Turquoise waters and white sand beaches beckon visitors to the Bahamas year after year. While Nassau is great for those wanting a fast-paced trip full of the city’s amenities, those searching for a laid back beach vibe look a bit further south to the Exuma Cays. It’s here you’ll find the stuff of postcards and low-key island living.

Staniel Cay is the postcard destination. Known for its white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters, this small island is the very picture of Bahamian life. And while you could easily spend your entire trip relaxing on the beach and gazing out into the sea, you’ll also find a surprising amount of activities for an island that’s only about a mile in length.

To help you plan your trip, we’ve rounded up the very best things to do in Staniel Cay. All you need to do now is plan a flight, book your Lazy Bay Villa, and set your sights on relaxation!

1. Explore Staniel’s Beaches

Photo Credit: Alexander Chaikin

Of course, the main objective of any tropical vacation is to log lots of time on the shore. Spending a full day beach hopping on Staniel Cay is a day well spent. While the shoreline may seem short on a map, you’ll find several Instagram worthy beaches to visit on your trip.

Pirate’s Trap Beach

Legend has it that this beach, located on the island’s northern end, was once used by pirates to lure unsuspecting ships into hidden traps. It’s hard to imagine those days when visiting this beautiful and secluded cove. This spot is the perfect place to go paddleboarding or take out a kayak.

Staniel Cay Yacht Club Beach

This beach is located on the grounds of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Here you can grab a meal, and then take a leisurely stroll around the shoreline. You can even order food and have it delivered to you, allowing you to picnic while soaking up your surroundings.

Ocean Beach

Situated on the eastern side of the island you’ll find Ocean Beach. This beach is surrounded by rocky bluffs, creating a beautiful backdrop. You’ll find it the perfect place to listen to waves crash on the rocks nearby while relaxing in the sand with a good book.

Ho Tai Beach

This beautiful beach is located on an inlet on the southeastern coastline of Staniel Cay. It’s a great place to spend the day at the beach and even offers amenities like picnic tables and a volleyball net.

Southern Beaches

These beaches are mostly adjoined to private homes. This means they are largely inaccessible to the public. However, there is at least one small access point where you can take a dip in the crystal blue waters.

2. Rent a Golf Cart and Explore the Island

Perhaps the easiest way to get around Staniel Cay is via golf cart. These compact, motorized vehicles are eco-friendly and fun to drive. You can explore the village of Staniel Cay easily, traversing the entire island in a mere five minutes!

You’ll find plenty of options for golf cart rentals that can accommodate anywhere from 2-6 people. These battery-powered, open-air vehicles allow you to experience the stunning scenery of the island while making all the island’s attractions and restaurants easily accessible.

3. Relax in the Comfort of your Vacation Rental

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Caron

Most people come to the Cays in search of one thing missing in their daily lives; the utter peace and relaxation of island life. There’s no better way to experience it than in your Staniel Cay Rental.

This rental company offers a variety of accommodations from quaint bungalows overlooking a beautiful lagoon to larger vacation homes capable of accommodating more guests. Each of their properties offer both luxury and comfort and are fully stocked with all of the amenities you need including fast wifi. You’ll find plunge pools at the villas and a pool at most of the other properties, giving you plenty of time to relax in the waters and enjoy the views.

4. Catch a Sunset at Staniel Cay Yacht Club

Photo Credit: Daniel Piraino via Flickr CC 2.0

When you’re looking for a dining experience that showcases the culinary delights of the Bahamas, you’ll want to head to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club Restaurant. Located on the northwestern end of Staniel Cay, overlooking the rest of the West Indies, the Yacht Club is known for its picturesque, serene setting and amazing views.

At the Yacht Club you’ll find a fine dining option in their Sea Level Dining room. Here you can enjoy artfully crafted dishes by candlelight while taking in views of the beautiful Exuma blues. Reservations are required for dinner and seating is limited.

You’ll also discover more casual dining experiences at the Captain’s Lounge and The Deck. These are more laid back venues with equally delicious food options but very different settings. The Captain’s Lounge is ripe with island history, serving as the original dining room for the Staniel Cay Yacht Club since 1956. The Deck allows you to dine al fresco while taking in the scenic beauty of the area.

This part of the island is well known for its beautiful sunsets, so time your meal with the setting sun for an extra treat!

5. Have a Beer with the Locals at Big Dogs

When you’re wanting a true local experience, head to Big Dogs Bar and Grill. This small restaurant is one of the only other spots to eat on the island. It offers delicious Bahamian fare like Chicken Souse and is the perfect spot to get a true taste of the Bahamas.

While you’re there, be sure to grab a couple of beers and chat with the locals. Sometimes the best travel guides are locals with insider tips about places to see on the island.

