Yes there is a medical university on the island, bringing around 400 additional residents to the island. The Saba University School of Medicine was chartered in October 1992. It provides students from the U.S.A. and abroad an opportunity to acquire a medical degree and fulfill their ambition of becoming a physician. Applications are invited from all qualified students with a sincere desire to practice medicine. All courses are taught in English by an experienced M.D./Ph.D. faculty whose only responsibility is medical education.
There is one road, aptly called "The Road". Its construction was masterminded by Josephus Lambert Hassell who, despite the common opinion of Dutch and Swiss engineers, believed that a road could be built. He took a correspondence course in civil engineering, and started building the road with a crew of locals in 1938. After five years of work, the first section of the road, from Fort Bay to The Bottom, was completed. It was not until 1947, however, that the first motor vehicle arrived. In 1951, the road to Windwardside and St. Johns was opened, and in 1958 the road was completed. Driving "The Road" is considered to be a daunting task, and the curves in Windwardside are extremely difficult to negotiate. Driving is on the right hand side.
The charming community of “The Bottom” scrambles up the hillside and looks as though it was lifted from a historic fairy tale. The white washed homes are decorated with colorful trim and most people tend neat little gardens – that is where their ancestors are traditionally buried. If you expect rows of duty free shops, you will be disappointed. Saba residents politely direct shoppers to St. Maarten.
Upper Hell’s Gate and Lower Hell’s Gate are home to a few hotels and a lace work shop, but they are primarily residential areas. Between the airport and Windwardside, these tiny hamlets also provide access to several trailheads leading to some excellent hiking.
The Bottom is Saba’s administrative capital. From a tourist standpoint, there is little to see or do in The Bottom other than take a leisurely stroll around town to soak in the ambience. The Bottom is home to the Queen’s Garden Resort, which in addition to upscale accommodation has an excellent restaurant.
Windwardside is Saba’s tourist hub. It is home to most of the hotels and restaurants, and is the main base for hiking trips and arranging dive outings. Like the rest of Saba, it is tranquil, friendly, and charming. There are few restaurants on Saba, and it won’t take you long to sample several of them. Some recommended options: Swinging Doors for barbeque and steak nights; Saba Treasures for pizza; Tropics Café for burgers and other sandwiches and Friday night movies; Brigadoon for chowder and seafood dishes; and the Snack Shack for tacos and burritos.
Saba is home to some fairly cool reptiles. The Green Iguanas found on the island are mostly black, with only a limited amount of green. The island’s only snake, the non-venomous Red-bellied Racer, is highly endangered and found only on Saba and St. Eustatius. Saba also is home to an endemic lizard, the Anolis sabanus.
A short side-track off the North Coast Trail, the Sulphur Mine Trail is worth taking for its outstanding views and a quick peek into an abandoned sulphur mine. The trail can be reached via a trailhead in Lower Hell’s Gate and, from there, takes approximately 45 minutes round trip. The trail ends at an expansive grassy overlook which allows for commanding views of Green Island, the Pirate Cliffs, and the North Coast. Large numbers of Red-billed Tropicbirds nest in crevices in the surrounding cliffs and provide great entertainment as they circle above. Access to the sulphur mine is prohibited, but stepping a few feet in is sufficient to feel the heat and get a good whiff of the sulphur fumes.
The North Coast Trail is the one hike on Saba for which you need a guide. The trail is remote, dangerous, and poorly marked, and several hikers have gone missing while attempting it alone. The only stretch of the trail that is open without a guide is the stretch beginning at the trailhead in Lower Hell’s Gate to the junction with the All Too Far Trail.
The Mount Scenery Trail is more an uphill climb than it is a hike. Built in 1967, this trail consists of 1064 steps to the elfin forest summit of Saba’s highest point – Mount Scenery. Along the 90 minute hike up you pass through several of Saba’s six life zones (secondary rainforest, tree fern brake, palm brake, and elfin forest). By far the most popular hike in Saba, this is actually the only trail where I encountered any other hikers.
The Maskehorne Hill Trail is a short (less than 10 minutes) uphill track just off the Mount Scenery Trail. The trail culminates at a rocky outcropping providing panoramic views of Windwardside and the surrounding area.
There is only one main road on Saba, aptly called "The Road." The road’s construction was engineered by Josephus Lambert Hassell, who ignored the opinions of Dutch and Swiss engineers who believed that it was impossible to build a road on Saba. Completed in 1958, the road is one steep twisty turn after another, providing glorious views of the island and the surrounding sea.
Goats are everywhere on Saba. Most of them must end up on the dinner table (curried goat is pretty tasty), because they are quite wary and not particularly fond of people. The goats seem to relish climbing onto rocks with the best views on the island that are, unfortunately, inaccessible to people.
The All Too Far Trail connects the North Coast Trail with the Sandy Cruz Trail. Transitioning from rain forest to dry forest (or vice versa depending on the direction you are headed), this little hiked trail is fairly strenuous and takes approximately 90 minutes to traverse going uphill from the North Coast Trail and 60 minutes going downhill from the Sandy Cruz Trail. The hike features outstanding views of the coast and the many ravines cutting through the forest.
The Sandy Cruz Trail is little hiked and moderately difficult. The stretch running from the trailhead at Upper Hell’s Gate to the junction with the All Too Far Trail crosses abandoned farmland and secondary and primary rain forest and takes approximately 20 minutes to hike.