Visiting Exuma With Kids
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
If you want to escape the crowds flowing out of oversized cruise ships into the major tourist centers of the Bahamas, it's time to visit the untouched islands of Exuma. There, isolation brings serenity and the beaches and marine life make Exuma perfect for kids or even the pickiest traveler.
Exuma consists of 365 individual islands with Great Exuma and its main village of George Town as the gateway to surrounding isles. You can fly or arrive by boat but the effort of getting there is rewarded by crowd-free beaches and perfect sunsets.
When to Go
Exuma is a tropical destination you can visit year-round, with consistent temperatures in the high 70s to 90s. Many people prefer to visit from December through May, when it's dry and a pleasant escape from winter elsewhere, but it is also the peak travel season.
The months from July through October are hurricane season with an average temperature in the high 80s but you could experience high winds and cloudy days. Be sure to buy travel insurance if you visit during hurricane season. If you're looking to save a few bucks with less risk, travel to the Exumas in the beginning of July or the end of October.
How to Get There
Flights arrive at Exuma International Airport at George Town (GGT) on Great Exuma, or you can connect via boat from Nassau (NAS). Flights are available on American Airlines, Bahamas Air, Delta Air Lines and Silver Airways (a United Partner). Look for JetBlue's flash sales when prices are ultra-affordable or try booking a United flight with your MileagePlus miles.
The Silver Airways flight leaves from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and availablity looks wide open in late autumn. If you can get to FLL from your city, the entire trip should be 17,500 miles one-way in economy. This is a great price going directly to Great Exuma.
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your United account instantly at a 1:1 ratio. Just remember to log into your United account before searching for award availability since flyers with elite status and holders of cobranded credit cards like the United Explorer Card get access to additional award options.
After landing at George Town or Nassau, you can get to the other islands by high-speed boat. Most families stay on the main Exumas and make daytrips to other islands, most of which don't offer accommodations or are owned by celebrities.
What to Do in Exuma With Kids?
Sightseeing tours by boat from Great Exuma start at $250 per person. Yes, that's pricey for a family but most shared tours offer a full day of attractions with lunch included. You'll need to rely on tour operators to see and do most activities.
For children, the recommended age to travel on a high-speed boat is 4 years old. Our daughter was 3 when we visited Exuma but she has traveled on similar boats before. A few things to keep in mind as a first-time traveler on a high-speed boat is that the water isn't always calm and the sun will beat down on you if there's no sunshield or roof on the boat. Bring a jacket for the wind and lots of sunscreen.
Look to the Chase travel portal for outfitters that offer a variety of the tours we mention below. You can pay cash or use your Ultimate Rewards points to pay for activities offered via the portal.
Or, earn 2 American Airlines AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on tours booked through Viator.com
Hit the Beach
Here are the best beaches to visit with kids on Great Exuma:
- Coco Plum Beach: This public beach is free to visit and has a sandbar directly off its shoreline. Coco Plum is a great spot to collect sand dollars. The only downside is that there are no amenities, beach bars or restaurants.
- Stocking Island: Across from George Town, this amazing beach stretches for three deserted miles. You'll likely have it all to yourself, all day. There are also a few dining options on the island. The public beach is free but to get here, you must take a water taxi for $15 per person round-trip.
- Jolly Hall Beach: There's plenty of shade at this free public beach on Augusta Bay on the main island close to George Town.
- Hoopers Bay: If you want to see turtles, visit Hoopers Bay. There's no charge to see the turtles that come ashore to nest. There's plenty of free parking across from this free public beach if you decide to drive.
Rolle's Sea Kayaking on Great Exuma offers a variety of watersport services in the area. Tours are $70 to $90 per person.
If you want to snorkel without time constraints the freedom to explore where you want, rent gear from any of the dive shops on Great Exuma. Or book a snorkel tour.
Here are the best waters to snorkel:
- Stocking Island: Off Great Exuma, take a water taxi ($15 per person round-trip).
