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st-maarten-testimonialPaula Stoffels, British Columbia

 
We arrive on Saturday to the beautiful island of St. Maarten... and we are prepared with our very own copy of the "St. Maarten Island Guide". Thanks guys you have done a fantastic job of creating the ultimate travel guide! We now know the best places to go and see... saves us hours of time researching! :) See you soon!

 

Joyce Cummings, Springfield MA  
"The tips about how to negotiate good deal save me $1200 on the new diamond bracelet I bought – thank you very much!"
 
Jan Campbell, UK
 
"A great read and so many things I didn't know after going to SXM for so many years! Well worth the $44 even without the coupons! Thank you SO much!"
 
Sara- Beth Thiesen, Little Rock , AR 
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Joe, the Bachelor, USA
"I found the Adult entertainment part quite inspiring and I liked your recommendation – will visit again for sure…"
 
Jed & Clara, NY
 
"We had a really special time in St Maarten we will never forget and thanks to this guide we saved a fortune!"
 
Richard and Sharon from Seattle. 
"We have been cruising for years and only now we found a real source for information from someone who really knows what they are talking about – love your 1-day plan option – it made it so easy for us to really decide what we want to do without all the hassles. Thank you guys!"
 
Michelle, NY
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Ben Thompson, NJ
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Jessica, Chicago IL
"After getting the eBook, the whole family asked me what to do, as if I was a local St. Maartener…I definitely felt like one…"

Saba – ‘The Unspoiled Queen’

A Weekend Away.

Something Us Residents Do But You Can Do Too…

Saba Nearby St MaartenAn Article (Previously Published in Destination Magazine St Maarten)

When I first arrived in St. Maarten 13 years ago I was given the obligatory ‘quick-tour’ that resident ex-patriots love to dispense to all their visiting friends, relatives and colleagues with enthusiastic vigor and a generous helping of ‘pride’ (let’s face it – how many people living in the average town/city in the ‘real’ world can hold up their hands and say “I LOVE to show people around when they come to visit?”

Ok, take your hands down New Yorkers – apart from you, there aren’t many).

Looking back, the one thing I remember most on that whirlwind introduction to my new island-home, was the constant references to other neighboring islands as we whizzed past palm trees and navigated pot-holes and I craned my neck to try and catch a glimpse of them as we went around another bend.

I was told about St. Barths. I saw St. Barths. I was told about Anguilla, I could see it lying lazily on the horizon. I was told about St. Kitts, Nevis and even Montserrat: but with the caveat – “but you can’t see them unless it’s a really clear day – they’re too far away”. However, one island remained somewhat of an enigma – Saba.

I was told where Saba was, but couldn’t ‘see’ it because of the humid haze. It was pointed out vigorously – almost scoldingly because in my humble ineptitude my eyes refused to ‘find’ it on the horizon just 35 miles south of St. Maarten – it was just too hazy or humid or cloudy. As the number of days and weeks passed, I began to wonder if Saba wasn’t some kind of myth or legend or an ‘in-joke’ foistered on the unwittting newbies – a kind of initiation ceremony.

I had been in St. Maarten for 2 months already, sitting on my balcony on Great Bay Beach in line of sight with what should have been Saba, but I was not blessed with the ‘Unspoiled Queens’ gracious presence.

I bought myself a pair of binoculars (astronaut strength) and sat patiently, like a veritable trainspotter (albeit an upmarket version with my glass of Bordeaux, Proust novel and swaying palm trees) every evening after a hard days work eagerly awaiting the reward of the unveiling of ‘The Queen’.

One evening as I approached the balcony I saw it, there it was. My jaw dropped and I walked, mesmerized, towards it, floating across the carpet. A thud, a flash of stars in my eyes and a wracking pain in my face told me I had neglected to open the sliding glass doors (a common problem in these parts). The warm, wet bordeaux down the front of my shirt confirmed it.

