Exuma, Bahamas is an out island chain made up of over 365 cays. With its crystal clear waters and never ending sandbars, there is something to do for everyone!
This June, we took a long awaited trip to Exuma, Bahamas. We had been dreaming about it for years and were supposed to travel in 2020. Since that obviously couldn’t happen, we made it this summer instead! I’d been planning and researching our trip for at least 3 years and wanted to share everything I learned in this ultimate guide to Exuma, Bahamas. Read on to find out how to get to Exuma, where to stay, things to do and which beaches to visit!
Ultimate Guide to Exuma, Bahamas
Exuma was everything we hoped it would be and more! With its slow pace, crystal clear waters, nearly empty beaches and abundant wildlife, we had so much fun exploring! And yes, the water is really the color of Windex! It’s absolutely incredible!
How to Get to Exuma
One of the best things about Exuma is how easy it is to get there. Most people fly to the Georgetown Airport via a connection in the US (Atlanta, Miami and Charlotte are all popular connecting airports). It’s a pretty quick flight down once you’ve made your layover. You can also fly to Nassau and make a connection via a Bahamian airline as well. Make sure to look out your window – the views of the water, islands and sandbars are amazing!
The airport is teeny tiny (as are most small island airports). There are several car rental options in Exuma and most of them are located directly across the street from the airport. Airport Car Rental, Thompson’s (we rented from them and didn’t have a particularly wonderful experience), Berlie’s and Sure to Shore are just some of the options available in Exuma. While you could visit Exuma and skip the car rental, I’d highly advise against it. There are just way too many fun places to explore and you’d be missing all the fun!
Where to Stay in Exuma
There are A LOT of options when you’re answering the question of where to stay in Exuma. A VRBO rental in Exuma is probably the most popular choice and for good reason. Having your own private home, often with a pool, is such a nice luxury. There are a wide variety of VRBO options – beachfront or not, luxury or more affordable – there is truly something here for everyone and every budget.
We stayed at this home and I can’t say enough good things about it. The owners are truly wonderful people and it was a pleasure to meet them. The views of the bonefish flats from the back patio were absolutely amazing! Be warned though – you’ll likely want an SUV or 4-wheel drive because it is a bumpy road in.
There are some hotel options for those who prefer to go that route. Sandals is an all-inclusive, adults-only resort that’s on a pretty stretch of beach called Emerald Bay. On the same stretch is Grande Isle which is an upscale condo-style resort. They have a lovely rooms and 2 pools and a restaurant on site. If you prefer to stay downtown, there’s also the Peace and Plenty hotel.
Where to Eat in Exuma
There is one main grocery store in Georgetown – Exuma Market. They stay pretty well stocked but understand that they are dependent on boats arriving on time in order to stay that way. If there is something specific you want (favorite coffee brand, snacks your kids can’t live without, etc.), you should definitely consider packing it. There is also a great meat market called Prime Island Meats. Nice selection and we were able to find some groceries that we couldn’t find at the market. There are a few other smaller grocery stores scattered about as well. You should definitely plan on the likelihood of needing to hit several stores to find everything on your list.
We admittedly did not eat at a ton of restaurants while we were visiting Exuma but we did have some favorites. We thought the food was great at Chat N Chill and you can’t beat it for a one-of-a-kind experience!
Tropic Breeze on Little Exuma was great – as described, there’s a great breeze to beat the heat. We loved the chicken nachos!
We stopped at Big D’s Conch Shack for a carry-out dinner on our way home from Cocoplum Beach one evening. The ladies who work there are so sweet and they make the best lemonade!
We also stopped at Lighthouse Cafe for ice cream on our way home from Cocoplum Beach (a different day). While we didn’t order any food, it smelled amazing!
Last, our favorite was Splash Bar and Grill, located at Hideaways. We actually ended up eating there twice. The portions were generous and the food was tasty. Definitely make sure to check it out!
