Today’s post comes from no stranger! Colleen has written on my blog before about how much she loves Easter Island, and today she is back to tell us about yet another island that has won her heart – Saba.
P.S. She also spent her summer skipping around the Caribbean, Europe, Russia by train, and Asia so you’ll definitely want to read what she was up to over on her blog Colleen Brynn Travels.
Where did you go?
I went to Saba, which is part of the Dutch Caribbean.
How did you hear about this place?
In this very well traveled world of ours, it can be hard to find lesser-traveled places. By this, I mean places that haven’t been visited by people we know, or places that aren’t talked about very often in the news or in magazines. When I booked my trip to the Caribbean this summer for the Indian wedding of a lifetime (seriously, I was told after the fact that even Indian celebrities don’t have weddings like this one), I left myself some time before the wedding to explore the area. It was just a matter of deciding how to fill my time… and where.
I looked at a map to see what was close to Sint Maarten, the island I was flying into. Anguilla was nearby, and that was the island where the wedding was to be held. I considered St. Bart’s, I considered St. Eustatius, but when I saw the little speck of island called Saba, a place I had never heard of before, I quickly began researching. It didn’t take me long to decide to spend 4 days on the island. As I did more research, my plan of going from Saba to see at least one of the other nearby islands quickly dissolved, and I decided to extend my stay there to a full week. The manager of the ferry company Dawn II The Saba Ferry even took pity on me and didn’t charge me the fee to change the date of my return trip. This was the first sign that I knew I was going to be very happy there.
What makes Saba special?
There is something unique about tiny islands surrounded by vast bodies of water. As another example, I have previously written about how wonderful Easter Island is…
The people who live here, including the expats who are drawn to places like this, are very special. There is no sense of rush, and at the same time, the locals take the time to look after one another.
The dramatic landscape, the spectacular scuba diving and the local island creations are further draws that make Saba a worthwhile destination. The island is essentially a massive volcanic rock, jutting out of the ocean, and the few towns on the island are nestled cozily amongst lush rainforest. At night, the cacophony of frogs will lull you to sleep, and during the day, you will learn to recognize the rustle and flutter of leaves along the jungle path to be the panicked scuttle of a multitude of adorable little lizards.
This volcanic masterpiece of an island is just as incredible below the ocean as above. The tall, sharp volcanic walls plunge many meters below the ocean’s surface and provide shocking and exciting scuba diving that thrills even the very best and experienced of divers. That the waters around the island have been well preserved and protected ensure that this quality diving will be available over the years.
Finally, plenty of local wares, including handmade glass jewellery, handmade lace and homemade Saba Spice (a sweet, strong and tasty take on rum), are available on the island and make for reasonably priced and unique gifts to bring home.
An ideal day in Saba…
Once I spent enough time on the island (read about 30 minutes), I had some friends with whom I could spend my time. Because the lifestyle is so relaxed on the island, an ideal day would involve a relatively early wake up to have a leisurely breakfast with a view. This would be followed by a nice, long day of scuba diving, doing one deeper morning dive and following that with a shallower afternoon dive. Once back at my jungle hut, I would take some time to relax and read a book, before heading down to the reception where I would play backgammon and share beers with friends. Later we would take a trip into Windwardside to go to the Sea Witch, a recently opened establishment which boasts cheap beer and affordable pizza, daily specials and a slowly expanding menu. I went here often with my island friends, and it made for a great spot to kick back, have a beer and some food and share a laugh or two.
Where to stay in Saba
There is a smattering of good accommodation choices, but not a lot for the budget traveler. This is something to be aware of if traveling to the Caribbean as it seems this is the general rule of the region. I did not come across any $5 guesthouses!
El Momo Cottages
I stayed here for 7 days and couldn’t have been happier with the accommodation, which was replete with character from the set up of the cabins in the jungle to the man named Michael who was managing the property. Michael is an Irish expat, and he alone is worth the trip to Saba and El Momo Cottages. He greeted me at reception on my first night on the island. I was late to arrive because there were (for whatever reason) no taxis at the harbour when our ferry arrived, and the captain of the ship said he would drive me to El Momo if I didn’t mind waiting for them to unload the boat. Of course I didn’t mind. When I arrived at El Momo, Michael slid in behind the desk and looked me in the eye, “You must be Colleen,” he said, my name sounding just right in an Irish accent.
“Do you know what your name means?”
“Of course I do. It means girl.” I was, after all, raised to be proud of my Irish roots.
“Ah, good. Would you like some supper?”
He said later that he doesn’t invite just anyone in for supper, but he judged me in that first short exchange to be someone who was invite-worthy, and after a long day, I was happy for the food and company.
