Everyone knows about the super touristy islands of the Bahamas, but most people don’t even think about the rest of them! Where do you go to get away from the all-inclusive resorts? To find empty beaches and quirky local restaurants? The Exumas are your islands.
Upon landing at the tiny yellow airport in the middle of the island, we drove to our rental house. If I’m being honest, prior to the trip I was a little skeptical that the Bahamas could be anything but a typical tourist vacation, but by the time we reached the house, that was no longer a worry. After a good 20 minutes of winding dirt roads through minefields of potholes and probably scratching our rental car on the overhanging brush, we reached our little spot of paradise—a colorful house on its own little beach without another house in sight. Everyone we met that first day was incredibly friendly, and within no time we felt right at home!
Things to Do
Snorkel/Dive – One of the main reasons I came to the Exumas was to learn to dive. Dive Exuma (http://www.dive-exuma.com/) was great, and took us to some amazing dive sites, some shallow enough for snorkelers as well. My favorite dive was at “Shark Reef,” where we swam peacefully with the reef sharks in about 40 ft. of the bluest water imaginable. It was absolutely incredible.
Stocking Island – A short ferry ride from Great Exuma, Stocking Island is home to the famous Chat ‘N Chill (http://chatnchill.com/). Buy a drink from the bar, a conch salad from the little shack, and go find a picnic table, hammock, or swing to enjoy it. You can play beach volleyball, chat with the locals or fellow travelers, then head over to the shore to pet the sting rays that hang out in the shallows in hopes of some conch. It’s a great place to, well, chill!
Take a Boat Tour – Although this is a bit more touristy, we knew we couldn’t go home without taking a boat tour up the cays to see the famous swimming pigs, iguanas, and Thunderball Grotto. Exuma Sunrise Tours (http://www.exumasunrisetour.com/) took us on a practically private tour of the cays, along with an Italian couple. They will take you almost wherever you want to go, depending on the other people on board your tour (the groups are very small, so you probably won’t have to compromise too much). Your first stop will be the gorgeous sand bar that forms an island during low tide. Then swim with the sea turtles at Hooper’s Bay Beach. Stop at Pig Island and swim with the wild pigs (yes, they actually swim!), then on to the island inhabited by iguanas!
My favorite part was snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto. Pop your head up on the other side of a little underwater doorway, and find yourself in a 20 ft. tall cave! With the sun peeking through the hole in the top, it makes the turquoise water even more beautiful.
Take a Drive Up the Island – On our first full day, we decided to get our bearings by exploring more of the island. We drove from the main town of Georgetown up to the north end of the island, and found some great spots! Stopping at quirky little bars and restaurants along the way, we finally made it to the end of the road. There we found an empty beach and a bunch of old pier pilings poking up from the water. Of course, we immediately hopped in with our snorkel gear and started swimming. There was amazing coral growth on the pilings, and we were the only ones there! You never know when you’re going to get lucky and find an amazing spot like that!
Where to Eat
Fish Fry – A short ways north of Georgetown, you’ll find a group of colorful shacks along the shore. This is known as Fish Fry, where locals and tourists alike can hang out and enjoy a snack or drink. There are multiple little bars and restaurants offering local food, plus good music and a great view of the water. You might even get to see a sailing race like we did! I think we went to Fish Fry about 5 times during our stay, each time making a few new friends!
Exuma Point Bar and Grill – We found this restaurant (http://exumapoint.com/) on our drive up the island, and were quite happy we did. We were the only ones there, and were served an amazing buffet of Bahamian food while seated on the beachside deck.
Blu on the Water Restaurant & Bar – If you’re looking for something a little different than the normal Bahamian cuisine, you might try Blu. It was the first restaurant we went to while on the island after getting a recommendation from our house rental lady. We ended up going there twice, and the second time, we were pleasantly surprised by a gourmet chef! He made our vegetarian meals just how we wanted them and it was delicious!
Peace & Plenty – A pink hotel located in Georgetown, Peace & Plenty (http://www.peaceandplenty.com/) is adorable and has very friendly workers. Whether you just pop in for an ice cream and carrot cake (which I actually did more than once…oops!) or want a full meal, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
Where to Stay
Rent a House – We booked a house on the south side of the island using www.HomeAway.com. The south side is much less developed and further from town, but it is also more of an adventure that way! If you’re looking for beaches, stay on the north side because they have a much better beachfront.
Stay at a Hotel/Resort – There are quite a few little hotels and resorts spread around the island. All of the ones we saw looked adorable and had that laid-back Bahamian feel.
I can guarantee you’ll find this string of islands to be a great place to explore, try a new sport like diving, or just relax on a beach! If you’d like more stories from Exuma, other off-the-beaten-path destinations, and travel tips check out http://www.pheebstravels.com!
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