Exuma

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I am so happy I finally had a chance to sit down and write about my trip to Exuma, Bahamas. I hope this post will inspire you to add Exuma to your list of travels, or help you plan out your trip to the magical island.

We arrived to Exuma International Airport on June 6th. After catching the red-eye flight from LAX to Miami, a 5 ½ hour plane ride with no sleep, a 2 hour layover in Miami, and finally taking the (not so smooth) ride in a 100 passenger plane to Exuma, it’s safe to say we were exhausted. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying every second of our new home for the week.

We arrived at the house located on Hoopers Bay. We had the second floor which overlooked the ocean. It was absolutely breathtaking. The patio wrapped around the entire house and was decorated with the cutest beach décor. That was it, I was already in love.

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After unpacking and getting settled in, we quickly realized that it had been hours since we ate last, so we decided to embark on our first quest to find food. Before we arrived to the Bahamas, we heard that the island is known for their famous meals made of conch. We heard that they made fresh conch salad, which is similar to ceviche, so we made it a goal to find conch salad sometime on the trip. Little did we know how difficult that would actually be.

Our goal that night was to go to Steve’s or Charlie’s for dinner because we had read some great reviews. However, we got to Charlie’s and it wasn’t open, so we decided to try “Shirley’s Fish Fry” next door. It was a tiny place, with 2 servers (who were also the bartenders) and only a couple cooks. One thing you need to know about Exuma is that everyone is on “island time” so if you are expecting speedy service and your water to be filled up without asking for it, you might want to reconsider your destination! I got the conch burger ($13 with a side), and while it was a bit on the chewy side, the flavor was good and portions were generous. I would recommend getting the fish wrap if you go there. My parents got it and it was delicious! You should also be aware that 95% of the restaurants in Exuma do not have air conditioning and in June the humidity is extremely high, so it’s safe to say we all immediately took showers again when we got home.

The view from the restaurant was beautiful since it was right on the bay. We tried to go outside for a few minutes but were immediately attacked by bugs! Luckily we were able to capture a couple images before we left.

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Wednesday was our first beach day. We drove down to the beach at Hoopers Bay, which took less than 5 minutes. We swam around in the beautiful clear water for hours, and did some snorkeling too. There were some fish, including a barracuda! I have got to say the perfect turquoise water makes me never want to go to any of our California beaches again. The water was the perfect temperature and made me forget how hot and humid it was outside. We walked down to the dock and saw two huge turtles swimming a little off shore. I’m sad to say those were the only turtles we ever saw, and I didn’t get my camera out in time to take a picture! Oh well.

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Dinner that night was another challenge. Our plan was to try The Lighthouse, another restaurant we heard good things about. One thing I didn’t mention before, is that the roads in Exuma take a while to get used to. While we were getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road, their roads are also covered with pot holes! So that caused us to drive 10 miles under the speed limit to carefully dodge each one.

We checked out Lighthouse and were greeted by the sweetest lady. It was a tiny place and I would’ve liked to eat there but the heat and humidity inside was unbearable. I did notice that the menu was a list of less than 10 items, including mostly fish and fried food. She was very kind and recommended we try “Exuma Point Bar and Grille,” since our next option, “Big D’s” hadn’t been open for a year. Good to know! Apparently, Google isn’t very up to date with Exuma restaurants. We got to Exuma Point Bar and Grille, but as we were walking up it looked like it was closed, and then 2 pitbulls chased us back to our car. We took that as a sign to leave.

We finally ended up at La Fourchette, a “French” restaurant not too far from where we were. I absolutely loved the ambiance of the restaurant. It was located within a group of cottages available for vacation rentals. The whole restaurant was very small, but quaint and comfortable. It had a beach themed bar and maybe about 15 tables or so, all in one room. The windows were all open (since there was no AC) and overlooked the ocean.

We were greeted by a friendly French server and he took our drink orders. I got a pina colada and it was probably the best pina colada I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it was the heat or lack of tasteful food and drinks we had been having but I could’ve had 5 more! It came in a huge glass and was only $8.

We got a few dishes to share, including the lobster ceviche (2) chicken alfredo pasta, and mahi mahi. The food was satisfying. I highly recommend the pasta and pina colada! The total for everything — 4 drinks, 1 regular drink, 2 entrees and 2 appetizers was about $130.

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When we first got to the French restaurant, I kept feeling what I thought were bugs on me but never saw any, so I didn’t worry too much about it at first. Halfway through dinner, we noticed people going to the entrance of the restaurant where there was bug spray and baby oil for customers to use. Taking the hint, I put some baby oil on, but apparently it wasn’t enough. I learned the hard way that Exuma has “no see um” bugs, and those things really live up to their name. I woke up the next day covered in bug bites (122 to be exact) all over my legs mostly. The rest of the family got a few, but were smart and put on bug spray before the restaurant. Go me!

The next day we rented a boat so we could go to all the different islands nearby. I wasn’t about to make the same mistake again and soaked myself in bug spray. We rented the boat at Minns Rental (booked in advance) around 9am. We were a little disappointed that most of the islands didn’t live up to their name, such as Starfish Cove which had no starfish, or Sand Dollar Cay which had no sand dollars. Although that was a little frustrating it was still a beautiful ride. We then parked our boat at one of the cays which had Exuma’s famous restaurant/bar, “Chat n’ Chill.” We were very excited about this place since it is a big tourist attraction. When we first got there we noticed here were a lot of people outside the restaurant in the water, we got closer and saw they were standing around stingrays, and feeding them! You could tell this happened regularly because the sting rays were not at all bothered by the screaming kids that ran through them.

