Adventures Onboard: Saba: The Best Kept Secret in the Caribbean

One of the best things about being part of a Yacht Crew, is that your weekends off usually have you docked off the coast of some island, and when you are seeking adventure, there is no shortage of people to help you find it. I recall one such weekend, back in 2008, docked off St. Maarten, making the island of Saba the perfect quick jaunt for a getaway.

Saba is 5 square miles and consists largely of the potentially active volcano Mount Scenery. At 887 meters, it is the highest point in the entire Netherlands. Saba’s towns are The Bottom, Windwardside, Hell’s Gate and St. Johns.

I should start by pointing out that while the flight to Saba was short, it is not for the faint of heart. For starters, the runway into Saba, is the shortest commercial runway in the world, and all 1300 ft of it,  happens to be carved into a rock. To land safely, pilots are trained to aim directly for the rock and then at the last minute, make a quick turn and land on the runway, where almost immediately you come to an abrupt stop. Lets just say it does more than take your breath away.

Successfully landing was only the first part of our adventure, the second part was getting across the island, fondly known as the “The Rock.” So, how does one get across The Rock?” Well, take “The Road.”  “The Road” is the official name of the road that crosses Saba. It is aptly named, because this is so much more than a road.  Engineers all believed that a road across Saba was not possible. Josephus Lambert Hassell disagreed, took a course in civil engineering and with a crew of locals began building the road in 1938. After five years of work the first section of the road from Fort Bay to The Bottom was completed. The first motor vehicle arrived on the island in 1947 and in 1951 the road to Windwardside and St. Johns was opened.

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Driving “the Road” is considered to be a daunting task, luckily local taxi drivers are very familiar with it, maybe too familiar, so it is only the passengers who feel uneasy at the sharp bends and vertical drops. It is quite easy to see why so many thought this was not a plausible engineering project.

Ready to explore, we wandered the unique and quaint town of Windwardside. We were charmed by the red roofed cottages, the friendly locals and the cute boutique stores selling the famous “Saba Lace”. It was refreshing to be somewhere known for ecotourism, hiking, climbing and spectacular dives. We felt very at home in the quiet town.

We spent the afternoon hiking to the top of Mount Scenery.  Not entirely prepared in our flip-flops, we climbed the steps and trudged through mud, but were treated to spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea and surrounding islands once at the top.

That evening we dined at a restaurant named Brigadoon. I have since heard that it is still one of the most popular restaurants on the island. The food was delicious and as an indication of Saba hospitality, the owner and hostess mingled with the patrons telling slightly inappropriate jokes. We loved it!

As one of the top dive destinations in the Caribbean, Saba wisely created a marine reserve to protect its reefs and underwater inhabitants. As someone who has been to many top dive destinations, I immediately understood why Saba deserved a ranking. The visibility was great, and the coral reefs were teaming with marine life.

Getting to Saba and around may be a little harrowing, but only added to the adventure. We returned to the Yacht, refreshed and ready to welcome our next charter guests on board.