Secret Beaches and Coves in the Exumas, the Bahamas, You Can Only Reach By Boat

Hop on a charter to discover all of the Exumas most beautiful beaches and coves
Hop on a charter to discover all of the Exumas most beautiful beaches and coves | © Per Breiehagen / Getty Images
Photo of Judith Baker
9 March 2022

With 365 islands and cays, the Exumas chain boasts some of the most beautiful Bahamas beaches. Explore luxurious private islands, secluded coves and pink sand beaches while sailing around this West Indian archipelago.

Discover these pretty beaches while sailing around the Bahamas on an eight-day adventure with Culture Trip – no experience necessary.

Tropic of Cancer Beach, Little Exuma

As the name suggests, this pretty crescent beach is located right on the Tropic of Cancer. There are no amenities here, just a hand-painted line that marks this entrance to the tropics, but on the upside, it’s wonderfully quiet. Take your own picnic and stretch out on an unspoiled stretch of powder-white sand, or go snorkelling and swimming in clear waters. Don’t forget to take that symbolic step across the latitude line.

Tropic of Cancer Beach in Exuma | © PJPhoto69 / Getty Images

Pigeon Cay, Little Exuma

Just a short way off the coast of Little Exuma, you’ll find Pigeon Cay, an uninhabited islet, perfect for snorkelling and diving over the 200-year-old shipwreck submerged here. You can spot an old pirate fort atop one of the Little Exuma hills with a few cannons dotted nearby. Sailing from Great Exuma? Take in the pink beach at Pretty Molly Bay – rumour has it that a ghost strolls this sandy stretch at night.

Stocking Island, Great Exuma

Anyone sailing in the Exumas should make time for Stocking Island, just four miles off the coast of Great Exuma Island. Here, you’ll find the Chat ‘n’ Chill bar and restaurant – only accessible by boat. Drop anchor and enjoy great conch burgers and barbecued ribs, before flopping into a hammock on the beach. After a snooze, dive into the waters to swim with elegant stingrays or book a scuba diving excursion to nearby Hurricane Hole.

Sunset Beach on Stocking Island | © Per Breiehagen / Getty Images

Highbourne Cay

This private island is known as the gateway to the Exuma Cays. Sail into the first-class marina and treat yourself to a meal at the five-star restaurant here, Xuma, known for its fresh lobster and sunset views. There are eight beaches within walking distance of the marina. Hop on a free bike and cycle between them – our favourite is East Beach, regarded as one of the best beaches in the Bahamas.

Allen Cay

Animal lovers should make a beeline for Allen Cay, a group of small uninhabited islands at the far north tip of the Exumas chain. Here, colourful endangered iguanas roam free on Iguana Beach, as it’s known locally. These cold-blooded creatures love the sun, so make sure you visit on a hot day for the best chance of viewing them. Avoid feeding them and just admire their beauty from afar.

The famous wild iguanas of Allen’s Cay | © Giongi63 / Alamy Stock Photo

Big Major Cay and Major Spot

The swimming pigs at Big Major Cay are a huge draw to the area. No one is quite sure how these cute omnivores came to live on this paradisical island, but they are well worth seeing. Arrive early to beat the crowds, then sail 4mi (6.4km) northeast to Little Major’s Spot for a quieter anchorage. The shallow waters here are said to attract gentle nurse sharks.

Staniel Cay

Beyond its famous yacht club, Staniel Cay is home to a smattering of beaches – two favourites include Ho Tai Cay Beach and Pirate’s Beach. Both have lovely sand dunes and reefs just offshore for snorkelling – if you’re lucky, you might spot a turtle or two. Just watch out for stingrays as they sleep on the sandy bed in this cove and don’t like to be stepped on.

The jetty for the yacht club in Staniel Cay | © Alexander Chaikin / Alamy Stock Photo

Norman’s Cay

Norman’s Cay has a very colourful past indeed. In the 1960s, it was a popular hangout for the Harvard elite, like Ted Kennedy and his crowd – before becoming a notorious drug smuggling spot that was cleaned up by the Bahamian government in the 1980s. These days, it’s a quiet spot, visited only by occasional yacht parties. Stop here to drink in the Robinson Crusoe atmosphere and enjoy the views.

Shroud Cay

This hidden gem on the north end of the Exumas chain is home to one of the prettiest swimming spots in the Bahamas. Drop anchor on the lee side and tender through the mangrove-lined rivers to the “washing machine” – a tiny peninsula with a strong current that washes you around to the other side. Aside from this natural phenomena, there’s little else – other than white sand beaches and turquoise shallows as far as the eye can see.

Natural plains in Shroud Cay | © Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

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