Things to do in the Exuma Cays – Dream Trip to the Bahamas

Written By: The Planet D

Our latest getaway takes you to the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. The Exumas Cays consists of 365 islands and cays that span 176 miles through a land and sea nature reserve. You’ll find endless white-sand beaches, sapphire blue waters, and some very unique animal encounters.

Things to do in the Exuma Bahamas

I always thought of the Bahamas as being touristy and crowded until we took a vacation to The Exuma Cays. If you’re thinking of crowds of people and hoards of cruise ships when picturing the Bahamas, think again. In the Exumas, you’ll find one of the most romantic destinations on earth. 

Luxury Exuma Vacations

the exumas from above
The Exumas from Above

We knew we were in for something special when we looked out the window of our small commuter plane to witness one of the most beautiful views of islands I had ever seen. I’ve seen similar scenes from the plane like in the Maldives and Fiji but I had no idea that the Bahamas rivaled these exotic destinations.

Places to Visit in the Exuma Cays

The Exuma Cays are known for their gin blue waters named after the turquoise hue of the tasty spirit gin. But locals have taken the comparison even further referring to the upmarket blend of Bombay-Sapphire Gin. Yes, it is that blue! We couldn’t wait to touch down and get into that crystal-clear water that was calling our name.

Home to the likes of Tyler Perry, Johhny Depp, and Oprah Winfrey, The Exuma Bahamas’ turquoise waters and snow-white sands is a place of paradise. It’s no wonder films like Pirates of the Caribbean, Into the Blue, and James Bond have all been filmed here.

1. Staniel Cay Exumas

boats in the staniel cay of exuma cays

Many people only know of Great Exuma Bahamas, but another excellent Exuma Island to choose is Staniel Cay. It is closer to many of the top Exuma Cays attractions than Great Exuma. About 100 people live on Staniel Cay and the only accommodation besides apartment rentals is Embrace Resort and The Yacht Club that has been around since the 1960s.

2. Staniel Cay Yacht Club

exuma cays staniel cay yacht club

Even if you are staying on another Exuma Island a visit to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club is a must. This is where everyone gathers in the Exumas. The Yacht Club of Staniel Cay has been in operation since the 1960s attracting celebrities and the rich & powerful who anchor their mega-yachts offshore. It has that perfect island vibe that takes you away from it all and immediately plops you into the laid back Caribbean lifestyle.

3. James Bond and Staniel Cay

staniel cay yacht club james bond thunderball photo

James Bond’s Thunderball cast and crew spent many a night enjoying Kalik (Bahamas local beer) and cracked conch at its bar in 1964. Sean Connery even blessed the yacht club with his presence along with many other celebrities over the years. There are photos of the famous James Bond Film inside plus the other movie start that have stopped in for some fun in the sun. Hot Suggestion, the 3-day island hopper tour from Nassau

We stayed at Embrace Resort on Staniel Cay. It is locally owned and operated by the awesome, Nikki. Plus she also offers a concierge service to aid visitors in planning their trips and tours around the 365 islands in the Exumas.

All of the major attractions of the Exumas are just a boat ride away from Staniel Cay and you can book tours to everywhere on the island.

4. Thunderball Grotto

inside Thunderball Grotto
Enjoying Thunderball Grotto

Our favorite excursion in all of the Exumas was visiting Thunderball Grotto. It is home to the famous underwater scenes of James Bond’s Thunderball. If you haven’t read our article on Thunderball Grotto, head over there now, it’s worth going to the Exuma Cays for this alone!

At low tide, you can swim through arches to enter the cave. This beautiful cavern in the middle of an unassuming island is spectacular. Once you are inside it is breathtakingly beautiful both above the water and below! The rocks and corals are lit up as the sun shines through and the bright colors of the fish sparkle in the beams of sunlight.

snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto
Swim through at Thunderball Grotto

When you look back towards the opening of the Grotto, it’s like a giant fishbowl before your eyes. It’s even shaped like a fishbowl and the colors are so vivid due to the sun streaming through the holes in the ceiling, it literally takes your breath away.

5. Pig Beach at Big Major Cay

swimming pigs Exumas
Famous Swimming Pigs of the Bahamas

One of the most famous stops in the Exumas is to swim with the pigs of Big Beach at Major Cay. Leftover from colonial days, this group of pigs now run wild in the woods off the beach and come out daily for a dip in the sea.

When I heard we were swimming with pigs, the blond in me really shone through. I had visions of little aqua pygmy pigs swimming underwater with webbed feet. But to my great shock and horror, the pigs of the Exumas are actual pigs that you find on a farm.

exuma cays swimming pigs

People bring cabbage to feed them and you can get in the water to swim with them. But don’t get too close, they’ll nip you if they think you have food. Several years ago, they were isolated and left to fend for themselves, but when boaters started coming to the islands, the pigs got very excited and swam out to meet them.

