What to do in Exuma, Bahamas in June: Best Tours, Restaurants, and Beaches
A recap/guide of our trip Bahamas vacation to Exuma – how to get around the island, what to see, where to eat, swimming with pigs, and our favourite beaches.
Knowing little about The Bahamas and all the want for sun and beach, even in the middle of June, we packed our bags and hopped on a short 3 hour flight (we found a round-trip deal for $250 CAD, full break down of the trip is at the end of this post) from Toronto to Great Exuma for a week of pure bliss.
Fun Fact: direct flights to and out of Exuma, Bahamas are only on Sundays. We arrived bright and early, around 10am, hopped in a van (they don’t really have cabs so if you’re not staying in a hotel, keep the number/card your driver gives you to schedule a ride back to the airport at the end of your trip), and drove 20 minutes to our 2-bedroom cottage just outside of Georgetown. There aren’t any street names on the island – just names of towns, hotels, and Airbnbs, you just name it, and everyone on the Island knows exactly what you’re talking about.
Knowing the island was teeny tiny, we tried to do as much research ahead of time and found a few people mention online that grocery stores closed at 10am on Sundays. We thought it was likely an exaggeration but after an entertaining 2km walk to the nearest grocery store, we learned that it was all truth and were thankful to have packed a suitcase full of food. Yes, we packed a suitcase of food.
Travelling on a budget, and knowing that fresh veggies and meat likely wouldn’t be found in abundance on the island, we didn’t want to stuff ourselves with the island special (fried everything) for an entire week. We froze meats, packed pasta, oatmeal, granola bars and crackers, bread and anything else that could last a short 3 hour flight and were so pleased that we did. Exuma, though heavily reliant on tourism, only recently had their only major road paved (thank you #FyreFestival) and only have a few hotels to stay in. We eventually made 2 stops to the grocery store throughout the week to buy some drinks, a few vegetables, and chips.
Our 2-bedroom cottage (Minn’s Cottages) was equipped with air condition units, a full kitchen, 2 bathrooms, and cable TV which saved us on the one stormy day we had. It’s located right by the ocean across from an abandoned hotel with its own little private beach (photos below). We were always the only ones on it, and for the first day, it really felt like we were the only ones on the island.
From our cab ride to our cottage, we learned that all the locals eat at the Fish Fry, about a 15 minute walk, so for our first meal, we put on shoes and headed for our first local meal: fresh fried conch. It became very clear that most folks don’t walk to their destinations on this island and learned that hitch hiking is common and quite safe – again, there’s a single major road. We also learned that no one locks the doors to their homes and leave their cars unlocked with their keys in the car (we always locked our door, and didn’t hitch hike but imagine how lovely living like that could be).
No photos of our meal, we were too busy devouring it – we ordered fried conch, curried conch, every type of conch with sides of mac n cheese (their mac n cheese isn’t the same as ours, it’s a big block of cheese and squished pasta that’s surprisingly good), and fries.
Day two was spent at Jolly Hall Beach – another goodie our cab driver let us know about, and just another 30 minute walk from our cottage passed the Fish Fry. To get to the beach, there’s an opening on the side of the road and a short path (Google Maps did us wonders on the island). Again, not a single person in sight, just a lonely pup, and a beach with the softest white sand my body has ever rolled in.
Day 3 was probably the most anticipated day of our trip. We signed up with a tour (Sugar Adventures, it had great ratings and carried fewer people per trip) for a day trip boating around Little Exuma to swim with pigs.
Pro-tip: island time is a real thing there and there’s no real sense of urgency. Emails are seldom answered, shops are open when they feel like it, phones are sometimes picked up, and everyone likes cash (USD).
We spoke with Sugar Adventures the day before our tour over the phone and scheduled a pick up from our cottage. We paid once we got to their offices, about a 40 minute drive north from George Town, and hopped on a boat equipped with tour guides that dove into the middle of the ocean to catch and cook us fresh fish, conch, and endless amounts of alcohol.
Our first stop was Thunderball Grotto. There were more fish than I’ve ever seen swimming right by our feet!
After swimming around the Grotto for a little while, we found what Denise came to the Exuma for, swimming pigs. Though it was amusing at first, the pigs were HUGE, aggressive, and not all that cute (except for the little piglets).
Then, the moment I’ve been waiting for came next, swimming with sharks. A little less terrifying than the usual shark, nurse sharks aren’t known to be as vicious and are slower (their mouths are at the bottom, and eyes on the side of their heads). Still, they’re sharks, they bite, so naturally, we were cautious. Our final stop was at a sandbar in the Little Exuma. By this point, we were exhausted – after hours baking in the sun, one too many Bahama Mama’s, and all the animals, we sat in the sand, took all the selfies, and were ready to call it a day.
Another day, another beach! We rented a car and headed to the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been on, Tropic of Cancer in Williamstown.
Pro-tip: when renting a car in Exuma, we highly recommend upgrading from the basic cheapest vehicle available. We made the mistake of not doing so and had to drive 2km/hour on side roads so we could make it over the endless potholes to the beach. The drivers seat was also on the right side of the road, and cars drive on the left, so that was a lot of fun (not) – you can definitely pay more for an American car. There’s no speed limit, so we drove niiiiice and slow.
Another fun fact, sharks are everywhere and can swim in really shallow waters, so always be on the lookout (the water is so clear that you can see one coming from a distance away). We spent our day in the water, on our backs, and when we got out, noticed the few people that had been on the beach waiting by the parking lot (where there’s higher ground). When we got to the lot, they all asked if we had seen the shark too. Great.
While we were in the William’s Town, we stopped by Santanna’s Bar and Grill for dinner. This colourful joint served up the best fried lobster and mixed drinks. We were told that the cast and crew of Pirates of the Caribbean usually make a stop here for a quick meal while filming in the Bahamas.
On our last day, we headed to Chat N Chill, a little island where you can swim with sting rays, have the best barbecue and finally see every tourist visiting Exuma (we had seen maybe 10 tourists on the island during the week). There’s a water taxi service ($20 round trip) that takes you from George Town to the island and back. We were sad to miss the island on a Sunday, turns out all the locals host a huge party with a pig roast.
After napping on every beach on the island, drinking too much tequila, and consuming too much fried food, we unanimously decided that this was by far the most relaxing (and wallet friendly) trip ever taken.
The locals are extremely friendly and always looking to help you out (most don’t want to cheat you, and if you’re worried, you can always ask anyone at your hotel, or call the property manager for their recommendations), and it’s incredibly refreshing to not have to dress up at all (no one wears makeup or anything more than flip flops or sneakers during the day). We’re so excited to go back!
Here’s the cost breakdown of our trip to Exuma, per person (there were 4 of us):
- Flight: $230 USD
- Accommodations: $410 USD
- Packed Food: $21 USD
- Sugar Adventures Tour: $215 USD
- Swimming with Sharks on Tour: $10 USD
- Lunch on Tour: $20 USD
- Car Rental: $40 USD
= $946 USD
+ $250 USD in Cash for meals while on the Island
Total: ~ $1200 USD
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