We went to the bar at Chat n Chill and tried to order drinks. The vibe was fun and loud but I would highly recommend not going there during lunch hours. The bar was crowded and there was also a line out the door for food. This wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t had one bartender working who was also taking all the food orders. She was also moving at island speed … I’ll call it … so there was some very upset customers waiting in line. We waited at the bar for almost an hour and were never asked for our order and couldn’t even get her attention.  The heat was so bad inside we decided it wasn’t worth the wait anymore. I would’ve loved to have a cold drink there and enjoyed the atmosphere but unfortunately our experience at Chat n’ Chill wasn’t the greatest.

We took our boat to another restaurant across the water, called St. Francis, which was part of the St. Francis Hotel. I would definitely recommend coming here before Chat n’ Chill to get your drink and food fix. I got yet another pina colada and the conch burger again, which were both very good. The conch burger there was a lot better than the one I had the first day.

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On Friday I woke up to find my bug bites itching and flaring up. I decided to stay in for the day covered in aloe while the family went to the beach again. I didn’t really mind because it was nice to have one relaxing day enjoying the view from the house.

Later we went to the Fish Fry (that’s what the locals call the center with Shirley’s and Charlies). We went to a bar there that had 3 beers for $10, so we grabbed a few and enjoyed the view.

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We went to Charlie’s for dinner, and after we ordered our food we enjoyed the beautiful view outside. There was a stingray that came up to the steps that led down to the water. Once our food was ready we went back inside. I got cracked lobster ($22). Cracked lobster is a fancy way of saying fried lobster, I learned. It was good, but nothing out of the ordinary.

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We met some people from Georgia who mentioned we should go to Latitudes, which was a bar in the resort nearby. We went after dinner to watch the NBA game and get a drink. It was an outdoor bar located on the beach. People were having a great time there, dancing and laughing. It was a fun environment to be in with both fellow travelers and locals.

Saturday was my favorite day. It was boat tour day! We reserved 5 spots with Exuma Water Sports ($150 per person). It was definitely worth the price. Our tour guide, Vano, was funny and made the whole ride extremely enjoyable. He took us to 4 or 5 different islands, including the famous Pig Beach!

Wading in the water to get to the beach was a little terrifying. We were given chicken hot dogs to feed to the pigs, and they were hungry! They would swarm us and jump up on us to get the food. As if that wasn’t intimidating enough, the bottom of the ocean was covered with stingrays. So we had to try not to panic all the way to shore in fear of either getting attacked by a giant pig or stung! Looking back now I laugh about it, but at the time it was slightly terrifying. Once we were on the beach we took a bunch of pictures with the pigs and even held some of the piglets. We were told to avoid a couple of the bigger pigs, like the pregnant one and the giant alpha male with tusks, who was clearly the father of the unborn piglets. There was even a time when two of the giant pigs started fighting and knocked over a kid!

During the tour, we got to see the Iguana Island and hiked on another island to a beautiful view overlooking a cove. The boat tour included complimentary cookies and beer, which was a nice touch. Although we ended up feeding the cookies to the iguanas …

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That night we finally found fresh conch salad at the Fish Fry! We had looked everywhere the whole week and could never find anything fresh, just fried. We found it at the conch stand at the Fish Fry (it’s only there some days). After all the searching and anticipation, it turned out to be pretty average. We paired it with chips and it was very chewy and didn’t have much flavor. It was kind of a disappointment but I was still so glad we finally found some.

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Sunday we went to Tropic of Cancer Beach in Little Exuma. It was beautiful. We snorkeled for a while and collected several shells and sand dollars. It was a very relaxing, but fun day.

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For dinner we decided to try Splash after going to 3 or 4 restaurants that were all closed since it was Sunday. Splash was another restaurant close to Latitudes. It was also part of a hotel so their food was all very “Americanized.” I got the burger, and the patty was stuffed with cheese and bacon. It was amazing! It was also ginormous. I could barely finish half and took the rest home. I was bummed their blender wasn’t working because a blended drink sounded so good after a long day in the sun. But I got the Bahama Mama, which had coconut rum, pineapple and orange juice, and it was very fruity but tasteful.

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We woke up and went to breakfast at Splash again, because we heard from our new Georgian friends they had great breakfast. I got french toast and bacon and it was definitely not the best. None of us were too excited about the breakfast at all, but I would most definitely recommended coming here for lunch or dinner. This was my favorite restaurant for food, other than breakfast.

We went down to Hoopers Bay for one last swim in the tropical water. We snorkeled some more and saw some fish and collected more shells. It was a little windy so it made it harder to snorkel with the current.

We had dinner at home and then decided to go out to get some cool drinks since it was the last night. After searching for, yet again, an open restaurant on a Monday night with drinks, we ended up back at Splash, for the third time. I didn’t mind though, because the environment there was fun and alive, and I loved how they had swings instead of bar stools. We got some drinks and wings ($7), which were actually some of the best wings I’ve had. Spicy, but great flavor.

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All in all, it was an amazing trip. It was a bummer that the food was not the greatest, because that is one of my favorite things about traveling. But that didn’t take away from the amazing experience. If there is anything I could recommend, it would be to go to Exuma a little earlier than June, like April or May. That way you still get the sunshine but less heat/humidity and bugs. But still remember to wear bug spray!

Exuma will always hold a special place in my heart, and I hope I get the chance to go back to visit someday.

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Please leave any comments, suggestions or questions below or message me on Instagram @iseawander.

Hope you enjoyed!

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