Posted on October 9, 2019
Hosted by the Grand Isle ResortWhen we were heading to Exuma, I got SO many questions like, “You’re going to the Bahamas? How will you fly in? It’s still there?” This isn’t a surprise since US news sources suggested the entire country being destroyed. And while Hurricane Dorian left 2 islands absolutely devastated, there are actually over 700, and over 2000 cays that make up the Bahamas. Each are so special in their own personalities and beauty. Which is why it’s so important and effective to continue helping to support the Bahamian economy and its people by visiting the other islands!
Here, it’s possible to sunbathe alone on a white sand beach, stand on a sandbar in the middle of the ocean, snorkel with sea turtles and nurse sharks, swim with pigs, and so much more! Tourism dollars assist in rebuilding and many of the resorts, like @grandisleresort , have funneled money into the relief efforts. 🇧🇸If You Didn’t Already Know: Exuma is a district of the Bahamas, consisting of more than 365 islands, also called cays (pronounced KEY- I didn’t know this until we were there, oops). The largest of the cays is Great Exuma, which is 37 miles in length and joined to another island, Little Exuma, by a small bridge. It was a 1-hour flight from Miami to George Town airport on American Airlines. From the airport, you’d probably want to have a rental car arranged or a taxi in advance since it’s a 20 minute drive to the resort. Our resort had a driver there for us upon arrival, and while we stayed for 5 nights, we didn’t rent a car and were fine. (Note: Taxis seem to be $35-$50 wherever you go)
Pro Tip: After checking in at the airport ticketing-counter before you head home, walk across the street to Kermit’s Airport Lounge for Sands Beer and snacks. There are several colorful picnic tables and it’s a fun way to spend your last hour before boarding your flight! These beers are so refreshing, maybe the only ones I actually appreciate.
Cash: It’s helpful to bring some cash on your trip though cards are accepted. The US dollar is accepted. Remember: In the Bahamas, there is a Value Added Tax (VAT) which is placed on goods and services rendered at the rate of 12%.
Where to Fly Into: Exuma International Airport: Several major national and international airlines offer daily, bi-weekly and weekly flights. Helpful to also know: Exuma is 132mi from Nassau so boating is doable. Hurricane Dorian hit two weeks prior in the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, but Exuma actually had amazing weather– sunny everyday, and temps in the upper 80s. The ocean water is pure turquoise. SO. DREAMY.
Packing Tips: Keep it comfy and casual on beach vacations! You’re not in a city.. most likely not attending fancy dinners! Besides dining at 23° North one night, I actually didn’t dress up whatsoever this trip! I had a lot of maxi dresses and rompers hung in the closet and by the end of the week, they remained as untouched as most of the beaches we stumbled upon in Exuma! HA. Seriously, save yourself some suitcase room, and time! The only time I wore more than a swim suit and cover up, or work out clothes, is when we went out to dinner- and even then, just wear a casual sundress and sandals sufficed.
Where to Stay: We stayed at the award-winning Grand Isle Resort & Spa on the quiet island of Exuma! A truly luxurious beach resort situated on the beautiful Emerald Bay Beach. We absolutely enjoyed this beachfront Bahama’s resort villa luxury accommodations. The resort is made up of spacious villas (all with stunning blue water views) complete with high-end amenities! Complete with 2 beautiful pools both overlooking the beach, restaurants and gift shop on the property, a great fitness center to get some work outs in, and golf carts to rent! This is a beachgoer’s dream with the softest white sand and warm ocean waters. Grand Isle Resort has beach chairs as well as stand-up paddle boards, volleyballs, snorkels, kayaks and more set up for complimentary guest use.
They feel a lot like high-end homes with quite tasteful furnishings and accessories, granite countertops, an enormous marble bathroom with a spacious glass shower and jacuzzi, L’Occitane amenities and a patio or balcony depending upon what floor- accessible by French sliding doors. (We had three separate balconies!)Villas & Penthouses: Ranging in size from one to four bedrooms, these breezy and beautifully furnished villas capture the essence of relaxed residential comfort. Coffee and tea were stocked in the kitchen. High-speed WiFi is included and available throughout the resort. The staff were utmost respectful and accommodating. Our first villa had some wifi trouble and they upgraded us a day later to an owner’s penthouse! Everyone called us by name. We had the place practically to ourselves since September is a slower month.We had perfect weather all week. We had the convenience of a spacious penthouse with a fully-equipped kitchen (all villas come with these amazing kitchens) The concierge helped us navigate for where to get groceries, and set up a boat tour for us to explore other cays and see some of the things Exuma is known for.
