The Good Life: The Exumas.
Oh, the Caribbean... can't seem to get enough of those beautiful blue islands. This past month during our cold MN winter, we were lucky enough to venture south – this time to The Exumas. The Exumas are just 35 miles southeast of Nassau, not a bad plane ride to get to paradise! (only a 45 minute flight from Miami).
The Exumas boast a collection of 365 cays and islands and are divided into three areas: Great Exuma, Little Exuma and The Exuma Cays - we saw them all! The chain of islands is quite small, 130 miles long and 72 sq. mi in area. You can get from one end of the island to the other in just over an hour.
Looking at these photos makes me want to zip right back and stick my toes in that white sugar sand and those salty, blue waves. I was instantly struck by how vibrant the water was. I've seen a lot of beautiful beaches but The Exumas boast some of the whitest (and softest) sand and bluest waters I've ever seen.
Watch the video below for our full Exuma experience! And then read on!
Sandals Emerald Bay
We've had great experiences with Sandals on the majority of our Caribbean trips (Grenada, St Lucia to name a few) and Exuma seemed like a beautiful place – but let's be honest, the pigs are what sold me on the island...
We love Sandals resorts for the great quality of service, all inclusive features, loyalty and the fact that they always seem to snatch up killer locations to plant their resorts, often on bays, inlets or at the tips of islands.
The beach was definitely the hero at this particular resort; perfect white, soft sand for a mile and a half on private Emerald Bay. Nothing like a few good beach walks a day to burn those pina coladas off... The Greg Norman golf course was set on the water and looked quite impressive as well - if you're a golfer and you can peel yourself away from that hypnotizing beach for a few hours, it's probably worth the trip.
The environment was pretty laid back and quiet, I was pleasantly surprised. If you're looking for more of a night life scene it might not be the spot for you – the locals will even tell you that Exuma is a sleepy city. Most of all, we always love the fact that we don't have to worry about a thing when we visit – true relaxation!
Island Road Trip: Georgetown + Little Exuma
We love exploring the towns and cultures of the islands we visit so we try to make it a point to dedicate a day to it. There also weren't a ton of excursions available when we were there (deep sea fishing was a no go!) so took fun into our own hands and rented a jeep for the day. Nice way to get some uneven tan lines! ;)
There is ONE road that will take you from Great Exuma to Georgetown (main part of town) to Little Exuma (Exuma Cays obviously were accessed via boat). The drive to Georgetown was beautiful, much of it along the beach. Georgetown itself is a very small city with a few small shops, local vendors spots, a pier and a few restaurants. We were on the hunt for some fresh conch in Exuma but we couldn't ever seem to time it out right; if you find yourself in the Bahamas please make it a point to find a fresh conch shack – so good!
Tropic of Cancer Beach
There are various unmarked beaches to stop off at along the drive (when I say unmarked, I mean follow the super subtle teeny tiny wood signs with yellow lettering). The stunning strip of sand known as Tropic of Cancer Beach might have been the highlight of our trip. Off a dirt road lays this secluded, bright blue beach with a long strip of white sand that seems to go on for days. This spot is definitely deserving of a quiet, relaxing beach day!
Here are some other snaps from our roadtrip by the sea. Google Maps was NOT present on this trip, so I have no idea what these places are, but that is part of the magic!
Santana's Bar and Grill
This might have been one of the main reasons for our road trip... Santana's is known for their stellar seafood and is located at the very southern end of the island in William's Town (exact opposite end of the island as our resort). Probably would take an hour to get there if you drove straight there from Sandals – totally worth the drive!!
A little shack that overlooks the ocean, don't let the appearance of Santana's fool you because the fresh seafood is unlike anything you've ever had! They serve a select menu of different types of seafood, served with some killer mac and cheese, coleslaw, beans and rice. We ordered Grouper and Fried Lobster and OMG - I cannot say I've ever had fried lobster but, it's probably the best out there. The staff is laid back and so friendly and apparently if your timing is right you can see dolphins from the patio while enjoying your fried crustacean.
Four C's Adventure (swimming with pigs, sharks & more!)
We saved most days for the beach... but decided on one excursion, I had to see those piggies! We did a full day trip with Four C's Adventures. We took a long speedboat ride out to the Exuma Cays, which are beautiful! The trip included swimming with the pigs (yes!), sandbar stop, local lunch, swimming with sharks, swimming in a grotto and a stop to see some iguanas.
We made a stop at Pig Beach / Big Major Cay to see these cutie pies. These pigs live on the island and locals bring them fresh water and food daily - they will swim for food! Unfortunately it was such a windy day we ended up having to jump off the boat and brave the waves with them, but what troopers they were - babes and all! Oh, and one rooster.
Nurse Sharks at Compass Cay Marina
On the next stop, I had ZERO intention of getting out of the boat. We visited Compass Cay Marina where the nurse sharks hang out – and yes, I ended up getting in the water with them, eek! Nurse sharks are apparently extremely docile creatures, and they hang out at the marina doc to get their daily hot dog intake. It was still an uneasy feeling chillin' in the water with some sharks, no matter what kind - they are not all small either!
On any other day, swimming our way into this grotto would have been as simple as ducking under a crevice but because we were on the edge of a storm, the tide and current were pretty intense and required us to swim through a bit of a rock tunnel/cave to see this beauty. It proved to be a bit challenging but what a beautiful sight to see! The sun shines through the holes in this rock formation and makes for a sunny snorkeling spot; The James Bond movie Thunderball was also filmed here.
For lunch on our tour, we stopped at a local bbq joint in Black Point, Lorraine's Cafe. If you EVER are in or near the Exuma Cays, stop and see Lorraine and her kick-ass bbq. Amazing people and amazing homemade food - bbq ribs, mac and cheese, fried chicken, rice and beans.. and cold Kalik! Everything was so good that I didn't even take a photo - wow, no picture grace. Guess you'll have to taste it for yourself! ;)
Leaf Cay (Iguana Island)
Last on our tour we stopped to see an island that was previously owned by Nicholas Cage; he bought this 40 acres of paradise for $3 mil in 2006 and sold it for, well... a lot less. Today, it's been taken over by iguanas that are indigenous to the Bahamas and endangered. Well aren't they cute!
After a few packed day trips, a few days on the beach doing nothing was pretty amazing. Like I said, the beach definitely takes the crown.
Until next time, Caribbean blues. We're thinking Barbados or Antigua are next on our list... Do you have any spectacular Caribbean vaca spots to share? Pass em on!