Eleuthera vs Exuma

As I depart the island of Eleuthera, I can’t help but ponder its similarities as well as its differences to the Exumas. Like with any “love affair”, whether it be the make of car, a brand of clothes, a relationship, or an island in this case, it’s incredibly hard to keep an open mind about the “new” person, place, or thing. An ongoing comparison ebbs and flows in the mind that’s hard to shake. Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed my time on Eleuthera and thrilled I got to see most of the island. I might even consider another visit to spend more time in the southern end of the island. Then, maybe I can squeeze in a trip to Lighthouse Beach. Annnnnd perhaps a beer with Lenny Kravitz. Wishful thinking. Hmph.

Below are a few of the major differences that became apparent in just the short time I spent on the island:

Coconut palms – Give anyone a marker and ask them to draw an island, and you’ll almost surely see palm trees in the sketch. The Exumas are the most beautiful islands I’ve ever set eyes on, but surprisingly, it is void of palm trees. The few coconut palms that ARE on the island are not indigenous and thus have been planted by someone many decades ago. The island is covered primarily in “bush”, low lying thick scrubby shrubs. Palm trees are few and far between. However, strangely Eleuthera has coconut palms everywhere. Beaches look so much prettier with yellow and green palm fronds clapping in the breeze. I’m not sure how exactly they became so widespread but it’s really beautiful.

More land = More Driving – Eleuthera is MUCH larger than Exuma. 110 miles long vs 37 miles long. Most of the land on both islands is undeveloped and it would take several hours to drive from one end of Eleuthera to the other. But Exuma can be done in just a couple hours. Even the settlements in Eleuthera are quite far apart whereas in Great and Little Exuma, the settlements are connected to each other. I felt like I spent too much time driving during my trip but that’s my fault for trying to cover so much territory in one visit.

Beaches – There’s no question the sand in Eleuthera is pink-ish, which makes for great photos. Exuma, on the other hand has some of the whitest sand you’ll ever see. Further, the beaches in Eleuthera are much wider and some are nearly 100 yards to the waters edge. So there’s plenty of room to roam. No biggie though because you’ll likely be the only one on the beach on either island so it doesn’t much matter how wide the beaches are. My vote is that Exuma still gets the win here. The flour like sand and crystal clear water on Exuma’s beaches are hard to beat.

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Exuma

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Eleuthera

Litter – I have written about the Exuma trash problem several times on this blog and it still infuriates me. I was so thrilled to actually see “Please don’t litter” signs in Eleuthera and rarely any trash along the highway. Many of the beach accesses did have a pile of trash but for the most part, the island was fairly clean as compared to Exuma. Someone HAS to get a grip on the littering in Exuma. It’s literally (no pun intended) everywhere and it’s incredibly disappointing. I often borrow garbage bags from my fairy godmother in Exuma to pick up trash as I’m walking the beaches. One could only hope The Bahamas continues their recycling and littering educational programs.

Local Activity and Nightlife – I was surprised by this one. Because Eleuthera is so much larger than Exuma, I thought certainly there would be more going on as far as nightlife and local hot spots. Wrong again. Eleuthera makes Exuma look like Las Vegas in the nightlife category. It’s possible I just didn’t go to the right places, but Fish Fry was a disappointment as I explained in an earlier post, bars and restaurants were closed by 8 or 9, and we didn’t see many locals, or tourists for that matter, ANYWHERE after the sunset. <scratching head>

Better infrastructure – The roads, buildings, communication and infrastructure in general is on point in Eleuthera. I’m not sure why Exuma struggles with this so much when their sister island is flourishing in this area. Something MUST change in Exuma. It’s starting to catch on as a tourist destination and seeing the beginnings of a real estate boom, yet they can’t seem to keep the roads in good condition or the internet working. The power goes out on a regular basis as well. <again scratching head> We never had an issue in Eleuthera.

Restaurant/Lodging/Store Options – Eleuthera takes the win here. There are plentiful restaurants and shacks to eat, drink, and be merry. Exuma has several but nowhere near the number in Eleuthera. Further, the restaurants are much better and offer many more options. You can essentially get anything you want to eat in Eleuthera. Not so much in Exuma. Often the restaurants are out of ingredients and have very small menus. There are a wide variety of lodging options in Eleuthera, from high-end modern boutique hotels, to vacation rentals, and economy motels. The options in Exuma for vacation rentals and motels are similar but it lacks the high-end hotels like French Leave Resort and The Cove. Grand Isle and Sandals are really the only luxurious options in Exuma. I’m not complaining about that by any means, just stating my observations. I’m not a fuddy duddy and would prefer to sleep in a shack over a fancy schmancy sterile palace any day of the week.

