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Learn where to stay in Eleuthera, Bahamas to have 1 of your best vacations

tips, Travel - Bret S. - May 18, 2021

Not sure where to stay in Eleuthera, Bahamas? Let’s see if we can help you decide.

What makes Eleuthera a tricky place to choose what part of the island to stay on is because of its 100 mile length. There is a lot to see and do on Eleuthera and most first timers don’t want to miss a thing. Those of us who have been visiting for years know to take it slow because you can’t just cram it all in on one visit, but that doesn’t stop some folks from trying. Use this information to help you narrow down your selection.

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Airports

You probably won’t choose where to stay solely based on what airport you are flying into to, but it might influence your choice. There are three airports on Eleuthera – North Eleuthera Airport (ELH) to the north, Governor’s Harbour (GHB) in the center, and Rock Sound (RSD) to the south. International flights from the US arrive from Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Miami (MIA), Atlanta (ATL) and Charlotte (CLT). The majority of those flights arrive into ELH with a few going into GHB. There are currently no commercial international flights into RSD.

Folks who fly into ELH tend to either stay on Harbour Island, one of the neighboring Family Islands that is reached by water taxi from the nearby Three Island Dock, Spanish Wells, another neighboring island, which is reached by water taxi from Gene’s Bay Dock, or the northern parts of Eleuthera. Within a half hour drive of ELH you have the settlements and communities of Current, Whale Point, Gaulding Cay, Gregory Town, Surfer’s Beach, Hatchet Bay, Rainbow Bay and James Cistern. This doesn’t mean you can’t fly into ELH and then drive to settlements that are south of James Cistern. It just means you are going to have a drive of an hour or more, which is certainly doable, but not necessarily how you want to start off your vacation after a long day of travel.

where to stay eleuthera bahamas

GHB usually costs a little more to fly into, but it’s central location makes it ideal to reach all parts of the island. Flights arrive daily from FLL and Nassau, Bahamas (NAS). In addition to easily reaching the northern settlements, almost every settlement is easily reached including the capital of Governor’s Harbour, Cupid’s Cay, North and South Palmetto Point, Double Bay, Ten Bay, Savannah Sound, Tarpum Bay, Winding Bay and Rock Sound. Click here for a list of settlements on the island and a map of their relative locations.

RSD is very convenient to fly into to reach points farther south and is perfectly fine for all the settlements and communities from Palmetto Point on down. RSD receives daily flights from NAS. The settlements and communities that are convenient to RSD are Tarpum Bay, Winding Bay, Rock Sound, Cotton Bay, Jack’s Bay and Cape Eleuthera.

The bottom line is that any part of the island can be reached from any airport. It’s just a question of how far you are willing to drive in relation to the cost of your airline ticket and convenience of your travel itinerary. I generally try to fly into GHB since my vacation property is located in Ten Bay, but am often attracted by the prices into ELH. Be aware that many rental car businesses will charge a pickup and drop off fee of around $35 for each leg of the trip if you fly into an alternate airport than the one they primarily serve. Make sure to factor that into your overall cost comparison.

WHAT NOT TO MISS

I used to think of Eleuthera as this very laid back sleepy island without much to see or do other than visit the beautiful beaches and quaint settlements, but my opinion has changed considerably over the years as I’ve learned more and more about the island. Eleuthera has an adventurous side that attracts all sorts of thrill seekers. That might be what attracted me in the first place although I convinced myself it was the peace and solitude. Regardless of what your personal preference is you can find both laid back and adventurous here.

Want to have a new beautiful beach to yourself every day? Yup, got that! Want to scuba dive, surf, snorkel in a cenote, feed swimming pigs, go deep sea fishing, explore a bat cave or jump off a cliff? Yup, we got that, too! What we don’t have a lot of are some of the more artificial touristy type experiences that you might find in other beach destinations such as jet skis, parasailing, wind surfing, booze cruises, water parks or ATVs. Picture your Eleuthera vacation as the perfect beach / ocean vacation without the use of gas engines except for those found on the boats of the fishermen and adventure tour guides. Also, be aware that you won’t find casinos or much nightlife save for the weekly fish fry in Governor’s Harbour, which is currently suspended due to Covid.

