I’m so excited to share our experience on the magical little island of Great Exuma! We picked Exuma for two reasons: 1. There is a direct 2.5 hour flight from Charlotte and 2. I wanted to swim with the pigs! If you’re looking for a non-touristy destination, Exuma is for you. It is the epitome of authentic and unspoiled.
Exuma is a district of the Bahamas, which consists of over 365 islands, also called cays. The largest of the cays is Great Exuma, which is 37 miles long and joined to another island, Little Exuma, by a small bridge.
Exuma at a Glace
Pretty much none of these businesses have websites (except for the hotels), so I have linked to either their Facebook pages or review sites.
Now for all the deets!
The view from our balcony at the Grand Isle Resort
There are direct flights to George Town (airport code GGT) from Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Nassau, and Toronto (THIS is a great website to check flight options). We rented a car once we were on Exuma, and that is definitely the way to go. Uber is not an option, and you can take taxis, but they aren’t readily available and they are very expensive. Renting a car on Exuma is expensive and the roads are a little precarious (you also drive on the left side of the road), but it’s definitely the best option. We walked off the plane and just wandered over to the first rental car place we saw, but if you want to plan ahead, HERE is a list of car rental companies on Exuma.
Of course you want to bring the obvious beach-packing-list items like swim suits, hats, cover ups, etc. Nowhere is fancy (shorts are OK for guys at any restaurant), so leave your nice clothes at home. Here are a few other things I wouldn’t leave home without:
Bug spray. The no-see-ums are pretty bad, and I ended up with a bunch of little bites. Our room actually provided bug spray, but I would pack some in case they don’t.
Sunscreen. I know this is an obvious one, but bring a lot. It’s very expensive on the island (and the options are very limited).
Wine/liquor. We never, ever check a bag, but we did for this trip so that we could bring some alcohol and full size sunscreen, and it was totally worth it. I was really glad to have a couple nice bottles of wine (and good bourbon for Lance). We did learn that you are only allowed to bring in two bottles of alcohol per person. We had six between the two of us (oops), but they were kind and let us through since it was our first time on the island.
Portable speaker. We didn’t have one of these and REALLY regretted it. There was no way to play music in our room, and it would have been nice to have out on the boat and the beach, too.
View of the Grand Isle Resort from the beach
We chose the Grand Isle Resort and loved it. It’s the best of both worlds because all of the rooms are apartments so you have a full kitchen, but you also have room service, access to a restaurant, a pool, drinks, a fitness facility, and housekeeping every day. I loved being able to cook some of our own meals, but still have use of all the amenities of a resort. My only complaint about the Grand Isle is that it is located west of George Town, so it was a little far from most things we did on the trip. There is only one main road on Exuma, so it’s not a huge deal, but there are some other accommodations that are more centrally located if that is important to you.
Infinity pool at the Grand Isle Resort
Here are a few other great options to stay on the island:
Sandals: if you’re into golf or the all-inclusive thing, Sandals is for you. It is right next door to the Grand Isle.
Airbnb: There are tons of places available on Airbnb and range from tiny beach shacks or condos to huge homes. We liked the houses in February Point, which is a gated community just east of George Town in a great central location. They also have a pool, restaurant, and fitness facility on site.
Santanna’s Bar & Grill
As I mentioned earlier, Exuma is not touristy, which means that overall it is SUPER casual. And while we definitely ate some good food, don’t expect fancy meals on Exuma. The local food is great: fresh grouper and lobster, peas and rice, conch salad, and of course lots of rum drinks. But vegetables are few and far between, a lot of the food is fried, and restaurant choices are limited. Here is where we ate:
Santanna’s is on Little Exuma (at the very east of the island; Little Exuma is connected by a bridge). It’s your typical beach bar: the menu is on a chalkboard and consists of about 5 choices (lobster, fish, shrimp, conch, or chicken, all of them fried) and they all come with rice and peas, cole slaw, and corn. This was actually one of my favorite meals on the trip. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was delicious and you can’t beat the beachfront location.
Deck of Santanna’s Bar & Grill
Mom’s Bakery is right next door to Santanna’s and CANNOT BE MISSED! I didn’t even know I liked rum cake but OMG. Go to Mom’s and get the vanilla rum cake and thank me later.
Chat N Chill is a bar/restaurant on Stocking Island, which is a short ferry ride from George Town. They are famous for their Sunday pig roasts, but they are open every day serving up food and drinks. Again: SUPER casual, but you can’t beat the location right on the beach. If you’re not there for the pig roast, it’s typical bar food: burgers, fries, ribs, etc. We took the ferry over on Sunday and just hung out all day. You can play volleyball on the beach, watch football in the bar, get fresh conch salad from the conch stand, and swim in the ocean and pet the stingrays (my favorite part). We ended up meeting a bunch of different people and paid a local guy with a boat to take us snorkeling, which kind of sums up the spirit of Exuma. Chill, go with flow, and you can’t beat how friendly the locals are.
