© 2018 YaninaTravels
I visited Exuma in the Bahamas twice. It’s tough to do this destination on a budget. The first time I took a direct flight to Nassau (NAS), stayed at Paradise Island in Comfort Suites and one of the days I took a day trip to the Exumas with Powerboat Adventures ($199). I loved that tour! The Exumas have the clearest water in the Caribbean region. I was fascinated with the area and decided that one day I want to go back and spend more time there. Therefore, on my second visit, I took a flight with Delta Airlines out of New York’s JFK to Exuma International Airport (GGT) with a connection in Atlanta (ATL). I planned a 5 day trip, 2 of which were traveling days, that left me with 3 full days to explore the islands.
The main reason people visit Exuma in the Bahamas is to see the swimming pigs at Pig Beach and to swim with nurse sharks at Compass Cay. Those activities weren’t included in the day tour I took on my first trip and I thought the only way to see the pigs is to fly directly to the Exumas. Later I found out that there is a company Harbour Safaris, who actually offers Pig Beach full day excursion directly out of Nassau. It’s a pricey tour ($389) however if you really want to see the swimming pigs and don’t want to deal with flying to the Exumas, that might be a pretty good option for you.
MY BUDGET & COST BREAKDOWN: (5 days/4 nights) $1,085
RT Flight: $65 + 35,000 Delta bonus points
AirBnb: $510 for 4 nights ($100/night + fees)
Taxi from Airport to AirBnb: $25
Car Rental: $140 for 2 days ($70/day with insurance)
Pig Tour: $225
Food: $100 (prepared my own food, eating out 4 times)
WHAT TO BRING
Read my other post Traveling with Less: Travel Gear Guide
BEST TIME TO GO
The Exumas benefit from having a tropical climate, so you can make your travel plans any time of the year. There are two seasons (winter and summer) and the temperature rarely drops below 65F/18C. The high season is December through April. However, you should plan enough time since poor weather, especially strong winds can ruin your planned activities. I visited the Exumas for a first time in the month of November, when the weather was absolutely perfect and the water warm.
On my second visit in the month of January, upon arrival I was welcomed by incredibly high winds (35mph), cloudy skies, rough and chilly water. For the next two days, my tour to see the swimming pigs was cancelled, due to the weather conditions. I was lucky that the winds slowed down, the sun showed up and I was able to see the pigs and to swim with the nurse sharks just a day before my flight back. One more day of high winds, I would had totally missed seeing the pigs and the sharks, which was the main reason to visit the Exumas.
HOW TO GET THERE
Exuma is a district of the Bahamas, which consists 365 islands (cays) and begins 35 miles southwest of Nassau. The Exumas are Out Islands. They are divided into 3 main areas- Great Exuma, Little Exuma and The Exuma Cays. The Exuma Cays is where the houses of the rich and famous are located. The largest of the cays is Great Exuma (37 mi/km long), which is connected by a small bridge with Little Exuma. You can get there by air or by sea. The main airport (GGT) in the Exumas is located on Great Exuma. This is the smallest airport I’ve ever seen. There isn’t a duty free shop on that airport. The capital of Great Exuma is George Town.
There aren’t direct flights to GGT if you are flying out of the US East Coast, which makes getting to the Exumas expensive and inconvenient. Most likely your connection flight would be in Atlanta (Delta Airlines), Miami (American Airlines) or in Fort Lauderdale (United Airlines). Another option is to fly to Nassau first and then get on another flight to the Exumas with Bahamasair or Sky Bahamas ($150 RT).
My round trip to the Exumas cost me $65 only, since I used 35,000 Delta bonus points. I earned them by applying for their Delta SkyMiles Credit Card (spend $1,000 for the first 3 months and earn 35,000 points). To learn more, you can read my other article How To Earn Air Miles and Points for Free Flights.
There aren’t buses in Great Exuma. You can get around by renting a car or hiring a taxi. Transportation is expensive in both cases, however I would recommend you to rent a car (about $70/day), which will give you more flexibility. Keep in mind that traffic drives on the left as in the United Kingdom. Many of the side roads to houses and to beaches are unpaved.
