Since I have a hard time hiding my obsession for Eleuthera, I am asked often about how to set up a similar vacation in this island paradise. I have to admit, this is tricky because I don’t want anyone to be disappointed. My husband and I love, love, love it there. However, at the risk of offending, it is not the best vacation destination for everyone.
If you love:
- Improvising (For example, water and electricity are not 100% reliable, stores are not like in the U.S.)
- Nature watching over people watching
- Driving to explore
- Taking a rough, unmarked two track for a mile that may lead to the most beautiful beach, or be turned around at a sand pit, or locked gate
- Spending hours at a time with no other people around
- Stopping for food at a place that looks like a person’s house with a handmade restaurant sign out front, who’s posted hours and menu may, or may not hold true
- Not seeing a single recognizable brand named commercial establishment
- Understanding that “being on time” or a “sense of urgency” is not everyone’s thing
- That doing nothing is doing something
Then Eleuthera might be for you.
However, if you are looking for:
- A place where you can easily find anything you forgot to pack available at a store (innovation is a plus)
- Shopping and/or nightlife
- Detail on what to do, how to find things, and support in the event your plans fall through
- Restaurants with very specific types and preparations of food
- All inclusive experiences
- Having someone look out for you
- Everything being planned and running on a set time frame
Then, Eleuthera may not be your cup of tea. Each person’s idea of relaxation is different and it’s important to do some research ahead of time by reading blogs and looking into places such as Trip Advisor’s Travel Forum to get an idea of what to expect.
In case you think Eleuthera might be a great place to check out, here’s how I do it:
- Vacation Rental. We have been doing family vacations for about six years, all of them staying in rental homes. We find it so much more relaxing since there is more privacy. Having a kitchen not only saves money, but keeps eating at restaurants a special treat. Since these go fast and define the trip, I always start with booking the rental first. I check VRBO, Trip Advisor, and Airbnb. There are other ones out there, like flipkey to check out, too. Eleuthera does have some hotels and a few resorts, but most lodging options are through house rentals. There are all types available, depending on your budget. Things to consider are if you want to enjoy sunrises (Atlantic side), or sunsets (Caribbean side), if you want to be near a sandy beach or coral beach, and if you want to stay near a settlement or in the country. Check the Trip Advisor Forum link above if you are seeking specific amenities such as a child friendly beach, or surfing. We have paid everywhere from $111 a night to $250 a night for three bedroom homes, usually with use of a couple of kayaks and close proximity to the Caribbean side.
- Flight to Nassau. Next, I book flights. We live in West Michigan, so I always book an early flight out of Chicago’s Midway Airport on Southwest. We are Southwest members and use their credit card for points. With the companion pass and saved points, there are four of us and we don’t end up spending more than $500 total for this part of the trip. We typically fly out of Midway very early in the morning, to Ft. Lauderdale, then get a second flight to Nassau, arriving in the early afternoon. Be Aware: before booking the flight to Nassau, I check the inter-island flights to Eleuthera to make sure there are a few compatible options.
- Flight from Nassau to Eleuthera. It is important to understand that Eleuthera has three airports: North Eleuthera, Governor’s Harbor and Rock Sound. I worry more about flight times that match coming in and out of Nassau than I do where our rental house is. However, do keep in mind that the speed limit is 45 m.p.h. and driving at night is not ideal. The airlines to consider from Nassau are Southern Air, Bahamas Air and Pineapple Air
Rock Sound Airport Lobby
- Car Rental. I always check with the homeowner about recommendations first. Eleuthera is very reliant on the tourist dollar and small businesses need our help. Prices run $60-$80 per day and will probably have a delivery fee added. The word “Jeep” is synonymous with “S.U.V.” Someone will meet you at the airport, you will sign a receipt and drive away – on the LEFT. Except for renting from Big Daddy, there is little comparison to renting a car in the United States and is in fact, one of the first indications that things are more mellow on the island. This is so much so that I made an entire blog post about it, which you might want to read here. By the way, you must be 21 to rent a car and I would not recommend using a car as part of a home rental because you will not be insured in the event of an accident.
- Packing. You will not need as much as you think. Pack shorts/skirts, some short sleeve shirts, a long sleeve (for sun protection), a hat, swimsuit(s), and importantly a pair of shoes for rough coral rocks. Some beaches are nothing but soft pink, or white sand for miles, but if you do any amount of exploring, an old pair of tennis shoes or my favorite, Chacos, are a must. There are some fancy restaurants, but most everything is very casual, but modest. We bring our own snorkel equipment and still pack everything into a carry on.
- Money. Although we’ve seen a change in the few years we’ve been visiting, Eleuthera is mostly a cash economy. U.S. dollars are completely interchangeable with Bahamian dollars. We typically take about $150 for each day, spending most at the beginning on groceries and supplies. Although finding a cash machine is not impossible, they can be unreliable. We’ve had luck in Governor’s Harbour and Rock Sound, with a very low fee for use.
Waiting outside the North Eleuthera airport during an unexpected flight delay of several hours. Thank goodness, we had leftover pizza from Nate and Jenny’s and cheap Kaliks available across the street. We did miss our connection in Nassau, and then again in Chicago, but everything worked out in the end. Don’t worry, things will always work out!