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Bahamas Travel Guide: Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

We're back from our stay in the Bahamas, and I kind of can't believe that I even got to type that. I never thought I'd get to see the bright turquoise ocean water of the Bahamas with my own eyes because honestly, this wasn't a destination that was on our radar for very long, nor was it a priority. But after a few pretty intense Northeast winters, we were ready for a tropical getaway somewhere that would be equal parts adventurous, colorful and relaxing, and Eleuthera in the Bahamas was the perfect fit.


Yes, I got badly burned on our first day (go me!). Josh called me a rock lobster the whole trip
because my shoulders were bright red. Friends, be smart and apply extra sunscreen when in the Caribbean
and closer to the equator. 

We ended up going to The Bahamas because we basically just said, "Let's find the most affordable AirBnB in the Caribbean that's closest to the beach in a place we haven't been to before," and we found it in the Bahamas. While beginning our research, we found a lot of places in the Bahamas that were actually rather affordable for being so close to the water. I quickly realized, too, that I had absolutely no idea just how many islands were in the Bahamas (700! Seriously!). So we picked a few listings that seemed ideal, and chose one on Eleuthera because we had read online that it was quieter, had a more chill vibe and wasn't quite as packed with tourists as Nassau/Paradise Island. Plus, the beautiful pink sand beaches were really hard to resist. But, we also wanted the option for a few excursions and access to some restaurants in case we felt like we needed a break from laying around the beach all day. Eleuthera just seemed to have everything we were looking for, and the listing we found also seemed perfect.



This house with a pineapple fence was one of my favorite things.



There were brightly colored flowers all over the island. We definitely got all that color we wanted on this trip!


My favorite house along the beach shoreline.



Our time in the Bahamas was northing short of dreamy. Since we go to the Cape so often, beach vacations in other destinations often fall to the bottom of our priority lists, but man, it's going to be hard to not want to come back here every year. The turquoise waters truly are how they look in photos - crystal clear, intensely saturated with color and super warm. The sand is so soft to walk on, and mostly, we just felt like we were on the set of a movie most of the time. I'm excited to share our experience visiting the islands of the Bahamas with you today. 



Mid-April/2019. This was the beginning of the end of peak tourist season, and the perfect time to go. The weather in the Northeast was still cold, windy, gray and gloomy, so being able to jet off to the Bahamas at this time of the year made us appreciate it that much more.

There was a goat farm on the island, so of course, we had to stop.

Coconut trees were everywhere.


All the houses were painted shades of blues, purples, pinks and yellows. It was just such a happy place.




Our time in the Bahamas was actually part of a larger trip where we tacked on Savannah and Charleston on our way back home. But for this portion, we spent 5 nights in Spanish Wells.




We flew into North Eleuthera Airport, and then took a cab to a water taxi, which brought us to a smaller island off the northern coast of Eleuthera called Spanish Wells. Spanish Wells is very small, and once we got off our water taxi, our AirBnB host met us at the dock with her golf cart to get us to our rental.

Josh helping tie down the water taxi boat.

The airport in North Eleuthera was the smallest one we've ever been to. The whole thing was like a larger ranch-style house with one lane for security, which you go through as you leave to get on your plane. Coming in, customs took about 3 minutes, and I'm not even exaggerating. It was quite an experience, that's for sure!

The main mode of transportation on many of the smaller islands in the Bahamas is by golf cart! We found we didn't need one while on Spanish Wells because our AirBnB host provided bikes which we used quite a bit, but almost everyone was getting around by golf cart.

If you have any questions about getting somewhere when staying on Spanish Wells, I have one name for you: Pinder. You just need to call Pinder, and you'll be on your way. To start, you'll want to call Pinder's Supermarket by the dock, and they will arrange everything for you. It's very strange, but it's how things are done on the island. When we needed a rental car for a day, we called the supermarket that morning, and within 15 minutes, they had the whole thing arranged for us and told us to be at the dock in 10 mins. To get to Harbour Island, we did the same thing. They also provided all our airport transfers. 



