Almost Paradise: Explore the Amazing Exuma Islands

Discover the best things to do on your Exuma vacation, from swimming with adorable pigs to exploring beautiful beaches.

Photo By: Bahamas Tourist Board

Photo By: Grand Isle Resort and Spa

Photo By: Bill Schild/Bahamas Tourist Board

Photo By: Grand Isle Resort and Spa

Photo By: Bahamas Tourist Board

Photo By: Bahamas Tourist Board

Photo By: Bahamas Tourist Board

Photo By: Juan Fernando Ayora/Grand Isle Resort and Spa

Photo By: Donn Thompson/Bahamas Tourist Board

Photo By: Bill Schild/Bahamas Tourist Board

The Exuma Islands

If you're looking for paradise, you'll find it in the Exumas, a chain of more than 360 islands, also called cays, in the Bahamas. Their sun-drenched beaches are bordered by aquamarine waters and start about 35 miles southeast of Nassau. Winter is a great time to go, when the weather is usually dry and pleasant and the ocean temperatures average 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainy season runs from June to October, but overall, the Exumas enjoy a temperate climate.

Swimming Pigs

No one knows how the famous swimming pigs arrived in the Exumas, but they're the only residents on Pig Beach, on Big Major Cay, and a popular tourist attraction. Rent a boat or book a tour to meet them. They'll paddle out to meet you, looking for a snack. But feed them only healthy, pitted fruits or vegetables, or offer them fresh water since their island supply is limited. The best time to see the pigs is early in the day when they're active and their bellies aren't full.

Musha Cay

When the tides are right, a beautiful, walkable sandbar appears on Musha Cay, a privately owned island in the Exuma chain. You can rent one of Musha’s five guest houses; each has its own private beach. When you're not snapping Instagram shots on the sandbar, you can ride a jet ski, sail a catamaran, windsurf or simply float in the ocean or a freshwater pool. The island is owned by illusionist David Copperfield, whose creative team can even arrange a special treasure hunt for you.

Exuma's Beautiful Beaches

Grand Isle Resort and Spa, on Great Exuma, is about an hour away from Miami by air. It's not adults-only; its one- to four-bedroom villas and mile-long stretch of private beach are available for a couple's getaway or a family vacation. Need more beautiful beaches? Visit Coco Plum, Three Sisters and others.

Lobster Season

Visit the Exumas from August to March, and you can catch spiny lobsters, also called crawfish or rock lobsters by the locals. Your catch is subject to restrictions, such as the lobster’s size, and you'll need a permit, so check with the tourism office or a local guide. Robert’s Island Adventures offers lobster spearfishing trips in-season. From Great Exuma, you’ll take a boat out to free-dive 10 to 35 feet deep (the water is often clear) and catch your lobster with a Hawaiian sling or spear.

Flyfishing for Bonefish

Bait your hook and get ready. The Exuma flats are known worldwide for bonefishing, and in Exuma Sound, which plummets to 6,000 feet deep, you might reel in mahi-mahi, blue marlin, tuna, wahoo or kingfish. Half- and full-day charters are available; your guide will help you follow the Bahama's sustainable practice regulations by catching and releasing non-edible fish.

Mahi-Mahi Tacos

Bring an appetite to the Exumas, where you can dine on fresh red snapper with mango salsa, conch salad and delicious Bahamian dishes like fried chicken with peas and rice. On Great Exuma, feast on cracked conch with tartar sauce at Big D’s Conch Spot, and don’t miss the Sunday pig roast at Chat ‘N’ Chill on Stocking Island. The mouthwatering mahi-mahi tacos shown here are made with jicama slaw, garden peppers, red onions, avocados, mangoes and cilantro.

George Town, Great Exuma

Picturesque George Town, on Great Exuma, is the capital of the Exumas and a good place to shop for souvenirs and trinkets. At Sandpiper Arts and Crafts, three generations of the same family produce hand-thrown pottery and original paintings and sell other items made in the Bahamas.

Straw Markets in the Bahamas

While you’re in George Town, browse the Exuma Straw Market for locally made straw purses and hats and jewelry handcrafted from beach sand, seashells, seeds and coconuts. You’ll also find colorful T-shirts, seasonal fruits, hand-carved wooden art figurines and other souvenirs. Hang around to watch the crafters strip coconut palm fronds and weave them into pretty baskets. Shown here: The straw market in Nassau.

Snorkeling in the Exuma Islands

The best time to snorkel in the Exumas is when the waters are warm, from November to May. Low season is June to October, when prices are down and dive sites are uncrowded, but that's also hurricane season, so if you plan to go then, consider buying travel insurance in case you have to cancel. To move between the cays, book a guided tour or rent a boat. You can swim with angelfish and other marine life (including the occasional octopus) at Staniel Cay or see nurse sharks at Compass Cay. Look for a sunken plane at Norman's Cay; legend says it was running drugs when it went down.

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