Enjoy Fun Outdoor Activities With A Trip To This Lesser-Known Caribbean Island

We all know the great outdoors is good for us. When we get stressed, we're told to go out and "touch grass." It's one thing doing that in your own neighborhood. That's great and all, but if you really want some relaxation, that may not be enough. What if you could touch grass on a tropical island? What if that stress relief came in the form of seeing a gliding whale shark under the water or hiking through a cloud forest full of singing birds? If relaxation and some time under the sun is what you're craving, there is a lesser-known Caribbean island you must visit. This place is Saba, a Dutch island in the northeastern Caribbean Sea. Just a 12-minute flight or a 90-minute ferry ride from the spectacular nearby island of St. Maarten, Saba is exactly what you need to let your cares drift away. 


Saba is a mere five square miles, has less than 2,000 residents, and was once a haven for pirates like Henry Morgan. It sits on the top of a dormant volcano and has had inhabitants since around 1175 BCE. It only has two beaches, including one that "disappears" from October to June, but there is a ton to do outside, from hiking to scuba to exploring tide pools. Let's take a look at what you can do on Saba, which is also known as the "Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean."

Getting there, and hiking around Saba

The runway at Saba's Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport is famously short and it can be a bit scary coming in, so the air-conditioned 90-minute Makana Ferry might be a better option. You can rent a car and drive along "The Road," which winds its way around the cliffs down to Fort Bay, with some beautiful views. 


Saba has four villages to explore for shopping and food, including the capital, The Bottom, Windwardside, St. John's, and Zion's Hill, also called Hell's Gate. Windwardside has hotels, vacation cottages, as well as a trail shop where you can get a hiking map. If you're up to it, try the strenuous Mt. Scenery Trail, taking you to the highest point on Saba (2,877 feet), while passing through the Elfin Forest or cloud forest full of mountain mahogany and orchids.

Then there's The Ladder, starting from The Bottom, which takes you up some stairs that people once used to haul items from ships. For something easier, try the Mas'Cohones trail through the secondary forest, just 20 minutes each way. Another to check out is a short hike to explore the tide pools at Floatpoint on the coast from an ancient lava flow. There are around 20 hikes to choose from on Saba. You may see tree frogs, green iguanas, non-venomous red-bellied racer snakes, Saban anole lizards, and goats. Birders can spot over 60 species, including hummingbirds, bananaquits, frigate birds, red-belled and white-tailed tropicbirds, and red-tailed hawks. 


Under the sea in Saba

Saba is an island, which usually means a lot of beaches. However, Saba has only two. Cove Bay has a breakwater which protects it from currents, making it great for snorkeling. Wells Bay has black sand and disappears for part of the year. If you catch it at the right time, it's also good for snorkeling. (You may want to take a taxi as the road down is steep and long.) There is so much to see, including sponges and coral, as well as wrasses, great barracuda, wahoo, tarpon, parrotfish, triggerfish, garden eels, angelfish, sand divers, and even turtles, lobster, and conch. You might even spot hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, long-snout seahorses, and manta rays. In the winter, you could catch a glimpse of a whale.  


You can also dive in these waters, which are usually between 77 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. However, you must go through a dive center like Saba Dive Sites or take a liveaboard like Explore Ventures Fleet. They can take you to the Saba Marine Park (for snorkeling or diving) if conditions are good. 

A few more things to note about Saba. First, bring your reef-safe sunscreen and read up on basic snorkeling tips. The Saba Marine Park was established to protect the reefs and waters around the island. Second, Saba is a very green island that has a plastic ban and actually runs on solar power for 8-10 hours every day. Take only pictures and leave only footprints.