Weekend Getaway on Saba
Where do we go for a quick getaway from a life on Sint Maarten? Only a 15 minutes plane ride away was Saba; it was the perfect weekend destination. Saba is rightfully named "The Unspoiled Queen" with its beautiful lush green rainforest & vibrant coral. It's no wonder that ecotourism is one of their strongest means of income. Their hiking trails are extensive and very well maintained. Saba has a small population, a little under 2000, and is left very green with only a small percentage developed for commercial & residential use. Saba is surrounded by a protected marine sanctuary since the 1980's and it shows! The diving in Saba is amazing with the most vibrant coral we've seen.
After leaving our busy lives in Toronto and moving to Sint Maarten, we felt we were living the island life. Little did we know that it was nothing compared to Saba. When comparing Sint Maarten to Saba, Sint Maarten is a busy island. Saba gets around 20,000 visitors a year while Sint Maarten gets 1.5 million visitors per year.
Sint Maarten has been long dubbed "The Friendly Island", which in many ways it still is but Saba take it to another level. When we're driving we're constantly waved by other drivers. "Unspoiled" is not only referring to Saba's beauty but also to Sabaians who seem to be untouched by the busyness of city life. The are no franchises on Saba; Each hotel & each restaurant is unique and not at all generic.
We took the earliest flight on Winair from Sint Maarten, which was for 8:30am. There are 5 flights daily from the Princess Julianna Airport. We got on a DHC-6 Twin Otter plane with room for 19 passengers. We felt it was fun flight as all the passengers were excited to land on the shortest commercial runway in the world. The runway ends abruptly with a 200 ft drop into the ocean. This can be exciting for some but for those faint of heart, there is the tamer (and much slower 1 1/2 hour) option ferry ride.
Once we arrived, we went straight to the Windward side to check in for our dives for the following day and to pick up our car rental. We also picked up some snacks & water at the grocery store. It was so convenient since everything was within walking distance. Things were going well until we got lost.
You would think on an island with literally one main road, aptly named "The Road", that the chance of you getting lost would be slim. Wrong! We got lost & ended up at the airport instead of at the Bottom, the capital of Saba. Later in the day, you would think we learned our lesson but we got lost yet again!
Most visitors choose not to drive and take the taxi or hitch hike instead. There is virtually no public transportation as the roads are very narrow and the low population cannot justify the need for it. The main reason people choose not to rent is because the roads are very narrow with lots of sudden turns & can be fairly steep. Our rental was a older Yaris and several times we had to floor it to get up some steep slopes. Other than that & getting lost, renting a car was a very convenient option especially with what we wanted to fit into two days.
For our weekend getaway, we planned to do two 3-hour hikes (Kelby Ridge & Mount Scenery) followed by a day of diving. We do not recommend this. Read our blog on our hike on Mount Scenery for more on this. We were so tired from our days, we had dinner both nights at the hotel, not that we're complaining. The food was delicious but we would've loved to try different restaurants.
We definitely recommend going to Saba for at least 3 days, especially if you're planning to hike and dive. If hiking & diving are not on your list, you can still soak up Saba's natural beauty & unwind on this hidden Caribbean gem. We will definitely be back soon.