- Three Sisters: Off Queen's Highway close to George Town in Moss Town (Great Exuma), this beach offers shallow reefs with schools of fish.
- Thunderball Grotto: Take a boat tour or private charter to get here. It's quite a trek from Great Exuma.
- Jolly Hall: On Augusta Bay on the main island close to George Town. This reef is filled with schools of grunts and yellowtail snapper.
If you want to rent a paddleboard in Great Exuma, it will cost $25 per hour, $65 for a half day or $90 for the full day with Exuma Kitesurfing. The company also offers group lessons, free pickup and drop-off.
Visit the George Town Straw Market
At the straw market (open 9am–5pm, Monday–Saturday), you'll find handmade Bahamian crafts such as straw bags, dolls, hats and shell jewelry.
Swim With Nurse Sharks
You need to take a guided tour boat or hire a private charter from George Town to swim with the nurse sharks at Compass Cay (quite a distance from Great Exuma). it isn't cheap but the experience is worth it! I recommend taking a shared tour with Exuma Cays Tours. A full-day tour includes visiting Compass Cay for the nurse sharks, Pig Island, sandbanks, Thunderball Grotto (the James Bond film was made here and the grotto is great for snorkeling/diving) and a local island like Staniel Cay for lunch. The tour rate is $250 per person (same price for adults and kids) or you can choose to take a private charter (up to 12 people) for $1,700 to $2,000.
Feed Endangered Bahamian Iguanas
This activity also requires a guided tour boat or a private charter from George Town so your kids can feed the indigenous iguanas. Exuma Cays Adventures offers a variety of stops along the way to Iguana Island. Pricing is the same as the nurse-shark tour mentioned above.
Feed the Swimming Pigs
You've probably heard about the famous swimming pigs of the Bahamas. Families can see them by taking a private or shared tour to Pig Beach (close to Compass Cay). Various tour companies can get you there.
Visit Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is only accessible by a private charter or boat tour. Admission is free and you can paddleboard and kayak with no equipment rental fees. This is a bit far from Great Exuma.
Where to Stay?
There are no points-friendly hotels in the Exumas. Your two options: 1) Pay cash for your hotel and "erase" some or all of the statement charges with a credit card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, or 2) Book through a portal where you can either earn or use points (more on that in a minute).
Here are three hotels to consider on Great Exuma:
- Hideaways Exuma is a beachfront hotel in an ideal location six miles from the international airport and less than a 10-minute drive to the main town of George Town. The property offers one-, two- and three-bedroom villas and cottages. Suites have two bedrooms with spacious king or queen beds that accommodate families of up to six people. There is no twin bedding available at the Hideaways Exuma. On site, there is a restaurant, outdoor pool and a variety of water activities for the family. The starting price for a two-bedroom is $187 per night.
Book via Hotels.com with your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to earn 10 miles per dollar on your hotel stay, which is up to 20% back in total rewards. (Offer ends Jan. 31, 2020)
- Exuma Palms is a beachfront hotel in George Town that offers an on-site restaurant and complimentary breakfast each morning. The bedrooms offer twin and queen beds that can accommodate a family of four. The starting price is $128 per night.
- Peace and Plenty Resort has an outdoor pool, restaurant and spacious rooms. Rooms with ocean views and more than one bedroom are available and can sleep up to six people. This property offers rooms with twin, queen, and king beds to chose from. Peace and Plenty Resort is also located in George Town.
Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards: Many hotels in the Exumas, including the three I mentioned above, can be booked through Chase travel portal. (See the screen shot below for even more options.) Pay cash and earn points -- at a rate as high as 1.5 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve -- or use your Ultimate Rewards points to redeem for nightly stays.
If your family is planning a getaway to the Bahamas, I recommend the pristine waters of the Exumas. The white-sand beaches are breathtaking and the surrounding waters offer a host of watersport opportunities and abundant sea life to explore.