Made up of over 700 islands collectively, The Bahamas is a playground for island lovers on the hunt for uninhabited sun-drenched perfection. While only 16 of those islands are actual tourist destinations, there's a collection of islands in particular that are home to some of the best beaches in The Bahamas.
The Exumas have been at the very top of my travel bucket list for years, right after I saw a post on Instagram of a girl holding an adorable little pig on a pristine Caribbean beach (silly yes, but at least I didn't go there for Fyre Festival). Little did I know, the 365+ cays that make up The Exumas are also a hotspot for the rich and famous, and an icon of isolated bliss for the entire country. Flying into the mini airport, you get a swift glimpse of the pure unaltered beauty that awaits on the hundreds of islands down below.
Our weekend was jam packed with all things you can possibly do on The Exumas, and surprisingly we managed to fit everything into an amazing 3-day itinerary.
Arriving on the island, I checked into the newly renovated Peace and Plenty hotel right in the heart of Georgetown on Great Exuma. First things first, I had a dive into the ocean before doing anything else, which you'll understand more as you scroll down. Afterwards, I was promptly acquainted with my new friends Megan from Lush to Blush and her photographer Courtney. We began our first evening with a breezy seaside dinner at BLU Restaurant & Bar, followed by a night out on the town at Regatta Park where we experienced the opening night of the 14th Annual Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival. We didn't stay too long (exhausted from a day of travel), but it was a quick look into the festivities we'd be a part of in the days to come.
Early wake-up call as we hopped onto a boat tour and saw first-hand why The Bahamas is the #1 country on the list of #nofilter social posts. I can't verbally express to you how crystal clear + blue this water is. I think I'll just let you see for yourself through my photos. Some highlights included a stop at Compass Cay where we swam with nurse sharks, and snorkeling through Thunderball Grotto. What is seemingly unassuming from the outside, turns into an unexpected fluorescent space of exotic marine life and hues of blue. You'll feel as though you're swimming through an aquarium, but in a nice way, not like trapped or anything...just go. Thunderball was definitely one of my favorite stops, followed by Mile Long Sandbar near Staniel Cay, which is basically a little slice of heaven on Earth and a very necessary stop on any boat tour. Your feet will thank you once you've stepped foot on this divine cloud of sand.
Now of course the moment I and everyone else was waiting for, Big Major Cay, home to the swimming pigs. Honestly, I was so thrown off by this beach as it was a hectic array of hungry pigs and clueless travelers. I didn't know whether I should be paying attention to the massive mama pigs trying to bite my bum for food, or to the handful of girls trying to pick up baby pigs and frantically dropping them in the water as soon as they squealed and they got their 'Instagram shot.' I slowly, but also kind of frantically, backed up into the boat and just admired the chaos from afar. However, I did have a chat with a woman back at the hotel later that day, and apparently there's another beach with swimming pigs that is wayyyy more tame, so I would recommend fixing your own private boat tour and heading to the lesser known beach to have your pig adventure.
After a long day at sea, we headed back to the Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival, where our evening was filled with dancing, singing, smiling and best of all, a vivacious drum-line that got everyone moving!
Had a lovely car tour around Georgetown and Lumina Point. One of the best things about Great Exuma is there is not a single traffic light on the island. But then again, I'm pretty sure there's only one road so I guess traffic lights aren't a necessity. The highlight of this portion of the day was definitely Tropic of Cancer Beach. There's probably a 95% chance you'll have this strand of paradise all to yourself, as it's pretty difficult to get to, but definitely worth it! We spent some time here soaking up the sun before we made our way back to Georgetown to catch a boat to Stocking Island.
Ok, yes so far everything has been amazing, but I must say I left a piece of my heart on Stocking Island at CHAT'N'CHILL. Opened in 1998 by Kenneth 'KB" Bowe, it was designed to cater to people boating around the area, and has turned into a place of refuge for anyone who wants to do exactly what the name suggests. Equipped with a full bar, some of the best Bahamian food I had on the trip, an endless supply of Kalik (local Bahamian beer), hammocks, picnic tables and a beach volleyball court, the set-up here is pretty unbeatable, making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon or two (or five). People travel far and wide to Chat'n'Chill just to sample items from their conch bar, as everything is made fresh and the boys working the bar know everything there is to know about conch. I was thrilled when KB came and sat with me and we got into some chats about life, education, and the islands. Definitely made my day!
We made our way back to Georgetown, where we attended the final night of the Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival. It was a really unique opportunity to check out such a cool cultural experience on the island and get a taste of what being Bahamian is all about. As beautiful as these islands are, the culture here is just as rich and worth getting to know!
On my last day, I spent a few hours on the island going at my own pace, paddling through the pool-like ocean water just outside of my hotel room, and staring up at the clouds thinking, "it can't get much better than this."
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Photo: Courtney Woodham