Private terraces were golden for our leisurely breakfasts and evening cocktails. My culinary skills were surely showcased in our fully equipped gourmet kitchen each night! Guests may even arrange an unforgettable meal delivered by Grand Isle’s Chef. He’s so nice, left us a lovely fruit plate and wine upon arrival, and introduced himself at the pool. These special, personal touches made such a lasting impression. Truly set a tone for the entire week for us. We appreciate how thoughtful and kind the staff was to us.
Pro Tip: Grocery-Run! With a fully-stocked kitchen, it’s easy to prep creative meals in the villa. We learned this ahead of time and took a taxi the second day to a small, nearby grocery store to pick up ingredients for dinner 3-4 nights! We also checked a bag from Miami full of wine, champagne, breakfast items and snacks! The only thing I wish we had more of is water, I drank from the sink a few nights after running out of bottled water, but I was told that isn’t the greatest idea. Oops! We saved money by refilling our water bottles around the resort at cooler stations though! But yeah, we just saved a ton by cooking in our villas and bringing our own wine! It was fun too.
Guests of Grand Isle Resort have a few choices for dining on the property. The Palapa Grill restaurant boasts fab views of the pool and ocean while serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests can also have menu items from the Palapa Grill delivered poolside or to a villa via in-room dining. Tip: The spicy conch fritters were delicious! Big fan. There’s 23° North which only serves their menu on the weekends, and then a handful of local spots (unsure of their hours!) that concierge can point you to, off the property. But a little more on 23° North…
Most Relaxing and Chic: 23° North Beach Club!
Our favorite feature of Grand Isle Resort, 23° North, was this very place. This 30,000 square feet beach club features a brand-new, fine dining restaurant experience (like I mentioned previously), special events venue (it would actually be so pretty for a wedding reception) oceanfront infinity pool, coral-stone patio, and unrivaled views.
The freshest seafood, local ingredients, fragrant herbs and rich island spices lift up the Bahamian-fusion cuisine! 23° North Beach Club offers an air-conditioned and elegant Asian-Bahamian twist to dinner! The interior is simply gorgeous, comfortable and cozy with a fireplace.
A $4 million project in the making, this brings the resort to the next level. We were waited on at our cabana, the servers were so kind and called us by our names! It was adult-only and very pretty. Just think Mediterranean style with the all white and deep sapphire blue pool overlooking the ocean, only separated by sand dunes! We spent the majority of our time here while on the property… sun-tanned, and mimosa in hand 🙂
GOLF & SPA: An 18-hole golf course designed by PGA legend- Greg Norman weaves throughout the luxury resort, wrapping around Emerald Bay and finishes at the tip of the peninsula. Available to rent for $20 a day, you can also golf cart around this gorgeous course without disrupting the players. An onsite spa offers their services as well, if I hadn’t just been treated to one earlier that month for my birthday I might’ve indulged! We didn’t really explore this option to golf, however, I hope to better look into details of playing at least 9 holes the next time. It’s owned by Sandals and was quite pricey.
Excursions We Chose: While it is 100% fine to relax for a week on the resort, the concierge team really helped us book what off-site things we knew we wanted to experience while in Exuma. They paired us with a trusted vendor, Coastline Adventures for their Full-Day tour. They picked us up from the resort’s entrance and returned us at the end of the day. 👏🏼We had a wonderful time! For a few years now we’ve had a couple items to check off our bucket list! Swimming pigs and befriending some sharks!😅
The speed boat ride was just about 100 some miles in total and stopped at the following:(1) Farmers Cay: Feed/Snorkel with Sea Turtle (2) Big Major Cay: Swimming Pigs (3) Compass Cay: Swimming with the sharks (4) Leaf Cay to Feed Iguanas (5) Walked on a gorgeous secluded sandbar (6) Conch Salad was caught, and made fresh for us (7) Pointed out Celebrity Islands- David Copperfield, Faith Hill & Tim McGraw, etc.(8) Staniel Cay: Stopped for lunch ($20US/person for buffet home-cooked style ribs/picnic food)
Note: I saw 0 children on this due to intense boat speeds I’m guessing. This was Mid-September 2019 and at that time paid $250 US per person with $20 US per person extra for lunch which was buffet style of what seemed to be home-cooked, $10 US per person at Compass Cay. So for the 2 of us, I think it came out to be around $570 US. We did find it worth it though, even when one of the boat’s engines blew. Since we relied on the boat’s speed to cover so much mileage (120mi) over the day, I am pretty sure we didn’t get to snorkel at two of the normal stops due to lack of recovery time.
