Saba's siblings, such as St. Maarten, are known for gambling casinos, beaches, and plush resorts, and little St. Eustatius remains locked in a time warp. Saba has no casinos, no beaches to speak of, and is a bit of a sleepy backwater -- and therein lies its charm.
Saba is different from all other islands in the Caribbean, in that it is the top of a mountain (the rest of the landmass is undersea), with winding mountain roads and little villages clinging to its sides. More and more divers are flocking here to the last of the "virgin" dive locales, with some of the best sites in the Lesser Antilles.
An extinct volcano with no flat land, cone-shaped Saba is 13 sq. km (5 1/4 sq. miles) of rock carpeted with lush foliage-like orchids, giant elephant ears, and Eucharist lilies. At its zenith, Mount Scenery, it measures 870m (2,854 ft.). Under the sea, the volcanic walls continue a sheer drop to great depths.
Unless you're a serious hiker or diver, you might confine your look at Saba to a day trip from St. Maarten. If you're a self-sufficient type who demands almost no artificial amusement, then sleepy Saba might be your hideaway.
One of the smallest islands of the Netherlands Antilles, Saba is 240km (149 miles) east of Puerto Rico and 145km (90 miles) east of St. Croix. Most visitors fly from St. Maarten, 45km (28 miles) to the north.
The official language of Saba is Dutch, but because so many English missionaries and Scottish seamen from the Shetland Islands settled here, Saba has always been English speaking. All those European settlers have resulted in a population that is 60% Caucasian, many with red hair and freckled fair skin.
Don't Miss . . .
- Hell's Gate: "The Road," which many engineers said could never be built, makes 14 hairpin turns as it climbs to the stars -- rather, 610 vertical meters (2,001 ft.) to the settlement of Hell's Gate, one of the loftiest in the Caribbean.
- The Bottom, Saba's capital, is the smallest such settlement in the Caribbean, lying in the valley 250m (820 ft.) above sea level.
- Mount Scenery: Rising to a summit of 870m (2,854 ft.), Mount Scenery is the highest spot on the island and, in fact, the loftiest spot in the greater Kingdom of the Netherlands.