So, how do vacation experiences relate to where to stay on Eleuthera? Let’s go back again to the first point in this article, namely, that Eleuthera is 100 miles long. Further consider that the max speed limit outside of the settlements is 45mph and 15mph within with oodles of speed bumps. If you don’t want to spend most of your vacation driving a couple of hours each day then you will favor one part of the island over another.

The Northern Region

Visitors who choose the north do so generally because they want to sightsee. The majority of natural attractions and short off-island day trips are found north of Gregory Town. The northern attractions include the Glass Window Bridge, Queen’s Baths, Cow and Bull, The Cliffs, Sapphire Hole, Hatchet Bay Caves, Preacher’s Cave, Current Cut, Harbour Island, Spanish Wells, Surfer’s Beach, swimming pig tours, beach horseback riding and almost all of the cliff jumping. You can see by this list that if you stay on the northern end of the island you can easily spend your entire vacation just doing things in the north. If you want to experience parts of the central or southern regions of the island then you can easily visit those areas by treating them as day excursions.

The Central Region

Choosing the center of the island, from Governor’s Harbour to Savannah Sound, gives you equal opportunity to see both ends of the island albeit with a little bit of driving. However, you won’t have the extremely long drives traversing one end of the island to the opposite end. For that reason it is usually more convenient to stay central.

The real benefit of staying central, though, is easy access to the majority of good restaurants on the island. Governor’s Harbour is known as the home of the weekly Friday night Fish Fry, but it also has the highest density of restaurants on the island that can be found in Governor’s Harbour itself, along the Bank’s Road that runs between Governor’s and North Palmetto Point, in Palmetto Point, and in Savannah Sound. Because driving at night can be a challenge, a lot of visitors choose to stay centrally so they can do their longer sightseeing drives during the day and then have much shorter drives to eating establishments after dark.

The central region also has a number of really excellent beaches, Hayne’s Library, the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, the island’s only movie theatre, The Globe Princess, and the Ten Bay Caves historical attraction, all found within 8 miles of the capital of Governor’s Harbour.

The Southern Region

The main attraction in the south, and really on the whole island, is Lighthouse Beach. Arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, visitors often travel several hours, including the final 3 miles of nerve wracking bumps and jostles along its rutted, pockmarked access road, just to see the glorious splendor that it offers. The views from the hillside overlooking its series of cays is breathtaking. Swimming through the channel where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Exuma Bight is simply exhilarating. There is no lodging anywhere near Lighthouse Beach, however. The nearest settlement with lodging is in Rock Sound, which is approximately 15 miles north of the Lighthouse.

Eleuthera vacation rental tips

Lighthouse Beach is one of the major reasons to visit Eleuthera

Lighthouse Beach is usually only visited once on any given trip, but there are other reasons to stay in the southern settlements of Tarpum Bay, Rock Sound and Cape Eleuthera. The southern attractions include the Ocean Hole, Boiling Hole, Cathedral Caves, Deal Town ruins, Cape Eleuthera Institute, the Island School, Schooner Cays and really the best and only organized scuba diving on the island. There are several excellent restaurants in Rock Sound and along the waterfront in Tarpum Bay. The fishermen arrive daily in Tarpum Bay to sell their catch and there are several excellent conch stands there that make fresh conch salad to order.

Where to stay on Eleuthera, Bahamas

To summarize, your choice of where to stay really boils down to what you plan to see and do on your vacation and how much time you want to spend on the road getting there. Choose the northern region if you are going to be mostly visiting the northern attractions and don’t mind a long day trip to Lighthouse Beach. Choose the central region if you want the most convenient access to food choices and also want to visit attractions on both ends of the island. Choose the south to have the shortest distance to Lighthouse Beach along with long day trips to the northern attractions, Spanish Wells and Harbour Island.

Read about the best 15 Things to Do on Eleuthera!

