When I made my first trip to the Caribbean, over 15 years ago now, I went to Aruba, which was then part of what they called the ‘ABC’ Islands – Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire. Now it seems there’s a new acronym in town: the BES Islands, also now loosely known as the Caribbean Netherlands. The Dutch owned a large portion of the islands here, and slowly local governments are changing and shifting their relationship with the mothership back home. The BES Islands are, in my opinion, some of the most affordable luxury islands in the Caribbean, and they’re also a bit quieter since they are a bit off the beaten path. Here’s an overview.
Bonaire, like Aruba, sits in perhaps the most perfect spot in the Caribbean – it’s hot, since the equator is not really that far away, but the trade winds ensure you have the perfect breeze 24/7. Although a small island, it has a lot of resorts, which means you have more choices for your price point, whether you want a self-catered apartment or an all-inclusive resort. The island is known for its iconic pink flamingos as well as snorkelling, in addition to lazing on the gorgeous white beaches.
A less well-known option out of our threesome, the hard-to-spell Eustatius – also known Statia – is very much off the beaten path. You’ll have to fly to St. Martin and then catch the connecting flight on WinnAir. Despite being affiliated with the Netherlands, the currency in use locally is US Dollars, and with few services it is wise to bring some cash wish you. Diving is popular here, and so is hiking – don’t worry, the island’s volcano is dormant!
Last but not least is another gorgeous find, Saba. I should immediately note that Saba is not for beach-lovers, as it mostly has sharp reefs and cliffs on the islands edge. But it has one of the most well protected ecosystems in the Caribbean, and on walks in the island’s jungles and valleys, you’ll wonder if you’ve escaped to another planet. Flights from St Martin are regularly scheduled, and you’ll find a good selection of accommodation for such a small island. If you hike up to the top of Mount Scenery, you’re in luck – you’re at the highest point in all of the Netherlands! You might also want to consider a round of scuba diving; many divers consider Saba one of the best islands in the world for dives.
Posted : Thursday, November 8th, 2012 at 10:00
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.