Service – Eleuthera takes the win on service (besides the bad experience discussed in a previous post). If you’re in a hurry in the Bahamas, you might as well leave. Island time is real. Having said that, the service and the timing of the food was actually wonderful! We found the employees to be happy, friendly, and chatty at most of the bars and restaurants we visited. There are a few places in Exuma that are on point but many others have zero interest in serving you food, much less a beer. It sounds harsh but is sadly true.

Island Hopping/Boating/Water Activities – This, in my opinion, is the single most important feature of an island and Exuma is my #1 go-to spot for all things water. You’ll be hard pressed to find clearer water, better boating, and more island hopping opportunities anywhere else in the Caribbean, possibly the world. <potential exaggeration> There are hundreds of beaches and islands to boat to in Exuma, whether with a guide or in your own rental. The snorkeling is amazing, with a menagerie of wildlife in and out of the water. The calm waters in the Exumas make for a limitless playground for the water enthusiast. Eleuthera has plenty of beaches, yes, but it doesn’t lend itself to easy and abundant water activities. And there are very few cays surrounding the island unlike in Exuma where you can spend days island hopping. There’s nowhere I’d rather be stranded for a year than in Exuma. Enough said.

If this were a boxing match, it would appear that Eleuthera wins the fight. But that’s not so, in my humble opinion. For all the reasons I’ve written about over the last couple of years in this blog, Exuma is, and will forever be, my happy place. Eleuthera is beautiful in its own right, has lovely people, a great history, adorable settlements, gorgeous beaches, plenty of privacy, and wonderful food…….but it ain’t Exuma.

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Exuma for the win!!!

25 thoughts on “Eleuthera vs Exuma

  1. Robert N. Lundy says:

    Many of your comments apply to the Exuma vs. Long Island comparison as well. the size of the longer islands makes things different-on long island, there really isn’t a concentration of population and tourist facilities. At least Eleuthera has Governor’s Harbor and Harbor island, and you didn’t hit spanish wells (I think). The water side at Exuma can’t be beat. Elizabeth Harbor/Stocking Island makes an awesome playground. Great write up, and thanks for the pointers!

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  2. airieb says:

    Thanks Robert! I am eager to visit Long Island. It’s on my list! I understand it is very quiet but would love to see Dean’s Blue Hole as I mentioned before. And I’ve heard great things about Stella Maris.

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  3. Gia says:

    Yes, you must visit Long Island and Cat Island. Both are quiet but extremely beautiful. Heck, you will just have to do what we are doing, and try to see them all. We have special memories from each island that we have visited and have been unable to choose a favorite…. yet.

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    • airieb says:

      I’m working on it Gia!! Slowly but surely. Once you find a good spot, its SO hard not to go back every year. Haha. I am really interested in seeing Rum Cay and the whopping 45 people that live on it. That would make the memory books!

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  4. Gia says:

    So far we have been to Bimini, Green Turtle Cay (Abaco), Harbour Island (got married on Pink Sand Beach), Eleuthera, Andros, Great Harbour Cay (Berry Islands), Long Island, Cat island, and Staniel Cay (Exuma) in that order. Next up is Great Exuma, then probably San Salvador. Rum Cay…… hmmm…. good suggestion! Thank you for the great posts and pictures. Just awesome!!!

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    • Nicole says:

      Gia- which has been your favorite? My husband I loved Eleuthera and though we want to see the rest of the out islands, we feel so drawn to Eleuthera! Highly considering Exuma next.

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  5. Samantha says:

    Cat Island has some fun, special memories for me! Rake& Scrape will give you all the nightlife you need for awhile…
    Isolation, killer fishing,
    Can’t wait to fish in San Sal & the best fun with more of a town & action in Hope Town… still very beautiful

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    • airieb says:

      Yay! That’s so exciting!! I hope you guys have a blast. Exuma is a special place and I can’t seem to find anything else like it (not that I want to). Enjoy!

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  6. kbcatc says:

    We are currently looking at either Exuma or Eleuthera for our vacation this May and I stumbled across your blog. Love your blog. I’m taking my son who loves to sail and snorkel. We have been to the BVI’s, Belize, Greece, and Hawaii and enjoyed snorkeling & sailing there. I wanted to go somewhere new that we haven’t been to. Looking at the Bahamas, these 2 islands seem to stand out the most. They are easy to get to, and also have amazing beaches. My son is 21, but doesn’t really drink. I do drink, but party atmosphere isn’t a requirement. Since you have been to both, what would be preferable for best beaches, snorkeling, adventure? I am interested in swimming with the pigs, Thunderball Grotto if we stay on Exuma, and Eleuthera maybe a snorkel trip, and another tour (not sure yet). Looking at staying at Grand Isle Resort or Lumina Point on Exuma, Rock House or The Cove on Eleuthera. Do you have any comments on any of those, or suggestions on something else? Also I’ve read some reviews that the food was disappointing on Exuma or maybe there weren’t enough restaurants? Thank you!