Our Favorite Beaches in Exuma
One thing Exuma can boast is that there is absolutely no shortage of beautiful beaches to choose from! It sounds silly but each beach has its own vibe. Some are in protected coves, some are more open (which brings bigger waves), some have wide beaches and some narrow but almost all of them are completely uncrowded.
Hooper’s is a huge and beautiful beach – you’ll have to be part mountain goat to climb up and down the entrance stairs but it’s worth the hike! Walk down to the right and swim with the sea turtles in between the piers.
This is a pretty beach that can be walked to directly if you’re staying at Hideaways. We even saw a sting ray swim by!
Located on Little Exuma, Pretty Molly is a small beach that packs a big punch! There is one unfinished home and one home on the beach. Around the corner is a massive home and compound – it looks amazing!
Tropic of Cancer
Tropic of Cancer is named because it directly intersects with the Tropic of Cancer! This one was a bit crowded than the others but there is still tons of room to spread out. It’s huge and gorgeous! Don’t forget to take your picture under the sign!
Heading back over to Little Exuma, you’ll find Forbes Hill. This was my favorite beach of all! We had it nearly to ourselves for the day.
You can take a short hike to one side and come across a cove with a small beach. We found lots of sea glass there!
Walk down Forbes Hill beach to the other end, hike across the path in the rocks and you’ll be on Love Beach. Love Beach is home to some popular home rentals on Little Exuma. Beaches are public up to the high tide line but obviously, don’t trespass on someone’s property.
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Elizabeth Harbour is a MUST-DO! You can explore the harbour a few different ways:
- Rent a boat from Minn’s Watersports and drive around on your own
- Hire a boat captain (Capt. Jerry Tours and Out Island Explorers are both good options)
- Take the water taxi from Georgetown and get dropped off at Chat ‘N Chill
First a bit of explanation about the harbour. It’s surrounded by Great Exuma on one side and Stocking Island (and some private islands) on the other. In between, there are sand bars, sea stars, snorkeling spots, deserted beaches and some restaurants on Stocking Island. If you rent a Minn’s Boat that will be the basic area that you can take the boat.
Since we are not boaters, we decided to choose the private tour option – this turned out to be such a good decision because the water ended up being much rougher than we would have been comfortable with on our own (Minn’s Boats are small!). As a side note, we drove by the harbour on a much calmer day and felt that we would be fine on our own in those conditions.
Back to the tour – we booked with Capt. Jerry and had a blast! He was born and raised on Little Exuma and knows the waters incredibly well. He’s something of a local legend and he is full of all sorts of stories and tall tales! He didn’t rush us and took lots of time making sure the kids were comfortable and that we were having fun. I would HIGHLY recommend using him for a tour!
*Side note: Capt. Jerry takes guests on tours up the northern Cays to swim with the pigs and the nurse sharks as well. We weren’t particularly interested in that tour so we chose the harbour tour instead. He would be a great option for the Cays tour though! You can also book shared or private tours with Exuma Watersports or Island Boy Adventures. All come highly recommended via the folks on the Trip Advisor Exuma message boards!
Capt. Jerry took us to the famous Man O War Sandbar and it.did.not.disappoint. I’ll cover more of it a bit further in this post but wanted to mention that he takes you there. It’s incredible!
There are lots of deserted beaches in Elizabeth Harbour for you to explore. Pull up to any one of them, drop anchor and enjoy your own private stretch of sand. Captain Jerry took us along the shoreline of Stocking Island and found an empty spot and let us swim and enjoy ourselves for a while. I grabbed some drone photos while we were there too (I use this DJI Mavic Air 2 drone – HIGHLY recommend!).
You should also stop at Chat ‘N Chill for lunch or a drink. They are famous for their conch salad made on the spot and for the stingrays that swim by. They love when you feed them and are super tame and used to people. We gave one of them a French fry!
St. Francis or Club Peace N Plenty are also options for lunch. You can also hike over to the Atlantic side of Stocking Island (there is a path behind Chat N Chill) which has fabulous views and shelling.
