Our latest getaway takes you to the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas.
I always thought of the Bahamas as being touristy and crowded until we went to The Exuma Cays.
The Exumas Cays land and sea nature reserve spans 176-miles through 365 islands and cays. You’ll find endless white-sand beaches, sapphire blue waters, and some very unique animal encounters.
The Exuma Cays – Dream Trip to the Bahamas
If you’re thinking of crowds of people, silly theme hotels and hoards of cruise ships when picturing the Bahamas, think again. In the Exumas, you’ll find one of the most romantic destinations on earth.
We knew we were in for something special when we looked out the window of our small commuter plane to witness the most beautiful view of islands I have ever seen in real life.
We couldn’t wait to touch down and get into that crystal clear sapphire blue water that was calling our name.
Dreaming of the Exumas
Home to the likes of Tyler Perry, Johhny Depp, and Oprah Winfrey, The Exuma Bahamas’ turquoise waters and snow-white sands is a place of paradise.
It’s no wonder films like Pirates of the Caribbean, Into the Blue. and James Bond have all filmed here.
They are like a picture-perfect movie setting.
The Exuma Cays are known for their gin blue waters named after the turquoise hue of the tasty spirit gin. But locals have taken it even a further referring to the upmarket blend of Bombay-Sapphire Gin. Yes, it is that blue!
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Staniel Cay Exumas
Many people only know of Great Exuma Bahamas, but another excellent Exuma Island to choose is Staniel Cay. It is closer to many of the top Exuma Cays attractions than Great Exuma.
About 100 people live on Staniel Cay and the only accommodation besides apartment rentals is Embrace Resort and The Yacht Club that has been around since the 1960s.
Staniel Cay Yacht Club
Even if you are staying on another Exuma Island a visit to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club is a must.
This is where everyone gathers in the Exumas.
The Yacht Club of Staniel Cay has been in operation since the 1960s attracting celebrities and the rich & powerful who anchor their mega-yachts offshore.
It has that perfect island vibe that takes you away from it all and immediately plops you into the laid back Caribbean lifestyle.
James Bond and Staniel Cay
James Bond’s Thunderball cast and crew spent many a night enjoying Kalik (Bahamas local beer) and cracked conch at its bar in 1964.
Sean Connery even blessed the yacht club with his presence along with many other celebrities over the years. There are photos of the famous James Bond Film inside plus the other movie start that have stopped in for some fun in the sun.
The Best Things to do in the Exumas
All of the major attractions of the Exumas are just a boat ride away from Staniel Cay and you can book tours to everywhere on the island.
1. Thunderball Grotto
Our favorite excursion in all of the Exumas was visiting Thunderball Grotto. It is home to the famous underwater scenes of James Bond’s Thunderball.
- If you haven’t read our article on Thunderball Grotto, head over there now, it’s worth going to the Exuma Cays for this alone!
At low tide, you can swim through caves and enter a beautiful cavern in the middle of an unassuming island.
Once you are inside it is breathtakingly beautiful both above the water and below!
The rocks and corals are lit up as the sun shines through and the bright colors of the fish sparkle in the beams of sunlight.
When you look back towards the opening of the Grotto, it’s like a giant fishbowl before your eyes.
It’s even shaped like a fishbowl and the colors are so vivid due to the sun streaming through the holes in the ceiling, it literally takes your breath away.
2. Pig Beach at Big Major Cay
One of the most famous stops in the Exumas is to swim with the pigs of Big Beach at Major Cay.
Leftover from colonial days, this group of pigs now run wild in the woods off the beach and come out daily for a dip in the sea.
When I heard we were swimming with pigs, the blond in me really shone through. I had visions of little aqua pygmy pigs swimming underwater with webbed feet.
But to my great shock and horror, the pigs of the Exumas are actual pigs that you find on a farm.
People bring cabbage to feed them and you can get in the water to swim with them. But don’t get too close, they’ll nip you if they think you have food.
Several years ago, they were isolated and left to fend for themselves, but when boaters started coming to the islands, the pigs got very excited and swam out to meet them.
When we were there, it was a new phenomenon, but today, copycat tours have sprung up and people have brought in pigs to different islands and beaches.
To make sure you are going to the authentic pig island, book through Staniel Cay
3. Swim with Nurse Sharks
The popular spot for swimming with sharks in the Bahamas is in the Exumas at Compass Cay.
We swam with sharks many times and swimming with nurse sharks are a wonderful experience.
I’ll never forget swimming with nurse sharks for the first time in Belize. These creatures are gentle and intelligent and it is a must-do activity when you visit the Exumas Cays.