At once an impressive, jutting and jagged rocky mountain of an island reaching up into the clouds, Saba seemed somewhat of a dichotomy to me – it looked at first sight like an ‘Impressive King’ rather than an ‘Unspoiled Queen’

The myth and legend of Saba only increased when I spied it through my industrial strength binoculars. Smatterings of little cottage-like dwellings all in white and green and red piled in clumps up and down impossibly steep slopes. There was a snaking beige streak twisting and winding between the houses  and disappearing up into the abundant verdant heights just below cloud cover; I guessed this to be the

main life-line roadway to civilization. From my sky-diving days I estimated the height where these buildings were perched must be from 2 – 3,000 feet above sea level. Awesome. I had to go. I was fascinated and intrigued (two adjectives I still use today to describe Saba 10 years and many visits later).

Saba Airport - nearby St Maarten

My weekend away in Saba has always begun with a flight rather than a boat trip. No, I don’t get sea-sick, but no matter how many times I go I have to go by plane.

There’s no other way to describe the flight into Saba than an ‘adventure’. Having one of the smallest commercial runways in the world, Saba immediately earns itself an award for teasing out the spirit of adventure in all of us.

Don’t worry – ‘adventurous’ is not synonymous with ‘dangerous’ – the pilots are well-trained and specially selected for their abilities (they could probably land a 747 on Fifth Avenue, grab a frappuccino at Starbucks and be off again before anyone noticed).

 

Gliding head-on towards the volcanic rocky cliffs of Saba in a small but ably captained Winair twin-prop plane, one immediately escapes to a place outside the norms of Caribbean topography, vegetation, humidity and heat. It’s akin to flying to an Outer Hebridean island in the far North of Scotland, or to a quaint and quirkily named remote Irish village up in the windy hillsides of Southern Eire.

The old rock walls supporting the cliff-side roadways speak of years of painstaking hard labor and the daily, gruelling hike to ‘work’ – building the colonial infrastructure of this tiny island so that it can support the barely fluctuating population of 1500 people. When imagining the hardships they faced in the not-too-distant past, to colonize this barren place, and understanding that it was fuelled by the aptly named ‘Journey Cake’ (now called ‘Jonny Cake) and rice, peas. and the curious potato-vegetable ‘provision’, it is easy to see why the current inhabitants of Saba are proudly aware of the uniqueness and individuality of their island and it’s innate eco-friendliness.

Whilst most of my ‘Weekend Aways’ entail a fair portion of good food and wine, Saba lacks the variety that St. Maarten has to offer but makes up for it with a few notable gems: Queens Garden Resort has great cuisine in a lush tropical garden, Scouts Hut has fine ‘pub grub’ for the avid hiker, and XXXX delivers fine authentic French cuisine for that relaxing evening sojourn. If you’re lucky, the personal touch of a hotel owner will bring you hearty home cooking as well as long term friends.

Challenged by hiking trails and emboldened by clean fresh air and a generously cool off-shore breeze I opt, wisely, to allow my tastebuds some rest and respite for the weekend.

St Maarten Eating In

I start the day with hot tea and toast on the terrace of my simple but elegantly chic room at Willards hotel, perched (as if by some miraculous feat of engineering otherwise unknown to man) on a cliff high above the ocean – literally in the lap of God – I savor the panoramic view out towards the other islands of  Statia, St. Kitts and Nevis. It’s 95’ in St. Maarten and here I am, 35 miles away, reaching for a blanket to keep me warm.

A few laps in the pool to get the circulation going and then off for a hike to Mount Scenery – the highest point of the island, literally ‘in the clouds’. Hardy footware, a good constitution and a few ladles of determination will get you safely through the rainforest up the winding steep stone steps to the Summit.

View From SabaUp there the world is suddenly a different place – it takes on mythical, Old Testament proportions where everything is divinely ordained. If you’re lucky, this majestic queen will command the clouds to part allowing you to glimpse creation itself.  The steep rocky cliffs and undulating terraces of lush vegetation sweep down to the ocean thousands of feet below and you can clearly see the curvature of the earth all around you where the distant ocean meets the sky.

I could wax lyrical on this subject for hundreds of pages, but the fact is the reason Saba is  ‘unspoiled’ is because  only a first-hand experiential understanding will do it justice and perhaps in many years from now, when ‘virtual holidays’ become the norm (for various geopolitical and climatological reasons), Saba will stand out as one of those places it’s worth trying to get to , if only to ‘bust the myth’ and take on the adventure – or perhaps just for a Weekend Away.


Find Out More about St Maarten!

 

 

There are more well-written and researched articles about adventures to nearby islands available in our downloadable e-book here.

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