Take a break in Exuma Bahamas
If you are in Miami or Ft. Lauderdale and are looking for a quick getaway to break up the boardroom boredom, Exuma is the ticket. Exu….Where?? Exactly! It has almost guaranteed sun, crystal aqua waters, pristine beaches, plenty of adventures, unique eats, and it’s an hour and a half from that dreadful meeting room.
Admittedly, a trip to the Bahamas wasn’t on the cards. I booked an impromptu trip to California and it was cold, rainy, really un-California-like! After three weeks of drizzle wearing sweaters and socks, I booked a trip to the Caribbean before heading home to the UK.
To be honest, all I wanted was to swim with the pigs. Umm, what???? I’d seen some videos of pigs swimming out to meet people on boats. I had no idea where they were or what island they were on, but I started searching to find out. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I was intrigued. I wanted to see it and experience it for myself. Besides, the videos cracked me up every time I watched them.
After Googling, “pigs and Caribbean,” I found Exuma and a one-way ticket for not much more than I paid for a half-head of highlights in Southern Cal. Seriously?? Not sure whether the flight was cheap or the salon expensive, but never mind, it’s all perspective. And I’d happily trade the bad scalp-burning highlight job for the pigs, anyway. And mind you, I do not watch television. Had I watched, “The Bachelor,” I would have know where this was.
I chose four nights at the Hideaways at Palm Bay Beach Club, seven miles from the airport. Since I booked late, there were only a few options available, and this place ticked all the boxes – beachfront, spacious rooms, a shuttle to town, breakfast, outdoors pool, kayaks and canoes, and help with arranging tours. But with so few hotels available it also suggested it would be flooded with tourists. In hind-sight, there are not many hotels ON this island and the rest are condo resort complexes.
The Exuma Islands consist of a chain of 365 islands and cays stretching 37 miles, just a bit over 300 miles from Miami.
Exuma’s airport is small, as you’d imagine for an island of 4000 people. But the first things you notice on the island are the colors – the aqua-turquoise-royal blue shades of water, the vibrantly lush green foliage, and the blue, yellow, green and pink pastels of the buildings.
The airport was very clean and organized, and immigration and customs lines moved quickly. Within 10 minutes I was on my way. Several taxis were available, and not knowing whether this was a ‘haggling’ island, I opted for the first one who said he’d take me. As it turns out, the taxis are not hagglers. The prices are set, and the cabbies keep a copy of the prices in the car so you can see. Easy peasy and honest!
The ride to the hotel was $30, and the US and Bahamian Dollars are interchangeable, which is great, because you don’t have to frantically search for a cash machine to get on your way. At the resort, check-in was cordial and I was escorted to my studio, only to find a proper well-kitted-out 1-bed bungalow. It’s so amazingly cute! My door is bright raspberry, the exterior blue, trim is green and shutters yellow. Quite whimsical and something very doll-house about these buildings. The large living room is furnished with a 2-seater couch, dining table for 4, a newly-tiled kitchenette, fully stocked with fridge, micro, sink, toaster, coffee maker and utensils – all to myself! And what a fantastic location to chill.
Everything you need and much more than I anticipated. Floors are stone and the whole bungalow is modern. The bedroom has a king-sized bed and a full-sized bathroom with a tub. Both rooms have vaulted ceilings making them really airy. And both come with well-functioning a/c and ceiling fans so it stays really cool in this heat.
Along this stretch, there are 2 other beachfront hotels, Exuma Beach Resort and Augusta Bay Resort. This is a great area to plant yourself if you’re visiting just a few days. Each resort has a restaurant/bar and it’s easy to go from one to another so that you aren’t always eating at the same place and can see some new faces. They are only a minute’s walk from one another and open until about 10 pm each evening. Having spoken to others staying at other resorts, we all agreed we were in the best spot on the island since we had options of the other hotels around.
The resort offers shuttle service five times a day to the main town, Georgetown, only 10 minutes away. There is the small straw market where you can buy local goods, flip flops, cover-ups and local jewelry. There are a few cafes, banks, and other shops, but to be honest, it’s quite small and can be seen in about 30 minutes. The locals were also constructing make-shift stands for the annual National Family Island Regatta, which is an intra-island event of merry making on the sea. There you can also walk to the port to catch a water taxi over to Stocking Island.