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10 Essential Tips Packing for The Bahamas | What to wear and bring to Eleuthera for your #1 best vacation

LifeStyle, tips, Travel - Bret S. - April 1, 2021

packing for the bahamas

The most important advice I give to anyone who is packing for the Bahamas is to pack half as much as you think you’ll need. You’re going to spend the majority of your time on the beach or in the water. You don’t need much more than a swimsuit and what accompanies it for the majority of your island time, so pack a few items you can mix and match with swimwear.

When it comes to packing for Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells there are a few things to consider.  Here are some  things to know that form the basis of my packing-for-the-Bahamas recommendations.

    1. This is a tropical vacation. It’s likely going to be hot and you will be out in the sun most of the day.
    2. While it’s likely to be warm or hot you have to consider that it could also be windy or rainy depending on the time of year.
    3. The Family Islands are unfortunately home to biting insects including no-see-ums (sand flies) and mosquitoes (wings with teeth).
    4. The islands are very, very casual and you’ll be out of place dressing up too much, but dressing down is never a problem.
    5. ATMs are few and far between, and credit cards are not widely accepted.

Packing for the Bahamas – General packing tips

There are three basic recommendations that every traveler can and should follow when going to Eleuthera: pack light, pack casual, and pack for maximum protection from the sun and bugs.

packing for the bahamas

If you’re going to be mostly living in your bathing suit, and casual attire is all that is needed when eating out, shopping or doing any other non-beachy island activity, then you really don’t need very many changes of clothing. Shorts and t-shirts for guys, a summer dress and coverall for gals, plus a pair of sandals is all you really need to go anywhere on the island. Give yourself a break and pack two or three of everything. That will be all that you need for a week or two. In a pinch, there are laundromats with drop off service available if your vacation rental doesn’t have a washer and dryer.

When it comes to the sun and insects I strongly recommend packing what you are going to need. Suntan lotion with a high SPF, moisturizing skin cream, bug repellant with deet (I personally use Ben’s with 100% deet), and an afterbite cream or gel are all essential. The bites can be bad especially if you have an allergic reaction, which I’ve seen many people have. Avoiding bites is the key and to that end I recommend bringing one change of clothing that can cover you entirely – long pants or sweats, a long sleeve shirt like a rash guard and a pair of socks. Cover up completely in the evenings when sitting outdoors. The only natural thing that is going to protect you is a steady breeze. Sand flies can’t land effectively in even a light breeze and they also go dormant in air conditioning. Also, be sure to pack a hat or some type of head covering plus a good set of polarized sunglasses.

What should women pack?

These recommendations on what ladies should pack come from my wife as well as several other female friends who vacation frequently on Eleuthera. Your essentials are going to be –packing for eleuthera

  1. 2 bathing suits
  2. 2 summer dresses
  3. 1 coverall
  4. 1 set of bug stopping clothes – long pants, long sleeved shirt, long socks
  5. 1 evening bag
  6. 2 pairs of earrings
  7. 1 light jacket
  8. 2 pairs of sandals
  9. 1 pair of water shoes

That’s really all that you need and it will all fit nicely in a small suitcase that will go in the overhead!

What should men pack?

I’ve been traveling to Eleuthera at least two times a year since 1998. Most of my trips are in the two week variety, but I’ve also stayed for months at a time. In the beginning I overpacked like everybody else, but I quickly learned that I could get by with just a few changes of clothing. There isn’t an upscale restaurant or business on Eleuthera, Harbour Island or Spanish Wells that I feel out of place with shorts and a t-shirt.bahamas what to pack

      1. 2 bathing suits
      2. 2 pairs of shorts
      3. 2 t-shirts
      4. 1 casual collared shirt
      5. 1 set of bug stopping clothes – long pants, long sleeved shirt, long socks
      6. 1 light jacket
      7. 2 pairs of sandals
      8. 1 pair of water shoes

My wife and I often take one suitcase that will hold both sets of our clothing and it rarely exceeds 40 pounds. If traveling solo then I pack a small carry-on.

Should I bring anything more formal if I’m attending a church service?

Yes, if you plan on attending a church service then I would recommend slacks, a collared shirt and shoes for men and a long dress with formal low heeled shoes for women. The Bahamians definitely dress well for Sunday church service!

