If you’re looking for the most beautiful place on earth, it just might be 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, having some of the bluest water in the world, and of course- those famous swimming pigs!
I first visited the Exumas in 2015 when it was just starting to take off as a tourist destination and it still felt fairly primitive. Fast forward 7 years and it’s considered one of the best “under the radar” destinations in the Caribbean. It’s still waaaaaay more lowkey than a lot of spots in the Caribbean and worlds away from hectic (and nearby) Nassau.
If you’re planning a trip to the Exumas, here are some travel tips and good things to know before you go:
Exumas Travel Tips
It’s not the easiest place to get to. Though located just off the coast of Miami, there are only a few flights coming into Georgetown each day. Chances are that you’ll be connecting through Miami (where American Airlines offers one flight each day) but Delta recently added a direct flight from Atlanta and Air Canada has a direct flight from Toronto. If you’re needing to make one (or more) connecting flights before flying out of Miami, you might consider flying in a day early and spending the night so there’s no chance that you’ll miss that flight.
You’ll need a passport. Even though it’s super close to the US, you’ll still need a passport to travel to the Bahamas.
They drive on the left side of the road. This takes some getting used to but not to worry, most of the rental cars come with large stickers on the windshield reminding you to keep to the left.
If you’re staying on Great Exuma, you’ll need a car to get around. The island is bigger than you think it is. Unless you’re staying at Sandals and never planning to leave the resort, you’ll need a rental car to get around. If you don’t get out and explore, you’ll be missing out on a lot. Take a day trip to Little Exuma, check out some local restaurants and beach bars, and go to a different beach everyday.
Groceries are EXPENSIVE!! If you’re staying at a place with a kitchen, you’ll probably want to pick up some groceries. While there are two grocery stores in Georgetown, be warned—groceries are expensive! If you have room in your luggage, consider packing some dry good staples. Surprisingly, or maybe not, liquor is pretty affordable.
Everything runs on island time. This means it’s slow, slow, slow. Plan on a solid 2-3 hours for dinner in the evenings (no one is in much of a hurry) and expect for some restaurants to just not be open sometimes.
Mosquitos are bad!! Like many islands in the Caribbean, the perfect storm of conditions are created to be an excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes. Pack your bug spray with you as it’s super expensive if you have to buy it once you arrive!
You can’t get into Sandals at all if you’re not staying there. Sandals is all inclusive, which means that non-resort guests are not allowed in to eat at the restaurants. You can however use the spa with a reservation. At slow times of the year, it’s been said that you can purchase day passes to use the facilities (and eat at the restaurants) at Sandal’s but you’ll likely pay a high price for the privilege.
Wi-Fi is not great. Even if your resort or vacation rental is equipped with Wi-Fi, if likely won’t work all that well and may be limited to one room. Consider to be fairly well “off the grid” for most of your trip.
Don’t expect a lot of development. The Exumas could be one of the prettiest island chains in the world, but they’ve been practically undiscovered until recent years. Because of this, their tourism infrastructure is having trouble keeping up with increasing demand. The Bahamas definitely has the feel of a third world country and without a lot of development, you’ll get a much more local experience in the Exumas than in nearby Nassau. Expect a lot of changes here in the next 3-5 years as the Ministry of Tourism is beefing the island’s offerings and infrastructure up to handle the new influx of tourism.
Be prepared for the food situation. If eating out is an important part of your vacation routine, you need to come prepared. The Exumas aren’t known for fine dining, so avoid restaurants claiming high-end or luxury experiences as they’re usually overpriced with mediocre food. Stick with the local dives instead. You’ll find better food (and experiences) at the local beach bars.
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