If you’ve never heard of St. Eustatius (aka Statia), you’re not alone. The largely unknown Caribbean island is tiny, at just 13 square miles, and often overshadowed by the neighboring island chains of Anguilla and St. Kitts and Nevis. But small and overlooked only adds to its appeal — especially for divers who have discovered the Dutch island’s flourishing underwater world.
Unlike most dive spots, the coral reef around St. Eustatius is thriving, providing divers with a glimpse into what the Caribbean must have looked like many years ago. Thanks to St. Eustatius National Marine Park, a reserve that has protected the island’s coastline and surrounding waters since 1996, divers will have no trouble spotting rays, sharks, and sea turtles, and tiny pike blennies and bright-blue flying gurnards are a common sight.
In addition to protecting sea life, the park also manages several 18th-century shipwrecks. Highlights include the 327-foot-long Charles Brown and the Chien Tong, a sunken fishing boat that’s known as the “turtle hotel” for the hawksbill and green turtles who call the boat-turned-artificial-reef home.
On land, divers will find uncrowded beaches and protected hiking trails that pass through semi-tropical rainforests and cactus-lined valleys. The island’s first upscale hotel, Golden Rock Resort — which is also the island’s largest resort, at just 32 rooms — is perched near the Quill, a dormant volcano that’s one of the Caribbean’s most sought-after hiking spots (you’re able to hike into its crater).
St. Eustatius National Marine Park is home to 60 dive sites. Access to the park is $6 for a single dive and $30 for year-long access to the park.