In The Bahamas, there’s Nassau––the capital and the biggest city––and the Out Islands––a collection of pristine, secluded beaches where the island vibes are strong and life is a little more laid-back. The Abacos is part of these Out Islands, also called Family Islands, and unlike many destinations that are home to white-sand beaches and crystal-clear water (the most stunning shades of green and blue), it still feels like a secret. In The Abacos, you’ll walk along a picturesque dock and most likely be the only one there, and it’s not uncommon to find secluded stretches that feel like your own private beach. British Loyalists fleeing the United States after the American Revolution were the first known settlers in The Abacos, and the New England style remains prevalent in the present day.
The effects of Hurricane Dorian, a powerful Category 5 hurricane that hit the Abaco Islands in 2019, can still be seen and felt as recovery efforts continue, but speak to any of the locals and you’ll immediately feel their sense of pride and love for their home and everything it has to offer. Calm seas and various cays make The Abacos prime for island hopping and boating and sailing adventures, and you’re never far away from a good meal and rum punch.
Whether your ideal vacation is laying on the beach with a fruity cocktail in hand or snorkeling with turtles, you can do it all in The Abacos. The chain of islands and cays spans 120 miles, and the best way to experience it is to explore as many as you can. Each cay has its own unique personality and points of interest, from the iconic candy-striped Elbow Cay Lighthouse (featured on the Bahamian $10 bill) to chill beach bars on Great Guana Cay where the rum punch is strong and a white-sand beach (or pool) is just steps away. Island hopping between cays couldn’t be easier, with ferries making regular trips between Marsh Harbour and Elbow, Guana, and Man-O-War Cays, and charter services that allow you to choose your own adventure for the day.
A trip to The Abacos isn’t complete without eating conch in its many forms (conch salad, conch fritters, conch stew, cracked conch––the list goes on) and drinking rum punch. It seems that every restaurant, bar, and boat captain has their own carefully guarded recipe that contains some variation of coconut rum and fruit juice, and it always hits the spot. For conch salad, head to Kow’s Conch Stand in Dundas Town, Marsh Harbour, and watch in awe as owner Jade “Kow” Adderley masterfully chops fresh conch, onion, green pepper, and tomato with impressive precision and speed. For rum punch, it doesn’t get any more iconic than the Goombay Smash, which was invented by Emily Cooper, aka “Miss Emily.” You can taste the original at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar in Green Turtle Cay, which is run by Cooper’s granddaughter.
For fresh seafood and stellar sunset views, head to Colors Bahamian Restaurant in Marsh Harbor (go for the grilled lobster tail and plantains). If you’re looking to spend the whole day at the beach, take a boat to Tahiti Beach, drop your anchor, and wade over to Thirsty Cuda, a floating bar and grill serving savory bites and sweet drinks (like a frozen Almond Joy Colada).
Once you land at Marsh Harbour International Airport (MHH), you are spoiled for beach options on The Abacos island chain. Take a 10-minute cab ride to Abaco Beach Resort, check in, throw on a bathing suit, and walk straight onto the beach if you need to get your toes in the sand, stat. If you prefer your beach time with a side of adventure, take a boat tour with Brendal’s Dive Center and hand-feed stingrays on Manjack Cay. While the crew cooks up lunch, take a short walk down a path just next to Brendal’s beach setup and you’ll be rewarded with a pristine beach that’s totally empty.
Other notable beaches that are a drive or boat ride away include Treasure Cay Beach (a renowned white-sand beach bordering the brilliant blue Sea of Abaco), Ocean Beach (a long strip of sandy beach that’s a great snorkeling spot), and Sandy Point Beach (an ideal choice for seashell lovers).
Visiting The Abacos by boat is also an option––it is the boating capital of The Bahamas, after all.
The Abaco Beach Resort combines sleek, modern amenities with the natural beauty and warm hospitality that perfectly captures the Bahamas’ Out Islands spirit. It’s been around since 1955 and has long been a destination for travelers seeking an authentic Bahamian escape. Situated on 40 beachfront acres in Marsh Harbour and just a 10-minute drive from Leonard M. Thompson International Airport, it’s the perfect home base for a trip to The Abacos. The resort underwent an extensive renovation and expansion after Hurricane Dorian, and all 200 slips in their marina were rebuilt. There are two dining concepts on-site: the upscale Bistro restaurant and the more relaxed Pool Bar and Terrace at Marinaville. There are two pools, paddleboard and kayak rentals, and a sand volleyball court.
Beachfront balcony rooms at the Abaco Beach Resort start at $385 per night. If you’re planning on eating at their on-site restaurant, The Bistro, expect to pay a premium for polished plates and ocean views––about $50 for main dishes. Popular beach bars like Pete’s Pub and Nipper’s charge around $20 for an entree, which doesn’t seem that steep a price when paired with abundant sunshine, crystal-clear water, and an ice-cold rum punch. Ferries from Marsh Harbour to Hope Town are $20 for an adult round-trip ticket and $15 for children. Private charters are readily available, and pricing depends on your itinerary. Peak season is from March to July, and major holidays and celebrations include the Goombay Smash Festival in July and Junkanoo on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.