We chose to stay at an AirBnB on Spanish Wells, and I swear, this was the least-researched accommodation we've ever booked. I'm usually one that has a spreadsheet going on different places to stay, and I take my time determining the best one. But we booked this one after not much thought or research because the listing made it hard not to.

The deck of our AirBnB.

The stairs leading up to our private entrance
(the host lived downstairs, but we never really saw her).


Her gardens were incredible - fruit trees everywhere!

She also has five kitties and a German Shepard, and they were all very friendly and fun to have around
since we missed our pups so much while away.

We chose this particular place because it had over 100 rave reviews, was walkable to a pink sand beach that was described as never crowded, and the listing also included a private deck, beach towels, bikes and pretty much everything we needed. On top of all that, it was incredibly affordable. 



Beaches
Spanish Wells is definitely a quiet, local community, and not at all touristy. This is the place to go to live like an islander for a true Bahamian experience. Leading up to the trip, I was a little nervous we maybe jumped the gun and picked our destination too quickly, thinking we'd get bored easily and run out of things to do. But honestly, I'm so glad we stayed here because it forced us to relax more than we usually do on vacation, and that was the whole point of this trip.

Beach hair, don't care is always my vacation motto.










So, that said, there isn't much to do on Spanish Wells except lay by the beautiful beaches all day, walk for miles on the shore, and just relax. On days we didn't leave Spanish Wells, we biked to the beaches, and stayed there for the whole day, taking short breaks to bike to lunch. From our AirBnB front door, we could see the ocean, but preferred to bike to the 23rd Street beach access point because it was more secluded there (and that was only a 5-minute or less bike ride). 

Path leading to the 23rd Street beach entrance.

To be honest, though, if we saw more than 5 people walking on the shoreline, that was considered busy. We spent two full days dedicated to just the beaches on Spanish Wells, and we never had anyone set-up camp near  us and we truly had the entire beach to ourselves. We also found it a bit odd that not many people actually set themselves up at the beaches like we did - most of them walked along the shoreline, or would pop in for a quick swim and leave. No complaints from us, though, because we loved the privacy!








One really cool thing about the Spanish Wells beaches that we loved was the sandbar, which went out for over a mile from the shore during low tide. We took a walk on it during one of our beach days, and it was so much fun. Neither of us had ever seen anything like it. We were basically just walking on water for about a quarter of a mile, but could have kept going! The sandbar is easily spotted between the 13th and 23rd Street beach access points - there's no way to miss it.








Our AirBnB host also offered kayaks and SUP's to use during our time there, and we didn't end up taking advantage of them, which I regret a little.








Excursions
If you are looking for something beyond laying by the beach, quite a few boat charter companies offer half and full day trips and have so many options for where to go and things to see, including swimming with the famous Bahamas pigs, sand dollar hunting, remote beaches, snorkeling, starfish exploring, swimming with sea turtles, etc. We wanted to do this, but since it was just the two of us, it would be very expensive. The cheapest quote we got was $600 for a half-day excursion. If you have more people in your group, it would be much more economical because you could split the cost. But for us, we decided it would be stretching our wallets a little too far. Da Salty Pig Adventures seemed very popular among the locals, so that may be a good starting point if you're interested. Their office was also very accessible in the middle of the island (it was around the corner from where we stayed) and they have rave reviews online.

Off-Island Exploration
We spent two of our days exploring other islands, including North Eleuthera and Harbour Island. You can read about Harbour Island here




One thing we both thought was funny was that Spanish Wells, even though it's a teeny, tiny little island, offered amazing restaurants. When we chatted with some people on North Eleuthera, they asked where we were staying, and their response was "Oh yeah, great restaurants!" So, we really lucked out when it came to eating out. Our original plan was to stock up on groceries and maybe cook a few meals at home to save money. But when we were looking into restaurants, we knew we wanted to try them all. So, we hit up Food Fair, the local grocery store on our first day to get some cereal for breakfasts, and then we decided to eat out for all our lunches and dinners. 