Pro Tip: Water is hard to come by sometimes when you’re abroad- remember this! Our boat did give us unlimited Sand Beers and water bottles which was great. Lunch is kinda pricey though- maybe pack your own lunch and grab water from the boat!
One of the most famous and favorite stops while exploring the Exuma Cays is a visit with the swimming pigs. Major Cay is uninhabited and the pigs are not native to the island. Some say they were left by a group of sailors, who planned to come back and cook them. Or that the pigs swam over from a shipwreck nearby. Wherever they came from, there are now about 20 pigs and piglets on Pig Beach aka Big Major Cay. As our boat approached, they were waiting for us, and began swimming to us haha!
So you know- we were warned that the mother pigs are quite protective over their babies, and known to sometimes bite (particularly, butts.) HA NO PIG DEAL. Needless to say, I was always aware of my big pig surrounding when I approached any piglets! Our tour guide gave us buns to feed them and you can get in the water to swim with them too.
OKAY, soooo it may very well seem crazy to swim with sharks, BUT these are pretty harmless. Nurse sharks are slower swimming bottom feeders who prefer fish, shrimp, and squid. However, they do have very small, but strong jaws and will bite defensively if they are stepped on or bothered so it’s important to be respectful. Tony accidentally hit one with his foot while treading water by them, luckily nothing happened! *Sigh of relief.* I didn’t venture out much further than the shallow dock viscinity, but I was able to sit and swim with the sharks from there and tread off the ladder! Don’t let fear overcome you on this one, definitely worth the experience. I mean, the sharks get fed regularly and even have names..#SquadGoals #CompassCay #SharkBaitOoHaHa
They both want to live on the island, Leaf Cay? We were told by our guide that this 40 acre island was at one point actually owned by Nicolas Cage? Random but in 2006, he purchased the island for $3 million, but once he saw the large population of iguanas living there, he resorted to selling it back to the Bahamian government for $1.5 million. Oh man, bad investment- but cool that he did!
This was our final stop on the boat and were we tired! BUT this was a fun little surprise considering we didn’t know what to expect and got to feed several iguanas. Jurassic Park vibes for sure. It was beautiful as the sun was setting, and the iguanas were happy to see us 🙂
Rental cars can be delivered to the resort for guest use at a rate of $75 per day. A few groups that we spoke to at the resort said they had a rental, but we survived a short stay like ours without one. If you need to get creative with transportation ask the concierge to see if they can make it happen as they tend to know the taxi drivers well. If we figured out transportation a little better I would have loved to go to Chat ‘N’ Chill had we known more about it prior! There’s music, a beach bar, and stingrays and a shark! At Hooper’s Cay there are also sea turtles you can swim with! We did get help from concierge to check out Coco Plum Beach and our driver kindly waited for us while we explored.
Beach Spots: One of my favorites is the swings on Coco Plum Beach. There are two sets of swings in the ocean here and they are so fun. Depending on the tide, you may have to venture out into the water a bit, but it wasn’t too deep! We had the beach to ourselves.. the beach is just breathtaking, and worth the little drive to see. If you go at Low Tide, you can walk as fas a you can on the sandbars out to the middle! Funny enough, we ran into the sweet Italians that we met on the day tour boat a few days prior!
Another spot that is said to be worth the trip and while we didn’t make it here, we were told to head to the Tropic of Cancer. This beach is said to be stunning; they filmed Pirates of the Caribbean there! If you go, chances are you’ll be the only ones there. Pure heaven! They say there is an island off shore called Turtle Island because it looks like a turtle.
I would suggest staying at least a week to fully unwind and prevent unexpected weather from canceling activities in case you do run into rain or windy days! Rates for the Grand Isle Resort seem to fluctuate over the course of the year during high and low seasons! We were incredibly fortunate to be hosted by the resort during September which is normally considered to be a low-season time. There was a major hurricane that hit the northern Bahamas earlier that month, but left Exuma Cays untouched. We had nothing but sunshine with occasional cloud coverage.