What about packing food or alcohol?

There’s a common misconception that because Eleuthera and the other Family Islands are remote that they don’t have populations that eat food. I know our grocery and liquor stores don’t resemble what most Americans, Canadians and Europeans enjoy back home, but here’s another way to think about it. You may not find exactly what you want, but you’ll always be able to find what you need! Sometimes that means visiting more than one store or asking around to find out where you can buy certain items, but there are very few things that you just won’t be able to find other than specific brands. I personally think one of the interesting things to do is to sample foods and products that you can’t get in your own country. Eleuthera and Harbour Island have a lot of products imported from Europe, which are very good. Give ’em a try!

For those who do want to bring their own food there’s nothing wrong with doing so. Be aware that there is a value added tax (VAT) added onto any products that are imported into the country and that includes food. Each person gets a $100 allowance VAT free, but you may be asked to pay VAT on anything over that although many items are excluded. This article isn’t intended to break down the import tariffs on every food item so I won’t attempt to do so. I do want to mention that you CANNOT bring in fresh fruit, vegetables or dairy products. All meats must be frozen or canned and in their original USDA packaging. You aren’t permitted to bring in items that are homemade such as sauce. You can’t pack with ice, dry ice or even those frozen blue ice packs. What most folks do is prepare a soft sided cooler that can be easily opened and checked. Freeze everything thoroughly at least a week before and insulate the cooler with newspaper. Bring receipts for everything so that the customs agent doesn’t have to research each item, which could be time consuming. Be aware that you are only allowed one quart of spirits or wine per person, too, without paying VAT. All beer is subject to customs duty.

Will the seasons and weather affect what I pack?

Yes, mostly definitely the seasons and weather will slightly alter your packing. In the winter months, from December to February, the temperatures can drop into the low 60’s and the winds can be quite chilly and strong. Since most houses don’t have heat you will probably want to bring one or two changes of long clothes, a slightly warmer jacket and a wind breaker. The summer months, especially July, can be very wet with a lot of hard soaking rain. Pack an umbrella if you will be traveling during rainy season. It’s also a good idea to pack a small flashlight since there is not a lot of ambient light in the evenings.

harbour island what to pack

Should I pack my drone?

Absolutely! I’ve brought my drone on several trips and the pictures and videos that you can get from an aerial perspective really enrich the memories of your vacation when you get back home. The water, sky, sand, beaches and natural attractions all look great when shot from the air so I definitely recommend bringing your drone. Be aware that you need to register your drone with the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority or it might be confiscated at the airport and not returned until the end of your trip. Here is a link to the online registration form.

spanish wells what to pack

Can I bring my pet?

Yes, pets are allowed entry to the Bahamas. There is a registration process and a small fee. Additionally, you should check with your country of origin because there may be special requirements to bring the pet back home including obtaining a health certificate along with proof of a rabies vaccine. The dog and cat importation forms can be found at the bottom of this linked page.

What about money?

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that we have very few ATMs. There are only two on Eleuthera, two in Spanish Wells and one in Harbour Island. Many businesses do not accept credit cards at all and the ones that do will add a 4 – 5% uplift. Pack enough cash to avoid having to run all over the island trying to get more.

Now that RBC has announced that they are closing their Governor’s Harbour branch, Eleuthera is left with one ATM in Governor’s Harbour and one in Rock Sound. Those two settlements are nearly 30 miles apart. If one is out of cash or there is an electrical outage, you’ve got a long ride to get some more. Plan accordingly.

What else?

The last thing I want to mention is whether it is wise to pack accessories like snorkel gear, a beach security bag or beach chairs. Renting snorkel gear can be expensive especially if you are in a group. The house you rented may have inferior equipment that doesn’t fit properly. If you plan to do a fair amount of snorkeling then I’d definitely recommend bringing a good fitting mask, snorkel and fins.

While security on the island is hardly ever a concern there have been intermittent reports of petty theft at some of the remote beaches. It makes sense to have a beach security bag and/or a waterproof phone bag that can also be used to store cash and keys if you are going to be in the water.

