Why the Statia Is one of the Caribbean’s Best-Kept Secrets
The building has been here for more than two centuries, stone and brick just a few hops from the edge of the sea.
Faithfully rebuilt to evoke its colonial-era structure, the property was originally made of the ballast from sailing ships.
It’s home to an exceptionally lovely restaurant and bar, one of the Caribbean’s best dive centers and, most importantly, the kind of sunset view worth traveling for all on its own. It’s a short step from the Barrel House, the lovely “from scratch” restaurant that was once the home of the Dutch West India Company on the island.
In many ways, The Old Gin House hotel is the essence of Statia: genteel and historic, surrounded by beauty, impossibly serene.
This little Dutch Caribbean island a short flight or ferry ride from St Maarten is a very different kind of Caribbean than the one you’re used to, even if you’ve been to the smallest and most remote-feeling places in the region.
But it wasn’t always that way.
After the United States declared its independence in 1776, it was the Dutch governor of this island, Johnnes de Graff, who sent a musket salute to the American ship Andrea Doria — the first time the young nation had been so recognized.
Statia was a notable maritime station in the Caribbean, of enough repute that the young Alexander Hamilton actually spent a number of his early years in Statia — expanding his Caribbean youth beyond the more famous island of Nevis.
Indeed, the history here abounds: you can even find the oldest extant Jewish synagogue in the New World: the Honen Dai, built in 1739 (yes, even before the Touro Synagogue in Newport); while it’s now a ruin, it’s a reminder of the cosmopolitan nature of this place nearly three centuries ago.
Walking through Statia’s downtown you can feel the centuries; while still quiet and years ahead of any bustle, it’s a unique sort of Caribbean destination: cobblestone streets, red-brick buildings — the sort of urban center you’d expect in a New England village, not in the heart of the northeastern Caribbean.
But that’s part of what makes this little island so captivating; the place has a delicious sense of calm, an enviable ability to slow down time; the diving is some of the best in the world; and the Quill dormant volcano is among the Caribbean’s most sought-after hiking destinations.
In recent years, more and more new eateries have popped up, joined by bars and new outposts as an island that is still one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets has started to percolate.
There’s even a new hotel, the solar-powered Golden Rock Dive and Luxury Resort, which has been helping to put the island on the radar of a new generation of travelers.
But if you’re not spending the pre-sunset hour having a rum punch at the Old Gin House, you’re doing it wrong.
Here, on the western coast of the island, the light hits differently; the green hills and the sparkle of obsidian beneath the water make for something very special indeed.
Then you wait and the sunset hits, and the sun seems to slowly dip to the horizon, and for a moment you might even catch the green flash. And, as it always seems to do here, time takes on a very fluid meaning.