If you’re planning a Bahamas vacation, how about exploring the Exumas? I’ve put together a list of the 28 best things to do in the Exumas so you can plan the perfect trip.
From awesome animal encounters and water activities to white sand and unique Exuma experiences, it’s all here!
The way the Exumas in the Bahamas is an archipelago of 365 small islands and cays, with the largest being Great Exuma.
You can do a lot on Great Exuma, but the best way to experience the Exumas is by boating to some of the nearby islands and cays. Some cays in particular have awesome things that make them unique.
The Exumas have so much to offer, just keep reading to see what I mean!
1. Take a boat to a sandbar
The Exuma islands hold the secret to perfect rest and relaxation in the Bahamas. Home to 365 cays, there’s a little island for every day of the year!
You can rent or charter a boat and make your way from one of the larger islands like Great Exuma or Little Exuma to a secluded sandbar just off the coast.
A day at a sandbar will feel like floating on a cloud! You’ll be on a sliver of sand in the middle of the blue ocean with nothing but a towel, sunscreen, a good book, and a drink.
2. Visit the wild Iguanas of Allen’s Cay
You can visit with some of the local inhabitants of Allen’s Cay on your trip to the Bahamas. They aren’t exactly the friendliest looking bunch though!
Also known as Iguana Beach, Allen’s Cay is the home and habitat to a species of Northern Bahamian iguana. The Northern Bahamian iguana is one of the most endangered iguana species in the world!
Charter a boat from Great Exuma and visit this tiny island in the north. You can feed these scaly creatures, but watch out, they’re known to jump!
Fortunately, none of these little rascals jumped on me! They’re quick creatures though!
3. Relax at Cocoplum Beach
You are bound to be one of only a handful of people at this beach! Located on the east coast of Great Exuma, it’s a true gem. Enjoy relaxing on the beach and maybe taking a snooze in the sun! (Don’t forget to lather on your reef-safe sunscreen!)
Cocoplum Beach is located just off of Queen’s Highway before you get to the hustle and bustle of the resort area further north.
You can walk out nearly a quarter of a mile into the ocean along a shallow sandbar. You’ll find that the water is just knee-deep for quite a ways, and you’re bound to see some sand dollars!
4. Go Conch Diving
The freshest conch meat you will ever eat will come after a bit of hard work. But diving for your own dinner in the Exumas can be quite satisfying!
Conch diving with a local guide is a great way to experience the underwater world in the Bahamas. You can book a tour with a guide such as Exuma Water Tours on Great Exuma or Nassau. You’ll depart on a private boat for a bit of time on the ocean.
The guide will dive down with you. Once you’ve retrieved your prize, they’ll help you get the snail out of its shell and into a delicious salad or onto a grill. Yum!
5. Enjoy the seafood at Santanna’s Bar and Grill
Speaking of grills, you can leave the hard work of cooking seafood to the pros at Santanna’s Bar and Grill instead of trying your own luck.
Santanna’s on Little Exuma serves up some of the very best seafood in the Exumas. Just picture it: fresh salad, grilled lobster tail, and flavorful rice. You can enjoy it all on a shaded patio overlooking the beach and blue waters of the Exumas.
6. Try a Goombay Smash with a Rum Floater
Every island in the Caribbean seems to have its own signature rum cocktail. Cuba has the mojito, Puerto Rico has the pina colada, but the Exumas in the Bahamas have something entirely different: the Goombay Smash.
If you partake in fruity cocktails, searching for the best Goombay Smash in the Exumas is a fun game to play!
Visit the little bars of Great Exuma and Little Exuma and try the special drink made from Bahamian coconut rum, white or gold rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, and a dash of grenadine.
Is your mouth watering yet?
7. Stop by Shirley’s Fish Fry Shack
North of George Town on Great Exuma is Shirley’s Seafood Restaurant. Also known as Shirley’s Fish Fry Shack, it serves up some of the most delicious food in the Exumas. I’m talking deep-fried fish and crab cakes… yum!
Shirley’s is a staple for locals and feels like it has been there for ages, even though it is not even a decade old!
The speakers are always bumping great tunes and the food is perfectly seasoned in a signature style. Stop by for lunch and try the garlic flavored grouper or crab cakes before you head off to the beach.
8. Try local favorites, like conch and Bahamian rock lobster
No matter where you are in the Exumas, you will recognize a local restaurant when you see it. Each one will undoubtedly serve local favorites like conch and Bahamian rock lobster.
Conch is special; a little bit chewy with a taste similar to scallops. Locals typically add it to a salad or fried with butter and seasonings. I had it fried in a burger and it was SO GOOD!