4. Sharks Eating at the Docks of Staniel Cay
Sharks are a popular attraction in the Bahamas because they are just so darn friendly here.
They are fed by the dock every night as the fishermen clean their fish so when it comes to needing food, they’ve got it covered.
If you aren’t comfortable getting in the water with sharks, head on down to the docks at sunset and watch them come in as the fishermen clean their catch!
5. Snorkeling and Diving in The Exumas
The Exumas are known to be an incredible destination for diving and snorkeling.
It is the most incredible shade of aquamarine I have ever seen and it was crystal clear. The water is also as warm as butter.
The Bahamians are proud of their clear blue waters and with good reason.
There is PADI certified diving on Great Exuma and Staniel Cay at Staniel Cay Adventures .
When scuba diving in the Exumas Bahamas, you’ll find all the usual sites like sea caves, undisturbed coral reefs, wall dives, and even a 400-foot deep blue hole.
I don’t normally add Barracuda encounters to a best-of list, but our Barracuda experience was so memorable, I had to write about it.
It has been a while since we’ve spotted barracudas up close and we were treated to two of beauties during our trip.
They were large, shiny and oh so curious. They stuck around quite a while at the end of our excursion, so we all stayed in the water for a longer look.
When we made our way over to the Grotto by boat later in the trip, I could have sworn that the same two followed us.
I think they liked us, they really liked us.
Embrace Resort on Staniel Cay is an upmarket resort of eight villas including a spa, fitness center with swimming pool, and dining room.
The resort offers all-inclusive options or your choice of half board.
Golf carts are provided to guests to explore the island. Staniel Cay does not have any motorized vehicles making it an even more attractive destination in the Exuma Cays.
Check prices on TripAdvisor
Ther are no other hotels on Staniel Cay, but there are several Air BnBs. You can rent an entire villa on a secluded beach on Staniel Cay.
After sightseeing for the day, take home your fresh catch and have your own fish fry as you chat n chill while watching the sunset.
Emerald Bay – Great Exuma Island
Great Exuma Island is the largest island in the Exuma Cays but that doesn’t mean it’s over touristy or crowded. Great Exuma is still a quiet getaway and you can visit all of the things to do in the Exumas that we mention in this post.
There are direct flights to George Town from Miami and the best way to get around this island is by car rental.
A favorite resort for couples on Great Exuma Island is Sandals at Emerald Bay.
Sandals Emerald Bay is an all-inclusive luxury resort and spa on a mile-long secluded beach. There are three pools with music and party options or quiet retreats. Many couples love to choose Sandals for their romantic getaways and special occasions.
Sandals offers tours to all the Exuma Cays locations we visited.
Check availability and Pricing on TripAdvisor
6. Sailing Trips Around the Exumas
There is a lot to do in the Exuma Cays and you can rent a boat to explore on your own or hire a boat for a day or two.
Or you can hire a boat through Nikki on her three-day island hopping tour.
There are so many beaches to explore, this is really the way to see the Exumas.
We saw quite a bit in our three days, but with 365 islands, we barely scratched the surface.
7. Exumas Regatta
We just so happened to be in the Exumas for their annual regatta. Don’t worry though, if you aren’t there for it, I’m sure you’ll find another one somewhere.
There’s festivals, regattas and fishing derbies going on all the time in the Exumas.
The Bahamians know how to have a good time. So if you are out on a boat, chances are there is a festival, derby or regatta taking place.
8. Isolated Beaches of the Exuma Cays
The Exuma Cays have pristine secluded beaches.
On Staniel Cay alone, we drove around on our golf carts we found several spots to swim with nobody at all around.
If you go island hopping, it’s the perfect way to find your own private beach away from the crowds of Nassau.
- Tropic of Cancer Beach is considered the prettiest on the Exuma Islands located on Little Exuma Island.
- Stocking Island Beach on Stocking Island is another suggested stop that is good for snorkelling and has some of the best white sand in the Bahamas.
No matter what beach you visit, you’ll be swept far away from it all.
I’ll never forget standing calm warm water thinking of nothing as we effortlessly shifted from that North American frenzied attitude to “Island Time while in the Exumas.”
9. Water Sports
From paddleboarding to kayaking, snorkeling to diving, The Exumas has it all when it comes to water sports.
So what are you waiting for? Forget the usual Florida vacations and skip the cruise, spend time chillaxin’ in the Exuma Cays.
You won’t regret a visit to Exuma Bahamas
Travel Sites for Exuma Cays – Our Recommendations
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- Best for Tours – Get Your Guide is our go-to booking site for day tours around the world. Check out these tours offered in the Bahamas.
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