Would you consider Eleuthera, one of the Family Islands in the Bahamas, but don’t know enough about the island to choose it as a destination?
Well, I’ve got some Eleuthera travel tips that will help you decide if it’s for you and better prepare for the experience if it is!
There are four things you really need to know before you go.
Are you surprised?
The fact that there are 4 Eleuthera travel tips you need to know in order to start planning your dream vacation to one of the most beautiful beach destinations on this planet pretty much means you don’t have to waste a lot of time fretting over a lot of details. That makes trip planning so much easier!!
Let’s get started.
1. Eleuthera Travel Tip #1: What should you pack?
This may be a turn off for many, but the island has biting insects and you need to know that. No-see-ums or sand flies, which are pervasive whenever there isn’t a breeze, have ruined many a trip and have landed numerous visitors in one of the public clinics seeking relief. Mosquitoes, or wings with teeth as the locals call them, are usually most bothersome at dawn and dusk. Trust me on this one, they sometimes swarm in ferocious packs and can be extremely aggressive. They are especially bad during rainy season (July) and after large rain storms.
There are lots of concoctions that have been offered on how to deal with them. Regimens of antihistamines, such as Benadryl and Pepcid, along with a mix of vitamin B supplemented with organic insect repellents have been recommended by numerous visitors and residents. However, multiple scientific studies have shown that vitamin B has no value whatsoever as an insect repellent. Most of the people who claim otherwise are probably vitamin B salespeople! If you took it and had fewer bites you likely experienced breezy conditions, were exposed to fewer bites or were just plain lucky. Antihistamines taken for several weeks continuously before one’s trip can help if you are hyper-allergic to bug bites and the ensuing itching welts. I have seen firsthand what happens when someone has an allergic reaction and it’s not pretty. Many people claim that they don’t get bites at all. Likely, what is happening is that they don’t get the allergic reaction to the bite that can cause itchy, puss filled welts that can last for weeks on end.
What you want to pack is a bug spray that has DEET along with a good after bite treatment to apply after each bite. Other types of insect repellent can be effective, but sprays with DEET are a sure thing. I personally use a spray called Ben’s with either 80% or 100% DEET to increase the duration of protection. You’ll also want to pack cover-ups such as light pants, socks and a long sleeved shirt to wear in the mornings or evenings to help minimize the amount of exposed skin. Finally, if you are already there and forgot these things, then try to find a breeze when outdoors and use air conditioning when indoors. No-see-ums go dormant in cooler conditions and when there is a breeze they have a much harder time to land and bite.
Here’s another one of my Eleuthera travel tips: Don’t overpack!
Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells are very casual islands. You can dine out at the most elegant restaurant and still be perfectly acceptable in shorts, t-shirt and sandals. During the day you’re not going to be dressed in more than that and most likely you’ll be in a bathing suit most of the time. If you feel you need to pack something dressier then by all means go ahead, but don’t overdo it. A light summer dress for ladies and a button down short sleeved polo with casual shorts for men is perfectly fine. The airlines are going to charge you if you carry more than 50 lbs in your luggage (40 lbs on some of the smaller carriers) and I’ve learned over the years that bringing two or three changes of clothing for a week, along with a couple of bathing suits, is more than enough for how casual every place on the island is. If your luggage weighs more than 30 lbs then you’ve probably packed too much.
Here one more tidbit to consider.
Make sure to bring plenty of suntan lotion. You can find it on the island, but it’s expensive.
To summarize, pack bug spray with Deet, after bite treatment, suntan lotion, a light cover-up, and half as many clothes as you were thinking of bringing!
2. Eleuthera Travel Tip #2: Should you rent a car, a golf cart or get around by taxi?
Eleuthera is 100 miles long and 2 miles wide. The main highway, Queen’s Highway, is long, narrow, mostly unlit, and with very few road markings such as dividing lines. Bahamians tend to drive fast. The highway has only two lanes. Plus, you drive on the left, which is unfamiliar territory to many visitors. The roads have many blind turns. The speed limit is 45 mph on most of the highway and 15 mph in the settlements. If you visit either Harbour Island or Spanish Wells, then a golf cart is the only way that visitors move about on those islands. They can be rented by the day at the government docks and it’s usually best to reserve one in advance. Driving around Eleuthera in a golf cart is not an option for safety reasons.
Since golf carts are out on Eleuthera then what about relying on taxis?
Here’s the thing. Taxis are available, but the taxi drivers work out of the airports. That means if you are staying away from the airport then it’s probably going to take a while for your driver to get to you; not very convenient. It’s not like you can just stand on a corner and hail a cab although hitch hiking is a perfectly acceptable way to get around for many folks on the island. If you are trying to get anywhere on a schedule then you will need to make a reservation. It is also true that since the settlements are rather far apart, the cost of your ride will not be inexpensive. For example, from North Eleuthera Airport (ELH) to Governor’s Harbour Airport (GHB), a trip that totals approximately 25 miles, it will cost you about $120US. A single taxi ride can sometimes cost as much or even more than the cost of renting a car for the whole day! Another consideration is that most of the places you are going to visit, such as the hidden beaches, natural attractions, restaurants, etc. are remote. Because of the cost, inconvenience and length of time to get a ride, I am advising you to not rely on taxis unless you just need transportation to and from the airport.
