One of the Caribbean’s Tiniest Island Destinations Is Also Its Most Adventurous

Swim through shipwrecks, sweat it out on scenic hikes, and step back in time in Statia.

Blink and you might miss it. An island just over eight square miles—smaller than the city of Providence, Rhode Island or Burlington, Vermont—Sint Eustatius is a tiny Caribbean spec packed with adventure. Commonly referred to simply as Statia, here you’ll find black sand beaches, three dozen pristine scuba and snorkeling sites, and sleepy volcanoes crisscrossed with hiking paths. And nearly half of the island is taken up by a national park.

“Statia is unique for many reasons, including the people, the climate, nature, the culture, and most of all the peace and quiet,” says Anthony Reid, longtime resident and general manager of Golden Rock Dive & Nature Resort, the island’s premiere eco-resort and largest hospitality offering. “Walking through nature, playing dominoes with the locals, or driving to the beach and listening to the waves crash against the shoreline—it's like taking a stroll back in time, but you still have access to the 21st century.”

Thankfully, getting to the fairly remote island doesn’t have to be a timewarp adventure. It used to be that you had to fly into Sint Maarten, then either book one of two-ish daily teeny, tiny puddle jumper flights or board a lengthy, sometimes turbulent ferry to reach Sint Eustatius. However, November 2023 saw JetBlue launch three new weekly direct flights from New York’s JFK into nearby St. Kitts and Nevis. From there, guests of Reid’s Golden Rock Resort can link up with a very 21st-century speed boat to jet across the water in style. 

Regardless of how you arrive, with a lush crater that you can climb into, plus eight hiking trails, wild raspberries and orchids, a white limestone cliff overlooking the sea, laid-back bars and restaurants, and moving historical sites, Sint Eustatius is a worthy stop on any Caribbean island-hopping jaunt. Here’s what to do in Statia, the Dutch Caribbean’s sweetest hidden gem.

scuba diver in an underwater shipwreck in statia
Gerard Soury/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Best places for first timers to visit in Sint Eustatius

If you, like many, have never before set foot on—or even heard of—Statia, Reid’s must-dos include “snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea, hiking up the Quill and a historical walking tour of the Old Town.”

A visit to the Quill is much more than a simple hike. The colonizers first called the ancient volcano Kuil, meaning pit or hole, and the English variation evolved into the Quill. At one time, a majority of the volcano was used for farmland, so the long-dormant Quill was also the site of an extensive plantation. If you look closely between the natural overgrowth of plant life, you’ll see the remnants of hundreds of rock boulders stacked in horizontal fashion, used (along with sugarcane) to keep the land from sliding as enslaved peoples worked their way up the volcano. It’s not only a reprieve into nature, but a meaningful experience with a reminder of how the past surrounds everything.

Sint Eustatius changed European hands several times from the 14th to 17th centuries, but eventually remained a Dutch territory. As a result of its turbulent past, the island is littered with historical remnants. From ancient underwater shipwrecks primed for snorkeling and scuba diving to restored stone forts with epic views and religious ruins teeming with pensive reverence, what Statia lacks in square footage it more than makes up for in fascinating cultural experiences. 

Speaking of underwater adventures, the island’s bountiful dive opportunities are one of the main reasons people come back to Statia over and over again. Nearly 17 miles of protected marine reserve hugs the coastline, spanning eight different ecosystems, largely undisturbed coral reefs, hundreds of aquatic species, and 36 different designated dive sites. And if you keep your eyes peeled, you might just spot a blue glass bead nestled in the sandy depths. Produced by Dutch glassblowers, these five-sided cobalt-hued orbs were originally given to Statia’s enslaved population as an imposed form of currency. And upon emancipation, they were purportedly tossed into the ocean as a celebratory act of freedom. Though you might not want to look too hard—legend has it the beads find you.

sushi boat at bobbies beach club in statia
Bobbies Beach Club

Where to eat and drink like a local in Sint Eustatius

For such a small getaway, Sint Eustatius more than holds its own when it comes to food and drink. Options run the gamut from elegant sit-down suppers to beachfront dives, each imbued with a healthy dose of island charm.

“My favorite restaurant in Statia is Bobbie’s Beach Club because of the staff, the food, the vibe and the general ambiance,” says Reid, aptly repping Golden Rock’s chill dining spot. Yet while it’s housed at the resort, the al fresco stunner is a huge draw for both area islanders and newcomers alike. “The view is spectacular—to the South you can see the Quill and to the north you have the Atlantic Ocean, and the ocean wind tops it off.”

Other culinary standouts include Golden Rock’s more upscale Breeze as well as the Old Gin House, an 18th-century cotton gin-turned-boutique hotel serving cocktails and inspired cuisine in its scenic waterfront restaurant and lounge. For something more low-key, head to the ever-upbeat Blue Bead Restaurant, beachy Ocean View Terrace, and any of several popular Chinese restaurants—namely Cool Corner, a wood-clad, family-run community hub stocked with an inviting wraparound bar, cozy decor, and some of the best vibes around.