Rock lobster season in the Exumas is August to March. You can find these delicious spiny creatures in fry restaurants along Queen’s Highway in Great Exuma. The Bahamas restricts rock lobster fishing to creatures that have a minimum 6-inch tail for preservation purposes. This means you will get plenty of delicious meat in your lobster tail!
9. Explore George Town
George Town is the capital of the Exumas and can be found, unsurprisingly, on Great Exuma Island.
The capital was used by pirates, aristocrats from the US southern states, and both British and US navies during the Second World War.
You can explore the town during the day time for a bit of souvenir shopping and dining. At night you can enjoy drinking and dancing at some of the great clubs and bars here.
10. Visit Norman Cay’s Pristine Beaches
It’s not too difficult to find beautiful beaches in the Bahamas. I have to say, though, Norman Cay has some of the very best and pristine beaches in the Exumas.
The Medellin Cartel formerly used it as the headquarters for a drug-smuggling operation in the late 1970s! Norman Cay is now a destination for laying out in the sand and diving in the waters off the coast. You can even dive down where the wreckage of a US military transport ship is located.
You can lay out at Saddle Cay Beach, which is the most popular spot in Norman Cay. Alternatively, explore the island for more tranquil spots further away from other visitors who are also looking for the best sand in the Exumas.
11. Explore the Exumas by Seaplane
By far the most unique way to explore the Exumas is by a chartered seaplane!
There are several companies that operate seaplanes in the Bahamas and the Exumas specifically. With hundreds of islands to visit, it would be a challenge to see them all by boat. So, why not organize a tour by seaplane and take off from land or water on a customized itinerary for a day or two?
The flexibility of taking a plane means you can depart from Great Exuma Island, Nassau, or even Florida in the US to visit some of the most secluded cays in the Exumas on your own schedule.
Plus, you can’t beat those aerial views of the sandbars and turquoise waters.
12. Explore the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
This is one of the most pristine and protected marine areas in the world! As such, Exuma Cays Land and Sea National Park is a paradise for divers and hikers!
Interesting terrain and hiking trails surround the area. They beckon those looking for some of the best views in Great Exuma. After exploring the land, be sure to take some time to see the sea.
Grab a snorkel or your diving gear and swim with the tropical fish near the spectacular, vibrant coral just off shore.
13. Feed the Swimming Pigs at Staniel Cay
The famous family of swimming pigs at Staniel Cay area ready to make your acquaintance!
There are several ways to get to Pig Beach in Staniel Cay, from boat or ferry to private seaplane. You will need to depart from a larger island like Great Exuma, Nassau, or take a tour from the United States at Fort Lauderdale or Miami.
The 20 or so pigs are used to human contact and are generally quite friendly, though you should avoid feeding or touching them due to their aggressive nature when it comes to meal times.
A pig nipped one of my friends on the leg and it left a bruise the next day! So if you have food to give them, make sure you’re paying attention to what the pigs are doing!
14. Go Bonefishing
Try your hand at catching some bonefish!
Stevie Ferguson, affectionately called Bonefish Stevie, is your bonefishing expert and guide to the very best bonefishing spots in the Exumas.
Catch your first (and the biggest) bonefish in the Exumas with Stevie. He’ll depart with you from Great Exuma to the best bonefish flats in the area.
15. Visit the Exumas’ Ghost Town: Lee Stocking Island
A tropical paradise, yes, but also said to be a haunted island since the departure of its former inhabitants.
Lee Stocking Island is located just north of Great Exuma and will require a charter or rental boat to reach. Originally, the island was home to the Perry Institute for Marine Science, but with the depletion of grant funds came an exodus from the Exumas.
All of the structures, equipment, and infrastructure have remained and make for an eerie day of exploration for those who venture to the abandoned island.
16. Grab a rum cake at Mom’s Bakery
If you have never tried Bahamian pastries and other delicious treats, your first should be at Mom’s Bakery! The bakery is in Williams Town on Little Exuma Island, which can easily be reached by car from Great Exuma.
I recommend grabbing a slice of heaven known as Mom’s chocolate or vanilla rum cake. I’ve heard it is savory, moist, and absolutely delectable!
17. Visit the Tropic of Cancer Beach
The coast of Little Exuma is where you will find Pelican Beach, also known as Tropic of Cancer Beach.
The picturesque beach is famous for its white sands and crystal clear bluish-green water. The strip of sand is quite narrow, but very long and is named after the Tropic of Cancer line which runs through Willams Town and is painted onto the stairs that lead to the sand.
18. Hit the links at Emerald Bay
If you play golf, you won’t be surprised to learn that the Bahamas has great links. None are better than those at Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club on Great Exuma Island.
Greg Norman designed this challenging championship course. It offers stunning scenic views on the back nine, with interesting first nine hole variations.
I’m personally not a golfer, but if I was, this would for sure tempt me!