Finally, while your rental likely comes with plenty of beach gear including blankets, towels, umbrellas and chairs, I recently happened upon a company that makes very small portable chairs that will fit easily in a suitcase. If your house doesn’t have chairs maybe think about picking up a few of these.

Conclusion

Now that you know what to pack it’s important to know what to do so check out this blog about the 15 BEST Things to do on Eleuthera. Just remember the essentials of packing – you aren’t going to need a lot of clothing and prepare for the bugs and sun. Now that you know a little about some of the island’s quirks you are all set for what is sure to be your #1 BEST VACATION!! Happy traveling!

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THE BEST 15 Things to Do on Eleuthera

adventures, beaches, happenings, tips, Travel - Bret S. - February 7, 2021

15 best things to do on eleuthera

Eleuthera has always been known for it beaches, but there are lots of other things to do on Eleuthera besides visiting beaches. What may have started as a beach vacation may very well end up being the adventure vacation you’ve been looking for and that is what I’ve always loved about the island and its surrounding neighbors. You’re never going to run out of things to do.

By the way, the right answer for the number of

Things To Do

 on Eleuthera should really be zero. Not that there aren’t a lot of things to do, but the best way to enjoy Eleuthera is to plan to do none and then do as many as you want. Time and time again I see visitors trying to fit everything into one trip and that’s simply not possible. If you like Eleuthera, then you’ll be back…again and again and again. In my opinion, it’s best to do Eleuthera with as little planning as possible. Wake up each morning and see which way the wind blows. That’s how we do it on Eleuthera!

For those who want to know what some of the options are please read my list below of The Best 15 Things to Do on Eleuthera.

#15 – Festivals (Homecoming, Eleuthera All that Jazz, Pineapple Fest, Junkanoo)

Depending on when you are visiting the island attending festivals could easily be the number one thing for you to do on Eleuthera. Attending one of these events could be the primary reason for the timing of your trip. All of the festivals on Eleuthera are oodles of fun and will surely be a memorable part of your vacation. The combination of good food, drink and music combine perfectly and complement the charged vibe of the crowds that attend the events. Keep your eyes on the calendar. It might make sense to time your trip to coincide with one of these events. Attending a festival could make your vacation complete! Eleuthera All that Jazz is usually in April. Pineapple Fest is in June. Junkanoo is late December. The Homecoming celebrations happen throughout the year in different settlements depending on which one is celebrating.

Bright costumes color the junkanoo parade near Governor’s Harbour

#14 – Ruins

The island’s ruins serve vestige to bygone eras. Rather than remove many of the old structures, they have simply remained. Dilapidated and in disrepair, many have been enshrouded by the surrounding jungle vegetation. The ruins in the southern areas of Eleuthera have more historic relevance, in my opinion, since they show off more of the primitive island architecture. They capture a different way of life than we know it now. If you can find them, the remains of buildings such as the Deal’s Town jail and the Bannerman Town Anglican Church are really interesting and historic.

More modern ruins such as the NAVFAC facility that closed in 1980 or Arnold Palmer’s Beachfront Inn are neat finds as well, but don’t have the rich heritage of the much older Bahamian buildings. If you research the old clinic in Whale Point you’ll find that it had a very checkered past making it one of the island’s more macabre ruins.

things to do deal town jail

The ruins of the old jail in Deal Town, Eleuthera, Bahamas

#13 – Fish Fry

The weekly Friday night Fish Fry, held at Anchor Bay in the capital settlement of Governor’s Harbour, is a vivacious outdoor street party. Good food, drink and loud music begin the evening leading to limbo contests, street dancing and lots of libationary social interaction. Due to Covid the Fish Fry has been put on hold, but once restrictions have been lifted this should be on everybody’s weekly things to do list.

