This week’s dream
Saba, the Caribbean’s miniature Alps
“There is nothing else quite like Saba in the Caribbean, or really anywhere,” said Matt Meltzer in Thrillist.com. A small island formed by a now dormant volcano and colonized by the Dutch four centuries ago, it scatters a handful of European-style villages among its green hillsides, like “a Caribbean Alps with a tropical breeze.” There are no beaches, but Saba doesn’t need them. Every turn on its stone-walled lanes leads to a new “jaw-dropping” view of mountains, jungle, and sea. Flying in with other passengers on a puddle jumper, I felt as though I were entering another dimension as the giant volcano emerged from the mist. Our plane skirted the cliffs, dropped abruptly, and skidded to a halt at the end of the “hilariously short” runway. “All 30 of us exhaled and laughed. The adrenaline was tangible.”
Saba’s airport and seaport date only to the 1960s. Before that, an 800-step cliffside staircase, called The Ladder, was the main point of entry. From the airport, visitors today ascend toward the villages on The Road, a ribbon of concrete that winds its way along the cliffs as waves below smash against the lava rocks. Beyond the hillside village of Windwardside and its tall church steeple, you eventually reach The Bottom, Saba’s capital, a cluster of red-roofed, white-walled homes, shops, and, surprisingly, a medical school. The entire island has only 2,000 residents, so it’s a place where everyone is on a first-name basis. “After a weekend you’ll know half the island by a degree of separation, and people will know you by name before you meet them.”
Divers love Saba because it’s circled by coral reefs, and by underwater volcanoes whose faces shelter abundant marine life. Mount Scenery, the island’s 2,910-foot peak, offers “intoxicating” views to anyone willing to climb its 1,064-step path. Saba’s main attraction, though, is its calmingly quiet atmosphere, which “allows you to escape reality in a way no other Caribbean island can.” The streets are empty. Eateries serve jerk chicken and fresh seafood in small, intimate spaces. Even the gas station is independently owned. “You’ll feel totally removed from real life. And yet, once there, you’ll be perfectly at ease.”
At Juliana’s Hotel (julianashotelsaba.com), ocean-view doubles start at $175.