19. Charter a yacht or catamaran
Want to spend the day out at sea in the Bahamian sun? Charter a yacht or catamaran!
Great Exuma Island and Little Exuma are the best spots from which to depart on a relaxing and luxurious daytime trip to the hundreds of cays in the Exumas or for some snorkeling off the coast of the big island.
Enjoy the sun on the deck of a high powered catamaran or yacht, snorkel the reefs at Elkhorn, Staghord, or Octopus Garden in Horseshoe Bay.
When I visited the Exumas, I lived on a catamaran courtesy of The Moorings. We departed from Nassau and were island hopping on the boat for about a week. It was such a fun way to see the Exumas!
20. Swim with Nurse Sharks
Head to Compass Cay and swim with the misleadingly fearsome looking underwater creature, the nurse shark.
The brown Nurse Sharks can grow to be up to ten-feet-long, but are slow-moving and usually harmless to humans.
You can reach Compass Cay Marina by boat from one of the larger islands in the Exumas or Nassau, which is 75 miles from the cay.
21. Explore the depths of Dean’s Blue Hole
Dean’s Blue hole is the second deepest blue hole in the entire world and located close to Great Exuma island on Long Island. Easily reached by boat from a port in Little Exuma or Great Exuma, the hole is found in the bay west of Clarence Town.
The 660-foot deep blue hole is easy to see from the shore; a dark blue circle surrounded by turquoise water and white sand.
This blue hole is popular with divers who descend below the surface to break work records for single-breath swimming. While only recommended for professionals, you can still float along the top.
If you do, don’t forget to peer down nearly 115 feet of clear visibility! And if you’re brave enough, you can even snorkel down into the cave beyond the surface! Just be careful!
22. See the stars at Starfish Reserve
Just off Great Exuma Island is Starfish Reserve, a shallow area teeming with giant red starfish.
Though not technically a protected area, there are a ton of large starfish here for you to see. It requires little lung power to swim near them as the water isn’t deep at all!
23. Stay at a luxury resort
It should come as no surprise that the Exumas, with their coveted turquoise waters and secluded white-sand beaches, are home to some great luxury resorts.
Stay at a luxury resort in the Exumas and let the staff take care of all of your needs!
There are several to choose from on Great Exuma Island, such as Grand Isle Resort and Spa, which are all-inclusive and sport some of the most relaxing spa services in the Bahamas!
24. Enjoy the view at Haulover Bay Bar and Grill
Come for the food, but stay for the views at Haulover Bay Bar and Grill in George Town on Great Exuma Island.
The delicious Caribbean and Bahamian fare are just part of the experience. The restaurant is located on a white sand beach with views of the clear water and sandbars. You can even see far off islands from their wood patio.
Sip a rum drink and enjoy the view!
25. Jump into & snorkel at Thunderball Grotto
Famous for its cameo appearances in two James Bond films, Thunderball Grotto is just west of Staniel Cay north of Great Exuma.
You can reach the cay by boat from Great Exuma and remember to pack a snorkel! You will need to swim through an underwater tunnel to the cavern opening.
The cave is complete with a natural sunroof from which you can dive into the water if you are brave enough to scale the rocky walls of the structure.
26. Witness a sunrise and sunset
You are bound to see a beautiful sunrise or sunset from just about anywhere in the Bahamas, but Great Exuma has some great spots to see either as well.
For sunrises, walk to the white sand beaches near Little Exuma on the east coast of the island. From there, watch the sun peek out above the water. For sunsets, you can take a boat to a far off and secluded sandbar! That way you can see 360-degree views as you sit on the sand in the middle of the ocean. Enjoy the views as the sky turns shades of pink, purple, and orange.
27. Snorkel Pablo Escobar’s sunken plane
Staniel Cay is where you will find a relic of the 1980s drug smuggling trade that ran from Colombia through the Bahamas to the United States. The infamous Pablo Escobar used the Exumas as a stopping point along the route and, when the jig was up, lost his base at nearby Norman Cay.
The plane wreck is well preserved and less than ten feet below the surface of the water. It’s just off the coast of Staniel Cay which can be reached by boat or seaplane from Great Exuma. Our boat stopped nearby, and we swam out to see the fish swimming amongst the wreckage.
28. Go kayaking
There are plenty of places to kayak in the Exumas, but north of Great Exuma Island might be the best place!
Rent a kayak on the island and paddle your way to nearby cays and sandbars away from the crowds. You can find islands that are completely secluded! It’s a great way to spend the day on the sand or hiking through the greenery and rocky terrain on some of the larger cays.
There are so many things to do in the Exumas- so get out there and explore! You’ll absolutely love these gorgeous islands!
And if you’re heading to the Bahamas, check out my post on the 30 most beautiful places to visit in the Bahamas!
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