There are 31 islands and territories in the Caribbean, but most UK travelers only visit a few select favorites, in some cases year after year. This is our loss, as this charismatic and diverse region has so much more to offer than the on-the-fly vacation at an all-inclusive resort that tour operators love to sell us. From uncrowded beach getaways to eco-friendly dive sites and mighty volcanoes begging to be climbed, there is a treasure trove of lesser-known islands where we can make exciting new discoveries while soaking up the heat, sunshine and invigorating rum punches we expect on a winter break in the tropics.
How to venture beyond the obvious? A golden rule, followed with devotion by connoisseurs of the Caribbean, is to go the extra mile. This means using the many flights to popular islands like Barbados, Antigua, and St. Martin, then continuing by air or sea to a smaller, more exclusive destination. Connections are invariably fluid, refined with the seasons, and help can be sought from local tourist offices and specialist operators who like to organize tailor-made trips to forgotten corners.
Go hiking on Saba
Rising from the sea like a shark’s fin, rugged and mountainous, Saba is a tranquil and majestic volcanic island 28 miles north of St. Maarten that attracts divers, hikers and getaways. Its heritage is Dutch with a pirate touch, and the population is only 1,900 souls. There is a main road, a handful of small hotels, and no beaches. Travelers who arrive here, sometimes braving breathtaking flights or rough seas, are rewarded with stunning scenery, underwater delights, and the challenge of climbing 1,064 steps to its highest point, the aptly named Mt Scenery of 2. 877 feet.
Most visitors stay in the Upper Windwardside, accessible by driving the 19-mile trans-island “impossible road” that took 20 years to build. Check out the soft white wooden cottages that you can book from Juliana’s Hotel and visit the tourist office for information on hiking trails that include The Ladder, a coastal staircase that was the only way in and out from Saba until the 1970s.