Where History, Nature and Adventure Come Together
From shallow reefs and critter-covered sands to boulder labyrinths and deep walls, there is something for divers of all interests in the waters of St. Eustatius, aka “Statia.” Centuries-old artifacts lie scattered among the remains of long-lost sailing ships, while modern wrecks sport colorful coral encrustations. Sites just minutes from shore provide calm conditions and clear waters, while those willing to venture a bit farther afield can discover intriguing landscapes formed during ancient volcanic eruptions, and visit sites that see very few divers. Ashore, Statia provides a low-key vibe and a landscape that has never seen a cruise ship or a beachfront condo complex.
- Best for: All divers
- Best season to visit: Year round
- Weather: Air temperatures range from the mid 70s in winter into the mid to high 80s in summer, with cooling trade winds sweeping the island. Rain showers are less common from December to May
Things to Do
- ● Hike to a rainforest hidden in a dormant volcano
- ● Participate in an archaeological dig
- ● Visit historic forts, museum and botanical gardens
- ● Whale watching in winter
About Diving in St. Eustatius
Divers don't have to go far to discover the full range of Statia's diving. No site on the island's sheltered western shore is more than three miles from the docks, and all sit relatively close to shore. The island's volcanic origins are evident in the finger-like lava ridges that radiate outward from shore, and in the more isolated domes and pinnacles that rise from the sand. A variety of hard and soft corals make their home on this igneous substrate, which is often carved into ledges, clefts and caverns. In addition to modern shipwrecks, the reefs and sandy shallows of the island's west coast hold a treasure trove of artifacts from historic wrecks that are now little more than piles of ballast stones and anchors. One prize find that divers are allowed to carry home are the blue beads that have become an iconic symbol of Statia's maritime past.
Diving in St. Eustatius Tips
You could enjoy the reef's bright colors without knowing anything about history, geology or fish identification. But a little time spent brushing up on these subjects will greatly enhance your underwater experiences, as this island is rich in maritime heritage, marine life and interesting submerged volcanic formations.
Best Places to Dive in St. Eustatius
A lucky few divers will unearth historic souvenirs at Blue Bead Hole. The Charlie Brown is the must-do wreck, but the Chien Tong is also worth a visit—and both are worth a return trip after dark to see the turtles. Drifting between the coral-covered walls of Grand Canyon is the underwater equivalent of flight, as is a slow free fall down the Cliffs. Divers can spend hours exploring the coral gardens and ledges of the Hangover, and pause for fish watching at Balcony. A trip to North Point provides a chance to swim through a field of giant boulders and play hide-and-seek with schooling barracuda at Gibraltar.
What to Pack for Diving in St. Eustatius
A 3mm wetsuit will suit most divers. Add a light for night dives and exploring crevices in the lava flows, and a compact mesh gear bag that stows easily aboard dive boats. Bring extra cash, because many restaurants and shops on the island aren't set up for credit or debit cards.
