Saba is a small island in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean which goes by the name “The Unspoiled Queen.” Though it is only 5 square miles (13 km sq.), it rises to a whopping 2,910 feet (887 meters) at the peak of Mount Scenery. Figuring out how to get to Saba can be half of the fun, though! There are two ferries that service the island, but both only run a few days per week. There are also flights, provided by Winair. Taking off and landing at the Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport’s tiny 400m landing strip is an ordeal all on its own.
For those of you who aren’t yet ready to literally fly off of a cliff, the Dawn II Ferry provides a much more palatable answer to the question “how do I get to Saba?” Running Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, this bright green, Heineken sponsored Saba Ferry departs from Dock Maarten in Philipsburgh. For special occasions, such as spring break for the medical school in Saba, there are additional sailings. You can easily pre-purchase your tickets online from Saba C Transport, to ensure that you have a spot. They will even hold your luggage for you, if you would like to wander around Philipsburgh for the day.
Dock Maarten is tucked behind a yellow painted restaurant named Chesterfield’s as you head toward the cruise ship terminal. From the end of the beach area in Philipsburgh, it is a five to ten minute walk. If you are approaching from the road, there is a small hut with a parking attendant and you stay to the left as soon as you enter. Check in early to ensure you can have all of your paperwork sorted out with immigration and then head over to Chesterfield’s for a drink.
Pro tip: drinks at Chesterfield’s are less if you order them from the bartender and more if you order them from a server! The outdoor restaurant offers lots of shade and a view of the bay.
The Dawn II does not hold terribly many people, so if you would like a spot outside in the shade, be sure to board early. If you have a tendency to get seasick, check with the Saba C Transport staff regarding the conditions and then make sure to take some Gravol or Dramamine if needed. The route can be very choppy, with waves frequently being 6-8 feet high and up to 12 feet in rough seas. If you don’t care to sit in the back, ask the captain nicely if you can sit up front with the crew! They can chat with you the whole way. If you are really lucky, you might even get a chance to steer the boat! Take your chances getting wet to take some gorgeous pictures (with your waterproof camera!) off of the bow of the boat, too.
According to the Captain, Sabians drink the most Heineken per capita in the world, and they do their best to have you keep those numbers up while en route, offering you some Heineken for yourself! If you stand talking with them, chances are another beer will be offered to you as your current one nears its end, before you are even thinking about it. As you get nearer to Saba, you can see how close neighboring St. Eustatius, or Statia as it is known, really is, with St. Kitts barely much further. That said, it is extremely difficult to travel between them, without hopping back to Sint Maarten via a Saba ferry or a flight.
The whole trip takes approximately ninety minutes and the sun will be nearly done setting as you arrive, providing some pink clouds across the water. When you disembark from the Saba ferry, there is a small customs house to walk through where they will check your passport, possibly verify your onward ticket and welcome you to Saba. The whole docking process should only take ten to fifteen minutes, as long as there isn’t more than twenty or so passengers. The sunset will also add an interesting background to your drive up the very steep twisting and turning streets of Saba!
Taking the Dawn II Saba ferry is a fantastic way to welcome yourself to a laid back, friendly and relaxing island.