Caribbean travel: Saba reopens and is ready to showcase the island

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Saba, a small island near St. Maarten, has a variety of dive sites.
Saba, a small island near St. Maarten, has a variety of dive sites.

Saba, the tiny volcanic island southwest of St. Maarten, which has just reopened its borders, seems poised to capture travelers with a focus on safety, outdoor adventures and a host of new offerings.

"With nearly the entire population of 1,900 [residents] vaccinated and our emphasis on enjoying the natural beauty, Saba is one of the safest destinations for those looking to explore and rejuvenate after the past year of quarantining," said Saba Commissioner Bruce Zagers.

Islanders spent the time under lockdown upgrading accommodations and tourism infrastructure and are ready to welcome visitors with fresh hiking trails, a new flight option and a recently discovered underwater archaeological find for divers.

Vaccinated travelers do not have to quarantine on arrival; nonvaccinated travelers must quarantine for five days.

In addition to the regularly scheduled 15-minute roundtrip flights on Winair from St. Maarten (approximately $200), travelers also can charter flights on SXM Airways for $1,200 for six passengers.

The runway at Juancho E. Yrausquin airport on Saba, one of the shortest in the world at 1,300 feet, is wedged between high hills on one side and cliffs that drop into the sea at both ends.

Two ferry services operate in both directions, and each sailing is less than two hours, but be warned: the seas can be rough.

The Saba Conservation Foundation has added boardwalk planking and steps where possible on many of the island's network of hiking trails.

The Trail Shop, Saba's hub of hiking activity in Windwardside, the second largest town on the island, is building a botanical garden that will feature local fruit trees and medicinal plants as well as species that once grew on Saba but now are hard to find.

As for accommodations, El Momo Cottages, perched atop Booby Hill, added a pool deck during the lockdown. Juliana's Hotel added four Captains' Suites; each suite has a custom-made Captain's Log with historic content and images of the four Saban sea captains for which each suite is named.

Queen's Garden Resort & Spa added a yoga deck to its wellness offerings at its Frangipani Spa.

Saba has a wide range of dive sites, including more than 30 within the Saba Marine Park.

During a recent seafloor survey, the Saba Archaeological Center discovered two large ship cannons crossed on top of one another. Both are more than eight feet long, but no evidence of a shipwreck was found in the area. It appears that the cannons were intentionally sunk, either to reduce weight on a beached ship or to prevent them from falling into enemy hands, according to the center.

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