6. Hire a Boat for a Fishing Excursion

Photo Credits: MDV Edwards

At Staniel Rentals, our experts are happy to help you plan the fishing excursion of your dreams. You can go offshore fishing, deep sea fishing, and even spearfishing. Our experienced captains know how to put you on the big fish.

Our fishing charters are 6 hours in length and include a captain who knows the best spots to fish. Our crew will also help you with your tackle and bait and even help you clean your catch at the end of a successful day. We also offer boat tours.

7. Go Scuba Diving with Staniel Cay Adventures

Photo Credit: JonMilnes

If you’ve always wanted to give scuba diving a try, there’s no better place to do it than Staniel Cay. You can book a dive trip with Staniel Cay Adventures and explore the underwater world and marine life surrounding this scenic cay. Don’t be surprised if you encounter a sea turtle or sting ray relaxing in its natural habitat.

All trips are guided by certified instructors who offer first class instruction before the dive and guide you step by step as you take to the seas. They’ll both assemble and disassemble your equipment for you and take care of everything afterward. You’ll even get to indulge in a post dive snack and dry off with a fluffy, warm towel. Staniel Cay Adventure’s dive team strives to provide a boutique dive experience for their guests.

8. Visit Thunderball Grotto

Photo Credit: Patrick Horton

If you’re a fan of spelunking, Staniel Cay offers a unique excursion you will not want to miss. Just off its coastline, you’ll find an intricate underwater cave system known as Thunderball Grotto. Named after the James Bond movie, this grotto is an underwater network of limestone caverns and chambers.

At the entrance to the grotto, you’ll also encounter a vibrant coral reef brimming with colorful fish and corals. As you explore this underground oasis, don’t be surprised when you stumble upon secret entrances and exits.

9. Swimming with Pigs

Photo Credit: Russell Ingram

Perhaps one of the most unique experiences you can have in the Cays is swimming with the pigs of Pig Beach. Located just north of Staniel Cay in Big Major Cay, these friendly bovines love to take a dip in the salty sea.

Local guides advise visiting early in the morning to see the swimming pigs at their most energetic and have the best chance of them hopping in the sea with you. Still, it’s not uncommon to arrive just to find the pigs lounging on the beach and basking in the sun. These aquatic pigs are just a 10 minute boat ride from Staniel Cay. You can book a pigs tour or a whole day tour around the Cays if you don’t want to rent a boat.

10. Visit Compass Cay and Swim with Nurse Sharks

Photo Credit: Zoe Esteban

If you want to swim with something slightly less cute, you can head north of Big Major Cay to Compass Cay. Here, you are able to take a dip with some of the most notorious predators of the sea: sharks.

Never fear, though, the nurse sharks you share the turquoise waters with are friendly and well accustomed to human interaction. Visitors of all ages enjoy swimming amongst these calm creatures. While they can grow up to 14 feet, they remain relatively small for sharks. They are not aggressive hunters and use their small blunt teeth to suck on rather than bite their prey,

11. Walk Among the Iguanas

Photo Credit: Giongi63

After you’ve swam with the pigs and cuddled some sharks, head to Bitter Guana Cay’s Iguana Beach. Here, you’ll find Bahamian Rock Iguanas walking along the shores, an ode to their prehistoric predecessors.

This island is home to about 5,000 of these creatures. These reptiles can grow up to four feet in length and live up to forty years. The iguanas of this island are a protected species as their numbers have been fastly dwindling in the wild.

12. Discover the Ruins of Pablo Esoabar’s Plane Wreck

Photo Credit: Wirestock Creators

Perhaps one of the more dramatic excursions off the coast of Staniel Cay, is paying a visit to the ruins of the plane wreck with a seedy story. Notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar was en route to deliver illegal cargo to the United States when the plane missed its landing mark and crashed into a sandbar surrounding Norman’s Cay. The skeleton of this sunken plane remains a popular snorkeling site for visitors.

Today, nature has moved into the bones of this plane, becoming a reef for the tropical fish that live in the area. The area is shallow, approximately 10 feet deep, and perfect for snorkeling. It’s a short 30-45 minute boat ride from Staniel Cay and well worth the trip.

13. Sandbar at Pipe Creek

Pipe Creek Sandbar, located in Pipe’s Cay, is another quick day trip off the coast of Staniel Cay. Accessible by a 15-30 minute boat ride, this sand bar is a popular excursion for visitors in search of a remote escape. The incredibly shallow channels allow you to walk far out into the sea while taking in the beauty of the native marine life swimming at your feet.

It’s important to note that due to the shallow waters, this area is not suitable for larger boats. Before visiting, be sure to learn more about the tide schedule for the day, especially noting when low tide occurs.

Stay and Play Around Staniel Cay

While your Staniel Cay vacation should primarily be centered around living your best island life, you certainly won’t have to worry about being bored here. So get ready to get yourself in an island state of mind and book that vacation today!