When you’re in need of clear blue waters, white-sand beaches, and warm tropical breezes, a vacation to Staniel Cay in the Bahamas is just what the doctor ordered. On this small island, located in the Exuma Cays, the easy-breezy island life is accessible to everyone.
From snorkeling in underground caves through vibrant coral reefs to swimming with wild pigs or trekking along sandy beaches inhabited by prehistoric ancestors, Staniel Cay’s adventures are as unique and exotic as they are beautiful.
To help you plan the ultimate tropical vacation, we’ve created this guide to everything Staniel Cay. All you need to do is book a villa and a flight and start counting the days til you can dip your toes in the sand in paradise.
About Staniel Cay
Staniel Cay is a tiny jewel tucked in the center of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Located about 75 miles southeast of Nassau, Staniel Cay is one of 365 cays and islands that compose the 120-mile long archipelago, also known as the Exuma Islands.
Originally settled in the 18th century, Staniel Cay began as a quiet outpost built by fishing and boat building industries. In modern times, Staniel Cay has evolved to become a mecca for natural beauty enthusiasts and relaxation.
Getting to and Around Staniel Cay
Spanning just a mile in length, this charming island is accessible only by boat or plane. Flights can be booked through Maker’s Air in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Flights depart heading southeast of Florida and arrive on Staniel Cay approximately an hour and a half later.
Getting to Exuma by boat is undeniably an adventure in itself. Most travelers begin their sea voyage from Nassau, the nearest major city. The journey can be an especially long one with variable sea conditions and comfort!
On the island, visitors often find it easiest to travel by golf cart. Though you can walk the entire length of the island in under an hour, golf carts are the quickest and most efficient way to get around the island.
Best Time to Visit Staniel Cay
While Staniel Cay is beautiful to visit at any time of year, you may want to purchase travel insurance if you book your trip during hurricane season (typically between early June and late November). Warmer sea temperatures increase storm activity during these months and make turbulent tropical storms and hurricanes much more likely.
The Sweet Spot: December to May
Visiting during the winter and early spring months from December to May typically offers the most favorable weather conditions. Even in the winter months, the water temperature averages a balmy 76 degrees, making swimming and snorkeling a year-round possibility at this small cay.
Where to Stay in Staniel Cay
When booking your stay in Staniel Cay, you’ll want to consult with a Staniel Rental expert who can help you with accommodations and offer local knowledge to help you curate the perfect trip. Expansive luxurious villas are perfect for larger groups who want all the tropical amenities the Exuma’s afford including wave runners, sea-bobs, infinity pools with swim up bars, and outdoor kitchens for a breezy dining experience.
You can also book a fishing charter, or golf cart rental, or hire a private chef to cater the perfect meal with our concierge services.
The private Lazy Bay Villas are another excellent option. They overlook a turquoise-blue lagoon and offer the perfect deck to lounge on while taking in the views. Each villa has a plunge pool for you to relax in and offers all of the modern amenities and comforts you’d expect in a luxury home, including high-speed Wi-Fi and a fully stocked kitchen. As a bonus, you can park your boat or boat rental just outside of your cozy bungalow until you’re ready to set off in search of your next adventure in the Cays!
Things to Do in Staniel Cay
Many visitors to Staniel Cay are content to spend their days basking in the light of the sun on the pristine beaches or snorkeling in the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, however, visitors to the Exuma Islands soon discover that island time is different from real life time, and suddenly hiking around a tropical island, or hanging out at a marina feeding nurse sharks can be all the adventure you need.
Rent a Boat
If you’re keen to take see what makes the Bahamas so special, renting a boat is the way to go. For those with boating experience, there are a couple of options for Staniel Rentals supplies state-of-the-art 34′ Jupiter power yachts by the half-day, day, or week. You’ll find most excursions an easy day trip from the island. For those looking for a guided experience, you can also arrange a private tour of the stunning surrounding cays.
Snorkel at Thunderball Grotto
Off the coast of Staniel Cay, you’ll find an incredibly intricate underwater cave system perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. This spot was given the name Thunderball Grotto after it served as the backdrop for the James Bond movie, “Thunderball.”
Escape to an underwater world brimming with diverse marine life like yellowtail snappers and angelfish. You’ll swim through stunning underwater caves while stumbling upon secret cave entrances and exits.
Visit the Swimming Pigs at Pig Beach
No visit is complete without the quintessential Exuma experience; the famous swimming swine! You’ll definitely want to pay a visit to the nearby Pig Beach and take a dip in the salty sea with the famous swimming pigs. Located at Big Major Cay, just north of Staniel Cay, you’ll find beaches full of friendly bovines. These pigs will run right up to you and hop in the ocean for a swim. Boat tours can be arranged through Swimming with Pigs.