The cabins of El Momo are each individual and are reached by a narrow staircase that rises steeply into the jungle. I was booked to stay in the least expensive cabin, but because there was no one staying in one of the nicer cabins, Michael had upgraded me to stay there before he even met me. When he told me this, I knew I was in good hands. For the duration of my stay, Michael and I became good friends, and we have kept in touch since.
Queen’s Gardens Resort
If you have a bit more disposable income, this would be my recommendation. While it is not a place for the budget traveler, its rates are still not absurd. The setting is unbeatable, and the outdoor dining area is exquisite, with one table up in a tree house. I went for drinks with a couple friends there one day, and as happy as I was at El Momo, I couldn’t help but think how I’d love to stay here the next time I visit Saba.
What else makes Saba so great?
You will find yourself waking up in the clouds. The island critters from the goats to the lizards, hermit crabs and tree frogs will endlessly entertain you. There is hiking and picturesque, uniform white buildings with orange roofs and green framing. You can sample Saba Spice at 10:00 am in the tourist information office, and you can sip a beer on your steep downhill walk to meet friends for dinner in Windwardside. One of the churches has a mural of angels whose faces are those of the children on Saba some years ago, since grown up. The vistas are unforgettable, and there is one hill the locals fondly call Moby Dick. Saba is in a highly traveled part of the world but is still quite isolated, allowing you to feel separated from the rest of the world… if this is what you want. If it’s not what you want, the island is full of kind and smiling faces, many who will be more than willing to offer you a ride somewhere. The humidity may make the pages of your passport curl, but you will most definitely be glad you came.
Have you been to / heard of Saba?
I need more capital to travel and hire you guys as my guides. Yes, needed.
Thank you for your kind words and for sharing my article, Audrey. You are the best!
I hadn’t heard of it until Colleen went and posted about it, and now I’m obsessed with getting there! I had a diver about a month ago who also wanted to see it, so we’re planning to save our pennies and try to get there next summer 🙂
Lovely photos! I desperately need to change my travel schedule & go somewhere warm for a change. x
Never heard of Saba until now! Meeting friendly locals and people like Michael can not only make my day while traveling, but make the entire trip memorable and worth it for me! Loved reading about this awesome place. Another destination added to my llllllllong list… thanks!
Happy travels 🙂
Wow! So lush and the spotted lizards are amazing.
Saba lives up to its title of “The Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean.” The Saba Tourism website (www.sabatourism.com) is a great source of information about the island, and includes a list of accommodations. There are quite a few rental cottages that tend to be intermediate in price between the “eco-lodges” like El Momo and Rainforest Rendezvous, and the “resort” hotels like Queen’s Garden and Shearwater. (Full disclosure: my husband and I own a rental cottage on Saba, but honestly I don’t care if you stay there, just go visit this lovely place.)
The first time my husband and I went to Saba it was for the diving. A few of his friends had been and raved about how good it is.
The second time we went, it was for Sea and Learn (www.seaandlearn.org) – a program that highlights the unique environments (land and ocean) of Saba, with talks by experts, field courses, and other activities. It’s fantastic and I don’t think there is anything like it on any other Caribbean island. While we were there Hurricane Omar paid the island a visit. We were so impressed with the way everyone worked together to get ready for Omar’s arrival and clean up after his departure. Our dive shop, the managers of the cottage where we were staying, and our neighbors at nearby cottages checked on us before, during, and after the storm to make sure we were ok.
The third time we went, it was for the people – both the expats and natives – who had become friends. By that time, we had bought a cottage. Yep, Saba is special.
“The Lifestyle is so relaxed on the island”… oh how I wish I could say this. As a tourist I imagine how this would come to mind, but as a hardworking local, I just can’t. I do feel like this when I experience other islands as a tourist, like when I went to St. Barth’s. But I’m sure they also have to work long hours on their little piece of paradise. I’m glad people are able to experience it this way. I have also, but in a different way.
Of course the locals work hard! Actually, one thing Michael told me was that if someone wanted to go there to live, they could, meaning if you are willing to work, there will be work for you. The relaxed lifestyle I’m talking about is the one in which people take the time to look after one another, share a beer and play some backgammon. Island mentality is very different from big city dwelling.
This place looks great! nice find
Great place to visit. Will go again soon I hope, maybe New Year to visit my bro Michael.
Leaving for 10 day stay in Saba this Saturday. Feb.18,2023. Can’t wait, thanks for your Information. I’ve been trying to read everything I can. Can I ask about finding a place with snorkeling off shore, or is it just possible to snorkel off a boat? We are staying at Spyglass cottage and have been doing a lot of hikes at home to get ready. Can’t Wait!!!