The humble Chat N Chill
The Rusty Anchor is in the gated February Point community and is one of the finer restaurants on the island. It is beautiful inside and is open-air overlooking the pool and ocean. Our meal here was one of the best we had (lobster and shrimp linguine for Lance, blackened grouper for me), but it’s definitely a bit of a splurge.
The Palapa Grill at Grand Isle Resort is the other fancy restaurant on Exuma. Everything we had here was spectacular. We ate dinner at the restaurant once, ordered room service twice, and had breakfast here on our last morning (and ordered many piña coladas from the bar throughout our stay!). Even if you don’t stay at the Grand Isle, I recommend coming for dinner one night.
The Palapa Grill, which is open air and overlooks the pool
La Fourchette is a tiny French restaurant not too far west of the Grand Isle Resort. The atmosphere is absolutely adorable: it’s a tiny house right on the beach and has the windows open and the breeze blowing in. The food was good, not great, but the atmosphere makes it worth a visit. The crepes they have for dessert are incredible!
Peace & Plenty is a historic building in downtown George Town that is now a hotel. They have a cute pool with a bar overlooking the water, so we started there with a drink, which I highly recommend. The restaurant is Italian and the food is good. Lance ordered roast pork with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables; I had tagliatelle bolognese.
The pool at Peace & Plenty
Lumina Point is also on Stocking Island and we had lunch here on the day we rented a boat. It is BEAUTIFUL and the food was delicious!
Lumina Point from the water. Note: the white buildings ARE NOT Lumina Point, it is the dark buildings on the right (it’s hard to see signage from the water). There are signs posted that say ‘Guests Only,’ but you can walk in and go to the restaurant.
Here are some other spots that we didn’t get a chance to hit, but they came highly recommended over and over:
THE SWIMMING PIGS!
Full Day Boat Tour
This is the absolute number one, must-do thing on Exuma! There are tons of companies that do them, but we used Coastline Adventures and loved every single little detail. It’s a long day, but totally worth it. They provide unlimited Goombay smashes (my rum drink of choice), Bahama Mamas, beers, waters, and sodas. You snorkel Thunderbull grotto, they dive for conch and take you to a sandbar to hang out while they make you homemade conch salad right on the beach, you swim with nurse sharks at Compass Cay, swim with the pigs (which was the highlight of the whole trip), go to iguana beach where there are HUNDREDS of iguanas, have a traditional Bahamian lunch, dive for starfish, and see some incredible celebrity homes. It was BY FAR my favorite day of the entire trip and you can’t go to Exuma without experiencing it.
Chilling on the sandbar
Swimming with the sharks at Compass Cay
Just hanging with my friends at Iguana Beach
This is my number two must-do on Exuma. You can rent a boat or take one of the water taxis from the government dock in George Town ($15 per person round trip). Make it an all-day thing. Eat lunch, have a few rum drinks, hang out on the beach, have some conch salad, and pet the stingrays.
Rum drinks at the Chat N Chill
Tropic of Cancer Beach/Santanna’s/Mama’s Bakery
My next favorite excursion was heading east to Little Exuma. We stopped at the Tropic of Cancer beach, which is a rough road to get to, but is absolutely beautiful and almost totally empty. Keep heading east and prop up at Santanna’s for some rum drinks and local food. Grab a rum cake from Mom’s Bakery (or two like we did).
Tropic of Cancer beach
Mom’s Bakery…I’m still dreaming about this rum cake!
Rent a boat
I only recommend doing this if you have boating experience. We used to have a boat, so Lance is savvy, but it’s not something I would have done without him. We rented a 19-foot boat from Minn’s Water Sports and took it over to Stocking Island to have lunch at Lumina Point. After lunch we boated to a few empty beaches and explored a bit.
On our boat rented from Minn’s
Coco Plum Beach
One of the most charming parts of Exuma is that you can go to almost completely deserted beaches and have them all to yourselves. Coco Plum Beach is known for having swings in the water, but the tide was too high when we were there to go out on them.
Since we had a kitchen at the Grand Isle, we went grocery shopping before we even headed to the resort. Our room wasn’t quite ready, but they unpacked our groceries into the fridge for us while we waited at the restaurant for our room. One thing I get tired of when traveling it eating out every meal, so it was nice to make eggs in the morning, and we ate a few lunches and even dinners in. The options are kind of limited at the grocery stores, but you can definitely get the basics. I made tuna salad for lunch and Lance had turkey sandwiches.
Exuma Market is in downtown George Town and is the most extensive grocery store on the island by far.
Prime Island Meats and Deli is where we ended up randomly on our first trip to the grocery store. They are known for having good meats from the butcher and delicious homemade salads at the deli counter. Everything we got here was great: deli meat and cheese, sausage, eggs, and some of their homemade pasta salad (so good). It’s not much for atmosphere on the inside, but don’t let that fool you!
I think that sums it up. Other than eating, drinking, and exploring, I read two books and worked out every day and just relaxed. Almost nothing beats a week of sand, sun, and tropical drinks, right??
Thanks for reading!