The turquoise sea kisses the white sand beaches of quiet anchorages and picture-perfect sandbars that are simply imploring you to come and enjoy a picnic.
This strand of 365 islands isn’t just about stunning natural assets. There is something interesting to do on every one of them – in theory, you could have a year of idyllic island-hopping, spending a blissful day on each.
Diving and snorkeling is out of this world, from fish-packed reefs to the famed Thunderball Grotto on Staniel Cay, a cave that featured in the James Bond movie of that name.
There is also a plethora of wildlife to encounter – from the friendly nurse sharks at Compass Cay to the giant iguanas at Allen’s Cay and the now famous swimming pigs at Big Major’s Spot. You can also discover gourmet restaurants tucked away on private islands and some famously fun bars.
Celebrities from Johnny Depp and Tim McGraw to David Copperfield have become so enamored with the Exumas that they’ve bought their own island hideaways in this bewitching archipelago.
Fly into Nassau and meet your yacht at Atlantis Marina on Paradise Island. Your captain will plot a course to Highbourne Cay, the gateway to the Exumas. Take a tender ride to Allen’s Cay, where you can feed the rock iguanas that roam the island. Back on Highbourne, walk up to the Spring to enjoy amazing views of the sunset before dinner on board.
The clear waters of the Exumas make it a diving paradise. Today, divers can try the exhilarating 75ft Exuma Wall, while others can learn scuba basics. Next, sail to Norman’s Cay, infamous as Pablo Escobar’s drug-smuggling island. The remains of one of his airplanes lie in shallow water; it makes an excellent snorkeling spot. Have lunch ashore at the Exumas institution of MacDuff’s. Cruise into the harbor at uninhabited Shroud Cay for an al fresco dinner under a star-filled sky.
Wake up at peaceful Shroud Cay and feel as if you’ve gone to heaven. After breakfast, tender in to explore the tidal creek, which serves as a nursery for birds, sea turtles and fish. Cruise to Warderick Wells, home to the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Kids can “discover” the skeleton of a 53ft sperm whale that washed up long ago. Runners should also rejoice – there are more than seven miles of trails to explore on shore.
You arrive at Bell Cay as you’re waking up, just in time for a morning dip at the Aquarium. You will soon see why this snorkel site earned its name as you’ll be surrounded by fish. Then head over to Compass Cay, where you can swim with the friendly nurse sharks that are found off the docks. After that you can lunch on the divine burgers served here. Sunset cocktails and dinner can be enjoyed on the private island of Fowl Cay in the Hill House restaurant, with its 360 degree views of the surrounding islands. Spend the night at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club marina.
Colorful, overwater cottages dot the shore at Staniel Cay. This picturesque island is the jumping-off point for more adventures: visit Thunderball Grotto, made famous by James Bond, and see the popular swimming pigs at nearby Big Major’s Spot.
Use the tender to explore cays that larger yachts can’t reach, and the crew will set up a picnic lunch on a sandbar. Visit the new Staniel Cay Yacht Club restaurant for dinner and a late-night tipple.
Get out the water toys for your last morning. Your yacht will then make its way back to Paradise Island, where you can visit the casino, play the Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course or dine at Nobu before returning to reality.