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Orange Bay Hotel
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The Old Gin House
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Diving in St. Eustatius
Though smaller than many Caribbean islands, Statia has plenty to offer divers. The Statia National Marine Park surrounds the island from the high water mark to a depth of 100 feet, protecting some 14 square miles of prime marine habitat. Surveys confirm that more than half of all reef surfaces are covered in live corals or sponge growth, and anchoring and fishing bans are in place to ensure dive sites remain in pristine condition. Underwater landscapes take on a variety of forms. To the north, underwater evidence of a long extinct volcano includes finger-shaped lava flows that radiate from shore to form ledges, canyons and caverns. Also in evidence are fractured blocks of solidified igneous rock and the distinctive dome-shaped “lava bomb” formations that formed when red-hot flows of molten rock erupted from subterranean vents to meet the cooling waters of the sea. Over thousands of years, these structures have gained thick overgrowths of corals and sponges. To the south, reefs take on familiar spur-and-groove profiles, with coral ledges alternating with sand channels that run perpendicular to the shore. Many sites begin shallow, and as depth increases, formations often transition into steeper slopes and walls that continue on to depths beyond 200 feet. Reefs are home to an expected cast of Caribbean creatures, including rays, sharks turtles, angelfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, and spotted drums, with crevices holding moray eels, octopus and lobster, and closer looks revealing seahorses and frogfish. Sites on the edge of deep water may see passing migrations of dolphin and whales in winter months. Areas of the volcanic sand bottom also hold one of Statia's signature finds, the flying gurnard. Wrecks are another signature feature of Statia's underwater scene. It is estimated that more than 200 historic shipwrecks rest in the island’s waters, but this number is somewhat deceiving because most of these wooden vessels have long since deteriorated into little more than piles of ballast rock and rusting anchors. Several historic wrecks sites are visited on a regular basis, with a favorite being the Double Wreck. There is scant evidence of the vessels themselves, and the emphasis is actually on the marine life that hides among the coral-encrusted debris and the numerous southern stingrays that prowl the adjacent sand flats. Another popular dive into history takes place at Blue Bead Hole, where the sea floor holds lost items such as clay pipes and pottery, along with the site's namesake blue beads, which were once used as currency during the days of the slave trade. Historic artifacts are not to be disturbed at this site, but divers lucky enough to find one of the iconic blue beads are allowed to keep them. Statia also has several modern wrecks, including the 330-foot former cable layer Charlie Brown, and the 174-foot Chien Tong. Both wrecks are now covered in sponges and coatings of bright orange cup corals, which add a blaze of color when illuminated by dive lights during a night dive. The majority of the 36 official moored dive sites within the marine preserves are suitable for divers of all abilities. A number of sites offer shallow to mid-range depths that allow for long bottom times. But advanced and adventurous divers are also accommodated with canyons, walls and pinnacles that add drama to the dive plan, and offer the chance for big animal sightings and exploratory-style drifts on un-named formations.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport is required that must be valid at least 3 months beyond the date of entry into the country. St. Eustatius also requires an onward or return airline ticket and proof of lodging or hotel confirmation. No visa is required for stays less than 90 days. There is a departure tax of $15 per person upon departure.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into Statia. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
Though you'd never guess it when you land at the small airport or walk through the uncrowded streets of Oranjestad, Statia was once the second-busiest port in the Americas, and home to some 20,000 residents. Enticed by tax-free trading policies, vessels from around the world sent a steady flow of goods through island warehouses, enriching merchants and earning Statia the title of “The Golden Rock.” History buffs may recall that in 1776 Statia became the first nation to salute an American naval vessel and later sold arms to the Colonial Army. Things are much quieter on the island these days, which is home to fewer than 4,000 people, and remains untouched by major development. There is just the one town, a handful of small hotels and guesthouses, and not a fast-food franchise in sight. History permeates the island, from the thick stone walls of Fort Oranjestad that once shielded the town from pirate attacks to the remains of oceanfront warehouses and slave houses in Lower Town, the once-grand churches of upper Town and the foundations of great houses from the plantain era. It's been said that Statia has more historic ruins per square mile than any other country in the Western Hemisphere. The island also has its share of natural attractions. On the island's northern end, the volcanic hills of Boven lie within one of two National Parks, with the other encompassing the 2,000-foot cone of The Quill, a dormant volcano on the island's south that hides a rainforest within its interior crater. A hike up and into this hidden green oasis is a must for any island visitor.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in Statia is 110 volts, 60 cycles, so no adapter will be needed for U.S. visitors. The country code for Statia is 599. Check with your service provider for long distance/roaming information and costs. Some hotels offer WiFi.
Treated reverse osmosis water is delivered to some locations or rainwater is collected in cisterns. It is recommended to drink bottled water unless you know the water is purified.
Language & Currency
Dutch is the official language, but English is the language normally used and taught in schools. The local currency is the U.S. Dollar.
St. Eustatius is on Atlantic Standard Time (AST) and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Statia is 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
Location, Size and Population
St. Eustatius is a Caribbean Island and part of the Caribbean Netherlands. Statia lies in the northern Leeward Islands of the West Indies, directly northwest of St. Kitts, which you can see in the distance with the naked eye and southeast of Saba. The island of Statia is just over 8 square miles in total.
The population of St. Eustatius is estimated at approximately 4,000. The last confirmed census was 4,020 in 2013.