Playing Castaway on Fowl Cay
On this small island in the Bahamas, fill your days with ocean adventures, or master the art of doing nothing at all
Once upon a time, local villagers used Fowl Cay as a place to keep their chickens. That is, until a French couple bought the island in the 1950s as a laid-back family retreat. There's still something of that Swiss Family Robinson feel to the place today, in spite of its evolution into a high-end, all-inclusive resort, reopened after an extensive renovation to its oceanfront villas last year. Sandy paths are lined with conch shells, blood red hibiscus flowers grow wild by the wayside, and hand-painted wooden signs point the way to various landmarks.
Fowl Cay's six oceanfront villas are plantation-style and whitewashed, fronted by a veranda with a swinging love seat and twin rocking chairs. (Yes, Fowl Cay is pretty conducive to romance.) Inside, the vibe is upscale beach shack: overstuffed white sofas, bowls of shells, a framed poem from young children to their father. Every villa comes fully stocked with groceries, wine, soft drinks, chocolates, fruit—everything you'd need for either a cloistered romantic getaway or a family vacation.
Each villa slopes down to its own perfect little stretch of beach. The calm, balmy water is just right for lazy swimming sessions or snorkeling. Each villa comes equipped with its own personal motorboat, so guests can take off into the wild blue yonder at their own whim. With 365 islands and cays in the archipelago, you could literally visit one each day for an entire year.
At the island's main hub, Hill House, dinner is just as casual here as everything else: The meal becomes a semicommunal affair, with guests raising toasts, swapping stories, and sharing photos over simply prepared dishes such as fire-roasted mahi-mahi over rice. Fresh seafood and local greens highlight the menu at Hill House.
It's not every day you see a pig swim freestyle. This novel porcine community—the cute pink curly-tailed kind, rather than the wild boar variety—live year-round on a strip of beach and low scrub just near neighboring Staniel Cay. They like to welcome the boats laiden with food-bearing tourists.
Thunderball Cave is popular with snorkelers and swimmers. This rocky tidal cavern is reachable, during full tide, via a brief-but-pulse-quickening underwater passage. Inside, a grand, cathedral-like cavern greets you, suffused with an otherwordly blue-tinged light. Fluorescent fish dart beneath the surface of the water. The only sound is the muffled splash of waves against the rocks outside.