As for booze, it’s all about the local digs. Come nightfall, the harborfront Boardwalk Cafe—a cluster of food truck-style bars and snack vendors centered around a canopied dance floor and DJ booth—hums with activity, laughter, and plenty of Caribbean rum. A touch further inland, Franky’s Bar holds court as one of the area’s most beloved hangouts, its brightly painted walls, cold beer, island eats, and extremely loyal clientele adding up to what Reid dubs “an authentic Statia experience.”

 Sint Eustatius, Fort de Windt ruins with view towards St. Kitts
Walter Bibikow/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Museums and culture in Sint Eustatius

It’s hard to visit Statia without hearing mention of Statia Day, especially if you pop into town during the leadup to the November 16 national holiday. And that goes double if you’re coming from the States, as the celebration is very closely tied to America’s own Independence Day. Back in 1776, as the story goes, Sint Eustatius was the first place on Earth to recognize the United States’ victory over English rule when the troops stationed at Fort Oranje returned the US flag-flying Continental Navy ship Andrew Doria’s salute as it entered the harbor, thus solidifying its country’s sovereignty. Known as the “first salute,” the action put Statia on the map, and today the event is marked by days of open-air festivities including a parade, street fairs, performances, traditional food and drink, and other public merriments.

Regardless of the time of year, Fort Oranje is always a sight to behold. Perched on a cliff overlooking Oranje Bay, don’t leave without roaming around the 1636 fortress’s hulking stone walls while taking in the sweeping ocean views.

Nearby you’ll also find the Sint Eustatius Historical Foundation Museum, which not only boasts a vast collection of historical objects and archives housed in an incredibly well-preserved 17th-century plantation house, but also offers immersive walking tours that paint a vivid picture of Statia’s past, present, and future. The tours leave no stone unturned, showcasing fascinating island highlights like the stately Bethel Methodist Church with its famous London-made bell tower dating to 1896, the towering remains of the Dutch Reformed Church, built in 1755 from local volcanic basalt and Bermuda limestone, and the greenery-strewn ruins of Synagogue Honem Dalin—finished in 1739, it stands as the third-oldest synagogue in the Caribbean.

view of quill national park in statia, caribbean
Michael Runkel/Collection Mix: Subjects/Getty Images

Nature and outdoor experiences in Sint Eustatius

We’ve already mentioned the wonders of Statia’s scuba and snorkeling scene, but breaking a sweat aboveground is just as enticing. Quill/Boven National Park is split into two sides on either end of Sint Eustatius, with its most notable feature being the 2,000-foot dormant volcano, the Quill. The sleeping giant is hard to miss as you start your descent by plane. Believed to be around 30,000 years old, the Quill’s last eruption took place about 1,600 years ago, and it was designated as part of the Sint Eustatius National Parks Foundation by the Dutch government in 1998. The Boven side has five hills and drier vegetation, but it’s the Quill side where most travelers spend their time.

The Quill is known mostly for hiking, as it is not driveable or developed with any man-made playthings. It’s just you and the outdoors here. Hikes vary from mild one-hour cardio jaunts to more strenuous 2.5-hour crater treks to journeys around the volcano that can last all day. There’s a small parking lot at the base of the trail, near the intersection of Rosemary Lane, or you can walk much further by beginning your hike from the capital of Oranjestad, where the trail sign is marked.

hikers looking over crater
Golden Rock Resort, Dive & Nature Resort - St. Eustatius

One of the most popular trails is the 2.8-mile Quill Trail to the crater rim, which is a moderate hike with more advanced climbing when you approach the rocky top. Some ropes are there to help hikers ascend to the end of the trail. If you want to reach the highest point of the Quill, you can follow the rough track known as the Mazinga Trail, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding islands and Caribbean waters. To check out the northern crater rim, you would turn left from the end of the Quill Trail, and follow the Panorama Point path. 

One of the most thrilling hikes is into the crater itself via the Crater Trail, which has some stairs along the route to help navigate some of the steeper areas. The Crater Trail terminates in some lush vegetation. Another option for getting to the crater would be the Couchar Mountain Trail, which is actually a shorter route than the Crater Trail, but is consequently more steep. 

For the most adventurous hikers, the Around the Mountain Trail does exactly as it says and circles the mountain. It’s a popular all-day hike with a visit to the summit, the crater, and views overlooking the White Wall limestone cliffs in front of the ocean. On the southeast side of the mountain, it joins with the Bird Trail and Botanical Garden Trail.

Lesser Antillean Iguana in sint eustatius, caribbean
Stenapa St Eustatius

The keen observer will also notice the variety of vegetation that’s taken over the slopes. The Quill’s voluminous inner crater and surrounding land mass is home to a tropical-like rainforest replete with elephant ears, mahogany, begonias, figs, plantains, and dozens more varieties of tree and plants. You may spot the round, seedless breadfruit hanging from their parent trees, sample some of the wild raspberries throughout the forest, or see the sway of small round fruit growing on sea grape trees. 