When we were there, it was a new phenomenon, but today, copycat tours have sprung up and people have brought in pigs to different islands and beaches. To make sure you are going to the authentic pig island, book through Staniel Cay

6. Swim with Nurse Sharks

swimming with sharks in the exuma cays bahamas

The popular spot for swimming with sharks in the Bahamas is in the Exumas at Compass Cay Marina. We swam with sharks many times and swimming with nurse sharks are a wonderful experience. I’ll never forget swimming with nurse sharks for the first time in Belize. These creatures are gentle and intelligent and it is a must-do activity when you visit the Exumas Cays.

7. Sharks Eating at the Docks of Staniel Cay

fishermen feeding nurse sharks in the exuma cays

Sharks are a popular attraction in the Bahamas because they are just so darn friendly here. They are fed by the dock every night as the fishermen clean their fish so when it comes to needing food, they’ve got it covered. If you aren’t comfortable getting in the water with sharks, head on down to the docks at sunset and watch them come in as the fishermen clean their catch!

8. Snorkelling and Diving in The Exumas

underwater exumas

The Exumas are known to be an incredible destination for diving and snorkeling. It is the most incredible shade of aquamarine I have ever seen and it was crystal clear. The water is also as warm as butter. You’ll see starfish on the ocean floor, turtles, lobster and colorful fish .

The Bahamians are proud of their clear blue waters and with good reason. There is PADI certified diving on Great Exuma and Staniel Cay at Staniel Cay Adventures. When scuba diving in the Exumas Bahamas, you’ll find all the usual sites like sea caves, undisturbed coral reefs, wall dives, and even a 400-foot deep blue hole.


scuba diving in the bahamas

I don’t normally add Barracuda encounters to a best-of list, but our Barracuda experience was so memorable, I had to write about it. It has been a while since we’ve spotted barracudas up close and we were treated to two of beauties during our trip.

They were large, shiny, and oh-so curious. They stuck around quite a while at the end of our excursion, so we all stayed in the water for a longer look. When we made our way over to the Grotto by boat later in the trip, I could have sworn that the same two followed us. I think they liked us, they really liked us.

9. Mile-Long Sandbar

The mile-long sandbar in the Exuma Cays offers a variety of leisurely activities. This natural wonder is perfect for shelling, where you can collect beautiful shells, sunbathing under the warm Bahamian sun, and picnicking with a scenic view that surrounds you with tranquility.

The sandbar, located just south of Big Farmer Cay, presents an absolutely surreal experience. It emerges in the middle of aquamarine waters that gradually turn lighter, eventually becoming snow-white sand. It’s a magnificent sight that feels almost otherworldly??.

Walking on this sandbar is a unique experience as you can traverse the pure white sand that stretches out into the distance, only accessible during low tides. It’s a perfect spot for a quiet stroll or to sit and let the gentle waves wash over your feet??.

10. Emerald Bay – Great Exuma Island

Great Exuma Island is the largest island in the Exuma Cays but that doesn’t mean it’s over touristy or crowded. Great Exuma is still a quiet getaway and you can visit all of the things to do in the Exumas that we mention in this post. There are direct flights to George Town from Miami and the best way to get around this island is by car rental.

A favorite resort for couples on Great Exuma Island is Sandals at Emerald Bay. Sandals Emerald Bay is an all-inclusive luxury resort and spa on a mile-long secluded beach. There are three pools with music and party options or quiet retreats. Many couples love to choose Sandals for their romantic getaways and special occasions. Sandals offers tours to all the Exuma Cays locations we visited. Check availability and Pricing on TripAdvisor

Grand Isle Resort is also located on Great Exuma. This luxury resort has all the amenities that you could want and you can easily book a day trip to Swim with pigs or golf on the Caribbean’s longest golf course.

11. Sailing Trips Around the Exumas

Sailing the Exumas
A yearly regatta takes place at Staniel Cay

There is a lot to do in the Exuma Cays and you can rent a boat to explore on your own or hire a boat for a day or two. Or you can hire a boat through Nikki on her three-day island hopping tour. There are so many beaches to explore, this is really the way to see the Exumas. We saw quite a bit in our three days, but with 365 islands, we barely scratched the surface.

12. Exumas Regatta

sailing regatta exuma bahamas

We just so happened to be in the Exumas for their annual regatta. Don’t worry though, if you aren’t there for it, I’m sure you’ll find another one somewhere. There are festivals, regattas, and fishing derbies going on all the time in the Exumas. The Bahamians know how to have a good time. So if you are out on a boat, chances are there is a festival, derby, or regatta taking place.

13. Isolated Beaches of the Exuma Cays

deserted beaches in the exuma bahamas
Completely deserted beaches

The Exuma Cays have pristine secluded beaches. On Staniel Cay alone, we drove around on our golf carts we found several spots to swim with nobody at all around. If you go island hopping, it’s the perfect way to find your own private beach away from the crowds of Nassau.

Tropic of Cancer Beach is considered the prettiest on the Exuma Islands located on Little Exuma Island.

Stocking Island Beach on Stocking Island is another suggested stop that is good for snorkelling and has some of the best white sand in the Bahamas.

No matter what beach you visit, you’ll be swept far away from it all. I’ll never forget standing calm warm water thinking of nothing as we effortlessly shifted from that North American frenzied attitude to “Island Time while in the Exumas.”

