A boat on a body of water with a mountain in the background Description generated with very high confidence

Shangri La of the Caribbean

April 30, 2018

Shangri La!! That is the word the kept popping into my head during our stay at the lovely island of Saba. We had never heard of Saba and frankly, it doesn’t even appear on some maps of the Caribbean. A couple of people had described their experiences on Saba and we were sold. By the time we left the island, we were thoroughly in love. To give you some idea of how far one can see on the ocean, Saba was visible to us in our anchorage in Simpson Bay, St. Maarten. It was a 45-mile sail for us to reach Fort Bay, Saba’s only port /harbor. The magic of the island enchanted us as we approached the tall cliffs. It was stunning. A few facts about Saba. It is an extinct volcano with a total area of 5 square miles. It is part of the Netherlands and we were told, has about 1500 residents. They are some of the friendliest people we have met and very hard working. There is no unemployment and we found that having multiple ‘jobs’ was not unusual. Carmen, for example, who owns the Lollipop Inn and restaurant, also drives taxi and makes fabulous pies and pastries that she sells to the local grocery and several restaurants. Despite its small size and population, the island has a nice K-12 school for is 170 students; a hospital and clinic; a senior housing residence, a pre-school day care and a medical school. Joanna, who drives taxi and school bus, gave us a tour of the island. It was hit by Hurricane Maria, but you would hardly know it. Everything looks clean and beautiful with charming red-roofed buildings. Joanna proudly told us the Sabians know how to build sturdy houses and they were. Evidence of the industrious nature of these people is demonstrated by the ‘road that couldn’t be built’ and the ‘airport that couldn’t be built’. Engineers from Holland had told the islanders that neither of these could be completed (and lets face it, the Dutch are pretty good engineers). Without a road, the residents had to walk steep mountain trails between the villages of The Bottom and Windwardside (while not poetic, the village names certainly describe the locations of the villages on the island). Prior to the 1940’s, cargo had to be carried up 800 steps, that are cut into the side of the mountain, to the Customs house and then carried on the trails to the villages. One individual, Joseph Hassel, played a key role on the island. He ordered a correspondence course for road building and led the effort to build the road which first opened in 1958. The airport, and the road to the airport, were completed in 1963. The airport’s runway is very short. Any pilot landing on Saba better be very experienced. Over the past few months, we have rented cars and driven on several of the islands we visited. Despite the altitude and mountainous terrain that Saba’s road transverses, this was probably the best road we’ve been on anywhere, including in St. Maarten, St. Thomas and St. Bart. We had a marvelous time during our 4-day visit. We completed several hikes and had the best snorkeling of our trip so far. Doug was disappointed he couldn’t schedule a diving trip as Saba has a reputation as a primo place to skin dive.  We saw many dive boats during the days we were there. If you are looking for a destination with beaches and resort hotels, Saba is not for you. If you are looking for beautiful scenery, hikes, snorkeling and especially skin diving in a charming, friendly authentic Caribbean location, keep Saba in mind. We definitely would return.

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Saba as seen from St.Maarten 40+ miles away

A boat on a body of water with a mountain in the background Description generated with very high confidence

The top of Saba is almost always shrouded in a cloud and is rain forest at the top

A large body of water with a mountain in the background Description generated with very high confidence

Saba’s tall cliffs overwhelm sailboats anchored near them

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A welcoming sign as one arrives in the small, lone harbor at Fort Bay

The sign says “Symbiosis: Nothing in this universe exists alone.” Sabian’s take great pride in their island and want to preserve the natural resources and marine life










Wednesday is delivery day at the harbor and its a busy place



Pallets of supplies for the week ahead

The ‘road that couldn’t be built’…but was


The fact the road was built is more impressive when seen from this vantage








The ‘airport that couldn’t be built’ with its rather short runway


Seeing a plane take off is special and a little scary

One of several churches in this small community

Families often have their family plots by their homes

Another lovely church


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The Bottoms village with its red roofs

The Custom house and the 800 steps cut into stone to reach them

The Custom house ladder steps as seen from above







Ladder steps leading back to the bay









Ladder Bay beach is made up of volcanic sand









The rocky shore of ladder bay we had to traverse to get to the ladder steps

Surprise!!  At the end of the ladder step hike we found the dingy had been swamped by waves and had to be baled out…as the waves continued to crash more water into the boat. Lesson learned…pay attention to the waves when anchoring on the beach.

Temperatures don’t vary much over the course of the day


Just another week of weather in Saba


Minnehaha anchored in Saba’s Ladders Bay

No blog post is complete without a sunset picture. This from Ladders Bay, Saba



  1. John Holmberg · May 4, 2018

    wonderful… so happy you are enjoying and sailing and WRITING too!

    • minnehahasailing · May 5, 2018

      Thx John. Where are you currently?

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