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Have you ever traveled to a place so magical, where the waters are aquamarine and sapphire blue and so clear that you will think you are in a swimming pool? Not to mention the unspoiled, powder white sandy beaches. Well, this place does exist, it is The Exumas. The Exumas are a 120-mile-long island chain-within-the-chain of The Bahamas Out Islands. Great Exuma island anchors this archipelago and is where you’ll find the laid back capital George Town. The Exumas beaches are jaw-dropping. You will definitely think you are in paradise. Here is a travel guide that will have you dreaming of the Exumas.
Travel Guide to the Exumas Bahamas
The Exumas are a 120-mile-long island chain-within-the-chain of The Bahamas Out Islands. Great Exuma island anchors this archipelago and is where you’ll find the laid back capital George Town, which offers a great selection of casual Bahamian restaurants and a good mix of five-star resorts and locally-owned fishing lodges. A short boat ride from Great Exuma is Stocking Island, which features spectacular views from atop its high bluff and a series of unspoiled beaches. Then there are the idyllic Exuma Cays – a collection of tiny jewels set in the aquamarine and sapphire of the most beautiful water you’ve ever imagined
Getting to The Exumas
Air Canada Vacations is the only Canadian tour operator to offer weekly, year-round service, from Toronto to Great Exuma aboard Air Canada. I love that it is only a 3 hour and 20-minute direct flight from Toronto.
Where to Stay
Grand Isle Resort & Spa
We stayed at the beautiful Grand Isle Resort & Spa during our time in The Exumas. It is a short 15-minute drive from Great Exuma Airport.
Grand Isle Resort & Spa sits on a mile-long stretch of ivory beach and sparkling clear waters of Emerald Bay on the island of Great Exuma. Recipient of the coveted AAA Four Diamond Award, this is a family-friendly resort with a laid-back feel with all the amenities of home.
The villas are beautifully furnished and so spacious that you will feel right at home. We stayed in a 3-bedroom, 3-bath luxury Lucayan villa that averages 2,730 square feet. Two bedrooms with en-suite and private marble bathrooms are located on the first floor. The master bedroom offers a private terrace overlooking the garden, ocean or oceanfront.
The second floor features the third bedroom with en-suite bath, living room, dining room, and fully appointed gourmet kitchen with granite countertops. The beautifully furnished living room and dining room also lead out to private balconies with spectacular garden and/or ocean views. These villas are perfect for families or groups traveling together.
I love the pool that overlooks Emerald Bay Beach – it has the best of both worlds. Spend your day lounging by the pool or walk the beautiful Emerald Bay Beach, their very own mile-long beach that is so stunning and wonderful for snorkeling as well. I would highly recommend getting up early to catch the beautiful sunrise.
Golf at Pelican Bay
If you love to golf then you are in for a treat at the Emerald Reef Golf Club that is adjacent to Grand Isle Resort & Spa and features an 18-hole championship golf course designed by legendary PGA pro Greg Norman. This is the longest course in the Caribbean, that is a challenging par 72 course. It features dramatic fairways with stunning ocean views and a rocky peninsula overlooking the jewel-toned waters.
The Palapa Grill
Dining at Grand Isle Resort & Spa offers an authentic taste of the Caribbean, complete with tropical cocktails and fresh, local ingredients. Nothing beats enjoying a meal overlooking the pool and beach. They offer delicious, reasonably priced menu items with weekly events.
Some other hotel offerings from Air Canada in the Great Exuma includes:
· Grand Isle Resort & Spa (our host hotel in Great Exuma)
· Hideaways at Palm Bay Beach Club
· Augusta Bay
· Peace & Plenty
What to do in The Exumas
If you get tired of lounging by the pool or beach, there are some great sights to explore on the island.
1. Visit the Straw Market and souvenir stores in George Town
The George Town Straw Market is a one-stop shop to purchase locally handcrafted handbags, baskets, coconut and sand jewelry, woven straw hats, T-shirts and many other locally made souvenirs
2. Explore the Rolle Town Tombs
The quiet little village of Rolle Town is one of the five Lord John Rolle Commonage Estates on Exuma. The Commonage Estates are lands that have been passed down to the slaves and cannot be sold. There are three tombs there in the middle of a secluded clearing, which dates back to Loyalist times.