A car rental is the way to go and I would recommend getting a vehicle that has some type of clearance underneath it so that you can more easily manage the dirt roads and rocky beach paths that lead the way to most of the hidden beaches. A sedan is fine if you are going to stick to the settlements and most of the easily reached beaches, but it’s pretty impractical for the ones that are a bit more challenging to find. Remember, too, that when reserving your vehicle, every type of small SUV is called a jeep by the Bahamians. If you ask for a jeep you are likely not going to get an actual Jeep brand of automobile. Vehicle rental costs range from $60 to $90 per day and there is no additional cost for insurance. Most of the rental vehicle businessmen will want cash or a personal check although they are starting to move towards credit card transactions.
3. Eleuthera Travel Tip #3: How much money should you bring?
You are going to want to budget between $100 to $200 per day per person with my recommended budget being $150. This is excluding your transportation and lodging costs and is really meant as a budget for food, drinks and entertainment. I know there are a lot of variables that go into this question such as how often will you eat in versus out? When you eat out will you be going to higher end restaurants or budget friendly take-aways? Will you be drinking expensive alcohol drinks? Will you be engaging in activities that require equipment rentals such as kayaking, paddle boarding or scuba? Will you be going on any paid excursions or tours? In general, visitors find the price of groceries and dining out to be relatively expensive. So, let me explain my thinking and how I came up with that number.
I’m assuming that most people will be staying at a place where they can have at least half of their meals in, and all or most of their breakfasts. While groceries are generally expensive on any tropical island, you can find things to purchase that won’t break the bank. Let’s budget $150 per person for a week’s worth of groceries or ~$20 a day.
For eating out let’s budget $40 for lunch and $80 for dinner per person. That’s $120 a day, however, we’re only eating out half the time so we’ll cut it down to an average of $60 per day over the course of a one week trip. This budget also assumes that we do a mix of more expensive meals with some moderate ones.
Let’s do a budget for alcohol. A case of beer is going to run $60 or $2.50 a bottle. A bottle of wine will be an average of $30 or about $5 a glass. A bottle of rum is less than $10 or $0.60 per drink. A mixed drink at a bar is going to be around $15 – $20 and that’s just the way it is. I’ll assume that most visitors will do a mix of all of these choices. Let’s say we budget for 4 adult beverages a day across this mix. If we have 4 drinks out the cost is $80 on the high side. If we have four rum drinks at your rental we spend $2.40. Let’s meet more towards the middle, but stay on the low side because it won’t be often that we have four premium drinks at an expensive restaurant each day. We’ll make our booze budget $20, which is probably still on the high side.
Lastly, let’s take into consideration our activities. Fortunately, most activities on Eleuthera, such as beaching or visiting the attractions, are free! What can be expensive are guided tours and equipment rentals. If we allocate budget for two planned excursions – one a tour and one a rental – we’re looking at a budget of $150 for the tour and $80 for equipment for a total of $230. Over the course of a week that comes out to about a $33 daily average.
Our daily budget = $20 for groceries, $60 for dining out, $20 for drinks and $33 for entertainment, which comes out to $133. If we budget $133 per person it fits nicely in the range of $100 to $200. You can spend a little more or you can spend a little less, but I’m going to round that up to the nearest $50 and use $150 per person per day as a good round number to start with. You should also be aware that credit cards are still not widely accepted on Eleuthera. Cash is still king so plan on bringing it else you must frequent the ATMs, which can only be found in the settlements of Governor’s Harbour and Rock Sound.
4. Eleuthera Travel Tip #4: Is it worth it to go to Lighthouse Beach?
In a word, YES, it is worth it to go visit Lighthouse Beach, but, first, let’s talk about why some folks choose not to go there. (Click Here for a short video tour of Lighthouse Beach.)
It’s far, the road is a mess and there are few, if any, street signs.
Those are the three main objections to not making the trip, and I get it. Who wants to spend 3 to 4 hours of their precious vacation time traveling back and forth to a beach, or getting lost, when you can easily visit any number of beaches within minutes of where you are staying if not right outside your back door? However, Lighthouse Beach is not just any beach. It’s arguably the most dramatically beautiful beach on the island and maybe one of the best beaches in the world. With its striated limestone rock formations, overlook cliffs, sand-filled caves, and a channel where you can swim between two connecting seas, it’s simply magical and breathtakingly gorgeous!
But, how bad is the road, really?
It’s bad, but manageable. The ruts are deep. Some of the holes look like they’re big enough to swallow a Volkswagen. There are loose rocks and oftentimes large pockets of standing water. It’s likely that you’ll have to drive so far to one side of the road that your vehicle is going to get scratched by the branches and vegetation, what we call earning your Eleuthera stripes! If whomever rented you your vehicle doesn’t want you getting their car scratched, then there’s a reason not to go. Otherwise, it’s slow going, but you’ll make it. Even in a sedan. It’s much more comfortable to have a vehicle that has some ground clearance so that you don’t risk bottoming out in places, but if you take your time, keep your tires on the high spots, and when the holes are too deep, keep your tires as far to the edge of the road as possible, you’ll make it.
There has also been talk for some time about it being closed off to tourists as the property has been bought by The Walt Disney Company and they plan to turn it into a cruise ship port. They haven’t started any building. The road is still open. There has been no announcement as to when or if that will change.
Go see Lighthouse Beach while you can. It will make enough of an impression that I bet you’ll remember it and the experience for the rest of your life!!
So there it is. You have now learned 4 things you need to know before traveling to Eleuthera. I hope you all have a better vacation because of this article.