The end of summer is just around the corner, but there is still plenty of time for one more family adventure before the kids head back to school. If you are in search of a pristine and luxurious destination to soak in the last of the summertime sunshine, then look no further than the extraordinary Exumas.
Stretching out over 100 miles, the Exumas consist of 365 picture-perfect cays and islands. The Exuma’s mind-boggling clear turquoise water and largely uninhabited islands make for one of the most idyllic sailing grounds in all of the Bahamas. And with a plethora of natural attractions both above and below the sea, opportunities for family adventure abound in every corner of every cay.
Charter a private yacht or sail your own through the Exumas, and get ready for back to school travel the whole family will remember forever! Here are the highlights of sailing through the Exumas that you won’t want to miss.
Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
The first land-and-sea preserve in the world, the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is 176-square meters of pure paradise. As you sail through the dazzling water, you will find unpopulated islands, spectacular views and rich biodiversity.
Don’t miss the opportunity to dive or snorkel, where underwater there lies a vast kaleidoscope of colors and unique sea life. A few of the creatures to keep a look out for include spotted eagle rays, barracuda, lobsters, and stromatolites (the oldest and rarest living creatures in the world). There are shallow reefs and deep blue holes, promising an underwater adventure for any level and experience. The Thunderbolt Grotto is always a fan-favorite due to its feature in the James Bond movie of the same name; here your family will have the unique experience of snorkeling inside a marvelous cave.
Be sure to allow plenty of time to sail around the cays at leisure. There are multiple mooring locations throughout the preserve; they do not take reservations, but this is usually not a problem as the Exumas remain a hidden gem. Do note that you are not permitted to lobster or fish within the land and sea preserve.
Moriah Harbor City National Park
Located between Great and Little Exuma, the Moriah Harbor City National Park is a favorite spot for birdwatchers interested in sighting such local species as Gull-billed terns, nighthawks, plovers, oystercatchers and ospreys. If you prefer to stay on the sea, the calm waters and mangroves of the National Park make a fantastic place for kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. Finally, if you have ever wanted to try your hand at bonefishing, you’ll find some of the best spots in all of the Bahamas nearby—as well as excellent local guides who can help you get started with this unique style of fishing.
A highlight for many families sailing through the Exumas is the vast amount of unique animal encounters that await.
Locals call the area surrounding the first few Exuma Islands “The Starfish Reserve”, and it is a fitting name for the crystal-clear water where countless starfish dot the ocean floor. The water is shallow in many parts, affording the opportunity to snorkel up-close to the gorgeous creatures.
At Big Major’s Spot Cay, don’t be surprised when a welcoming committee of swimming pigs comes out to meet your yacht! No one knows with certainty how these friendly pigs came to call the otherwise uninhabited island home, but the happy porcine residents seem to enjoy their Bahamian abode. Jump in and go for a swim with the uncanny pigs, or simply drop them a snack from the comfort of your boat.
Head to Allen’s Cay and your family will find hundreds of giant iguanas sunbathing on the sand. Though they might appear intimidating, iguanas are typically friendly and will happily gulp down any snacks that you offer them. Slap a grape on the end of a stick and snap a photo of your new reptilian friends.
Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to feed the nurse sharks at Compass Cay. Nurse sharks are slow-moving and, for the most part, docile—meaning children of all ages can enjoy the feeding process.
With a different island or cay for every day of the year, it comes as no surprise that there are numerous beautiful beaches and hidden strips of sand that dot the Exumas. A few particularly noteworthy stops include:
There’s not much to “do” here, but that’s part of the beach’s beauty.
The Tropic Of Cancer Beach: Named for the meridian line that crosses right through it, The Tropic Of Cancer Beach (also known as Pelican Beach) is where you’ll find one of the prettiest beaches in all of the Exumas. You’ll likely have this crescent of powder-white sand and calm turquoise water all to yourself. There’s not much to “do” here, but that’s part of the beach’s beauty. Once you’ve had enough time soaking in the sun, be sure to stop by Santana’s Beach Bar for what is arguably the best lobster in the Bahamas. You’ll find the Tropic of Cancer Beach on Little Exuma.
Jolly Hall Beach: Five miles of iridescent sand shaded by casuarina trees are all you’ll find at the Jolly Hall Beach. But this sandy trip is ideal for swimming and snorkeling, and it makes an especially picturesque place to watch the sunrise. Just be sure to head there during low tide, as there isn’t much beach to enjoy when the tide is high. If hunger strikes, the nearby Palm Bay Resort makes a great stop for lunch. Jolly Hall Beach is located near George Town on Great Exuma.
Stocking Island: An easy sail from Great Exuma, Stocking Island is a picturesque place to wile away the afternoon, and a convenient base for nearby snorkeling and diving opportunities. You won’t find much in the ways of amenities on the island, but you will find the Chat N’ Chill Beach Bar, known for their Sunday pig roasts and specialty cocktails.
Staniel Cay Yacht Club is perhaps the best marina in the Exumas. The yacht club is home to a recently renovated marina and offers fuel, electricity, fresh water, bait and more. The dock can accommodate yachts up to 185 feet. Located south of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the Staniel Cay Yacht Club makes an ideal base for exploring the Exuma Cays before heading farther south to Great and Little Exuma. For up-to-date information on other marinas in the Exumas, you can find a comprehensive list here.
The new school year will be here before we know it, but it’s not too late for a last-minute family summer getaway! And a yachting trip through the Exumas is sure to be a back-to-school travel adventure the whole family will remember long into the year.
What are your family travel plans for the rest of the summer?