White sand beaches, turquoise water and the most amazing people you will ever meet! Greater Exuma has it all and such an incredible destination if you are looking for a beach vacation. We spent most of our time relaxing on the beaches but since we were travelling in the off season, it was HOT. But it wasn’t all fun and games, we picked up sand fleas, one child puked outside the car window, another at the beach, and the last while we were on the boat all day, and every time we got in the car to go somewhere they fought like crazy.
Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY! Family travel is not glamorous, and my children are by no means perfect, but I have learned that we will run into these problems wether we are in another country or simply on the way to the grocery store. It has drawn us closer and opened our eyes to the incredible world around us!
Below you will find our personal budget, every families budget will be different based on your personal preferences and needs. I hope that you are able to take some tips from it to plan your own vacation to Greater Exuma as well as inspiration to hop on a plane with your kids!
Flight: $900 + $25
Thanks to Secret Flying I picked up 5 nonstop direct flights from Toronto through Air Canada all the way to Georgetown for $180 per person! We, of course, were fresh off our trip to Mexico, but when the opportunity comes knocking – you have to look into it.
Since I had an ambitious budget of $2,000, I knew our accommodations would either make or break the trip. I broke my cardinal rule and paid for a checked bag ($25) to allow for us to bring sunscreen, food and even Benadryl. We had the heads up that there would be plenty of bugs since we were traveling in the rainy season, so preparation was key!
In order to justify the last minute trip, I needed to find a home exchange using one of the balloons that we picked up (from hosting a non-reciprocal exchange). To our surprise, we had a bite and a home waiting for us on the exact dates we needed! We had a beautiful 2 bedroom home in the South end of the island in the middle of the jungle. We had access to their outdoor bar as well as their chickens for fresh eggs. Home Exchange has opened up so many amazing opportunities for us. We have met so many wonderful families, and I would highly recommend you look into it as well!
The best things in life are free, which is what every beach on Exuma is. Beautiful, untouched and absolutely free. Read our pics for the best beaches on Great Exuma.
We spent most of our days lounging, swimming, snorkeling and playing with the local children.
Car rental + Gas: $350 + $60
If you are coming to Exuma, you need a car as the island has no public transport. We were put in touch with Janese from Shure to Shore and she was excellent to deal with! She left the car at the airport for us with the key in the visor (only in the Bahamas!) and when we flew out we left it in the same spot for her. Easy! For one week she offered us $350 with all inclusions and insurance. Read more about renting a car in Great Exuma.
We used our car to zip around to all the beautiful beaches as well as picking up supplies and groceries. Gas in Exuma is relatively affordable, we did quite a bit of driving each day and only used $60 worth. Here in Exuma you drive on the right-hand side, YIKES! We were pretty spooked out at first, but surprisingly got the hang of it real quick!
Groceries (not included in overall budget)
Groceries and liquor or not cheap in Exuma. Being an island, all necessities are shipped in, meaning you pay a higher price. We were flying in on a Sunday and knew that all the shops would be closed, as well as on Monday (since Monday’s are holidays in the Bahamas), so I packed some food to take with us in our bag for the first two days.
Yep! This girl isn’t being forced into a restaurant when I don’t have to! I packed rice, curry sauces, dried pasta and even some instant oatmeal. In the end, this decision saved us hundreds by avoiding the restaurants.
Our grocery bill when we did make it to the store was under $140 (simply ported from our home grocery budget) for just the necessities. Like I said, it isn’t cheap. We had to stock up on frozen pizzas, sandwiches and hotdogs as produce is hard to find.
Eating Out: $90
Restaurants are not cheap in the Bahamas, which I knew going into it. The food consists of mainly fish, rice, cabbage, conch and anything that they can get their hands on for a decent price. Not exactly like traveling to Italy or Europe where you will find a culinary experience, so I didn’t mind that we wouldn’t be eating out.
Since Monday was a holiday, we planned to visit Santanas on Little Exuma while visiting the famous Tropic Of Cancer beach just a few minutes down the road. Here at Santanas, their claim to fame is that the cast of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie at there every night (in particular Johnny Depp). Here this little shack on the beach draws a crowd, and for good reason. Their grouper was to die for!
Between the 5 of us, we split 3 plates and 2 Kaliks for $80. Expensive. At least now we can say we ate with Johnny Depp 🙂
The Swimming Pigs: $180
You can’t go to Exuma without swimming with the pigs! I started to explore my options for swimming with the pigs which quickly became dismal to those on a budget or with small children. The best price I could find was $180 a person and $110 for children under 12. It was an 8 hour boat ride total up to Pig Beach and Compass Cay with several stops along the way. The big draw for me was Compass Cay, where you can swim with the nurse sharks.
If you are staying in Nassau or Staniel Cay, you can rent a boat and travel to these destinations on your own terms. Both are actually free, with the exception of a dock fee of $10 at Compass Cay to swim with the sharks.
What I did discover was a small bar at the North tip of the island called the Exuma Point Bar and Grill. Here on Saturdays and Sundays they serve a buffet for lunch and will drive you out to their personal island to swim with their pigs.
Was it the famous pigs? No. Did it satisfy the desire? Absolutely, and it allowed us to all experience it together at a fraction of the price.
In order to swim with the pigs, you must purchase the buffet at $25 per person and an additional $25 for the boat ride.
Children under the age of 5 are free and over are $12.95. For lunch and the pig excursion, it cost us $180. A budget-friendly version for sure if you are staying in Greater Exuma. Read more about the swimming pigs.
Boat Rental: $215
Since we were doing so well on our budget by opting out of the “famous pigs, we decided to splurge and rent a boat on our last day. We knew we wanted to visit Stocking Island, but the only way to get there is to take the water taxi from downtown Georgetown for $15 per person. Once we figured we would be “saving” ourselves $75 by renting a boat, it pushed us over the edge with the decision.
Either way you get there, I highly recommend Stocking Island. You could easily spend a day there at the Chat n Chill under the shade. They have plenty of picnic tables, swings, beach volleyball as well as many hiking spots on the island. If you are there on a Sunday, the pig roast is a real treat. Everyone on the island will be there with live music. Such a lively place where we wished we could have spent more time. Read about our time on Stocking Island.
We picked up a 17′ Boston Whaler from Minns Water Sports that fit our family of 5 perfectly. We grabbed it at 8:30 when the doors opened and didn’t return it till the doors closed at 5pm. The Exuma Cays are made up of over 360 islands and boat is the best way to see some of these private islands and have the beaches all to yourself. We swam in one of their many coral reefs, with turtles, visited Stocking Island, went to sand dollar beach as well starfish beach and cruised along the beautiful turquoise water.
Read more about why you should rent a boat while visiting Great Exuma.
Overall we really loved our time in Great Exuma. Without a doubt, the most beautiful beaches I have ever laid eyes on. You truly feel as though you are sitting in a postcard.
Have you been to Great Exuma?