If you want to get away and indulge in a beach vacation, you need to head to Long Island. No, we don’t mean the fish-shaped peninsula jutting out of New York, but rather the one in the Bahamas. Often likened to a string of pearls, the Bahamas comprises over 700 islands scattered across 100 square miles of ocean. So, yeah, there’s no shortage of stunning scenery.
But if you’re looking for an under-the-radar destination where you can truly get away from it all—and enjoy some of the world’s best beaches in the process—head to Long Island, a quiet spot with just over 3,000 residents. It’s a stark contrast to the main tourist destinations—namely Nassau and Paradise Island—giving you the chance to see the Bahamas in a more raw, unadulterated form.
Here are some of the best ways to explore the area’s hidden gems and unplug from the usual day-to-day grind.
Where to Stay
Cape Santa Maria Resort & Villas: Located on the northern end of Long Island, the Cape Santa Maria resort (pictured) is nestled on a beach with powdery sand and glistening turquoise water. The resort has a range of accommodations, including two-bedroom villas and one- and two-bedroom bungalows that come equipped with a full-service kitchen, washer and dryer, coffee machine, and killer ocean views. The resort offers a range of activities including cave snorkeling, fishing, boating, beach excursions, and sailing lessons. You can book directly through the hotel.
Stella Maris Resort Club & Marina: The Stella Maris Resort offers oceanside rooms and villas for families and couples, including four-bedroom villas, one-bedroom cottages, as well as other private villas and apartment-style rooms. There’s a large pool located in the middle of the resort. You can also reserve activities—such as scuba diving, fishing, boating tours, and snorkeling—directly through the hotel.
Long Island has one major road that runs from the northern end of the island all the way to the southern tip called the Queen’s Highway, giving you a fairly easy route around the island. This list of taxis and car rental services from the Ministry of Tourism provides plenty of options to choose from.
What to Do
Dean’s Blue Hole
If you’re not familiar, a blue hole is a large marine sinkhole. Dean’s Blue Hole is the second deepest in the world (663 feet), and the location of an annual freediving competition known as Vertical Blue. The tranquil spot is open to the public, attracting swimmers, scuba divers, snorkelers and cliff jumpers.
Freediver Luke Maillis, who grew up on the island and also runs his own boating charter company, has dived Dean’s Blue Hole many times, getting down about to about 190 feet on multiple occasions. “You can see the whole diameter of the blue hole from the beach,” Maillis says. “There’s coral on the edges, and there’s good visibility down to about 150 feet. When there’s a supermoon, you can look up from inside the blue hole and see all the rocks, sponges, fish, and coral lit up. It’s a beautiful sight.”
If you want to pick up some gear on your way to Dean’s Blue Hole, the It’s Under the Sun Deli and Coffee shop is located just down the road and offers snorkeling and scuba diving rentals for tourists.
History comes to life at Hamilton’s Cave, a hot spot for underground adventure. Run by Leonard Cartwright and his family, this cave system is thought to be the largest set of caves discovered in all of the Bahamas, and was previously inhabited by the Arawak Indian Tribe. Cartwright’s family purchased the cave property—including 90 total acres—for £27 from the English in the 1840s. Since, the Cartwright family has found numerous Arawak artifacts inside including dishes and tools. The location has a fresh underwater spring; many stalactites and stalagmites; as well as various species of bats, lizards, frogs, and crabs.
How to see it: You can contact Cartwright directly to schedule an individual or group tour. It costs $15 for adults and $8 for children. You can call (242) 337-0235 or (242) 472-1796 to make a reservation.
Cave Snorkeling, Fishing, and Boating
You’re going to want to explore the beautiful water that surrounds Long Island, and there are plenty of ways to do it. Rent a kayak or small boat, or have a charter boat take you for some deep-sea fishing and island exploring. Snorkel in caves and check out the kaleidoscope of fish and coral reefs below. You can also take a boat ride out to Sandy Cay, a remote island in the Exumas that’s easily accessible from Long Island.
One of the spots out in this area was once used as a filming location for the Disney blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean. The small islands that are around the area have numerous iguanas, birds, and fish that swim on the outskirts of the sandy island, giving you some remote spots to relax and unwind. On your way to and from the island, you can also fish and snorkel if you reserve the activity with your boat charter. Here’s a list of boat rentals and trips you can choose from.
Where to Eat
If you’re looking for fresh seafood and authentic conch dishes, try The Diva’s Spot, located on the Queen’s Highway in McKanns toward the middle of the island. The stand offers a terrific vantage point of the ocean, and is run by Mrs. Tryphena Bowe-Knowles, who cooks all the food herself. Get the conch salad, conch fritters, and grouper, and ask for “Diva’s Kiss”—a cocktail made cherry, orange, and pineapple juices, and an alcohol of your choosing. It’s common for locals to play dominoes until late at night.
At Max’s Conch Bar, located at Deadman’s Cay Settlement in McKanns not far from Diva’s, Max himself (his real name is Gary) will make you fresh conch salad and maybe even give you a demonstration about how he makes it. His version of conch salad has kick to it, and he uses a mix of onion, tomatoes, conch, green pepper, a hint of orange and lime juice as his ingredients. Other specialities include pepper steak, fried shrimp, cracked conch fish, jerk chicken, as well as burgers, Cuban sandwiches, and homemade sangria.
Some other spots include the Lighthouse Point Restaurant, which specializes in pork-belly sandwiches, as well as the Sunset Bar & Grill, which is owned and operated by Rodney Gibson, who also serves as the chef. Like many restaurants on Long Island, the Sunset serves conch, but the specialties here also include grouper and lobster, much of which Rodney himself will go out and catch. He’s also known to serenade guests with original songs he wrote for the piano. And, as you may have guessed, with a same like the Sunset Bar & Grill, there’s a perfect view of the setting sun from the enclosed patio.
Check out more travel and adventure options from Men’s Journal here.