Exumas Itinerary: How to Plan the Perfect Trip to the Most Beautiful Islands in the Caribbean
It’s funny the different ways trips end up happening. I have some spots I go to annually, traditions from childhood. Special places I go to as often as possible…my go to destinations. Places I plan and save to visit that are most likely once in a lifetime trips. And then there are the trips that end up happening pretty randomly. Like, because I saw adorable little pigs swimming in turquoise water on Instagram.
I’ll be honest. That’s how my trip to the Exumas ended up happening. Because of the pigs. But first let’s back up and get a little context.
If you’re looking for paradise on earth, you’ll find it in the Exumas. The Exuma Cays are a chain of 360+ islands in the Bahamas just southeast of Nassau. They’re famous for their white sand beaches and having some of the bluest water in the world. Actually, before the Exumas “took off” as a popular destination, when asked how visitors found out about the Exumas, most visitors would say they were looking on Google Earth for the bluest water in the world and they found it in the Exumas!
And of course…those adorable swimming pigs!
My trip to the Exumas happened in June (summer is considered “off season” in a lot of places in the Caribbean) with a group of NINE girlfriends. Traveling from Tulsa (OK), I will tell you…it was not easy getting to the Exumas. 95% of flights to Georgetown (Great Exuma) come from Miami (and when we went there was only one flight a day). So our travel day started bright and early leaving Tulsa, laying over in Dallas and then Miami before finally arriving in Georgetown. And of course, we were delayed in Dallas (due to general incompetency : ) and our plane came in late to Miami. After RUNNING to get to the gate, they had already closed it. We were some of the first ones to get to the gate and the agent informed us that we couldn’t board (even though the plane was still at the gate) and the flights were sold out for the next three days but they could put us on standby for the third day. Umm, what?
We were a little stunned thinking that 3/4 of our vacation was suddenly out the window and as more people from our delayed flight started showing up at the gate, it became clear that 20-30 had also missed the daily flight to Georgetown. Let me tell you…it started to get a little loud and it wasn’t very long until the situation ended up on a manager’s radar. Long story short (too late!) they ended up reopening the aircraft door (which apparently is not supposed to happen) and hurrying us all on board without checking tickets, passports, or anything. What an experience.
Anyways, we made it to Georgetown, got our rental cars, and checked into our vacation rental. We booked a large villa that was part of a little complex that had a shared pool and it was right on the beach. We did a little grocery run that night as we planned to have quite a few of our meals in our villa.
We were on the island for about 4 days and here’s what we did:
- An 8-hour boat excursion that took us almost all the way across the island chain. In addition to seeing the most insanely blue water and white sand, we swam with the pigs, snorkeled in Thunderball Grotto, swam with nurse sharks, visited some iguanas, and sunbathed on a truly amazing sand bar. Easily the highlight of the trip.
- Spent Sunday at the Chat n’ Chill for their weekly pig roast. We took a ferry over from Georgetown and spent the day playing in the water, lounging under palm trees, chowing down on local food, and hiking across the island.
- Drove down to Little Exuma to see the Tropic of Cancer beach and hang out at Santana’s. We did not see Johnny Depp.
- Poked around Georgetown and did a little shopping.
Overall, it was a nice, relaxing trip, but I still felt like I got to see what I came for. Here’s my #1 recommendation: the prettiest sites in the Exumas are best seen by boat. While the beaches are spectacular, the real beauty of the Exumas is the water. You have to plan at LEAST one boat excursion during your trip as getting to zip in between white sandy cays as you glide through turquoise clear water is the real magic of the Exumas.
Where to Stay in the Exumas
While the Exumas are made up of a lot of islands, not many of them are inhabited (the majority are private) and there are even fewer places to stay.
Great Exuma is the main island of the Exumas and home to Georgetown (where the airport is). You’ll find the most options of places to stay here. You’ll also have the biggest variety of restaurants and shopping (although still limited). There are a couple of resorts on Great Exuma but it’s mostly small inns and vacation rentals.
Sandals: If you want the ultimate resort experience and you’re willing to shell out the big bucks, Sandals Emerald Bay is pretty incredible. It’s adults only and it sounds like you’d never want to leave the resort! Check pricing and read reviews here.
Grand Isle Resort and Spa: This is where I would stay if I make it back to the Exumas. It shares the same beach with Sandals, but it’s a much more laid back resort experience. The pools are gorgeous and we ate at the restaurant by the pool a couple of times. If you want some of the resort amenities (pool and restaurant) at a better bargain, Grand Isle Villas offers one, two, and three bedroom villa style options. Check pricing and read reviews here.
We stayed in a vacation rental in the “Jimmy Hill Edition”. It’s a collection of about 6 vacation homes/condos that have a shared pool. The villa was great and the beach was beautiful but the water on this side of the island was pretty rough and we didn’t spend a lot of time at the beach there.
To find EXACTLY what you’re looking for in a vacation rental, search here and filter for budget, rooms, etc.
Connected to Great Exuma by bridge, Little Exuma is its smaller and quieter neighbor. You won’t find any resorts here but there are plenty of vacation rentals that front its idyllic beaches. Little Exuma is perhaps the best of both worlds. You have quiet, beautiful Caribbean style beaches but the restaurants on Great Exuma are still accessible by car.
Search for vacation rentals here, and if you want to stay on one of the world’s most epic (and uncrowded beaches) look for something on the Tropic of Cancer beach.
Staniel Cay is quite a ways northwest from Great Exuma and it’s the boating capital of the Exumas. If you’re chartering, this is the place where you’ll pick up your boat. This small island has less of a local feel than Great and Little Exuma and feels more like a resort community. There are no cars on the island and only a couple of places to stay but it feels pretty perfect. It’s also close to Big Farmer’s Cay (where the swimming pigs are), Thunderball Grotto, and an incredible sand bar.
The most convenient place to stay on the island is the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (it’s the only resort/inn) and it’s pretty adorable. There are also a few vacation rentals. Search here for more options.
Not see what you’re looking for? Interested in staying on your own private island? (Hey, a girl can dream). Search here for vacation rentals. You can search by size, budget, location, etc. so you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for. The great thing about the Exumas are all of the beachfront options. Even if you go with a vacation rental, you’ll easily be able to find on right on the beach.
More posts about this area;
Exumas Travel Tips: Things to Know Before Your Trip
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