The distinct characteristics of the gum tree will also pop out at you along the trails, because its bark peels in bright, red flakes that can be boiled and used to fight infection. Hikers can also keep an eye out for some of the native and introduced varieties of colorful orchids, of which there are over a dozen types. And there’s a chance to see swift, two-inch-long land crabs, iguanas, snakes, herds of free-roaming wild goats, several butterfly species, and endemic birds like the brown-striped killi killi.

Golden Rock Resort, Dive & Nature Resort in St. Eustatius
Golden Rock Resort, Dive & Nature Resort - St. Eustatius

Sint Eustatius hotels and other great places to stay

Despite its status as a nature-lover’s paradise, camping is not allowed anywhere on the island, so a traditional hotel stay is usually the best option for travelers to Sint Eustatius. 

Located less than a five-minute drive from the Quill, the 40-acre Golden Rock Resort provides sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean flanked with landscaping that incorporates endemic plant and flower species. The property lays claim to two different swimming pools, an oceanfront gym, and standalone in-room bathtubs perfect for soaking away the aches after a long hike. All that plus two onsite restaurants fed by an onsite greenhouse, a minigolf course, saltwater lagoon, fully equipped dive center, several different room types, and regular well-attended events popular with both tourists and locals make it a no-brainer booking if you’re planning a trip to Statia.

But don’t let the resort label throw you off—it’s about as far as you get from a stuffy black-tie-at-dinner ordeal or cheesy all-inclusive. “Golden Rock Resort is a nature and eco-resort—you can unwind and relax, it’s not overly crowded, the gardens are one of a kind, and there’s variety throughout, from the rooms to the cuisine,” says Reid. And those perks don’t just apply to hotel guests. “For locals, it’s the place they come to dine and relax. Even though it’s on the island, they can still escape for a bit.”  

Additional lodging options include the aforementioned Old Gin House, Quill Gardens Boutique Hotel, and Whale Tails Boutique Hotel, alongside a handful of apartment rentals and homestays.

downtown sint eustatius
Stephan Kogelman/iStock/Getty Images Plus

What to know before you go to Sint Eustatius

Best times of the year to visit

If tackling the Quill is your main focus, note that the trail to the crater rim can be done year round, barring any extreme weather during hurricane season (August through October). The dry season is the time of year where you have a greater chance of a more enjoyable hike. February, March, and April are usually the driest months, and the next ideal time would be December and January. It’s best to remember that because the volcano is a rainforest, the trails can become slick even in the dry seasons, since it rains frequently at the higher elevations.

For other activities, Reid recommends timing your visit to some of Statia’s top public parties. “Carnival in July, Statia Day on November 16, Easter weekend when the main road and beaches are transformed into a picnic center for friends and families, the holiday season and end of the year—Statia is great all year round,” he assures. 

The time zone

Sint Eustatius falls under Atlantic Standard Time (AST). This translates to one hour ahead of New York’s Eastern Standard Time and four hours ahead of California’s Pacific Standard Time.

The weather and climate

Sint Eustatius is classified as having a tropical monsoon climate, marked by consistently hot temperatures and frequent refreshingly cool trade winds throughout the year. The average year-round temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with highs ranging from 82 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (May to November) and lows ranging from 71 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (December to April). 

Sporadic rainfall is common in every season, though August through September brings the most humidity. Tropical storms and hurricanes can occur during the Atlantic hurricane season (June through November), and the last hurricanes to inflict major damage were Irma and Maria in 2017. No matter what time of year you land, make sure to apply plenty of sunblock, as those rays can be even stronger than they look.

aerial view of St. Eustatius over Oranje Bay from Fort Oranje
Westend61/Westend61/Getty Images

How to get around

Clocking in at just over eight square miles, many parts of the island are quite walkable, especially the network of residential and commercial streets that wind their way from the airport down to the ocean. And that’s a good thing, as there are no trains or public buses in Sint Eustatius.

Since the terrain can be hilly in parts, it’s a good idea to either rent a car on-island (no international driver’s license), flag down one of the many taxis waiting near the airport, or call ahead to ensure your hotel offers a shuttle service. That way, you’ll be able to navigate Sint Eustatius’ varied topography with ease.

The currency

Sint Eustatius has been using the US dollar (USD) as its official currency since 2011.

International adapters you’ll need

Sint Eustatius uses type A, B ,and F plugs (though A and B are much more common). Standard voltage on the island is 110/220 V and the frequency is 60 Hz.

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Adrienne Jordan is a contributor for Thrillist.
Meredith Heil is the Editorial Director of Thrillist Travel. She's originally from St. Louis, now lives in Washington, DC, and in between has visited all 50 states plus dozens of countries. Rejoining Thrillist in 2021 after several years of freelancing, she earned an MA in Social Documentation from UC Santa Cruz and previously served as a content editor at Google as well as a staff writer for Thrillist’s Food & Drink team. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, Eater, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, PUNCH, and Condé Nast Traveler, among other publications. She loves all things cocktails, crosswords, and women’s soccer. Follow along with @mereditto.