Fri 26 May 2006
We love when our blog readers give us ideas for posts – this one comes from Jon, who is coming to Saba with his family in July. Jon has one day and will be coming over on the Edge, a ferry that goes from St. Martin to Saba.
Getting to Saba From St. Martin
- The Edge is a great option for people who want to experience the sea as they island hop. If you are taking the Edge from St. Martin, you typically have 5 hours in Saba, arriving around 10:30 am and leaving by 3:30 pm. It takes about 1.5 hours one way and the cost is typically lower (sometimes half) than Winair flights.
- Winair is an option for those who want to minimize travel time and maximize time in Saba for a one-day trip. There are about 5 flights daily from St. Martin and you can catch the last flight back to St. Martin around 5:00 – 5:30.
Why Visit Saba?
Most people come to Saba for two things – well, three really. One is to dive, since it’s always making the top 10 worldwide diving places (see our dive trip reports for more information). The second is to hike – there are enough trails to keep you busy for more than 3 weeks of hiking. And the third, is because of the spectacle of Saba itself. Many tourists on other islands are awestruck by that big green island reaching high into the clouds.
Like the pied piper, it draws many a tourist out for a day trip, just to set foot in this Jurassic Park-like wonderland. For those who love the first two activities, a taste of Saba’s charms tends to result in return trips for greater lengths of time.
Things to Do In A Day
Joel and I compiled our favorite activities for a day trip. I’ve listed them here as a menu of options. Decide what is most appealing to you, that also fits into your schedule for the Edge or Winair.
Even if you have one day, you can catch a couple of dives. You could take Winair (read this about the low altitude flights from Saba to St. Martin) or the Edge. Sea Saba often meets the Edge at Fort Bay for pick up and ensures that all divers are back in time to catch the ferry back to St. Martin.
If you want to see the underwater delights, but don’t want to dive, how about snorkeling? The visability is great, so you’ll still see a lot. Sea Saba can arrange snorkeling for you whether you are traveling via the Edge or Winair.
Ask Manny or Garvis (taxi drivers) to give you a tour of the island. One of the best things to do in Saba is just marvel at the sheer cliffs and beautiful vistas. Manny and Garvis, local Sabans, will provide plenty of entertainment through stories, history and flora and fauna sightings. Both will stop when you want to get out for photo ops, which may happen more often than you think! This is a great way to orient yourself to the island. Combine your tour with a stop at Jo Bean’s Glass shop or a trip to get Saba Lace.
You can do most of the hikes on your own, although some (like the North Face Trail) require a guide. A guide can also be great if you want to learn about the flora and fauna in Saba. James Johnson, the Crocodile Dundee of Saba, is the resident expert guide. If you want to book ahead, contact someone at the Saba Tourist Office.
In any event, stop by the Saba Trail Shop (in Windwardside, across from Sea Saba Advanced Dive Center).
- Climb Mt. Scenery – Time needed – between 3 – 4 hours. It takes 1 hour and 30 minutes one way for the average hiker. If you want to get to the highest point in the Netherlands, Mt. Scenery is a great climb up 1,064 stone steps and into the clouds. Do this if you don’t mind a strenuous hike and a lot of sweating! If it has rained a lot, the steps can be wet toward the middle and top, which requires a great deal of caution as you hike. Sneakers are fine – and you may want to bring water. This is a hike you can do on your own, unless you want James to lead you up the trails with the orchids!
- Maskehorn Hill – Time needed 30 minutes – 1 hour (30 minutes or less one way). Joel and I agree that this is the best “bang for your buck” hike. Start at the Mt. Scenery trailhead in Windwardside. This hike is pretty easy once you head up the first set of stone steps. It only takes another 2 – 3 minutes to get to the rocky area of Maskehorn Hill, with a beautiful view of Windwardside, surrounding ocean and islands. Also, you won’t have the cloud cover that sometimes impedes the views on Mt. Scenery.
- Sandy Cruz to All Too Far to Sulfur Mine – Time needed 3 – 4 hours, round trip. You can cut it down if you taxi to and from the Hell’s Gate trailhead. Joel and I love this trail! If you are a bird watcher, bring your binoculars for some amazing sightings. The trail is mostly rainforest, with some interesting deep ravine views and ending on a beautiful grassy knoll overlooking the ocean. It feels a bit like Scotland once you get to the Sulfur Mine area, with goats grazing – with the exception of the red-billed tropic birds making their dinosaur-age sounds. Bring a picnic, if you’re so inclined and dream the day away – it’s like being on your own private island. The kids might like the sulfur mine – a great photo op at the entrance of the now defunct mine.
Windwardside shops I’d recommend:
- Sea Saba, right on the main corner, for T-shirts and other assorted Saba fare — not to mention the amazing photography of John Magor. Check out the aerial photographs of Saba that are unsurpassed — and the incredible, whimsical tree frog photos — great gifts and souveniers!
- El Momo (go upstairs for some island buys).
- Jo Bean Glass – up on the level, you may want to take a taxi, unless you like walking up steep hills. Go here if you like glass beads. Jo Bean does demos of how she makes the beads, which is cool and only takes 10 minutes. I particularly like the Saba tree frog and Saba lizard beads – cute!
- Saba Lace – Stop by and see Helen for some beautiful lace (around the corner from the Unique Store grocery store – which is across from the Saba Tourist office). You can also buy lace in Hell’s Gate. Ask anyone, they’ll point you in the right direction.
Dining (when you only have time for lunch)
- Tropics – The best casual lunch atmosphere’s because it overlooks the ocean. Wim and Johanna, owners, are friendly and fun. Tropics has a pool, for an afternoon dip or sipping drinks in the sun. You can order sandwiches from Tropics for a picnic as well.
- Family Deli – If you’re in the Bottom for sightseeing or a hike of “The Whale” (not recommended for a day trip unless you have a guide), stop into Family Deli. Joel loves the French toast and vanilla milkshakes! While there, you might be interested to know that the Family Deli is for sale — maybe a new career and lifestyle awaits?
- Queen’s Gardens – if you want something fancy with an amazing view, Queen’s Gardens is your place. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the food, but overall people seem to enjoy it.
- Pop’s – if you are hungry and at Fort Bay, where the Edge docks, Pop’s offers a little kitschy local color. Cool drinks, fried foods, packaged ice cream treats and sandwiches galore. If you plan a day in advance, you might be able to get one of Mom’s lobster rolls, which we hear are fabulous!
Stream of Consciousness
Wandering Windwardside – walk along the streets of Windwardside, in the area of the tourist center and thereabouts. Experience the friendliness of the Sabans and the pace of island time. Stop in the Snack Bar for a milkshake, smoothie or some other treat.
The Saba Carnival happens in the last week of July — a week of festivities including parades, live music and the big carnival celebration. This is the most family friendly carnival I know of — it’s great fun — both Sabans and expats unite to express their love of the island.