14. Water Sports in the Exumas

paddle board the exumas
Stand up Paddleboard the Pristine Waters

From paddleboarding to kayaking, snorkeling to diving, The Exumas has it all when it comes to water sports.

So what are you waiting for? Forget the usual Florida vacations and skip the cruise, spend time chillaxin’ in the Exuma Cays.

15. Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park was the first marine reserve in The Bahamas and the wider Caribbean, established in 1958. This park is not only a pioneer in marine conservation but also stands as one of the most successful marine parks in the world????.

The park covers 176 square miles of protected area and acts as an essential habitat for numerous species. It is an ecological preserve and a wildlife refuge, offering a chance to experience a rich biodiversity that is both preserved and thriving due to its status as a no-take zone????.

The area is renowned for its breathtaking beauty, with pristine waters, land, and beaches. It spans 22 miles from Wax Cay Cut on the northern end to Conch Cut at the southern end, offering visitors amazing views and the chance to explore secluded beaches????.

Exuma Cays Resorts

Embrace Resort Staniel Cay
The Exumas Embrace Resort

Embrace Resort on Staniel Cay is an upmarket resort of eight villas including a spa, fitness center with a swimming pool, and dining room. The resort offers all-inclusive options or your choice of half board.

Golf carts are provided to guests to explore the island. Staniel Cay does not have any motorized vehicles making it an even more attractive destination in the Exuma Cays. After sightseeing for the day, take home your fresh catch and have your own fish fry as you chat n chill while watching the sunset.

There are no other hotels on Staniel Cay, but there are several Air BnBs and vacation rentals. You can rent an entire villa on a secluded beach on Staniel Cay. Check prices on TripAdvisor

You won’t regret a visit to Exuma Bahamas

How to Get to the Exuma Cays

To reach the Exuma Cays, there are two primary ways: by ferry and by plane. Taking a ferry is the first and most popular option. However, flying has become increasingly popular in recent years as well??.

If you’re traveling from Nassau, the most efficient way to get to Exuma is by an organized plane tour. The flight is relatively short, taking only about 30 minutes from Lynden Pindling International Airport, and offers stunning aerial views of the Exuma Cays as you approach Staniel Cay??. You can book these flights through travel portals, which will then provide you with the necessary details regarding departure times and locations??.

For those already in the Exuma region, such as in Georgetown, boat travel is also an efficient means to move around the Cays. It presents a viable option for inter-island travel within the Exumas??.

For those looking for an adventure, the Exuma Cays have everything from the chance to feed swimming pigs, see Bahamian rock iguanas, and swim with nurse sharks at Compass Cay the options are endless. You can also visit the famous Thunderball Grotto, which is known for its

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Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

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Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

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Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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20 thoughts on “Things to do in the Exuma Cays – Dream Trip to the Bahamas”

  1. We are planning a trip to the Bahamas as soon as things open back up, and we will be adding all of these swimming and snorkeling spots to the list. Definitely looking forward to Thunderball Grotto!

  2. First off, the photos look astoundingly surreal and out of this world! It’s like the sceneries were only captured to be viewed on a movie screen! The beautiful art of nature plus great photography equals these masterpieces! Thank you for sharing this beautiful place with us even though it’s only through virtual but you made us inspired and motivated to work our asses off to even just visit this place!

  3. Never heard about this wonderfull destination, i think this could be a great idea for young spouses for their “lune de miel vacation”, can i use this for my website please?

  4. Oh man, the pictures on your post just blew me away.

    That piggy is so cutie.

    Might travel to the Bahamas soon, can’t resist the view from the plane which you posted about..


  5. BAHAMAS is really a heaven on earth that we realized after reading your blog and going through the shared pictures and the second thing is though its small in size but their is a lot to explore. Thanks For sharing

  6. Thank you for sharing this information. Yes, of course, The Bahamas is such a very beautiful place for spending a vacation.

  7. Shhhhh dont tell anyone! youll spoil it for those of us who know about Exuma, and if Captian Steve is reading this- hope you made it through Hurricane Maria OK-See you soon

  8. Beautiful pictures and a great post! definitely in our bucket list. These pictures are making me want to take a trip to the Bahamas. I love your photos; the underwater shots and that swimming pig! so cute!

  9. I love the idea of seeing the island on a golf cart. We did the same in San Andres, Colombia. Always good to know you can’t really go over 30km/hr, especially when you’re a nervous driver…
    Great photos.
    Frank (bbqboy)

  10. Absolutely stunning photography. I haven’t been sailing in a number of years but these pictures are making me want to take a trip to the Bahamas.

    • Kirsten you would love it. The Exumas were so much more than I expected. I didn’t realize how beautiful the Bahamas were and they are so close!

    • Thanks guys. We really wanted to introduce people to the Exumas again because it is such an incredible location. So many people think they have to go far far away and the Exumas are so close to Florida. Which means it’s really close for Canadians

  11. Bahamas is no doubt one of the best snorkeling spots in the world.. I love your photos; the underwater shots and that swimming pig! so cute!

    • Agreed! We didn’t realize how pristine and clear the water was there. But it rivals anywhere on earth for clarity and beauty.