One of my favorite places and experiences in the Caribbean is the winding deck at the top of St. Maarten’s Sentry Hill, where visitors can look out from the island’s highest points and marvel at the proximity and breathtaking beauty of the neighboring islands. I had a similar moment on a recent visit to St. Kitts as well, stepping out onto the deck of my villa at magnificent Belle Mont Farm and being left speechless by the sights of Statia and Saba, as if they’re so close I could swim to them.
The common theme in these moments is always that one thought running through my mind: “That’s next.” After all, I only ever hear amazing things about these smaller islands, the Caribbean’s “hidden gems,” but the one that other travelers always tell me needs to be at the top of my list is the tiny but phenomenal Saba, the “Unspoiled Queen,” which is already well-regarded as a diver’s paradise and is very popular among adventurous Caribbean travelers for its 20 hiking trails.
“Saba has previously only been known to steadfast hikers and divers; but as more travelers yearn for unique destinations that boast a variety of wellness, adventure, boutique, and eco-friendly options, to name a few—we’d love to welcome them and show that our little island is so much more than meets the eye,” Malinda Hassell, Saba’s Director of Tourism, recently explained. “We’re excited to see travelers ‘find themselves’ in Saba, and hope to spread word of our beloved, spectacular island one visitor at a time.”
So much more, indeed. Soon enough, the island will likely earn a reputation for being a foodie’s retreat and creative haven, much like its fellow Dutch Caribbean islands. But the biggest thing to know about Saba is that there’s no bad time to visit. There are probably best and better times, but based on this year’s calendars of events, it’s difficult to make the wrong decision.
Monthly Arts and Crafts Fairs
Shopping is already a fun activity on the island, but for travelers who prefer authenticity and cultural significance, locals will be showcasing their creativity in arts and crafts fairs every month this year. When not perusing the merchandise of the talented vendors, guests can visit local establishments like The Studio and Saba Lace Room to watch and participate with artists in action.
Summer Festival and Carnival
Just like her neighbors throughout the Caribbean, Saba comes alive for Carnival, kicking things off for a week of late-summer fun with Carnival Monday, an official, non-working day when everyone undoubtedly prepares for the opening jump-up. The weeklong Summer Festival includes concerts, parades, plenty of costumes, and even some competitions.
Create and Learn Artist Program
For those travelers who really want to roll up their sleeves and make priceless memories, the Sea and Learn Foundation will be hosting four two-week Create and Learn programs in 2023, featuring a total of 20 artists or five for each program. Materials are included with the price of the workshops, and people of all ages can sign up to learn about and make their own traditional Saba crafts.
Speaking of Sea and Learn…
The not-for-profit foundation is best known asking travelers to “enhance your environmental awareness” when visiting destinations like Saba and other Caribbean islands. In October, however, Sea and Learn becomes a monthlong educational event with a curriculum that turns locals and visitors alike into “citizen scientists,” who participate and assist in fieldwork from helping turtles breed and monitoring the growth of the island’s orchids. There’s even a chance to identify fluorescing scorpions on night hikes for far braver explorers.
One of the best pieces of advice we can offer any traveler: Never depart on a Sunday. Great, fun things are always starting in the Caribbean just when we think the weekend is winding down, and a perfect example of that is Jazzy Sundays at the Harry L. Johnson Museum in June and November.
Saba Culinary Week(s)
How much does Saba love to celebrate food? Enough so that the island has two culinary weeks, one in May and the other in September. Again, this destination will eventually catch on as a foodie haven, not just because of these festivals, but also…
Saba Lobster Fest
As legend has it, this three-day event that takes place the first week of November was created to let the world in on the delicious secret of the Saba Bank spiny lobsters. Festival guests better pack multiple bibs because there are lunch and dinner specials at participating restaurants, which undoubtedly include the best of the island’s best.
Wahoo Tournament and Food Fest
Did someone say more food? Coinciding with Saba Day, the first Friday in December and when the island celebrates the creation of its flag in 1985, the Wahoo Tournament features entrants from throughout the Caribbean. However, the real winners are guests with big appetites.
Sea to Scenery Run
Obviously, with all this food, visitors will need some creative, fulfilling ways to work off the calories. One option is the Sea to Scenery Run, which takes place on the Saturday following Saba Day. The action begins in Cove Bay and leads participants on approximately six kilometers of road and trail, including all the way to the top of Mt. Scenery.
There’s a race element to the event, but casual walkers are also encouraged to participate, as last year’s event also featured the youngest entrant to date, a six-year-old boy.
Fitness Never Stops Here
Can’t make it to Saba in December? That’s fine. The Bizzy B 5K Race takes place several times a year, and the organizers from Event 66 always have something fun and adrenaline-fueled on the calendar. But for those adventurous souls who prefer to take their time and appreciate the island’s amazing natural beauty and wildlife, let’s not forget the 20 marked and maintained nature trails that take people through the forests, past the tide pools, and to historic ruins.
Need some help? Call on Saba’s own “Crocodile James” for an entertaining and educational guided tour that will relay the history and culture of multiple generations.