**Since this post, i’ve created an updated Exuma Cheat Sheet if you plan to visit the Exumas!**
If you’ve seen any photos from Exumas, Bahamas, you may have thought all the views look unbelievable. When you go for your first time, you will realize that you are looking at the bluest and clearest water you have ever seen. Even just driving by along the coast and looking out towards the shore, the water looks almost strangely like Windex! In photos, you would’ve thought it was just a filter or some kind of Photoshop trick to make the water look like that, but in reality it’s just like that, and when you take a photo and look at it later, it’s actually still hard to believe.
My first trip
My first time coming to the Exumas was a group trip in November 2013. I went with a group of about 10 friends and we were all staying at Grand Isle resort. The trip was organized by a friend who spends a few months every winter in the Exuma and owns a few boats there too. He has fallen in love with the Exumas from a few years back and he tries to share it with as many of his friends as possible (which I’m finding I want to do now as well!). During that first trip we were able to see several sandbars, stingrays, starfish, iguanas, and even dolphins! The dolphins are attracted to the loud music from the boat, so we were able to jump into the water to swim with them! They were so quick swimming around us and seeing them free and not in captivity was one of the best Exuma moments I’ve had to date.
How I ended up falling in love with the Exumas
I came to Exuma for my second time in February 2014. This trip we were able to do a two day trip to Staniel Cay by boat from Great Exuma (the main island). In Staniel Cay, we were able to check out the famous Staniel Cay Yacht Club, thunderball grotto (where they filmed James Bond Thunderball movie), the original Pig Island (Big Major’s Spot), play with friendly sharks (Compass Cay), and more. I learned on this trip that there is just so much to see and do in Exuma that you can come many times and never get bored!
How to get to there
If you are planning a trip to Exumas, you need to look for flights to George Town, Great Exuma, Bahamas (airport code GGT). There are direct flights to GGT from Toronto Pearson airport every Sunday by Air Canada all year round, and then they also add a Thursday direct flight from Toronto (in addition to the Sunday one) starting November and ending in April. George Town also has direct flights from some US cities including Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. You can also connect through Nassau (which has tons of daily direct flights), by BahamasAir or SkyBahamas for $100 per person for a 40 minute flight. The planes they use are a bit old but they are larger and fit around 100 people.
Where to Stay
For accommodation, I like the idea of staying in a rented house/beach villa in Exuma now since I’m comfortable with the entire island. There are some really nice villas you can rent for reasonable prices that are better located than the main hotels (you can check on Flipkey, etc). If it’s your first time you probably want to stay in a hotel, and the top ones would Grand Isle, Sandals, and Turquoise Cay (**Update Jan 2016: Turquoise Cay is now closed, as of June 2015! Pretty sad about that, hopefully someone else buys it and reopens another hotel there!). Look at the photos and reviews on Tripadvisor to see which one suits you better since they are all quite different. Also know there is a 26% tax on hotels!
When to visit
Best time to come to Exuma is anywhere between November and April. May/June is rainy season and July-Sept is hurricane/storm season. However, hurricanes are quite rare and going during the summer months will likely still have great weather. The restaurants/events will just be a lot quieter compared to the winter months.
What to do there
While in Exuma, some things you shoulder consider doing are:
- Go to visit the Swimming Pigs! (check out my blog post dedicated to the Swimming Pigs here)
- Chat’n’Chill beach bar located on Stocking Island. This is where the wild stingrays are and you can feed them. Also the best Goombay Smash drinks, conch salad, and ribs at this beach bar! Best day to go is on Sundays.
- Staniel Cay day trip (or go for a few nights) – I don’t have an excursion company to recommend for this as I’ve only gone by private boat but there are a few companies that do this day trip if you look around online
- If you want to rent your own small boat (and be the captain, or hire someone to take you around), check out Minn’s Water Sports which is located right in the centre of George Town
- Sandbars (you need boat access to reach them) which are just areas where the sand becomes exposed once the tide gets low, there is a good one near Moriah Harbour (which is another great place to go) or Sandy Cay (Sandy Point) near southern most tip of Little Exuma
- Visit the wild sea turtles. The place I like to do that the most is on Hoopers Bay which is one of my favourite beaches and where my parents have rented beach villas twice already (and I stayed with them on there). Buy some frozen squid from the seafood section of the main grocery store in George Town and feed the squid to the turtle by holding it on your hand, they will come right up to you and they love it! There is another area with turtles near Crab Cay, but the water is deeper there and more green, and I find the turtles there more aggressive (more likely to bite you thinking you are squid too, lol).
- Visit David Copperfield’s Musha Cay sunken mermaid and piano. He sunk some concrete statues so his guests can snorkel and dive them. They are in secret locations so you will have ask me nicely to get some directions 🙂
- Take a boat or drive to Coco Plum Beach on the northern side of the island (about 5-10 minute drive north of Sandals/Grand Isle) during low tide (you can find on the internet low and high tide times), you can find natural sand dollars all over this beach!
- You can find iguanas on an island near Pig Island around Great Exuma on the northern side (the Exuma Water Sports Swimming Pigs tour will take you there also), or smaller ones at Sandy Cay on the southern most tip
- You can also visit the Tropic of Cancer beach (you can drive to it as well), located on Little Exuma. A bit hard to find. The best directions I can give is to drive south past Turquoise Cay hotel and the “ferry” bridge to Little Exuma, and on the left hand side you will see a dirt road with some garbage bins and a little sign that says “Winky’s beach villas” and just follow that road. Hopefully you have a durable car too! Once you arrive there is a little wooden hut that has some lines painted on it that mark the meridian line of the “Tropic of Cancer”. The beach itself is very nice and one of the longest on the entire island! Another great post I found helpful when I was search for this beach was this post! Enjoy!
- Visit Turquoise Cay hotel for a drink/lunch/dinner. You can also use their awesome infinity pool and paddleboards while you are there – just be respectful and give them some business if you do that 🙂
- There is a popular restaurant/bar to go to every evening while in the Exumas, usually all the seasonal visitors who stay for a few months in Exuma or that are regulars go to the same spot to hang out. Wednesdays: Catch a Fire; Thursdays: Peace and Plenty; Friday: Exuma Beach Resort and the Fish Fry; Saturday: Catch a Fire; Sunday: Chat’n’Chill beach bar.
- And much more.. you will see for yourself!
Enjoy the Exumas – “It’s Better in the Bahamas!”