Norman's Cay: A Shady Past

Throughout the Exumas, you'll see islands with NO TRESPASSING signs posted. In the early 1980s, on Norman's Cay, these signs were extremely serious: You could have been killed if you had gone ashore.

Fortunately, the drug smuggling that used to occur here has been cleaned up, and the area is once again safe for travelers. However, private NO TRESPASSING signs should still be obeyed. Even without drug activity, privacy of individual property owners has to be respected, of course.


Once upon a time, you might have run into Ted Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, or William F. Buckley, Jr., enjoying the island's pleasures. The remote outpost enjoyed great popularity with the Harvard clique.

During the 1980s, however, all that changed when German-Colombian Carlos Lehder Rivas purchased most of Norman's Cay. According to experts, the island soon became the major distribution point for drug exportation to the United States. Millions of dollars' worth of cocaine was flown from Colombia here before being smuggled onward to America.

Eventually, the U.S. applied strong pressure on the Bahamian government to clean up the island. Lehder fled for Colombia, where he was captured and extradited to the U.S. He is now in prison.


Norman's Cay may one day realize its ritzy tourist potential yet again, but for now, it remains relatively quiet, visited only by stray yachting parties and the occasional cruise vessel.

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.