3. Tropic of Cancer Beach
Let me warn you, you will not want to leave. This has to be one of the best beaches I have ever seen. The water is so clear that you will think you are in a swimming pool. The Tropic of Cancer Beach is also known as Pelican Beach. It is a crescent of white-powder sand bordering the translucent blue-green water along the coast of Little Exuma. This is the longest beach on the island and also the prettiest in the Exuma chain and you will probably have it all to yourself. Located at 23 26N 75 35W, the beach is named after the meridian line that defines the northern extent of the tropics and crosses right through it. On your visit to the Exumas, this is a must visit.
4. Take a ferry to Stocking Island
Stocking Island is a small, long, narrow island off the port of Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, Bahamas. It is a short ferry ride from the port of Georgetown.
Conch Salad demonstration and sampling and Sting Ray feedings
We experienced a Bahamian tradition of how the conch is taken straight from the sea, cracked, and broken out of its natural shell habitat. The conch man then skins the conch, washes it, scores it and chops it up and prepares it with locally grown onions, tomatoes, sweet (green) peppers, goat peppers and Bahamian sea salt for the conch salad. It was topped off with a squeeze of fresh lime and orange to tantalize …YUM. It was so fresh and delicious.
5. Swimming with the Pigs
This is what you were waiting for. Everyone wants to know if they should book an excursion to swim with the pigs. Yes, you should absolutely book this excursion, you will kick yourself if you don’t.
There’s an island in the Bahamas where feral pigs play in the sand, lay in the sun (that’s the life), and swim out to boats to be fed by tourists. About 20 pigs and piglets live on the uninhabited island of Big Major Cay, in Exuma, the Bahamas, on what is called “Pig Beach.” These cute little and not so little pigs have become quite the celebrities. The pigs will be very excited to see you but only for your food. Don’t leave your bag lying around or you might find a snout pickpocketing your bag.
The only way to reach Pig Beach is by boat. I would highly recommend booking a guided tour full-day tour that includes visiting the pigs, swimming with nurse sharks, meeting iguanas, a sandbar picnic, and snorkeling in the famous Thunderball Grotto (a scenic spot that has been in two James Bond films).
6. Snorkel at Thunderball Grotto
Thunderball Grotto in the Bahamas was one of the most exciting snorkeling trips I ever took. Okay, it was the only snorkeling trip I ever took (yes, it was my first time snorkeling) so I have to admit that I was a little scared. Knowing that the James Bond movie Thunderball was filmed here as well as Never Say Never Again, Splash starring Tom Hanks and Into the Blue with Jessica Alba and Paul Walker made it even more exciting. Our tour guide put me at ease as he helped us all get geared up and ready to explore the waters. Besides, after I saw the young kids in the water I knew I had to do it too.
Thunderball Grotto doesn’t look like much from the outside so I didn’t know what to expect. We swam our way through an opening and entered a cave. As we swam further into the cave we were greeted by a burst of light that was shining from the above opening. The water was so clear that I could see the colorful fish swimming around me. We were told that we only had approximately 15 minutes to explore the area as it is dangerous to snorkel the grotto at high tide.
I would highly recommend this snorkeling excursion, it is spectacular and the fish are so beautiful.
7. Swimming with the Sharks
As you pull up to Compass Cay, you will be mesmerized by the crystal clear waters and the boats that are probably bigger than my house. I never thought in a million years that I would jump in the water with sharks. The funny thing is that I didn’t even hesitate, I jumped right in. I find sharks terrifying and fascinating at the same time. These, along with the pigs, are probably the most photographed sharks. The sharks seemed unfazed as they swam around us. They were only interested in the local that was feeding them by throwing fish bait into the water to attract them. I couldn’t resist, although initially terrified, I had to touch them. Be prepared, they feel like rubbery, wet sandpaper.
Swimming with sharks is definitely one of my most memorable experiences. I think I have a new love for sharks (at least the Nurse Sharks). Nurse sharks are slow-moving bottom-dwellers and are, for the most part, harmless to humans. However, they can get huge—up to 14 feet.