Don’t even try to make a car reservation through Travelocity since major car rental companies are absent. There are just a few local car rental companies and you might want to contact them directly for the best quote during your stay (Airport Car Rental, Don’s, Berlie’s, Thompson’s). To visit Stocking Island, you can use the services of Elvis Water Taxi. It’s only 15 minutes ride and costs $12 for a round trip. The water taxi runs at the ferry port in Georgetown on every hour between 10am – 5pm.
Hotel rates in the Exumas are high. The best place to look for a budget friendly accommodation rate is AirBnB. I stayed in a house right on the ocean, which I booked through AirBnb. You can check it out and read my review there. If you’ve never used AirBnB before, you can accept my invite to join and get $40 off towards your first trip.
The official currency is the Bahamian dollar, which is equivalent in value to the US dollar. Both US and Bahamian dollars are accepted on the islands. Make sure you bring enough cash since many places don’t accept credit cards. There are Scotiabank and RBC ATMs.
Food is expensive in the Exumas. If you are traveling on a budget, you can save some money by bringing some snacks, nuts and oatmeal or cereal with you. Alcohol isn’t terribly expensive. A good place to buy it from is Bristol Wine and Spirits.
1. Shirley’s at the Fish Fry
It was my favorite place to go for dinner. The Fish Fry is an area in George Town, where many little and authentic restaurants are located and serve fresh seafood. The Fish Fry attracts tourists and locals. You should try anything with conch on the menu! Right next to Shirley’s, you can find a small conch stand, where you can get an amazing conch salad, prepared right in front of you!
2. Santana’s Grill Pit
Enjoy the lovely outdoor setting at Santana’s Grill Pit in Little Exuma and try the rum cakes at Mom’s Bakery right next to it!
3. Kermit’s Airport Lounge
Before getting on your flight back home from Exuma Airport, visit the restaurant Kermit’s Airport Lounge, which is across the street and don’t miss the opportunity to try ‘Stewed Conch with Johny Cake’ for breakfast or lunch!
THINGS TO DO
1. Book a full day pig tour ‘Exuma Cays Adventure Tour’ with 4 C’s Adventures ($180)
You will get a chance to see the famous swimming pigs of Bahamas, play with Northern Bahamian Rock iguanas, snorkel the Thunderball Grotto, swim with the nurse sharks at Compass Cay, touch a starfish, sight-see private islands and others.
2. Don’t miss a day trip to Stocking Island!
It’s only 15 minutes ferry ride and it costs $12 for a round trip. I used the service of Elvis Water Taxi. The taxi runs at the ferry port in Georgetown on every hour between 10 am – 5 pm. On Stocking Island, you will find Chat ‘N’ Chill Bar&Grill, surrounded by a small beach. You can see stingrays swimming around. If you get lucky you can buy conch salad, sold at a conch stand there. What I enjoyed the best in Stocking Island was hiking the island! If you want to hike it, make sure you get on the earliest ferry out of Georgetown to avoid the high tide.
Upon arrival in Stocking Island, walk around the beach towards the pink house, which is across the ferry stop. Keep walking straight until you reach a small beach. At that point, you will need to cross the water or perhaps ask someone around with a boat to give you a ride. Once you are on the other side, you will find another marked trail, going up the hill. Keep walking until you reach another beach. Then make a right turn and walk all the way till the end, where you will see a giant rock. There is another marked path to the right. Somewhere in the middle of the path, the road splits in two. Make a left and walk up the hill for beautiful views of Elizabeth Harbour on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other side. Then hike back down and take the first left until you reach the harbour beach.
On that trip, bring a light microfiber towel with you, water and snacks. Spend some time on that beach, enjoying its seclusion and tranquility. However, be mindful of the high tide, so you don’t get stuck there. When I visited, the high tide started at 12 pm and by 4 pm, the water would had been chest high. I left the harbour beach by 1 pm and I still had to hike through knee high water. It took me about 40 min t o get back to Chat ‘N’ Chill. Basically this route is hiking the island in a big circle.
3. Explore Great Exuma and Little Exuma by car
Great Exuma is only 37 mi (60 km) in length. It is connected to Little Exuma by small bridge. You can drive from the south end (Tropic of Cancer) to the north end in less than 2 hours.