On the same latitude as West Palm Beach (and less than 200 miles from Miami), the Bahamas’ Abacos islands might be less well known than The Exumas or Nassau, but they are just as beautiful. What’s more, they offer some of the best sailing and boating anywhere in the Caribbean. To the islands’ western side lies one of the largest barrier reefs in the western hemisphere, which means the Abacos are also a world-class spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. Here’s what you need to know to plan a trip to this wet and wild paradise.
“There is nothing… half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats,” said Kenneth Grahame in Wind in the Willows, and when it comes to the Abaco Islands, we’d have to agree. The reef-sheltered waters create the perfect conditions for cruising in motorboats, yachts or small sailing crafts. Cruising the coast in the sunshine, stopping for a quick swim in the sparkling waters, even if you’re not a dyed in the wool sailor, we promise you’ll be a convert in no time.
With 17 marinas across the islands, there’s no shortage of places to pull up for a spot of lunch or a refreshing beer in a beachfront bar – Hope Town on Elbow Cay is a favorite place to stop at midday. We love the relaxed barefoot vibe at Harbour’s Edge, where conch fritters and a cold beer is the order of the day.
If you’re PADI certified, grab your gear and head to Walker’s Cay – one of the most famous dive sites in the area. There are otherworldly caverns to explore and two deep-water shipwrecks – the Dorothy H. and Esther K., both ocean-going tugboats that were purposely sunk for divers to explore. What’s more, there’s beautiful sea gardens with colorful coral and plenty of tropical fish, and for the very brave, the chance to dive with sharks. On the bucket list of many scuba divers, shark dives are uniquely thrilling. You’ll need to take part in an organized excursion with experienced instructors (shark diving should not be attempted alone!), and trust us when we say that watching up to 100 Reef and Blacktip sharks feeding is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience
If the very idea of shark diving makes you go weak at the knees, enjoy the water in a less dramatic way with your trusty snorkel and flippers. At Great Guana Cay, you can snorkel right off the beach, and the crystal clear waters mean it will be easy to spot parrotfish, angelfish, rays, and more. On Great Abaco Island, older kids will love to snorkel at Winding Bay where friendly sea turtles can often be found.
When to Visit
With nearly 300 days of sunshine per year, there’s rarely a bad time to be in the Bahamas. A classic winter sun destination, high season here begins in December and last throughout winter and spring. The islands are quieter during hurricane season which runs June through November, although hurricanes are actually quite rare in the region.
Where to Stay
The exclusive Abaco Club on Winding Bay is the perfect base from which to explore these gorgeous islands. We love the three-bedroom Adirondack Villa, which overlooks the wide expanse of the Atlantic and features its own private plunge pool, sunset deck and more. Decorated in fresh white with turquoise touches that reflect the ocean colors just beyond the door, morning coffee has never tasted better than when it’s enjoyed on the weathered wood deck of this cozy beachfront villa. What’s more, staying at Adirondack gives you access to all of the facilities of the club, including tennis, golf and of course, watersports equipment. Snorkels, scuba gear, glass-bottomed kayaks, motorboats or paddleboards, it’s all here, along with experienced instructors. We suggest taking your dive gear and exploring the remains of the villa’s namesake shipwreck, the U.S.S Adirondack, in nearby Marsh Harbour.