things to do anchor bay fish fry eluethera bahamas

The Fish Fry gets hopping once the sun goes down

#12 – Shelling

A must-do for those passionate about collecting the island shore’s free treasures, Eleuthera has so many miles of beaches that this activity could be done each day on the island. Remember to go early or at low tide, take your time, go to beaches that are less visited, of which we have quite a few, and look for wet sand. Treasure hunters are likely to find a bevy of sea glass, conch, whelk, angel wings, scallops, clams, and banded tulips to name a few. Consider picking up a copy of a shelling book such as the Bahamian Seashells guide or the Caribbean Shell Card to help identify your finds.

things to do combers beach eleuthera bahamas

Combers Beach in Tarpum Bay is one of the more prolific shelling spots

#11 – Scuba Diving

Since I’m a diver this always goes to the top of the list. Alas, there is not a lot of organized diving on Eleuthera, but the dives we do have are some of the best and most interesting in the world.

The best diving is found at the northern and southern extremes of the island. Any diving done mid island consist of either shallow shore diving or diving off of one’s own boat as there are no dive operators other than on Harbour Island and Cape Eleuthera. Valentine’s Dive Center is your choice for northern diving. Most of its boat dives will be done along the extensive reef system between Harbour Island and the Glass Window Bridge on Eleuthera in depths from 50′ to 100′. If you can coax them to do it, the best dive in the north is the Current Cut, which offer a series of 12 minute high speed drift dives in the channel that separates Eleuthera from Current Island.

To the south you have two dive operators that cover the Great Exuma Wall and the inshore shallow reefs. The wall drops to 6000′ and offers an amazing array of pelagics, rays, turtles and sharks. Your dive operator choices are Scuba Eleuthera or Ocean Fox. My favorite southern dives are the airplane wreck, Hole in the Wall and the Boiling Holes, which are cold fresh water springs that attract the best sea life and have the healthiest reef systems surrounding them.

things to do scuba diving eleuthera bahamas

Scuba Eleuthera with Captain Daryl Miller operates out of south Eleuthera

#10 – Fishing (Deep Sea, Shore, Bone)

As one of the more popular things to do on Eleuthera, there are lots of fishing options. Whether by boat, on shore or in the flats you are bound to have a good time pursuing your favorite catch. Several tour operators and many dedicated fishing guides can be found up and down the island. They will build a schedule to cater to your particular fishing passion. Bonefishing is probably the primary reason why DIY fishing enthusiasts continue to flock to Eleuthera.

things to do fishing eleuthera bahamas bonefishing

If you want the big ones, take a bonefishing excursion with Fishbone Tours out of Savannah Sound

#9 – Wildlife and Nature  (Leon Levy Preserve/Birding)

The Bahamas is home to 379 different species of bird. While they can be found everywhere on the island, one of the more unique places to do your birding is at the Leon Levy Preserve, which is located between Governor’s Harbour and North Palmetto Point along the Bank’s Road. It is the first national park on the island of Eleuthera and is an environmental educational center as well as a facility for the propagation of native plants and trees. One of it’s unique functions is to research traditional bush medicine.

The Preserve serves Bahamians and visitors who can now walk miles of trails through the native habitat, viewing the beautiful orchids, food, medicinal plants, and the hardwood trees that serve such a vital role in supporting the bird population. Check out some of their neat videos by clicking here.

things to do heron birding eleuthera

This great blue heron is doing some hunting at dusk at Ten Bay Beach

#8 – History, Sightseeing & Natural Attractions

Dating back to 1648 when Eleuthera was originally settled, there are numerous historical landmarks and buildings. Allocating at least one day of your vacation to sightseeing and visiting the natural attractions is a given. Most of the natural attractions, such as the Glass Window Bridge, The Queen’s Baths, The Cow and Bull, and The Cliffs can be found on the northern end of the island while most of the historic landmarks, plaques, and buildings can be found in the settlements or at the extreme ends of the island. Consider hiring a private guide to see the best of the best. Arthur Nixon is one of the island’s best tour guides. He can be reached at 242-359-7879.

things to do glass window bridge eleuthera bahamas

The narrowest place on Earth – The Glass Window Bridge where two oceans collide

#7 – Island hopping

A trip to Eleuthera seems not complete without a visit to neighboring Harbour Island and/or Spanish Wells. I personally prefer the former for a daytrip as there are more things to do. There are several other uninhabited islands that can also be explored by private boat as well.

