The Caribbean has been a popular tourist destination for decades, however most of the tourism is limited to just a few islands. For those who are willing to make the extra effort, there is another Caribbean that few people ever visit. Visits to these islands will be the feather in any traveler’s cap and will provide you with an experience few other travelers will have.
Saba is a municipality of the Netherlands located in the Leeward Islands. It is called the Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean because it has been so untouched by development and tourism. It is unlike any island in the Caribbean on many levels. It boasts one of the smallest populations of any island in the region. Everyone lives on top of a mountain in villages, which are seemingly impossible. There is only one major road that runs through the island, simply called “the road”. The capital, located at the bottom of a volcano is called “The Bottom.” Saba is also home to the world’s shortest commercial airport runway, which makes takeoffs and landings an experience in itself.
To get to Saba you must fly or take a ferry from the Dutch side of St. Martin. Flights are 12 minutes via WinAir and are several times daily. The ferry will run daily with times depending on the season.
Saint Eustatius, also known as Statia, is also a municipality of the Netherlands and used to be the most important port in the Caribbean. It was so important to the economy of the region that it was known as the Golden Rock. In the 19th century the importance of the island diminished and the population dropped from a high of around 20,000 to approximately 3,000 today. You can still see the ruins of warehouses on the waterfront and Fort Oranjestad is still well preserved. Statia also has the distinction of being the first place to recognize an independent United States in November 1776 when it fired a canon salute to the USS Andrew Doria.
Like its neighboring sister island, Saba, the only way to get to St. Eustatius is via ferry or short flight from St. Martin. There are no direct flights or ferry trips from Saba to Statia. To go from island to island you must transfer through St. Martin.
Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic) has the distinction of being the least visited independent country in the Western Hemisphere. This is a pity because Dominica has so much to offer and is one of the top eco-destinations in the Caribbean. The reason Dominica has so few tourists is because the airport is not big enough to support large jets, so there are no direct flights to Dominica from outside the Caribbean. You must transfer through a nearby island such as Martinique or St. Lucia. Dominica lays claim to 365 rivers, one for every day of the year. It is also home to the world’s second largest boiling lake and many hot springs.
Most tourists who visit St. Vincent and the Grenadines usually head to the Grenadines, which claims such high-end islands as Mustique. St. Vincent itself, however, is often overlooked. St. Vincent is a laid back island with no large scale resorts or chain hotels.
Like the other islands on this list, St. Vincent lacks an airport large enough to handle commercial jet flights. However, this is scheduled to change in 2014 when they open their new airport, which will boast the second longest runway in the Caribbean. Travelers wishing to experience St. Vincent as it is should plan their trip before the island enters the era of mass tourism.
The island of Montserrat is a British territory best known for the volcano, which destroyed the capital of Plymouth in 1997. The eruption has made over half the island off-limits to humans for safety reasons and forced 2/3 of the island’s residents to move. Today the remaining islanders live on the north end of the island, staying clear of the eruptions, which have continued to this day. The top attraction on the island is the volcano itself. The Montserrat Volcano Observatory is a scientific outpost where volcanologists can monitor the volcano. There are also helicopter and boat trips you can take to view the ruins of Plymouth.
Montserrat can be visited by ferry or air from the island of Antigua. Ferries run regularly during the high season and four times a week in the low season. There are also volcano viewing day trips, which run from Antigua as well.
In March 2007 I sold my house and have been traveling around the world ever since. Since I started traveling, I have probably done and seen more than I have in the rest of my life combined. So far I have visited all 7 continents, over 130 countries and territories around the world, every US state and territory, 9/10 Canadian provinces, every Australian state and territory, over 125 US National Park Service sites and over 250 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.