When To Visit:
Many travelers seem to prefer to visit Exumas in the winter, when temperatures are balmy and dry. June through October marks the Exumas’ rainy season, with storms, high winds and cloudy days, as well as the occasional hot, hazy and humid day.
We shared the bay with Sandals Resort at Emerald Bay (all-inclusive resort) but it was far enough away that we never saw anyone or their property but from afar. The Peace & Plenty which is not considered luxe, but seems charming, historical and cultural- dating back to the American Revolution, and the location is more centralized on the island. I’ve heard AirBnb is a nice option too. Some homes even come with boats for the visitors to use! I’ve had a couple of friends who have done this and said good things. Either way, you won’t regret visiting Exuma, Bahamas.
This resort is just totally accommodating, clean, beautiful, and boasts the most stunning views! They’re also giving 10% of all bookings to the victims of Hurricane Dorian to help rebuild their own resorts and get back up and running as soon as they can. Visiting the Bahamas helps much more than people know. Are you convinced yet? Leave your thoughts below! For more, visit my instagram @hmgriff11 to check out our travels.
Category: feature, travel, Uncategorized Tagged: 23northatgrandisleresort, bahamas, bahamasbound, bahamastrip, beachtrips, bigmajorcay, coastlineadventures, compasscay, dorianrelief, emeraldbay, exuma, exumabahamas, exumas, feedtheiguanas, fullyequippedkitchens, gourmetchef, grandisleresort, hurricanerelief, iguanas, islandadventures, leafcay, majorcay, majorpigcay, petthesharks, swimmingpigs, swimwithsharks, whentovisitthebahamas
Posted on May 14, 2019
Looking into a Bahamas getaway? Have you visited Bimini yet? If you’re traveling from Florida it’s quite the easy-breezy route, a 15 minute sea plane journey to be approximate! What better place for a Bahamian getaway than just around the corner? The Bimini Islands are a quick 50 miles from Miami. Located right in the middle of the Gulf Stream, Bimini attracts hundreds of marine animals and pleasant temperatures year-round- so going in February like us, was a perfect idea, the chillier ocean temps were the only drawback + we realized after the fact that February is the only month that the island offers a dive with great hammerhead shark- WOW! Though relatively overlooked in the Caribbean, the Bimini Islands have always been popular with deep-sea fishermen. It’s a quiet island; gorgeous beaches, no cruise ships and one of the best places for a tropical vacation. Did I mention GORGEOUS beaches!? Absolutely stunning views.
Here’s a few tips to keep in mind when planning:
To Know Before You Go: Arrive in a timely fashion from the air–the best way to enjoy exhilarating views of the emerald waters! Board the Cape Air seaplane, which offers 4 daily flights from Miami in an intimate 8-seater. Or opt for the comfortable Silver Airways plane, (which we did, since the ferry was out of season) direct from Fort Lauderdale to South Bimini. Once landing, you can hop onto a ferry to North Bimini! Some hotels offer direct flights from Miami via seaplane– Resort World offers daily flights direct to the resort in North Bimini, so that is another terrific option!
Here’s a glimpse of what the view is like walking down the pool steps to the ocean.
A breathtaking sunrise taken right from the rooftop of the Hilton Bimini.
A FEW THINGS TO EXPECT WHEN PLANNING A TRIP TO BIMINI:
Bimini is the westernmost chain of islands in the Bahamas, located about 50 miles east of Miami. Bimini is made up of three islands: North Bimini, South Bimini, and East Bimini. The largest islands are North Bimini and South Bimini, so you’ll most likely stay on one of the two!
North Bimini is about seven miles long, and home to Alice Town, a collection of shops, restaurants, and bars on a road known as “The King’s Highway”. Scuba diving and snorkeling are popular activities, because there are many shipwrecks in the area that make for fun diving experiences!
South Bimini is home to the airstrip, South Bimini Airport, and offers a quiet alternative to the lively nature of North Bimini. There is a small community of homes on South Bimini known as Port Royale, and an epic nature trail.
Language: The official language is Bahamian English, so it is quite easy to converse and talk with locals!
Currency: Bahamian dollar– same value as the USD!
Credit Cards and Banks: The majority of retailers and restaurants accept debit card as payment, but it’s always a good idea to carry some cash with you. Some larger resorts may except credit cards. But keep in mind when visiting this small island destination, cash is king!
