3 Tiny Caribbean Islands
Which is the best vacation choice?
There are many small Caribbean islands to choose from for your relaxing beach vacation in the sun. Here we will visit three from the Lesser Antilles, smallest to largest – and all very different.
Saba, known as the Unspoiled Queen
Saba is only 5 square miles (13sq. km.). It is the top of a volcano sitting on the ocean bottom and emerging above the waves. The landscape is rugged from the top of Mt. Scenery, the volcano, down to the sea. Originally settled by English and Irish immigrants, and the haunt of pirates, this tiny island and its inhabitants carved out a difficult life by fishing, and hardscrabble farming. Today the island is a special municipality of the Netherlands and ecotourist destination. Expect to hear English, Dutch and some Spanish spoken.
Fort Bay is the main harbor, and the major settlements on the island are all villages including the capital, The Bottom. Windwardside is the main tourist destination. Hiking the Mt. Scenery Trail to an 1800 ft. view over the island, scuba diving, and exploring the local art scene are typical activities for the visitor. A must see (and purchase) is Saba lace, a unique handcraft.
Saba can be reached from nearby St. Maarten by ferry or plane. If you are a nervous flyer, be warned the J.E.Yarausguin Airport near Zion’s Hill (formerly known as Hell’s Gate) can be a spectacular experience. It speaks to the skills of the pilots as they land and take off on perhaps the shortest commercial runway in the world sandwiched on an uncommon (for Saba) flat piece of land surrounded on three sides by the sea. Once there, you can rent a car but it may be more advisable to leave the driving to local taxis as the hairpin turns and changes in elevation test the best driver.
Saba is an escape to an unusual, largely unspoiled Caribbean island.
View from The Road, Saba’s road that experts said could never be built. It will take you from the clouds to The Bottom. (Image: Pixabay)
St Barts, or St Barths
Next largest is Saint Barthelemy or more commonly known as St. Barts at 10 sq.mi. (26 sq. km.). It is a territory of France and the French culture is immediately evident. So is the likely pocketbook of the average tourist – it is one of the destinations of the rich and famous. Expect to see yachts and super yachts moored off Gustavia, the capital. Stroll the streets to shop at designer stores found nowhere else in the Caribbean. Converse with locals in either French or English.
When not partaking of the luxury shopping or French cuisine, you have beautiful beaches on which to sport your newly purchased designer duds, swim, sunbathe, or celebrity watch. The largest beach is near Gustavia, Flamond Beach, but Shell Beach and Corossol Beach are popular too. Other activities are diving off nearby Pain du Sucre islet or the L’Ane Rouge. Fishing for tuna, white marlin and barracuda is another activity to experience or you can keep to the simpler less expensive pastime of a hike from Colombier to Petite Anse for a chance at a wonderful view.
St. Barts, despite its popularity amongst discriminating visitors, is only reached from St Maarten’s international airport, Princess Juliana, or by ferry and boat from the same island. The airport is Gustaff III airport. You cannot fly direct from the US.
St Barts has the distinguishing factor of being the one of the most expensive islands in the Caribbean, the other being Anguilla.
This is Flamond Beach near the town of Gustavia on St. Barts. (Image: Bigstock)
This island is 4 times as large as St Barts (10 times that of Saba) but is probably not as well known. It is British territory and English is the predominant language spoken. Many of the islanders are of Irish descent hence its moniker of “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean”. The capital town is called Brades. Nearby is the John A. Osborne Airport, your link to Antigua. Ferries run between these two islands as well.
Montserrat was devastated in the mid-1990’s by the eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano which wiped out the nearby town of Plymouth and caused the creation of a volcano exclusion zone in the southern part of the island. The island is quite safe to visit now, many islands in the Caribbean are of volcanic origin. You can take supervised tours of the exclusion zone if you wish to view the resultant devastation.
Because of the volcanic activity over its lifetime, all beaches but one on Montserrat have black sand so if you prefer white or golden sand beaches, this is perhaps not the destination for you. If you like to dive coral reefs and explore coastal caves known for colonies of the rare, yellow-shouldered bats, plus have a relaxing holiday then it is the place to come. You won’t be overcome with the masses of tourists prevalent on other Caribbean vacation hotspots.
If March is too cold for you to visit Ireland on St Patrick’s Day, consider this little island instead! It is the only place outside of Ireland where this day is a national holiday. It shares the holiday with a commemoration of a slave rebellion.
A view of the Soufriere Hills volcano in the exclusion zone of Montserrat. (Image: Bigstock)
Cruising To The 3 Islands
You are not going to find these islands as ports of call on the bigger cruise ship lines though most call on nearby Antigua or St Maarten. Day trips by helicopter might be an option; otherwise, the time limitations of ferries and boats make this choice impractical. The price of a helicopter would be a consideration too.
Have your travel professional or expert check out the itineraries of some of the smaller and/or luxury lines such as SeaDream, Star Clippers, Windstar, Oceania, Viking Ocean to name a few that may include one of these islands on a particular Caribbean itinerary. Don’t expect to see all three islands on the same voyage, and don’t expect regular monthly or even bi-monthly sail dates to choose from. These are very special places to visit and experiencing cruising on a smaller ship will make your entire vacation a treat!
A view over the harbor at Gustavia, St. Barthelemy. (Image: Bigstock)
The feature image is of a St. Barts’ Beach courtesy of Bigstock.
If you would like to read about more Caribbean islands go here.
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