FODOR'S GO LIST 2015
The top 25 places we think should be on every traveler's radar this year.More
High season is December through April, when weather is in the 70s (although lows can dip into the 60s). Be warned that hotels will sell out for events such as the George Town Cruising Regatta and the Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival in March, and the National Family Islands Regatta in April.
Summer room rates are cheaper than the winter high season, but fall (late August through November) offers the best deals. That's because it's hurricane season (June–November), with the most chance of a storm from August to November. Weather during this time can be rainy and hot. Some inns close for September and October.
Junkanoo. The Exumas' Junkanoo Parade on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) starts around 3 pm in George Town, ending at Regatta Park. Dancing, barbecues, and music happen before and after the parade.
Annual New Year's Day Cruising Regatta. The Annual New Year's Day Cruising Regatta at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club marks the finale of a five-day celebration.
George Town Cruising Regatta. The George Town Cruising Regatta in March is 12 days of festivities including sailing, a conch-blowing contest, dance, food and entertainment, and sports competitions.
Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival. March's Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival brings local and nationally known musicians to George Town, along with arts and crafts, Bahamas sloop exhibitions, storytelling, singing, poetry reading, and gospel music.
National Family Islands Regatta. In April the National Family Islands Regatta is the Bahamas' most important yachting event. Starting the race in Elizabeth Harbour in George Town, island-made wooden sloops compete for trophies. Onshore, the town is a weeklong riot of Junkanoo parades, Goombay music, and arts-and-crafts fairs.
Junkanoo Summer Festival. The Junkanoo Summer Festival in June and July is held beachside at the Fish Fry in George Town, and features local and visiting bands, kids' sunfish sailing, arts and crafts, and boatbuilding displays. It takes place Saturdays at noon.
Bahamas Sunfish Festival. The annual Bahamas Sunfish Festival in October at Little Farmer's Cay features exciting races to prepare young sailors for international competition.
The Exuma International Airport (GGT) (242/345–0002) is 10 miles north of George Town. Taxis wait at the airport for incoming flights; a trip to George Town costs $30 for two people; to Williams Town, $80; to February Point, $30; to Emerald Bay, $20; to Barraterre, $50. Each additional person is $3. Staniel Cay Airport accepts charter flights and private planes.
M/V Grand Master travels from Nassau to George Town on Tuesday and returns to Nassau on Thursday. The trip takes 12 hours and costs $45 each way. M/VCaptain Sea leaves Nassau on Tuesday for Staniel Cay, Big Farmer's Cay, Black Point, and Barraterre, returning to Nassau on Saturday. The trip is 14 hours and costs $70. Contact the Dockmaster's Office (242/393–1064) for information.
Eastwind travels from Nassau to George Town on Monday and the Sealink makes the trip on Wednesday, each arriving in Exuma the next day (on Tuesday and Thursday). The trip takes 10 hours and costs $63 one-way, $116 round-trip. Contact Bahamas Ferries (242/323–2166).
To reach Stocking Island from George Town, Club Peace and Plenty Ferry (242/336–2551) leaves the hotel at 10 am and 1 pm. It's free for guests and $12 round-trip for nonguests. Elvis Ferguson (242/464–1558 or VHF 16) operates a boat taxi from Government Dock to Chat ’N' Chill on the hour throughout the day. If you plan on leaving the island after 6 pm, tell the captain in advance. If you want to explore the Exuma cays, you'll appreciate the freedom of having your own boat.
If you want to explore Great Exuma and Little Exuma, you'll need to rent a car. Most hotels can arrange car rentals.
Airport Rent a Car (George Town Airport, George Town, Great Exuma Island. 242/345–0090.)
Exuma Transport (George Town, Great Exuma Island. 242/336–2101.)
Thompson's Rentals (George Town, Great Exuma Island. 242/336–2442.)
Taxis are plentiful on Great Exuma, and most offer island tours. A half-day tour of George Town and Little Exuma is about $150 for two people.
Exuma Travel and Transportation Limited (242/345–0232.)
Kendal "Dr. K" Nixon (Great Exuma Island. 242/422–7399.)
Leslie Dames Taxi Service (Great Exuma Island. 242/357–0015.)
Luther Rolle Taxi Service (Great Exuma Island. 242/357–0662.)
Banks in George Town are open Monday–Thursday 9:30–3 and Friday until 4:30. All have ATMs.
George Town Clinic (Queens Hwy., George Town, Great Exuma Island. 242/336–2088.)
Nurse Lydia King-Rolle Health Center (Queen's Hwy., Steventon, Great Exuma Island. 242/358–0053.)
Police (911; 242/336–2666 George Town; 242/355–2042 Staniel Cay.)
Accommodations in the Exumas are more wide-ranging than on most Bahamian Out Islands. You can stay in simple stilt cottages, fabulous rooms with butler service, atmospheric old inns, modern condo rentals, all-inclusives, eco-lodges, or bed-and-breakfasts—temporary homes-away-from-home for every taste and price point. Most places have lots of personality and are distinctive in some marvelous way—a great hangout for fishermen, a peaceful place of tranquillity with no distractions, or action-packed resorts with head-spinning activity choices. Meal plans are available at some hotels.
The mainland of Great Exuma has had an energetic growth spurt that includes some of the country's most luxurious hotels: the new Sandals Emerald Bay, which opened in 2010; Grand Isle Resort and Spa; and February Point Resort Estate.
Exuma restaurants are known for terrific Bahamian home cooking—cracked conch, pan-seared snapper caught that morning, coconut fried shrimp, fried chicken served with peas ’n' rice, or macaroni baked with egg and loads of cheese. Try conch salad at the cluster of wooden shacks called the Fish Fry, just north of George Town. Pea soup and dumplings (made with pigeon peas) is a specialty here, and many local restaurants serve it as a weekly lunch special, usually on Wednesday.
Restaurants at larger resorts have upscale dining, including Continental twists on local cuisine—fresh snapper with mango salsa—as well as imported steaks, rack of lamb, and gourmet pizzas.
Restaurant prices are based on the median main course price at dinner, excluding gratuity, typically 15%, which is often automatically added to the bill. Hotel prices are for two people in a standard double room in high season, excluding service and 6%–12% tax.
Exuma Tourist Office (Queen's Hwy., George Town, Great Exuma Island. 242/336–2430. www.exuma.bahamas.com.)
Out Islands Promotion Board (www.myoutisland.com.)