8. Feed the Iguanas
Our excursion ended with feeding the iguanas at White Leaf Cay. Just like the pigs, they are waiting for humans to come and feed them. They will, just like the pigs, go through your bag so don’t leave anything lying around. I would recommend packing some grapes for this trip. Simply find a stick and put the grape on the end of the stick to feed them. You can also feed them from the palm of your hand, but I think I trust the stick method more. Ladies, if you have newly polished toes in red or pink you might want to bury them in the sand. We couldn’t figure out why the iguanas were so in love with or feet until one of the tour guides mentioned that they are likely mistaking our pink and red nails for berries.
Where to Eat in Exuma
1. Palapa Grill Grand Isle Resort
Palapa Grill is located in Grand Isle Resort and Spa and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It has a gorgeous pool and ocean views. They offer so many delicious menu items that I wanted to try them all. Since the Bahamas is known for their seafood I usually ordered their seafood specials and could not resist the french toast for breakfast. It was delicious and you will not be hungry.
2. Splash Restaurant at Hideaway Bay
We visited Splash Restaurant at Hideaway Bay one day for breakfast. This is such a fun restaurant that is located on the beach and offers pool and waterfront dining. There are also bar swings located at the bar and some humorous signs throughout the restaurant.
3. La Fourchette- Paradise Bay
La Fourchette restaurants is a small French restaurant located in Paradise Bay. Not only was the food delicious but we saw one of the most amazing sunsets.
4. Rusty Anchor Restaurant
We had one of the best Conch Chowders at Rusty Anchor Restaurant and delicious coconut crusted Grouper. The restaurant has incredible views of the pool and ocean. Everything was delicious.
5. Santanna’s Bar and Grill
Santanna’s Bar and Grill is a bit of a drive from George Town but so worth the trip. This charming roadside gem is a must visit. The staff were extremely warm and friendly, the beach views are absolutely amazing. If you are lucky you might see a shark or two swim by. We spotted four lemon shark swimming by as we feasted on lunch.
The seafood was absolutely delicious. I had the cracked lobster – basically the best lobster I have ever had! Cracked lobster is lightly battered and fried that comes with sides of local rice, beans, and delicious grilled onions. Next door is Mom’s Bakery. You must stop in and try the delicious rum cake (mom is very generous with the rum), the bread is so good that we devoured the entire loaf and the coconut macarons couldn’t be any fresher as mom was grating the fresh coconut herself.
6. Chat n’ Chill Conch Bar
You will taste the best conch salad made fresh for you right before your eyes. There are also friendly stingrays that swim up close to shore that are easy to hand feed.
Packing Tips for Exuma
- Pack a swimsuit – lots of swimsuits.
- Sunblock – trust me, you don’t want to burn while on vacation
- Insect repellent – mosquitos love me and this is a must travel item for me
- After bite cream (just in case you do get a mosquito bite, it will help with the itch)
- Keep your wardrobe simple. Shorts, t-shirts and loose dresses.
- Flip -flops are a must
The Exumas Bahamas was a memorable getaway that I will always remember and recommend highly to friends and family. A big thank you to Air Canada Vacations and the Bahamas Tourism Board for a memorable trip.
Air Canada Vacations Promo Code
Air Canada Vacations wants you to experience The Exumas as well and is offering a promo code to save on your booking. Use Promo Code BAHAMAS102 at checkout on AirCanadaVacations.com to save $102 per booking. The Promo Code is valid until July 31, but for travel from July 1 – April 30, 2019!
Here is the fine print: Promo code is valid on bookings made online only between June 7 and July 31, 2018, 11:59 p.m. ET, for travel between July 1, 2018, and April 30, 2019, for Flight and Hotel packages to Bahamas. Value of $102 per booking. Promo code BAHAMAS102 must be applied online at aircanadavacations.com for the discount to be applied. Not applicable to group bookings. Offer not combinable with other promo codes, and is not combinable with other discounted packages.
Offer expires at 11:59 p.m. ET on the date indicated. Your promotion code may not be distributed or sold, or otherwise used for commercial or personal gain, other than for the purpose for which it is intended. Air Canada reserves the right to modify or cancel this promotion code at our discretion. Any violation of these conditions may be subject to cancellation of any booking made using this promotion code, and/or to any legal or other recourse available for the recovery of damages suffered or costs, expenses or loss incurred as a result of such prohibited use.