things to do harbour island bahamas

The Pink Sands Beach on Harbour Island is one of the best beaches in the world

#6 – Caves

We have some pretty awesome caves, and they are quite varied. Beginners prefer Preacher’s Cave because it is open and airy. Serious cavers like the Ten Bay Caves because of their overall size, difficulty and plethora of bats. Folks who are in between will prefer the Hatchet Bay caves. There are lots of other hidden caves including a recently discovered cave beach that is accessible only by water. Additionally, we have several cave beaches that can be reached by land, too.

things to do ten bay caves eleuthera bahamass eleuthera

The Ten Bay Caves have some chambers that let in natural sunlight

#5 – Talking to Locals

It is said that the spirit of the Bahamas can only be truly felt through its people. The Eleutherans are amongst the friendliest people you will ever meet and they love to share their knowledge, insight and experiences. Seek them out. You won’t be disappointed!

things to do talk to locals eleuthera bahamas

Mr. Millard Bethel owns a small market in North Palmetto Point

#4 – Blue Holes

The Sapphire Hole in North Eleuthera, which until recent years was almost completely hidden by the jungle, is now sought after by folks who want to perform the dramatic 10′ jump into it. It has become a must-see for adventure seekers. The Ocean Hole in Rock Sound is still a favorite and can be swam or snorkeled, however, many folks go to simply feed the fish. There are a number of other cenotes that can be found through some research and exploration.

things to do sapphire hole

The Sapphire Hole (bottom of pic) is close to Tay Bay Beach and Preacher’s Cave

#3 – Non-motorized watersports (SUP/Kayak/Surfing/Snorkeling/Cliff jumping)

Where there is ocean there is fun and adventure to be had! If your rental doesn’t come with any non-motorized equipment it can be easily rented at one of the shops in Governor’s Harbour or Gregory Town. The best surf breaks can be found at Surfer’s Beach near Gregory Town, but there are several other spots that are worth trying if you have your own board. Cliff jumping is best done on the northern end of the island where heights range from 10′ to 40′ from Glass Window Bridge to James Cistern. The other activities can be done off of almost any beach if the conditions are right, but if they aren’t then visit Edwin’s Turtle Lake Marine Preserve just outside of Governor’s Harbour to experience SUP and kayaking in a more protected environment.

Snorkeling at Half Sound, Eleuthera, Bahamas

#2 – Guided Ocean Tours

Hire one of the tour guides and see Eleuthera from the ocean. You can snorkel, dive, fish, interact with turtles, find huge starfish, and if you don’t mind some wet pig scat, swim with the pigs. The Schooner Cays are really beautiful and can be experienced by boat off of the southern end of Eleuthera. Seeing the island from sea is a completely intoxicating experience. A list of tour guides can be found here.

things to do guided tours eleuthera bahamas

Aqua Bliss runs daily charters

#1 – Beaches

The best thing to do on Eleuthera is explore and find new interesting beaches. The pilgrimage to Lighthouse Beach is almost expected, but there are 134 other majestic deserted beaches that provide an incredible variety of experiences. You can spend your entire vacation searching and experiencing them if you wish to. Depending on the ocean conditions, you can snorkel at almost all of them. Consider picking up The Eleuthera Beach Book and The Eleuthera Snorkel Book to enhance your trip and speed your journey to the best spots.

things to do lighthouse beach eleuthera bahamas

A trip to Eleuthera is not complete without an excursion to Lighthouse Beach

Conclusion

I hope you liked my list of The BEST 15 Things to Do on Eleuthera. I’ve spent many years exploring the island and all it has to offer, and it never grows old. Even after 21 years, each time I visit I find something new. I hope you seek out some of these locations and turn Eleuthera into your go to place for vacation adventure!

eleuthera map pick a vacation rental

A satellite view of Eleuthera reveals both shallow and deep water surrounding it


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The 5 Best Tips to Choose a Vacation Rental Property on Eleuthera

lodging, tips, Travel - Bret S. - January 21, 2021

5 tips to choose a vacation rental

5 Tips to Choose a Vacation Rental Property

This is the third and final blog offering the 5 best tips to choose a vacation rental property on Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells. It will focus on what I consider one of the most significant factors in the quality of your overall vacation – HOUSE SELECTION! Click on this link to read the first blog in this series that discusses the 3 secrets for choosing the best island LOCATION for your vacation rental. Click on this link to read the second blog in the series that explains the importance of TRAVEL TIME as it relates to selecting a property on the islands.