Hideaways’ restaurant, Splash, offers a modest complimentary breakfast, and there’s an a la carte menu throughout the day. They offer a standard fare of sandwiches, salads, burgers and pizza, along with local choices of conch chowder, lobster bisque, conch fritters and conch burgers. Conch anyone?
Latitudes Bar and Grill connected to Exuma Beach Resort is more of a happening place. They have a healthy drinks menu using a variety of rums, pineapple and banana, as you’d expect. Here, the bartender is making a personal concoction with lots of mint green! The menu is a bit more diverse and a better quality. On Friday nights, a DJ will pump dance tunes in the bar attracting guests from the nearby hotels and locals from all over. A great place to mingle. The party goes on until about 1a, and then after that, you can continue at the famous Shirley’s Seafood Restaurant just down the road a bit further until about 4-5am.
From the port in Georgetown, you can take a water taxi to Stocking Island. This is where you find more fine white sand beaches and the jovial ambiance at the somewhat tacky, Chat and Chill Bar. Chill is a key word of this island. There is definitely ‘Island time’ and you’d better not be in a rush for anything. You can enjoy prepared conch salad from some locals in a make-shift shack, and get up close and personal with the sting rays, who are happy to eat the bits of conch you wouldn’t, or nibble on your brightly-colored toes if they think they are on the menu!
Their sand-paper top is well worth a touch as well as the underside, which is super smooth. I have to admit I was quite cautious of them and only ventured out up to my ankles. That was enough and they came up to me. Quite an experience.
The highlight of the trip, however, was a morning tour by Exuma Water Sports to see the swimming pigs, the historic iguanas and to marvel at the lushness of the islands as we zoomed past.
We arrived early to ‘pig island’ around 10a. At first, I wondered why we were nearing this deserted beach. All of a sudden I hear a bellow and whistle from the boat driver and thought, “What the heck?”
Then all of a sudden there was one, then three, then five big pigs! Wow. Sows! And sure enough, they got in the water and started to swim to our boat. The entire group emerged. Big ones, little ones, and babies. Scarily surreal. The boat driver quickly gave us hot dogs to feed the pigs. “Are you joking?” It seemed quite cannibalistic, but anyway…. The pigs were famished and ate up all the dogs looking for more. They were gentle and patient, even when you ran out of food.
However, I later understood this was not the real Pig Island, but merely pigs with lipstick. Pigs that were put on this island for tourist sake. Hmmm. The real pig island is further away from Exuma itself. So when you go, request to go to the real Pig Island, to see the real deal.
I admit, I love to travel alone. You never stay that way for long. At Latitudes, I was sipping a cocktail when this group of 4 arrives. A guy and 3 women. Lucky him…. They clearly had been to Latitudes before as the guy immediately started chatting to the bartender. He thrust his left fist forward to the bartender and said, “See. I did it. I got married today.” He was showing the bartender his ring. “We need a round of shots, and that includes you, too,” (meaning the bartender). Then he glances at me and says, “And her too!” Oh my… I don’t do shots, but I couldn’t put a damper on the gesture. Ok. Fine…just one.
My new friends, Kylie and Mick, from Canada had been married on the beach earlier that day and my other new friends, their sisters Kristal and Mindy were best woman and bridesmaid. We were later joined by yet more new friends, two German pilots who happened to be on the beach at the same time as the wedding, and we all sat down for more drinks throughout the evening. Just a fantastic impromptu meeting of fun people. I ran into them each evening after and we chatted about the days’ excursions. They were great fun and were there to have a great time.
I also met Fred, from Idaho, on the hotel bus into town who was there with his daughter, son-in-law and grandson, celebrating his birthday. Once off the bus he invited me walk around the town, what little there is of it, and grab a beer before heading back to the resort. The next day we all went to Stocking island together and I hung out with them until they left. If nothing else, I made some new social media friends.
For a short getaway after your business travel, Exuma’s more chill than that bottle of Perrier on the boardroom table.
Scheduled flights on Silver Airways leave from Ft. Lauderdale to Great Exuma Island and take a little over an hour. Click the links above for more information and all transport/accommodation/dining were personally paid for.
Have you had an experience in Exuma you want to share? Let me know in the comments below.