort with only 12 suites, it is a home away from home. I have a completely separate post with details on the resort coming soon.
With my walking stick in hand I was ready to hike!
Places To Visit/Things To Do
The island is pretty small but is well-known for its scuba diving. Now that wasn’t on the agenda, but I had to mention it for anyone who is into that. One of our activities included a hike in the Saba jungle. Now let me preface this by saying that when the itinerary said hike I didn’t realize it meant HIKE! Lol. Lets just say I was very ill-prepared.
Hiking 101: Wear hiking shoes! Not these! LOL
We hiked the Sandy Cruz Trail which offered amazing ocean views
Surprisingly, I didn’t see a lot of bugs, reptiles or wild animals outside of goats. There were however avocado trees, cilantro and various types of mushrooms that grows wild.
Our hiking guide Jungle James was the coolest. He knows the trail like the back of his hand. We all laughed at the fact that he carries a machete but uhhh, that machete came in handy when he had to chop up some branches that had fallen and blocked the trail. Thank God for Jungle James!
Hiking in the jungle and sliding in some mud…check that off the bucketlist! Lol
When we started the trail, I was thinking “oh this will be cool and it shouldn’t be too hard”. Boy was I wrong lol. It was hard as shit! It was 3 miles and 3 1/2 hours of winding trails that went up, down and around (similar to the roads) and the trail had lots of rocks that we had to climb over. I think I yelled out a few times “when will this be over!!”. The walking stick was initially for decoration, but later became my saving grace. It helped me climb up some of the steeper areas of the trail. Will I ever do this again? No! But I’m glad I stepped up to the challenge and completed the trail. I don’t think I had much of a choice though. No one was going to carry me out of the jungle lol.
Relax, Relate, Release
Saba represents the epitome of “island life”. This is where you come to relax, release and disconnect from the outside world. I didn’t watch any T.V. and the wifi was a little spotty so you are almost forced to just relax and be at one with all of the beautiful nature that surrounds you. It rains pretty much every day on the island and the sound simply soothes you and sends you right off to sleep.
Take An Island Tour
On our second day we had a chance to take a tour of the island. Saba is a volcanic rock so you won’t really find any flat areas. I can see why the islands nickname is “The Unspoiled Queen”. Because there aren’t any beaches, you won’t find huge resorts and chain hotels. The winding roads are really an attraction on the island because guess what? It was built by hand! Yep you read that right. The Sabans all worked together to build the road that would connect the areas of the island (Zions Hill also known as Hell’s Gate, The Bottom, Windwardside and St. John).
There are a few times where I was nervous on the road but the locals are used to it and I’m sure that if I lived there I would be used to it too.
What I love most about this island is the laid back feel and its sense of community. Everyone knows each other and it was common that our taxi driver honked and yelled “hey” at the passing cars. They honked and yelled back. Before you know it, we were yelling and waving out the windows too lol. The island is diverse with people not just from Holland but all over the world. Everyone was just so friendly and welcoming.
Visit the Harry L. Johnson Museum
I neglected to take pictures, but I highly recommend a visit to the Harry L. Johnson Museum. You will find antiques, artifacts and Saba lace. The coolest part about this museum is that it is located in a 19th century sea captain’s cottage. You can take a look at artifacts from that period as well as photos of the pier being built, the roads being built and photos of how they carried items and furniture up the mountain. The cottage gives you a first hand look at how people lived on the island during that time.
You eat with your eyes first! The presentation is awesome!
Where To Eat
Located on the Windwardside of the Island Chez Bubba is owned by Claire Verbeke-Nuyens (who also owns Queens Garden) and her partner. She rolled out the red carpet for us both at the resort and her restaurant. She brought out numerous items for us to start which included the Beef Carpaccio topped with creamy truffle dressing, capers and Parmesan cheese. Crab cakes topped with a homemade cucumber remoulade and The Vitello Tonnato which had thinly sliced slow cooked veal tenderloin covered with mama Tianna’s sauce, arugula, tomatoes and capers. For an entree I went with the ribs, salad and fries all of which were delicious.
All of us at Chez Bubba with the owner Claire
Located at Juliana’s Hotel in Saba, Tropics Cafe is your quintessential island cafe. It’s a casual open air restaurant overlooking the pool and mountains and is also located in Winwardside.
Red Snapper Caesar Salad
When surrounded by water, it is only right that I soak up as much seafood as I can. Atlanta is pretty land locked so being in Saba where I would have a chance to enjoy what was just caught that morning, I wasn’t going to pass up. This grilled red snapper caesar salad was yummmmmmy! The snapper was lightly seasoned and I love that the lettuce was grilled ever so slightly. For dessert Chirag and I decided to be adventurous and try the Guinness gelato. Which in all honesty wasn’t half bad. I actually really liked it.
I love Saba. My time there was a completely different way to experience an island. You aren’t going to find hundreds of tourists, lots of souvenir shops (I only saw one lol) and everyone is so friendly and welcoming. There are a lot of modern amenities but don’t expect it to be like St. Maarten it is totally different. It is a unique place that gives you a different perspective on how people live. Everyone is happy when it rains (because the locals live off rain water) and the highlight on that Friday night was karaoke. Everyone was talking about it lol.
I will be forever grateful to have an opportunity to be taken out of my comfort zone.
Thank you so much to Erika Vives and Claire at Queens Garden xoxo 🙂
Will you add Saba to your list of places to visit?
Until next time…Happy Traveling! xoxo -Milla