Climate: Bimini has a warm and tropical climate– averaging 70 degrees in the winter and 80 degrees in the summer months. The rainy season in the Bahamas runs from May to October, and October and June are the wettest two months.
The greatest way to get around the gorgeous 7-mile North Bimini is with a golf cart or bike! Shuttles are usually a little slower, making them a secondary, not best option for cruising down King’s Highway for some snacks or souvenir-shopping.
Taxi: Bimini is so small that cars are limited. Taxi service is available by telephone, radio (VHF Channel 68), or you can flag one down on the street. We never actually found any use for one so didn’t experience it.
Boat: There is a daily ferry between North and South Bimini. We only used this to and from the airport (which is quite small, but you might want to bring a book for the way home, as we sat inside a very tiny terminal for a few hours before boarding our flight
Golf Cart: The main form of rental transportation available on North Bimini is a golf cart. You can also rent a bicycle to get around. Pedestrians should remember to first look right and then left before crossing streets. For maximum mobility, pick up a golf cart ($75-90 per day) first thing in the morning before they sell out!!
Bicycle: You can find several bike rental spots on the islands.
Check with your hotel to see if they supply any bikes/ golf carts before renting from a vendor. You never know, they could offer them right in front! We actually rented a golf cart this day and took it down to the other side of the island where we stumbled upon a ship wreck!
Location: Alice Town, North Bimini
These are cute, pastel villas available. Seaside, and several pools on the property and gorgeous oceanic views.
Location: North Bimini, new as of 2017! This is taken on the rooftop pool deck 🙂
We stayed here and oh, it was absolutely perfect. Breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. Since we went in the off peak month, I think we were one of just a few other couples in the entire hotel! The casino connected had amazing food too.
We absolutely loved the infinite pools that overlooked the clear blue ocean! Who knew?!
I have a feeling this little location right here would make an awesome wedding or events’ venue! Talk about an incredible view. (It’s elevated on a cliff-like level)
On this night, we drove our little golf cart to dinner at Big Game Resort where we were told they would be feeding the bull sharks! It was a lot of fun and casual atmosphere.
The Conch Salad is Bimini’s main claim to fame–a tasty mixture of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, raw conch, orange and lime juice spiced with Scotch Bonnet peppers. Never have I ever had a conch salad so FRESH! Nobody does it better than Stuart’s, a beachside wooden hut and favorite with the locals. We actually saw it on the following week’s episode of The Bachelor! We enjoyed some Bahamian beer too! I miss that pink!
More Restaurant Recs:
SHERRY’S PARADISE BEACH BAR
Dive down to the floating Prohibition-era liquor cargoship, which ran aground in a 1926 hurricane. The tip of the boat is visible above water, making it perfect for snorkeling. You’ll find every form of coral, sponges and lobsters here!
The best time to visit Bimini is in February, the month when huge hammerheads collect off the coast of Bimini. This is the only time of the year you can swim with these shy animals–so don’t miss your chance to get up close and personal! Join a qualified diver for this fun and unique dive of a lifetime. If you’re lucky, you’ll even catch the shark feed at Triangle Rocks Reef.
If you don’t have your own sailboat, you can rent one from the marina and take it out for the afternoon.
SNORKEL WITH SHARKS:
The Bimini underwater is a rich playground for snorkelers and divers. The crystal-clear water makes for unforgettable swims with fish and coral….and SHARKS.
On the Bimini Nature Hiking Trail you’ll learn a lot: ecology, wildlife, history. Guided tours are led by professionals. You’ll find birds, iguanas and the endemic Bimini Boa that call the islands home!
I mean, what would the Caribbean be without the beach! The islands’ top three are Radio Beach, Blister Beach and Spook Hill Beach, plus a couple of really cool cays more south.
Category: feature, travel Tagged: atlantis, bahamas, bahamas vacations, bimini, biminibahamas, birthday, blogger, carribean, carribean getaways, crystal clear water, deals, diving, dolphin encounter, exuma, exumas, fashion, fishermen, fitness, florida, hilton bimini, hilton bimini worlds resort, hilton honors, hilton hotels, lifestyle, love, nassau, north bimini, ocean, photos, seaplane, sharks, silverairways, snorkeling, south bimini, tips, travel, tropical vacation, vacations, views