The Sandbar
We loved The Sandbar, and we would have eaten here more than once if we had rented a golf cart. It's actually on Russell Island, which isn't far from Spanish Wells, and connected by a bridge. But the bike ride out there was a bit much for me (Spanish Wells and Russell Island are a lot more hilly than I thought!). But man, this was a really cool place. Once we got there, we were the only ones, and we got a table overlooking the water (although, all their tables pretty much have some kind of water view). They also have hammocks you can take your drinks and appetizers to and lay by the sea (follow the fence and walk toward the water to find the hammocks).

My first drink in the Bahamas! I can't remember what it was,
but the view was pretty great.

Fish tacos at The Sandbar.



On top of the views, the drinks and food were awesome. Josh appreciated the veggie burger option, and I loved their fish tacos. We could have sat at that table all day with a bowl of chips and salsa and starred at the water. Highly recommend it. 

Wreckers
We went here a few times out of convenience since it was the closest to where we were staying. But also, it was really good food and a nice atmosphere overlooking the marina. We both loved it. I got to try quite a few things on the menu and everything we had was really good. We often got their flatbreads because they were the only veggie option for Josh, but I also loved their blackened mahi-mahi sandwich on their lunch menu.

The deck overlooking the marina at Wreckers.

Flatbread at Wreckers.

Bar area at Wreckers.

Blackened Mahi-Mahi sandwich at Wreckers.


The Shipyard
I'm still thinking about our great dinner on the deck of The Shipyard. It was an easy 5-7 minute bike ride from our AirBnB, and they had some really good food. We sat at a table closest to the water, and it felt like we were dining on a boat. I got the cajun shrimp pasta special that night and it was so, so good.


Goombay Smash on the deck at Shipyard. This was my favorite drink while in the Bahamas.

Cajun shrimp pasta special at Shipyard.


Buddha's Snack Shack
They do take out as well, but we sat down in the table area for lunch one day and had a really fun time. It's super casual, but the food was really good. I got the fried fish sandwich, and it was as good as most that I've gotten when visiting the Cape. They also have a full bar, which of course, we took advantage of.

Entrance to Buddha's Snack Shack. This is their take-out area (inside the bus!).

Papa's Scoops
This is the cutest little ice cream shack that ever was. And really, it's a shack. It's completely open-air, and it's open 7-10p every day except Sundays. They only offer two flavors of soft serve ice cream that change daily, slushies, and on Mondays and Thursdays, ice cream cookie sandwiches and brownie sundaes. On their sign every morning, they'll write down what two flavors they'll be offering that night, so sometimes, we'd get excited to ride our bikes by and see what was being offered that night. They also post their nightly flavors on their Facebook page. And then once they open, everyone begins to line their golf carts up to get their nightly treats (you can also walk and ride your bike - it's all very casual). I'll be honest and admit it wasn't the best ice cream ever. It also wasn't the worst. We mainly enjoyed it for the experience. While we were there we sampled their pistachio (which was my favorite), oreo and cheesecake. Their chocolate chip cookie sandwich with vanilla ice cream was also pretty good!


Pistachio cone from Papa's Scoops.



- A lot of places will shut down on Sundays since it's a religious community. We were there the week leading up to Easter and the grocery stores had signs saying they'd be closed for Good Friday, and many of the restaurants also posted that they'd be closed for Easter Sunday. Many are often closed on Sundays in general (some were open). We left early on Sunday morning, so we didn't have a need to look into it much, but if you plan to be in the Bahamas at all on a Sunday, especially a more local community, it would be a good idea to research places that will be open if you need to go out and get anything, including a meal. 

In addition to that, some places will be open Sundays, but closed another random day of the week, so plan accordingly. 

