Caribbean Travelweb

Guide To Saba


Dubbed the 'Unspoiled Queen', low-key Saba (pronounced SAY-ba) has strikingly little tourism. Both the smallest and tallest of the Netherlands Antilles, the island isn't a typical Caribbean powdered-sugar beach destination - in fact, it has hardly any beaches at all.

Instead, ruggedly steep Saba has beautiful scenery, good hiking and pristine diving. Its handful of villages are spotlessly neat, close-knit and quiet - making Saba better for peaceful unwinding than for rollicking nightlife. This is the Caribbean without the beachcomber tack.

Everything in Saba is clean and sparkling, the streets are clean, the houses all look like they have been recently painted with their white siding, red roofs and green shutters. The smiles and friendliness you get from the locals are genuine and on an island with only 1000 inhabitants it is easy to make friends quickly. You'll find that it takes less than a day for some of the residents to greet you by name.

Getting There

By Air

All travel to Saba connects in St. Maarten, typically on WINAIR.

Several major airlines from North America, Europe and South America carry daily flights into St. Maarten (SXM). Special charter flights area also available from major cities during the winter season.

By boat from St. Maarten (departures subject to change)

Ferry service from St. Maarten is available via Dawn II and The Edge

Dawn II

Dawn II is based in Fort Bay, Saba, traveling three times a week to the heart of Philipsburg, Sint Maarten.

Traveling on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
Departing Fort Bay, Saba at 7:00 am
Departing Dock Maarten at 5:00pm
Reservations Recommended

The Edge (Wednesday through Sunday)

Travels to Saba from Sint Maarten (from Simpson Bay/Pelican Marina) on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays, departing Sint Maarten at 9:00 a.m. for the 1 hour 20 minute trip and returns from Saba, departing Fort Bay harbor at 3:30 p.m., arriving back on Sint Maarten at 5:00 p.m.

Entry Requirements

Though Saba is an open port, there are certain entry and visa requirements depending on the diplomatic relations with the other countries. The nationals of all the countries require passport or other official travel documents valid for 3 months to visit Saba.

Visa requirements

Visa is required by all except the following:

Nationals of Belgium, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Jamaica, Korea (Rep), Luxembourg, Malawi, Mauritius, The Netherlands, Niger, The Philippines, Poland, San Marino, Slovak Republic, Spain, Swaziland, Togo and the UK for stays of up to 3 months for tourist purpose
Most travelers on their onward journey to some other country within 24 hours by the same means of transportation and not leaving the airport and holding tickets with reserved seats and documents for their onward journey

Nationals of the following countries must apply for a visa before entering the country even for tourist purposes:

Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China (PR) (except Hong Kong SAR), CIS, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Kenya, Korea (DPR), Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic), Mali, Nigeria, Romania, Serbia & Montenegro and Vietnam

Nationals of rest of the countries may enter without Saba a visa for stays of up to 14 days for tourist purposes. All stays can be extended locally by the same period that they are valid for.

Helpful Visitor Information

Getting Around
If you choose not to walk or hike, transportation, on and around the island, is easy on the ten miles of concrete roads, secured to the mountainside with hardy stone walls. Taxi drivers in modern vans can be your guide for your trip, or you can rent a car and explore on on your own.

Saba is located just to the East of St. Croix and south of St. Martin.

Language and Culture
Everyone speaks English, although Dutch is the official language

Because of Saba's precipitous terrain, settling was difficult and left for the hardy and the adventurous. Having been under English, French, Spanish and Dutch rule for many years, peace came with the Dutch Crown in 1816. The cultures of the variety of settlers are now uniquely blended into a hard-working people. Their history of farming, fishing and seamanship account for their keen knowledge of their nature. Many locals are well traveled and well educated; conversations are easy and interesting. The Saba museums house many artifacts and photographs, which tell the stories of settling this remote island with its dramatic landscape.

Airport and Taxes
You must pay a $5 departure tax when leaving Saba by plane for either St. Maarten or St. Eustatius, or $22 when continuing on an international flight. (Note: when flying home through St. Maarten from here, list yourself as "in transit" and avoid repaying the tax in St. Maarten, which is $20.) There's no departure tax when you leave by boat.

Daytime temperature on Saba averages 80°F., give or take a few degrees. Easterly trade winds and the mountain create ever-changing cloud movements. Winter evenings often require a light sweater. Temperatures will always be cooler on the top of Mt. Scenery.

Atlantic Standard (Eastern Standard + 1 hour).

Currency/Credit Cards
US dollar, all major credit cards are accepted

US Standard, 110 volts

Hotels have direct dialling worldwide. Landsradio has phone booths in The Bottom and Windwardside for calls anywhere in the world.

Enter into any of the shops within the villages and you'll find beautiful, delicate linen items with hand-drawn threadwork designs. Artists find Saba a perfect inspiration for their work. many watercolours, photographs, jewelry and books are displayed in two art galleries.

Your shopping trip is not complete until you visit the Windwardside's mini-mall. Its here you'll find take-home souvenirs, tasty boutiques, dive shops, the tourist office, an art gallery, two restaurant/bars, a supermarket and a bank. The Mini Mall is where you'll pick up take home memories of the beauty of Saba.

No trip to Saba would be complete without checking out Saba Lace.

