How To Visit Exuma On A Budget

Exuma is a district of the Bahamas, a water-lover’s paradise of 365 islands or cays surrounded by the clearest water imaginable, powder-soft beaches, and the friendliest marine life you will ever encounter. It is the quintessential off-grid experience many of us are seeking right now and can come with a hefty price tag unless you do your homework (or read this post:)). Exuma has long been on my bucket list and I experienced this magical place for only about $1500 including airfare, hotel, meals, car rental, and excursions for 5 days. This is how I did it.

1. I booked my flight using Hopper, an app that allows you to set your travel dates and watch for the lowest price on a flight. The app also predicts the date when the price will be at its lowest and sends alerts when prices drop. Granted, I booked during the pandemic so the flights were less expensive than usual but I highly recommend both Hopper and Skyscanner for booking flights.

Exuma from the air

2. I booked a room at Paradise Bay, a small, bohemian resort with oodles of charm, an incredible beach, and a half-board meal plan. I reserved the room directly on the hotel’s website, rather than through a booking engine, as it is typically less expensive. The meal plan cut the cost incredibly, as food is very pricey on the island, but we could still dine out once a day while exploring. Paradise Bay was a perfect place to social distance, as there were only 8 cottages and 2 villas on the property. I loved its unpretentious, relaxed vibe and the way the property showcased the natural beauty of the island, rather than distracting from it.

One bedroom cottage at Paradise Bay
Paradise Bay’s Beach
2 bedroom villa at Paradise Bay
View from 2 bedroom villa
Enjoying the resort’s new beach swing

3. I booked a boat tour through the hotel with Swimming Pigs Adventure. When visiting Exuma, you simply must go out on a boat, either captaining your own or through a tour. We opted for the tour as our time on the island was limited. For $220 pp, the tour took us past some incredible celebrity homes and then on a full-day adventure visiting the following sights: Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s sunken plane, Thunderball Grotto (an underwater cave featured in the James Bond film of the same name), Pipe Cay sandbar, Big Major Cay (home of the swimming pigs), Compass Key marina and its very friendly nurse sharks, and Iguana Island. We also stopped for a leisurely and delicious buffet lunch and cocktails at Lorraine’s Cafe halfway through the day. I thought the price was very reasonable for a 9 hour tour that covered over 130 miles by boat.

Pipe Cay
Piggy Beach
Swimming with nurse sharks on Compass Key
Meet my new friends Iggy and Uana
Iguana Island

4. We rented a car to tour the island for a day. Taxis on Great Exuma will cost you and the island is pretty spread out with lots of incredible beaches and unique restaurants, as well as Stocking Island and its famous Chat ‘N’ Chill bar. Take the 10-minute ferry from Georgetown, the island’s capital city, to Stocking Island to swim with the stingrays that frequent the island’s shallow waters; then head to the bar for a mango daiquiri and delicious conch salad. Tip: avoid Sundays (pig roast day) as there are long waits for food and drinks.

While touring the island, we made a stop at Haulover Bay Bar and Grill for lunch with its pristine views of the aqua sea and sandbars. The restaurant’s setting is the very definition of serenity and its outdoor deck adorned with shells and fisherman’s nets adds to the whole castaway vibe of the place. Go at low tide and you can walk forever in knee-deep water dotted with starfish.

If you want to swim with sea turtles go to Hooper’s Bay beach. Stand in the water between the two docks and simply wait and they will poke their heads up to say hello. If you really want an up-close-and-personal experience wear a suit with green leaves on it…my friend did and the turtles were much friendlier to her. Go figure…they apparently eat lettuce.

Stocking Island stingrays
Haulover Bay Bar and Grill
Hooper’s Bay sea turtles

A special thank you and shout-out goes to Shaking My Palm Palms instagram account for her Exuma inspiration and the most incredible images and drone footage of these stunning islands you will ever see. Exuma is truly an island experience like no other and a one hour direct flight from Miami can transport you there. What are you waiting for??

  1. Sarah says:

    Thank you Lisa… you are a wealth of information and I am grateful that you are sharing your wonderful journeys with us!

  2. Astrid Rivera says:

    Thank you for this!!!!

    All options I found on the internet where sponsored, private, super expensive trips!
    This was very helpful!

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