Swim with Sea Turtles at Hooper’s Bay
This is another must-do in my opinion. On Hooper’s Bay beach, you can take a stroll down to the far side and swim with sea turtles between the 2 piers. You are not supposed to feed the turtles but many people do so be careful if you choose to. They can get quite aggressive if they think you have food! Otherwise, just grab a mask and your GoPro (we use this one and love this float handle) and enjoy spending time with these amazing creatures!
Man O War Cay Sandbar
With its ever-changing tides and shifting sands, Exuma is one of the most well known places in the world for sandbars. Make sure to visit Man O War sandbar located at the southern end of Elizabeth Harbour (you can get there by Minn’s Boat Rental or your private captain). It is absolutely stunning! Make sure to check the tide charts and time your trip for low tide so you can take full advantage of this gorgeous natural wonder.
It’s not often that I’m at a loss for words, but I truly was when we visited! It is just so breathtaking and the shades of blue all mix together for an amazing sight and once-in-a-lifetime experience!
If you can’t get to the sandbar by boat, you can do the next best thing and have lunch right in front of it! We didn’t get a chance to head over there but no less than 3 or 4 people told us we HAD to try Blu. I hear the views are spectacular so definitely make sure to add it to your list if you visit!
We definitely did not get to explore this area as much as we would have liked. Moriah isn’t an easy place to get to since it’s not accessible by car and it’s outside of the Minn’s Watersports boundaries. It’s a protected National Park in the Bahamas and the whole area is just beautiful. There is so much explore from deserted beaches to a natural lazy river to kayaking through the mangroves to see baby sharks and sting rays. Here’s a few options for how to get there if you are interested in exploring:
- Stay at a private home close to Moriah Harbour – you can kayak or rent a boat from the owner and go from there
- Rent kayaks or take a kayak tour with Out Island Explorers (they’ll meet you at the bridge to Little Exuma) or TT’s Watersports
- Hire a private captain or do a tour
- Rent a boat from a private owner. I recommend checking the Exuma message boards on Trip Advisor and asking for referrals if you are interested in this. There are several residents who rent them out and the folks on the boards are wonderful and will point you in the right direction!
This is where having a private captain came in handy. Our tour was supposed to be just for Elizabeth Harbour but when we were chatting with Capt. Jerry, I mentioned wanting to see Moriah. So he said, “Let’s go!” and off we went! The beach he took us to was absolutely breathtaking. It’s so remote and of course, we were the only ones there! I cannot wait to get back to Exuma someday so we can see more of Moriah Harbour!
I know I spoke about beaches a bit earlier but this one deserves a section by itself! Cocoplum is huge and while this will be one of the most populated beaches, you will never feel crowded at all. Again, be sure to time your visit for low tide. The most beautiful sandbars will appear and you can walk out for miles and never hit water any higher than shin deep. This is also an amazing spot to find sand dollars. We could have brought hundreds home with us – they were everywhere!
Where to Shop in Exuma
There are a few stores to shop at in Great Exuma. The main two are the Straw Market and The Sandpiper. The Straw Market sells both handmade and commercial goods. All of the handmade items are made by the hard-working ladies who run the market. There are a lot of fun things to choose from – they had the cutest straw items too!
The Sandpiper is more of an upscale boutique located right up the road from the Straw Market. They sell clothing, locally made goods, ornaments, etc. I would love to grab one of these handmade pouches if we ever make it back!
Little Exuma is a super fun place to explore! There is a small bridge that connects Little and Great Exuma and it’s easy to navigate around this part of the island. Some of our favorite beaches were on Little Exuma and there are a few restaurants worth checking out as well! As I stated above, we loved Tropic Breeze and while we didn’t get to try Santanna’s, it’s definitely a visitor favorite. Definitely make sure you check out the Salt Marker monument – the views up there are amazing!
Whew, thanks for making it this far! So there is my ultimate guide to Exuma, Bahamas. Have you been to Exuma? Are you planning a trip and have questions? Leave me a comment and we can chat!