- You will need cash if staying on Spanish Wells. The water taxis to get you on and off the island are cash only. Thankfully, we reached out to our AirBnB host a week or so before getting there to ask about that, and we brought cash with us to cover all our transportation. The RT airport transfer (including the water taxi) was $15 per person one way. To get on or off Spanish Wells, it was $5 one way per person. To get to Harbour Island, it was about $80 RT per person (that one hurt a little). And you absolutely need cash. All restaurants and grocery stores took cards, and Papa's Scoops was the only cash only eatery we went to on Spanish Wells.

- Bahamas time: prepare yourselves for it. Everything is way more chill and relaxed there. I reached out to our AirBnB host with a few questions, looking to arrange some rentals and taxis and such beforehand just to have our ducks in a row before we left. Her response was always, "Oh, we can just figure that out when you get here, no worries! See you soon!" It was so strange to me before arriving, but once we got there, we saw why. Bahamas time is real, things move slower and there's no real rush - embrace it.

- Spanish Wells, and Eleuthera in general, are more rural, which we loved. Roosters and chickens were often walking in the roads, and we could hear them in the mornings. And of course, you already saw the goat farm!

- Everyone was so, so friendly. Everyone waved to us as they drove by on their golf carts, and at first, we were so confused. But we quickly realized it was just how it is there, so we began to wave and say hello to everyone we passed as well. Employees at restaurants were so nice and friendly. It was a pretty happy place.

- Weather reports are unreliable for the most part in the Bahamas. We didn't have the best luck with weather while there - it rained on and off for a few hours one day, and down-poured for an entire morning and afternoon on our last day. However, it had called for rain most of the time we were there, and it ended up being bright and sunny every other day. Our AirBnB host said that no one really pays much attention to weather reports on the island because they're usually wrong, which we found to be fairly accurate while we were there. The rain storm we had was very rare.

- The local grocery stores are very, very outdated. Food Fair, which is where most people go, was pretty run down and low on options. It had all the basics, but just know, it's no Whole Foods (not that we were expecting anything fancy, but you know).

- Tipping is sometimes added to your restaurant bill already, and it's usually 15%. A few places we went to did this, so it's good to check your bill. It's also not a bad idea to leave some extra cash if they do add it in since we usually leave 20%, not 15%. 

- I don't think it's necessary to have a golf cart on Spanish Wells, but I will say, if you want to explore Russell Island, which is connected by a bridge, it may be a good idea, even if just for the day. Like I said before, it's a bit more hilly than I thought it would be, and a golf cart is just so much easier (and way more fun). But definitely have access to bikes at the minimum - it's a small island, but walking everywhere would begin to get tiresome after a while.

Russell island is even more remote than Spanish Wells and it's mostly just scenery and beaches, just FYI.

Are you considering booking your first AirBnB stay or experience? If you'd like, you can use my referral link here to save $55 when you book your first stay or experience. Both Josh and I have been using AirBnB for a few years now to have a more authentic experience when we travel, and we really encourage everyone to check it out when it makes sense for your next adventure. It's usually much more cost effective than hotel stays!




Beach Hair, Don't Care Hat: Amazon 
Gingham Ruffle Dress: J.Crew Factory
Panama Hat: J.Crew Factory
Blue Stripe Beach Towels: Amazon 
Green & Turquoise swimsuit was J.Crew, but no longer available.
Sunglasses are Warby Parker, but also no longer available (style is called Banks if you fancy yourself an eBay hunt).




Links included in my posts will sometimes be an affiliate link, which offers me a commission if you choose to use that link to make a purchase of something featured in my blog. The only time I ever use affiliate links is if I truly stand by the product, have used it and believe you may benefit from it as well. If I don't think something is worth your time, I simply will not link to it, or make it an affiliate link. Anything I earn from affiliate links is used to invest in my blogs to provide even more content for you. 

1 comment

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