My wife is a fantastic travel planner. Since we’ve been together she’s planned trips for us (and for herself) through France, Ireland, Mexico, Turkey & Egypt (without me), and to various spots in the US. Back in 2012 I was in need of a simple vacation. “I just want to go to the islands,” I remember saying. She understood, and took it upon herself to plan one of the more bizarre and rewarding trips I’ve ever taken to the Caribbean.
Saba is a small Caribbean island in the Lesser Dutch Antilles chain. Measuring just 13 square kilometers, it consists essentially of the top of the dormant Mount Scenery volcano. Its surrounding Saba Marine Park, a renowned dive site, is home to coral formations, dolphins, sharks and turtles. There are also offshore seamounts, or underwater mountains created by volcanic activity. The land itself is populated by less than 2,000 full-time residents, plus several more if you include the goats & chickens. There is an airport with a single terminal, and the shortest runway in the world. The island also happens to have some amazing hiking as well as some really fantastic food and entertainment.
We flew from New York into nearby St. Maarten where we spent one afternoon and night; catching a ferry the following morning that would take us on a bumpy 30 minute ride over to Saba. I am not one to get seasick, but this particular morning it nearly happened. I’ll spare you the details. We arrived on the little island, and took a taxi to our hotel. Scout’s Place is a small hotel that caters to all, but specializes in diving, and is owned by German expats Barbara & Wolfgang Tooten. It is a simple, yet comfortable hotel. They have a pool, and a fantastic bar & restaurant that serves some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. The food and cocktails are also great, and they host a karaoke night known as Saba-oke that is one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced.
There’s plenty of great walking and sightseeing to experience around the island. There’s a history museum that was closed both times we tried to visit, and lots of little shops selling knick knacks, jewelry, and art work, etc. Chickens and goats roam freely. Everywhere. It’s pretty cool, if you like the company of chickens and goats.
I was especially excited about a hike we had planned that would take us high up into the hills, down towards the water, back up again, and eventually finish at the airport. I’m not great with heights, but was able to navigate the majority of the hike without any issues. This was also around the time I had started running on a regular basis, so I was able to manage the walking complete with steep inclines with a fair amount of ease.
We hiked down to the airport to get a taxi back to our hotel. One driver told us he was waiting for the next flight to come in, and would drive us once it did. We had time, so we had lunch – delicious fried fish sandwiches and ice cold beers – at the little bar in the “terminal.” The plane arrived with only a few travelers, none of whom needed a ride. The cab was ours for the taking. Our driver, a man from Ireland named Michael told us about a restaurant called Ecolodge, and suggested we go if we can get a reservation. He ended up making the reservation for us, driving us later, and then sitting down to eat with us. It was one of the most memorable and enjoyable dinners of my life.
The following morning we boarded the little plane to take us back to St. Maarten. It was a quick and exhilarating ride. We flew low, and were able to look out over the island and the water as we quickly approached our destination.
We spent one final night on St. Maarten followed by yet another wonderful breakfast before heading home. This is one of those trips I would love to take again; this time bringing our daughter along. I know she would love the food, and get a kick out of the plethora of local fauna. Whether or not she’d be up for a hike remains to be seen. But as long as they’ve added songs from Frozen II to Saba-oke, I think we’ll be ok.