From the Exumas to Eleuthera, these islands are trending hard with beautiful new ways to stay, eat, shop, and play.

By Meg Nolan van Reesema
March 26, 2019
Pink Sand Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas
SkyHighStudios/Getty Images

Among the Bahamas’ stunning array of 700 islands and cays lie rich culture, spectacular beaches, luxurious resorts, boutique hotels, great shopping and dining, and all manner of ways to play on this archipelago nation’s crystalline waters. Check in at this quintet of islands with irresistible offerings.

The Lagoon Pool at Rosewood Baha Mar, Nassau
Durston Saylor/Rosewood

Nassau: High-End Escapism

The lay of the land: As the capital of the island nation, Nassau is known as much for its international banking laws as its family-favored all-inclusive beach resorts, like the beloved Atlantis. Perhaps less known are its tony private residence areas like Lyford Cay and Tiger Woods’ Albany, plus the recently revamped Ocean Club Four Seasons on adjacent Paradise Island.

What’s hot: The recently opened, 2,200-room Baha Mar complex has dominated the region’s openings as the Caribbean’s largest casino-resort. With three different hotel properties (Hyatt, SLS and Rosewood) plus an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, myriad pools, and numerous celebrity-chef-led boites and beachside food trucks, the complex is definitely looking to hit every consumer’s travel style. The offerings can be a bit overwhelming, but there are riches to be reaped. 

Set on the white sands of Nassau’s Cable Beach, Rosewood is the latest entry to the family, and the most serenely luxurious. With 237 accommodations that range from resort and ocean-view guestrooms to studios and villas of various configurations, the vibe here is exclusive and privacy-forward. The interiors, helmed by NYC firm Wimberly Interiors, captures the low-key Bahamian sophistication of Harbour Island homes, and features commissioned pieces by local artist John Cox (who also curates an exhibit space on the property). 

Families will appreciate the Hyatt for its water activity-filled kids club, the cliff jumps into the splash pool, and the spacious double rooms. Groups looking for a bit of Vegas-fun with their white sand beach should head to SLS, particularly its adults-only pool and DJ area. 

Inside tip: Nassau locals like designer Rebecca de Ravenel recommend the Island House for dinner and drinks, while the Straw Market on West Bay Street is a must-hit for authentic straw bags.

Harbour Island, Bahamas
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Harbour Island: New Charms, Great Shopping

The lay of the land: Put on the map for its iconic pink sand beach and quaint 19th century Bahamian gingerbread cottages, Harbour Island’s charm and style reach far beyond its diminutive three-mile shoreline. That’s what happens when you pair internationally-known designers (David and India Hicks), who showcase the best of the island’s sought-after laid-back tropical aesthetic, with well-designed exclusive properties to stay, swill rum, and dine.

What’s hot: The newest stay on the scene is the 11-bedroom Bahama House by Eleven, a cluster of stylishly restored heritage buildings in the heart of charming Dunmore Town. With a plantation design vibe (and a freshwater pool and tiki bar), the sensibility is adult escape; Eleven complements the hideaway vibe with Outer Island excursions that include bonefishing, snorkeling and scuba diving, and even cliff jumping.   

Inside tip: Private home rentals such as Three Bees, Coral House, or the villas at The Dunmore are great ways to house large family gatherings. For shopping, boutiques such as India Hicks’ The Sugar Mill Trading Company and Dakes lure well-heeled regulars while Dilly Dally and Neeka’s Straw Work showcase local craftsmanship.

Related: Perfect Weekend in Harbour Island, Bahamas

The small village of Staniel Cay in the Bahamas
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The Exumas: Yachts and Private Isles

The lay of the land (and water): A chain of white sandy islands south of Nassau with Staniel Cay and its flag-festooned Yacht Club as its unofficial hub, the Exumas are a favorite of the yacht-cruising community. With 365 cays and islands in this group alone, the Exumas promise a bit of wildness and a lot of character, from those heralded swimming pigs, to sunken airplanes and an underwater cave that’s starred in two James Bond movies.

What’s hot: While yacht charters are always de rigueur in the Exumas, the most exclusive (and definitely sustainable) option may be on dry land. Over Yonder Cay is a former fishing camp turned private island with four high-luxe villas, with 96% of its electricity needs taken care of by on-site solar and wind power. Over Yonder’s nine-hole, par-three golf course is built from a high-grade synthetic turf (alleviating the need for intensive irrigation and pesticide use), and extra energy created by solar and wind is used to produce drinking and irrigation water, lightening the footprint here even more.

The Exumas are home to more luxury on-land stays—including Fowl Cay Resort with its six villas, or an island buyout at Musha Cay (for options a little lighter on the holiday budget, Good Life Rentals has a great roster).

Inside tip: Boo-Boo Hill, tucked inside the Exuma Land Park (the first land and sea park in the world), has a fascinating shrine to the sea god Neptune (as well as  panoramic views). Also, don’t miss purchasing the daily catch from the fishermen at Staniel Cay or sipping a daiquiri (this is rum country, after all) seated on the rocking chairs at the Yacht Club.

Fly fishing in the Bahamas
Mark Lance/Getty

Andros: All About the Bonefish

The lay of the land: The largest island in the Bahamas chain and arguably the center of the best bone-fishing in the world, Andros has been luring aspirational anglers for decades. Heralded areas such as the Joulters (the cays just off the northside of Andros surrounded by white sandy flats), Flamingo Cay (a destination fishing lodge on the southern side of the island), and the Middle Bites (where the water breaks the island in two and fish love to pool), keep seekers of the wily bonefish.

What’s hot: Andros’s go-to spot to offshore stay, Kamalame Cay, is also the way to connect with Alvin Bauld, perhaps the island’s chief bonefish whisperer. Now overseen by Kamalame’s second generation, David and Michael King-Hew, the property has a decidedly chic vibe, with 27 seaside suites and villas (and overwater spa) as well as monthly rosé-infused beachfront lunches.

Inside tip: Andros is home to 178 blue holes (sinkholes or underground caverns), according to Jacques Cousteau, who came to the island in the 1970s to document the abundance of this stunning phenomena, which can be as deep as 1,000 feet and as blue as you may have ever witnessed. Book a trip with Barb’s Nature Walk & Blue Hole Tour to make your own azure discoveries. 

Erik Kruthoff Photography/Getty

Eleuthera: Great Escaping

The lay of the land: The longest island in the Bahamas (measuring 110 miles long), Eleuthera is a slender delight that cradles charming Harbour Island at its northern end, and is home to pineapple fields, colonial-era villages, and stunning, pink-sand beaches along its entire length.

What’s hot: Eleuthera just keeps getting hotter and hotter when it comes to stylish, low-key, luxury boutique hotels and resorts. New last year is The Other Side, which introduces glamping with an upscale, Bahamian flavor. With their white canvas walls and ceilings and plantation-style interiors, The Other Side’s three sleeping and four public tents are dreamy escapes, while three rustic-luxe “shacks” with sweeping ocean views (and four-poster king beds) round out the options. With a slender pool (and yoga alongside it), and a tender that can sweep you over to Harbour Island for shopping, drinking, and eating your fill of conch salad, this may be the ultimate castaway fantasy.

Inside tip: Go natural and explore Eleuthera’s world-renowned Blue Hole (another former stomping ground of Jacques Cousteau), its famous Glass Window bridge where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea, and its hidden caves: Hatchet Bay Cave, Smugglers Cave, Rum Bottle Cave, and Spider Cave.