Swim with the Sharks at Compass Cay
If swimming with the pigs got you excited to meet the local wildlife, you can travel onward to Compass Cay to swim with the sharks. You can hop in and hang out with nurse sharks anywhere from 7.5 feet to 14 feet in length. Brave swimmers can get up close and personal, even petting these cold-blooded carnivores. Staniel Cay Adventures is an excellent option for a guided tour.
Explore Iguana Beach
If you’re not up for sharks or pigs, you can take a step back into a prehistoric era and visit the Northern Bahamian Rock Iguanas of Iguana Beach, located south of Staniel Cay. These native reptiles have inhabited the islands for 18,000 years, and while their population has recently declined, you can find about 5,000 iguanas in their protected habitat in Bitter Guana Cay.
Explore the Ruins of Pablo Escobar’s Sunken Plane
If you’re more of a true crime history buff, you can visit the famous wreckage of Pablo Escobar’s sunken plane in Norman’s Cay near the top of the Exumas. The skeleton of this plane was once a cartel plane en route to drop off illegal cargo into the United States. Forty years ago, it missed its landing mark and crashed into a sandbar on the southern end of the cay. Visitors today can go snorkeling around the ruins and see the rainbow of different fish species that now call it home.
Where to Eat & Drink
While you won’t find many restaurant options inland on Staniel Cay, the few that are available offer a wide variety of delicious options.
Staniel Cay Yacht Club Restaurant
Perhaps the most popular spot to eat on the island is the Staniel Cay Yacht Club Restaurant. You can enjoy your meal in the Sea Level Dining Room overlooking the beautiful scenery of the Exuma Cays or hang out in the Captain’s Lounge and have a drink with your meal. Their expansive menu features everything from soups and salads to savory fresh lobster dishes. Dinner reservations are required.
Big Dog’s Restaurant and Bar
Big Dog’s Restaurant and Bar is the place to go for island comfort food. The dishes vary from day to day and include local dishes like oxtail with rice and beans and traditional dishes like Bahamian Chicken Souce Soup.” This laid back bar is also a great place to grab a beer and chat up the locals for some insider tips on your visit.
The Flying Pig Cafe
The Flying Pig Cafe is located close to the airport and is a convenient place to grab lunch on your way in. This laid back eatery is actually the only coffee shop on the island.
In addition to great coffee, you can also grab breakfast, lunch, and dinner here or enjoy a drink at their full bar. The menu here includes everything from paninis to home cooked Bahamian fare like delicious Conch Fritters and savory Coconut Chickpea Curry.
Beaches on Staniel Cay
Staniel Cay is an idyllic destination for a day of beach hopping. The area is renowned for its stunning white sands and crystal-clear blue waters. Five main beaches adorn Staniel Cay: Town Beach, Pirate Trap Beach, Ocean Beach, Ho Tai Cay Beach, and South Beach. Each beach offers a unique blend of beauty and tranquility.
This delightful spot combines local life and beachside relaxation. It’s conveniently located near the main settlement on the island, making it easily accessible for visitors. The beach offers a long stretch of beautiful white sand and excellent proximity to town which means you have quick access to local restaurants and shops.
Pirate Trap Beach
Toward the island’s northern tip, you’ll discover Pirate Trap Beach. This beach is surrounded by shallow waters ripe with colorful fish and coral, making it the perfect spot for snorkeling or kayaking.
On the island’s eastern side, you’ll find this secluded gem nestled just beyond the rocky bluffs, providing a stunning backdrop for your beach day.
Ho Tai Cay Beach
On the southern end of the island, you’ll find several smaller beaches, including Ho Tai Cay Beach. Located on an inlet, this beach offers picnic tables, a tire swing, and a volleyball net in the water.
From Ho Tai Cay Beach, you can take a trail that leads to South Beach. As the longest beach on Staniel Cay it is an intimate escape for sun worshippers on the island. The waters are calm and tranquil here, perfect for a family day at the beach.
Nightlife on Staniel Cay
This quiet island has a mellow after dinner scene, but if you’re looking for some fun after dark, you’ll want to head out to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The bar here is open from 10 a.m. to midnight and offers an assortment of drinks including signature Caribbean cocktails.
This iconic island bar draws in an eclectic crowd of travelers, full-time residents, sailors, and even the occasional celebrity. You can enjoy some lively music and play a round of pool while hanging out here.
Experience Island Life on Staniel Cay
From its white-sand beaches to the clear blue waters that lap at the shores, Staniel Cay is perhaps the crown jewel of the Bahamas and the Exuma Cays. One visit here, and you’ll fall in love with the slow beat of island life. Book the vacation of your dreams today and experience your own little piece of paradise in Staniel Cays!