Hitting the Beach
Stocking Island, in Elizabeth Harbour, faces George Town from across the bay, less than 1.6km (1 mile) away. This long, thin barrier island has some of the most gorgeous beaches in The Bahamas. Snorkelers and scuba divers come here to explore the blue holes, and it is also ringed with undersea caves and coral gardens. If you'd like to go shelling, walk the beach along Stocking Island's Atlantic side. Boat trips leave daily from Elizabeth Harbour at 10am and 1pm. The cost is $10 per person round-trip. However, guests of Club Peace & Plenty ride free.
The island, which used to be a private enclave, has a marine-activity center run by Dive Exuma (tel. 242/336-2893; www.dive-exuma.com), based at February Point Resort Estates. Visibility is great in these waters, and there are many rainbow-hued fish to see. A 3-hour snorkeling trip, including all equipment, costs $70. A two-tank dive goes for $150.
Yachting types and other island visitors like to drop in at Kenneth Bowe's Chat 'n' Chill (tel. 242/336-2700; http://chatnchill.com), a laid-back place that manages to be both upmarket and a local dive. Many of the fresh-fish dishes are grilled over an open fire, and the Sunday pig roasts are an island event. The conch burgers are the best in the Exumas. But the seasonings? They're secret.
Landlocked Lake Victoria covers about .8 hectares (2 acres) in the heart of George Town. It has a narrow exit to the harbor and functions as a diving and boating headquarters.
If you come to the Exumas aboard your own boat, Exuma Docking Services, Main Street, George Town (tel. 242/336-2578), has slips for 52 vessels, along with water and electricity hookups. You can also stock up on supplies here, get fuel, and do laundry.
At the Starfish Exuma Adventure Center (tel. 242/336-3033; www.kayakbahamas.com), you can rent Hobie Waves, high-performance sailboats that are easy to use. These stable, lightweight 4.5m (15-ft.) catamarans are ideal for families, as they are simple to maneuver. Sailboat rentals, including Hobie Waves, cost $75 per half-day or $525 per week. One-hour sailboat lessons cost $70 for one to three participants.
If motorboats are more your speed, Minns Water Sports, based in George Town (tel./fax 242/336-3483 or 336-2604; www.mwsboats.com), rents boats ranging from 4.5 to 6.6m (15-22 ft.) for $120 to $260 per day. With your own boat, you can set out to explore some of the most stunning waters in The Bahamas, rivaled only by the Abacos. The best territory for recreational boating is the government-protected Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, www.bnt.bs/parks_exuma.php, stretching south from Wax Cay to Conch Cay, which has magnificent sea gardens and coral reefs.
Getting around the archipelago of the Exumas is very difficult unless you're a yachtie or a skilled skipper of your own rented craft. If you're not a sailor, your best bet is to call Captain Steven Cole of Off Island Adventures, George Town (tel. 242/524-0524; www.offislandadventures.com), to book a half-day tour for $350 or a full-day tour for $600. He'll take you to remote spots in the archipelago, including such exotic locations as White Cay, where parts of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were filmed. Day cruises usually stop at a remote beach bar for cocktails. You can also opt for a sunset or moonlight cruise.
Many visitors come to the Exumas just to go bonefishing. Arrangements for such outings can be made at Club Peace & Plenty, Queen's Highway (tel. 800/525-2210 or 242/336-2551), or at Peace & Plenty Bonefish Lodge, Queen's Highway (tel. 242/345-5555). The Exumas offer miles of wadeable flats (shallow bodies of water) where trained guides will accompany you. Fly-fishing instruction and equipment are also available.
The Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Club, Emerald Bay (tel. 888/SANDALS [726-3257]), is one of the top oceanfront courses in all of the Caribbean. The par-72 Greg Norman design features six oceanfront holes and stretches a challenging 6,402m (7,001 yd.), yet was laid out to accommodate golfers of various skill levels. The course finishes on a rocky peninsula with a panoramic view of the sea. There's also a pro shop. Greens fees for 18 holes are a steep $125 to $200 for resort guests, $145 to $245 for nonguests. Reservations are required.
You can best appreciate some of the most dramatic scenery in the Exumas from the peaceful perch of a sea kayak. In fact, many areas -- including mangrove lakes, rivers, manta-ray gathering spots, and bonefish flats -- are too shallow for other boats. Don't worry if you haven't hit the gym lately: Anyone in at least average physical condition, from children to seniors, can kayak with a smile. Starfish Exuma Adventure Center (tel. 242/336-3033; www.kayakbahamas.com) rents sit-on-top kayaks for singles and doubles. Singles are $50 per half-day, $100 per day, and $300 per week. Doubles run $75 per half-day, $125 per day, and $400 per week.
For more adventure, book one of Starfish's daily guided kayak trips. You don't have to spend the whole time paddling. During half- and full-day excursions, lunch and beverages are served, and the price covers all gear, including snorkeling equipment. You may end up watching a blizzard of fish swarm a shipwreck, searching for sand dollars on a deserted beach, snorkeling into a sea cave, or finding out about bush medicine while you hike along a nature trail. Guided trips begin at $85 per hour for adults and $45 to $65 per hour for children.
Another good outfitter is Ecosummer Expeditions (tel. 800/465-8884; www.ecosummer.com), whose guides are especially skilled at exploring Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.
Kitesurfing is all the rage, whisking riders across the pristine waters using a power kite and a device similar to a snowboard (but in very different climes). Both novices and experts can join in the glide, soaring over the shallow waters of the Exumas. For more information about how to link up with this new sport, contact Exuma Kitesurfing (tel. 242/524-0523; www.exumakitesurfing.com).
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
Your best bet for snorkeling is the beautiful waters off the coast of Stocking Island. Boat trips from George Town depart for the island twice daily. You can also rent snorkeling equipment for $10 per day at Minns Water Sports, George Town (tel. 242/336-3483); a $50 deposit is required.
Scuba divers will find plenty of attractions surrounding the Exumas, including fields of massive coral heads, eerie blue holes, and exciting walls covered with marine life. Many excellent reefs are just 20 to 25 minutes away from the George Town area, so long boat rides won't cut into your underwater time.
The main attraction here is the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, which draws scuba divers to its 453 sq. km (175 sq. miles) of sea gardens with magnificent coral reefs, flora, and fauna. Call your hotel to ask whether it offers a room/dive package, or try Dive Exuma, based at February Point Resort Estates (tel. 242/336-2893; www.dive-exuma.com), for information on scuba-diving excursions. A two-tank dive costs $150.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.