Saba lace is a unique needlecraft painstakingly created by the industrious women in Saba. Saba lace, also known as Spanish work has a special history . In the 1870's, Mary Gertrude Hassell Johnson was sent by her parents to study at a convent in Caracas, Venezuela. While she was there, the nuns taught Miss Hassell to create the intricate designs of this needlecraft. Miss Hassell brought the craft back to Saba and in 1884, when regular mail service first connected the island to the outside world, the wives and daughters of Saba's seafaring men turned the craft into a mail-order cottage industry.

How the Saba women marketed their needlework demonstrates their ingenuity. As boxes of merchandise were sent from the United States to Saba, the ladies would copy the addresses of the American companies and then write them a letter explaining their work and the prices. Often a sympathetic person receiving the letter would post it on the company bulletin board and ultimately the lace makers would receive orders for their work. By 1928, the Sabans were exporting almost $15,000 worth of needlework annually!

Now, more than a century later, the skill learned by a young Saban girl, still provides a means of support for many families on the island. Blouses, dresses, tablecloths an napkins are only a few of the pieces the Saban women create in a variety of colors.

Saba Lace is just one example of the unique beauty that is Saba. We hope you enjoy owning and using your piece of this special needlework.

Saba Lace is available at:
Saba Lace Boutique - Hell's Gate
Heritage Shoppe - Winwardside
Peggy's Boutique - Winwardside
Hellen's Notions & Fabrics - Winwardside
Artisan Foundation - Botom

Taxes and Tipping
The government room tax of 5% is automatically added to your bill. A service charge of 10% or 15% will be added to your bill. For taxis and guides, tip at your own discretion.

The official currency is the NAfl (guilder). Travellers cheques and US dollars, as well as major credit cards, are widely accepted. Two branch banks are open on Saba.

RBTT Bank (Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago)
Windwardside, Saba
Tel: 416-2454/2453
Fax: 416-2452
Opening Hours 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

First Caribbean International Bank
Windwardside, Saba
Tel: 416-2216
Fax: 416-2475
Opening Hours 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m

Medical Facilities
The A.M. Edwards Medical Center is located on Saba. A resident doctor and registered nurses oversee this medical facility. Saba also has the Saba Marine Park Hyperbaric Facility.

Activities and Attractions

Scuba Diving
Saba's diving reputation comes from its pinnacle dives. The Eye of the Needle, for example, starts at 90 feet and goes down and down, supporting a profusion of sea life both on and around it. Sharks, turtles and other pelagics are drawn to the area like magnets. But even the shallow dives are terrific. Green Island, between 20 and 35 feet has bright, colorful ledges and mini-walls, at 50 feet, there are 3 healthy green and pink black corals, 8' across.

Saba can be enjoyed from local charter boats.

Expect visibility to reach 100 - 150 ft. in winter and 60 - 100 ft. in summer
Water temperatures from 77-84 F or 25-29 C.

Well's Bay and the adjacent Torrens Point are popular spots, and there's even a marked underwater trail.

Saba is not the place to go if you want to lay out on sandy beaches. The main swimming spot is Well's Bay at the northwestern side of the island, which has a small, rocky beach. All the island hotels have swimming pools.

Hiking is a "must do" when in Saba. Many trails are available, adequately marked and maintained for easy trekking, though some require a guide. Everyone can easily hike over and into Saba's rain forest, tidepools, historic ruins, and rich nature wonderland. Even a walk along Saba's winding road will lead you to a magical view, and a memorable vacation.

Enter into any of the shops within the villages and you'll find beautiful, delicate linen items with hand-drawn threadwork designs. Artists find Saba a perfect inspiration for their work. many watercolours, photographs, jewelry and books are displayed in two art galleries.

Your shopping trip is not complete until you visit the Windwardside's mini-mall. Its here you'll find take-home souvenirs, tasty boutiques, dive shops, the tourist office, an art gallery, two restaurant/bars, a supermarket and a bank. The Mini Mall is where you'll pick up take home memories of the beauty of Saba.

Each village has several small and individually unique restaurants. Most of them offer outdoor dining as well as a friendly bar. There is a wide variety to choose from, American, European, Chinese, Italian, and that delicious blend of Indonesian and West Indian Creole. Each restaurant becomes a gathering place for conversation anytime, day or night. Weekends will always find an "island-wide party", that means everyone is invited. It may also be disco music, steel band drums at poolside, or a barbeque at the bay under the stars.

Areas of Saba you should not miss:

Cove Bay - Bay & Beach with small swimming area.

Hell's Gate - Scenic and historic walking area. Visit the Holy Rosary Church, shop for Saba Lace and Saba Spice (family recipes soaked in rum), or visit the Old Sulpher Mine Walk in Lower Hell's Gate which leads to bat caves which can be explored.

The Bottom - A town sitting in a valley 820 ft above the sea. It is home to the Saba Medical University, the gubernatorial mansion, Wesleyan Holiness Church and Ladder Bay.

Mount Scenery - The island's premier hike is to the top of Mt Scenery, a strenuous climb up a virtual nonstop run of stairs (1064 in all) that ends at the highest point in the Kingdom of the Netherlands at 3,000 ft. The clearly marked trail begins at the side of the road a short walk west of the tourist office in Windwardside.

Saba Marine Park - The official location on the island where visitors can anchor their yachts and snorkel for a small fee. This is also the area commercial dive boats visit.

Windwardside - 2nd largest town on Saba. Almost 2000 ft above the sea with an absolutely breathtaking view. Neat gingerbread houses among narrow and winding roads. Also home to the Saba Tourist Office, Saba Museum and at the village's northern end is the Church of St. Paul's Conversion.

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