14 December, 2011

Off the beaten path on the Caribbean island of Saba

Having been to the Caribbean over twenty times; I like to think I know the islands well, but I recently discovered one I'd never even heard of! Saba (pronounced say-bah) is the perfect place if you're looking for a secluded haven in peaceful and friendly surroundings. While some islands are now becoming a touch overdeveloped, Saba seems to have retained the feeling of the ''real Caribbean', and would be the perfect place to escape the buzz of bigger islands for a few days. You get to the island via St. Maarten - it's a fifteen minute plane ride; but if you don't fancy the slightly scary take-off and landing (at around 400m long, the airport has been compared to an aircraft carrier!), there are two ninety minute ferries that run visitors between the two islands.

I stumbled upon the island after reading a review of The Cottage Club Hotel which is in a central location in Windwardside. This is the main tourist hub on the island - nearly all the shops and restaurants are located in this small town. It offers 10 private cottages; all built in the Saban tradition, and all with great sea views.

Each cottage not only has a living area; bedroom and bathroom, but also its own private balcony facing the sea. The nice thing is they have fully equipped kitchens so you don't have to head out for meals if you don't want to, but they do offer a breakfast service at the hotel. Relaxation is the key word here and the hotel amenities include a sea facing swimming pool; free coffee and tea in are always available in The Grand House where guests can connect to the hotel's free WiFi, and an honesty bar can also be found there along with a small gift shop and book exchange library.

So why should you visit Saba itself? It offers some of the best scuba diving in the world; hikers from all over the world visit to explore the 18 recommended botanical trails, and the four villages on the island are well worth exploring with their white wooden facades and green shutters. For a tiny island, it has a superb array of around 15 restaurants to suit every taste and budget. Most importantly the fifteen hundred locals will always welcome you to the island; and anyone that has visited the Caribbean before will know that can sometimes be the highlight of your trip.

If you want more information on The Cottage Club Hotel, click here, and if you want to know more about Saba itself, you can find the official tourism bureau here.

Top tip: If you choose not to walk or hike, transportation around the island is easy with taxis readily available, or you can rent a car and explore on your own if you dare - the roads are narrow, steep and winding.

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