By Jimmy Im
Celebrities and guys with oversized Louis Vuitton luggage heading to the Caribbean generally breeze through the gateway island of St. Maarten/St. Martin to its neighbor, St. Barthélemy, thanks to its overall tolerance, chic factor, and crime-free history. For a less obvious alternative without the bling (and half the price), couples are hopping from the other side of St. Maarten to Saba, via a short ferry ride or a heart-wrenching 10-minute puddle jump (the runway is built into the cliffs).
Nicknamed the "Unspoiled Queen" -- not a reference to its openly gay commissioner and director of tourism -- the five-square-mile speck harbors a population of 1,800 and is a Dutch municipality, meaning you'll find service that?s very different from the French hospitality on St. Barts, including imminent legalization of same-sex marriage.
With no glamorous beaches -- in fact, no beaches at all, just rocky coastline -- no nightlife, and no parked yachts full of million-dollar bodies, the only "scene" to speak of is jostling for homemade bread and the fresh catch of the day at Eden Restaurant. Hike through the mountains, scuba dive (Saba is known to have some of the best waters in the region), or bike through the four villages and dine in cutesy restaurants in the capital town, The Bottom (seriously). Think triple R: rest, relaxation, romance. The Queen's Gardens (from $230) is charming and rustic. Most of the 12 suites average a whopping 1,200 square feet and are equipped with their own outdoor Jacuzzi, fit for -- wait for it -- a queen.
>BEST BEACH None. Instead, opt for the pool after a hike through rainforest and past fruit trees, flowers, and rugged coast on the Sandy Cruz trail.