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Exuma is a must-visit vacation destination for those that wish to be surrounded by paradise. Its beautiful white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and laidback island vibe attract millions of visitors each year. It’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Exuma is a chain of islands, or cays, located in the Bahamas. It’s located thirty-four miles southeast of the more popular and much more crowded Bahamian tourist destination of Nassau. Exuma has become an internet sensation over the last few years due to the popularity of its now-famous swimming pigs; however, the island chain still remains quite peaceful. It may have the reputation of being one of the more relaxed vacation spots in the Bahamas, but there is definitely no shortage of things to do. Below you will find six incredible things to do in Exuma.
How to Get to Exuma
The island of Exuma is 100 miles off the coast of Florida and just 35 miles southeast of Nassau. The best way to reach Exuma is generally by plane. Exuma International Airport (GGT) is located on Great Exuma and direct flights are offered from Nassau, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale. Flights from Nassau are more frequent and usually offered daily. If you’re departing from Florida or Nassau, Bahamas Air and Silver Airways have affordable and regular flight service. If you are departing from anywhere else in the United States, Delta can be a great option. Chartered flights are also available from some of the other Bahamian cays, such as Staniel Cay Airport (MYES), Black Point Airport (MYEB), and Farmer’s Cay Airport.
There are a couple of additional options for reaching Exuma from Nassau. The first is the ferry; however, I don’t’ recommend it. There are no direct ferries available and travel time is long (14 hours). The ferry might be appealing to those who wish to bring a car over from Nassau or simply have the time to spend on the ferry. Bahamas Ferry makes a couple of trips to Georgetown each week. A ticket should be purchased a couple of days in advance and costs $130 USD roundtrip. A day trip from Nassau is also an option but will be very rushed. If you have your heart set on seeing the swimming pigs, but don’t have enough time to actually visit Exuma, speed boat tours are offered to Pig Beach. For more information or to book a tour, click here.
Fun Things to do in Exuma
1. Visit Stocking Island
Stocking Island is a great way to spend your first day in Exuma. It is a small, narrow island located just off of the port of Georgetown. The island has beautiful beaches and great resorts. It’s easily reachable by boat and the ride is just ten minutes long. Elvis’ water taxi runs throughout the day and $15 USD/person (cash only) for a roundtrip ticket. A full day can easily be spent on the island. I suggest spending the morning swimming with the stingrays. They can be found directly offshore and are more active earlier in the day. I’m not sure if they are looking for food or they actually enjoy human interaction, but they will swim right up to you and allow you to pet them. The rest of the afternoon can be spent relaxing on the beach or enjoying some food and drinks at Stocking Island’s famous, Chat N’ Chill. The Chat N’ Chill has a full bar and is a great place to meet people from all over the world.
2. Charter a Boat
Chartering a boat doesn’t have to be as expensive as it sounds. Exuma has a lot of options when it comes to boats. If you are looking for a great and relatively inexpensive way to go out on the water, I suggest booking a boat through Elvis (the man who runs the water taxi). He arranged a captain/guide to take us to some incredible spots around Elizabeth Harbor and Stocking Island. The tour ended up being my favorite on this list of things to do in Exuma. The first stop was Hooper’s Bay. Hooper’s Bay is a beautiful area of shallow turquoise waters and is a must if swimming with sea turtles is on your list. The water was amazingly clear and we found a handful of turtles in the area. The turtles are a protected species, so please be respectful, don’t feed them, and visit this area with a guide.
Our next stop was Mystery Cave, an entrance to a blue hole near Stocking Island. Blue holes are large underwater caves or sinkholes that are open at the surface and can extend way below sea level. The cave is a great place to go diving. As a snorkeler, I wasn’t able to go inside the cave but there are plenty of fish near its entrance. Other must-visit places around Stocking Island include Hurricane Cove and Mani Wake Sandbar. Hurricane Cove is an incredible place to snorkel. There are lots of beautiful tropical fish and we even saw a barracuda and a couple of large sharks (from a distance). The Mani Wake sandbar is is a gorgeous strip of perfect white sand out in the middle of the ocean. It was absolutely stunning.