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    • airieb says:

      Hi there! Thanks for the kind words! I know its a toss up but hopefully this will help. I think your best best is Exuma for what you are interested in seeing/doing. Beaches in Exuma are easy to get to, uncrowded, and plentiful. Eleuthera beaches are harder to get to, uncrowded, and not as plentiful since they have cliffs. I didn’t find much in the way of snorkeling in Eleuthera. In Exuma, there are endless possibilities for snorkeling, especially if you rent a boat. Minns Watersports is the boat rental company and it will be the highlight of your trip. Promise. The pigs, grotto, etc are all accessible through a group or private charter. There are many to choose from. Exuma packs a lot of adventure for a small island. Eleuthera is SO long and I felt like we spent too much time driving up and down seeking adventure. Eleuthera has more in the way of infrastructure (shops, restaurants, good roads, gas stations, etc) than Exuma. Yes, I would agree that the food in Exuma isn’t great or plentiful UNLESS you are at Grand Isle, Sandals, February Point, etc. However, that’s not to say there isn’t good food on the island. There definitely is. You just have to find it. 🙂 Lumina Point is only accessible by boat but its a gorgeous eco-resort. I have been to Grand Isle numerous times but never stayed there. I usually stay at Halcyon Sky Cottage or with friends in Exuma. In Eleuthera, I stayed at the Pineapple Fields Resort. We enjoyed ourselves but it was a very sleepy trip for us. Exuma has more nightlife (not a lot but def more). Let me know if you have any other questions! Have a great time!

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  7. Gugu says:

    I can’t help but feel that based on your pictures and write up, Exuma is very comparable to Zanzibar. The clarity of the water you speak of and that exact aqua is one I’ve only seen in Zanzibar, in the east (Paje) of the island to be exact.

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  8. carolina says:

    everything I needed to know … if I knew how to give you a super like, I would give it to you. infinite thanks for your writing about eleuthera vs exuma

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  9. Cattie says:

    Thank you so much for writing this post! I’ve never been to the Bahamas and am a bit overwhelmed by all the possible choices of where to go! I’m still undecided which island to pick… I’m a coastal fine art photographer and am planning a combined shooting / vacation trip this summer. Definitely need a few shots with palm trees so I guess we should probably stay for at least a few days in Eleuthera… although white sand beaches without people are also high on my list… Is it easy to travel between the islands? And on the islands?

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    • airieb says:

      Awesome! Yes very easy to travel on the islands. Definitely rent a car on whichever one you visit. Traveling between islands is a little harder. Usually have to go back to Nassau to get to Eleuthera from Exuma and vice versa. Not many palm trees in Exuma unless they were planted. Its not an indigenous plant surprisingly. But you’ll find them around the islands here and there. You’ll love any of the islands you visit. Have a blast and let me know if you have any questions!!

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  10. Kerry says:

    Thanks for the info. We are just starting to look into Exuma, mainly interested in snorkeling, beach, the pigs, exploring. We have seen documentaries and it looks like there are a lot of sharks in Bahamas, we aren’t too thrilled about that possibility. Can you share experience with this? Is it safe? Is the island safe in general for walking around?

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    • airieb says:

      Hi Kerry! Glad you are looking into it! Yes there are sharks in the Bahamas but they won’t bother you at all. Many people intentionally go to the Bahamas just to swim with them. They don’t want to have anything to do with people like you see in the movies. Ha! Exuma is a VERY safe island. I travel there solo, I’ve hitchhiked, I’ve picked up hitchhikers, etc. The people are wonderful, kind, and helpful and you’ll never forget them. Just as with anywhere in the world, take the normal precautions you would in your own neighborhood.

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  11. Kristen Tremblay says:

    We went to Exuma for the first time last month and loved it. We normally go to St. John (10x) and the BVI. We go to other islands and are continuously comparing them to St. John and they always fall (very) short. Exuma is the first island we’ve been to that comes close. The only thing I think it’s lacking is a little “downtown” area with concentrated restaurants/shops and beach bars. If you’ve been to St. John I’m talking about Cruz Bay. Does Eleuthera have something comparable? We don’t need wild night life but like to have a central place to walk around before dinner. Thanks!

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    • airieb says:

      Hi Kristen! Sorry for the delay. Eleuthera doesn’t really have that either except on Harbour Island. Do you plan to go there? Hope so! Just take the ferry over and rent a golf cart. It’s a neat little rock to visit. Have a blast and let me know how you like it!

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