Just ask Christopher Columbus, he bumped against these limestone landscapes in 1492 and changed the course of history. But adventure didn’t end with the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. From pirates to blockade dodgers to rum smugglers, wily go-getters have converged and caroused on the country’s 700 islands and 2400 cays for centuries.
So what’s in it for travelers? There’s sailing to Abacos. Diving Andros' blue holes. Kayaking the countless cays around Exumas. Lounging on Eleuthera's beaches. Pondering pirates in Nassau. Indeed, there’s a Bahamian island to match most every water-and-sand-based compulsion. Each of them framed by a backdrop of gorgeous, mesmerizing blue.
But every adventure has irritations, and here indifferent service, high prices and hungry no-see-ums take the lead. Nassau and Paradise Island are the prime troublemakers. But if casinos, Aquaventure and duty-free shopping don’t top your to-do list, consider dropping off the grid for a bit in the Out Islands. Prices remain high but there’s more bang for your Bahamian buck, with friendlier service, fewer crowds and, well, the pesky no-see-ums haven’t gotten the memo. But don’t wait long. Change is in the air and the Out Islands are blipping onto the radar screens of mega-developers and land grabbers the world over.
Life’s a little snappier in the Exumas. Whether you’re kayaking, kiteboarding or trimming a sail, a crisp palette of ocean blues sharpens every adventure. And with 365 cays unspooling over more than 100 miles, there’s a lot of adventure to go around. Wannabe Robinson Crusoes can wander lonely isles in Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park. Lifetime-to-do-listers can paddle shimmering Moriah Cay. Determined bonefishers can track wily prey on glass-clear shallows. And that’s without mentioning the gregarious yachtsmen who can mix their way to the perfect on-deck cocktail during the festive Family Island Regatta.
Landlubbers have distractions too, with the 62-mile Queen’s Hwy winding past historic ruins, hidden beaches and convivial beach bars on Great Exuma and Little Exuma, the two largest islands in the chain. In fact, the biggest thrill in Exuma may be the hair-raising one-lane bridge that connects them.
The launch pad for exploring is George Town, the bustling administrative center of Great Exuma that sits on the western shore of the sail-dotted blue waters of Elizabeth Harbour. Bordering the harbor to the east is Stocking Island, a sliver of land best known for its soft white sand and the infamous Chat & Chill Sunday pig roast.