If you're looking for paradise, you'll find it in the spectacular islands of the Bahamas. It's super easy to get to from the states and well worth the trip. We're spotlighting a gorgeous little gem in the Abaco Islands—Elbow Cay.
If you're lucky, you may have a friend who'll fly or boat you in. For everyone else, you'll need to take Albury's Ferry to Elbow Cay from Marsh Harbour. The first thing you'll notice when approaching Elbow Cay is the charming 120-ft Hope Town lighthouse that's still manually operated. If you make the trip to the top, you'll be treated to the best views on the island and see how the island gets its name.
what to expect
Once on the island, locals told us it was impossible to get lost but we did. It took a little time for us city slickers to get our bearings. For one thing, we came in on the last ferry of the day, arriving past dusk. Secondly, there aren't a lot of signs. The only way to figure things out is to simply explore. Even as avid walkers, we found the island long and the sun strong for walking. You'll want a speedier mode of transportation. You can zip around on a bike or go by way of golf cart.
We took a golf cart and it was probably the best thing about being on the island. There's nothing like jumping in with a cold drink, speeding along, feeling the wind in our hair, whizzing by fallen coconuts and wild chickens. Just remember to drive on the opposite side of the road (the left). And like many other Caribbean islands, a honk is a friendly greeting in these parts.
For workaholics who need a break, you now have the perfect excuse to disconnect. Not all cell phone carriers provide service to the island and even at our beautiful hotel, wi-fi was spotty at best. What a treat it was to tuck my phone away for days on end.
what to bring
The best thing to bring is an insulated cup. Virtually everything is brought in by boat, even the water. Yes, the water from the tap is shipped in from a larger island of the Bahamas and is perfect to drink right from the faucet. Local bars and restaurants serve most drinks in plastic cups so bringing your own cup allows you to be green and refuse single-use plastic. You'll also have the added bonus of ice cold drinks on the move. The island allows you to take anything to go, even cocktails and beer. The humidity melts ice in the blink of an eye so an insulated cup will keep drinks fresh wherever you decide to take them.
Because so little food actually comes from the island (aside from locally-caught seafood), expect to pay extra for common foods. Bringing your own snacks, like nuts, granola bars and chips, is a good idea as the selection in shops can be limited and what's available is mostly shelf-stable and not necessarily the healthiest.
Bring a bug spray. Expect a few biting critters if you're sweet, even in cold weather months. A couple of tote bags is always a good idea so you don't have to rely on plastic bags when you shop. Also, there are no ATMs on the island so bring what you need before you come ashore. Most establishments accept credit cards (mainly MasterCard and Visa, occasionally Discover and Amex.)
where to go
The island's village is historic Hope Town. You'll want to stroll the pretty little streets, stop in the shops, cafes and bars and appreciate the beautiful homes in cheerful pastel shades. Wander, stop for a rum punch and you'll meet locals who can trace their roots back to the first settlers and pirates who first made the island home.
Tahiti Beach is a picturesque place to spend the day. At low tide, a generous-sized sand bar reveals itself. It's the perfect place to hang, swim, lay out, snack, play and snorkel until you get your fill of sunshine. Bring a cooler and plenty of reef-safe sunblock.
To eat, choose local. Conch is abundant so get it as often as you can. We loved it in toothsome cakes and fritters as well as in a citrus-marinated salad that's a bit like ceviche. It's the sweetest when you get it fresh.
The sound of the palms swaying, waves gently lapping the shore and the occasional rooster crowing will have you feeling like you're a million miles away from all stress. Enjoy! Before you know it, you'll be planning your next trip back as you watch the lighthouse shrink away on the ferry ride home.
Have you been to the Bahamas? What's your favorite island?