3. Visit the Famous Pig Beach
The famous swimming pigs are located on Big Major Cay. It’s about a two-hour boat ride from Georgetown and is best done as a guided tour. I used Robert’s Island Adventures, which includes a couple of other destinations mentioned in this post. The pigs have populated the island for over a decade, but no one is certain as to how they got there. It’s rumored they swam ashore after a shipwreck or were left by sailors. Boatfuls of tourists dock throughout the day to feed and swim with the pigs. The feral pigs, who once used to forge for their own food, now get the majority of their food from tourists.
Pigs are one of my favorite animals and I was really excited to visit the beach but left with mixed feelings. I carefully research any animal interaction I participate in, but it was difficult to find information on the pigs before arriving in Exuma. I assumed it would be ok because the pigs aren’t kept in captivity and are free to do as they please. In the past, though, many of the pigs have died due to sand indigestion. This is happening because food is thrown on the beach by tourists. Rules have recently been put into place in regard to this and now tour operators only allow people to feed them from the boat. There are still visitors, however, that are not on guided tours and don’t abide by these rules. Instead of feeding them crackers, as many of the boats do, I suggest bringing some fresh veggies.
The pigs appear to be somewhat taken care of. Fresh drinking water and a small area of shade is available to them. However, they are still sunburned and a few of the smaller ones seemed malnourished. Something just felt a little off, but the pigs seemed relatively happy. If you do decide to visit, please make sure you are visiting the original pigs at Big Major Cay. Swimming pigs have been popping up at other locations, being put there as a way to make money. Living on a beach is unnatural and isn’t an ideal situation for a pig.
4. Swim with Nurse Sharks
Like much of the animal life around Exuma, the nurse sharks of Compass Cay are used to being fed on a daily basis by humans. The nurse sharks are slow-moving, bottom feeders and are a relatively harmless species of shark. Compass Cay, is a private island that is open to the public. You’ll have to arrange a tour or boat to get there and pay a docking fee of $8 USD cash per person. It was an incredible experience being so close to and able to swim with these amazing creatures, but again I don’t know if this is an animal encounter I would participate in knowing what I know now. The sharks are wild and free to come and go as they please, but the water near the dock is chummed to attract the sharks and keep them in the area. It was also quite sad to see a handful of people completely disrespect these animals by grabbing onto them.
5. See the Giant Rock Iguanas
A large, protected species of iguana, called the Northern Bahamian Rock Iguanas, can be found on Allen’s Cay, Southern Allen’s Cay, and Leaf Cay. These are the only three locations in the world this species can be found. I was able to spend time with them on Leaf Cay. To reach Leaf Cay, you will need to join a tour or hire a guide since they are a protected species. The large iguanas can live up to 40 years and reach a weight of 24 pounds. They look rather intimidating, but they are actually quite friendly. They will come out of hiding in search of food (make sure its food approved by your guide), but easily scare and retreat to the bushes.
6. Hang Out with the Locals
The Fish Fry is a popular hang out for both locals and tourists. It’s about a 15-minute walk from town and is a collection of small restaurants that make some of the best food on Exuma. The restaurants serve fresh seafood, meats, and authentic Bahamian dishes. Some restaurants are open for lunch, but the Fish Fry doesn’t really get going until late evening. I recommend trying some of the great seafood at Shirley’s. On weekend nights, many of the locals meet up here and go to Charlie’s for karaoke.
Where to Stay on Exuma
Island Time Villas
Island Time Villas is a great option for families or groups. The property offers affordable apartment-style lodging with an option for one or two-bedrooms and a full kitchen. The beach is a short walk across the main road and the property has a pool with BBQs, a game room, and a restaurant. The front desk can arrange activities and complimentary kayaks and paddleboards are available for use.
Peace & Plenty Resort
Peace & Plenty resort is another great option. It’s located in downtown Georgetown and has 33 rooms and five cottages. The property has a pool with a harbor view, restaurant, and can arrange excursions or private charters. The hotel also owns a beach club on Stocking Island and offers complimentary boat transportation to the island.
Kahari Resort is a property owned by Peace & Plenty. It’s a beautiful boutique eco-resort and is perfect for those looking to get away from it all. The secluded resort is located on Stocking Island and is surrounded by water. A water shuttle is available to take you to/from Georgetown. The resort has 12 bungalows, a pool, a fitness center, and a restaurant.
Have you been to Exuma? What are your favorite activities? If you’ve enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or share using the social media buttons below. Looking for other great snorkeling destinations? Learn more about Cozumel in my post, “A Guide to Snorkeling in Cozumel.”