Now that you’ve narrowed down your selection to the right location, it’s time to pick the right house. With over 1,000 choices across the island chain you probably still have to choose a vacation rental from amongst 50 to 100 houses even after you’ve selected where on the island to stay. So, how do you go about it?

I’ve been arranging group travel for more than twenty years and I can tell you that picking a good vacation rental comes down to more than just picking a unique house. You really have to consider who you’re traveling with and what is important to them. If you ask them what they want you might be surprised at some of the things they find important or even critical.

I once had a friend traveling with my group who insisted on having his own bathroom. It really became a stumbling block as he refused to travel with us if that requirement was not met. To resolve the issue I had to make sure that at least one of the bedrooms had an ensuite bathroom. To be fair with the rest of the group we now had to look for a house that provided an ensuite bathroom for everyone so that there was no favoritism towards one individual. It’s really tricky trying to satisfy everyone’s requirements, which is why it’s important to prioritize. Let’s explore how to do that by looking at the factors involved.

Tip 1 Pick a Property Type

The first thing to consider is the type of property you want to rent. On Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells most of the private residences fall into one of four buckets – Apartment, Cottage, House or Villa. The designations are mostly related to size, however, owners do use those titles a bit loosely depending on what they consider their property to be.

A cottage is usually a smaller house that only has one bedroom. A villa designates a house that is considered more upscale. A house is somewhere in the middle of the two. All of them are houses yet the term describing the property type is selected by each owner and doesn’t necessarily follow any hard and fast rule. The only designation that seems consistent is apartment, which means it is a room or group of rooms in a building with other similar spaces within it.

Tip 2 Prioritize Needs / Satisfy Wants

When searching for a property it is quite normal to begin one’s search by looking for certain features. In my opinion, the most important thing to get right is the number of bedrooms and the proper bedroom configuration. There’s nothing worse than showing up at your vacation rental only to find that couples have to sleep in separate twin beds, or worse, a set of bunks! Pay close attention to how the bedrooms are laid out. Ensure that twin beds can be joined together to form a king if that is needed for traveling couples. Makes sure there are enough physical beds for everyone in your party or that folks don’t mind sleeping on sofabeds, air mattresses or cots if those options are available.

bahamas castaway eleuthera

This is a great kids room, but is probably not suitable for adults.

The number of bathrooms and how they are arranged matters, too. It’s always nice to have ensuite bathrooms with each bedroom, but that’s not always possible. Most houses come with showers, but not all of them have tubs so verify that if it’s important to you.

After you’ve got the bedrooms and bathrooms worked out then  consider other essential needs such as the common rooms – kitchen, living room, dining room, media room, office, etc. You’ll want to know if the house has central air conditioning and reliable Internet. On the Bahamian islands, broadcast TV service can sometimes be hard to obtain except within the settlements. While it’s more common to have DVDs, Netflix and a video library, it’s uncertain whether you’ll get regular cable or satellite TV service. If that’s important to you make sure you clarify with the homeowner and know what would happen if the service is interrupted, which can happen.

After you’ve checked off all of your needs you should start considering wants, those exciting items that maybe you don’t have at home, but would like to have on vacation such as a private pool (maybe even infinity edge!), watersports equipment such as kayaks, canoes, SUP, snorkel gear, and fishing gear, and an outdoor grill (make sure to ask if it’s propane or charcoal).

choose a vacation rental

Cupid’s Way has an awesome seaside pool!

Make sure the house is stocked with the basic things you need in the kitchen and bathroom such as blender, coffee maker, toaster, oven, stove, microwave, cooking accessories, utensils, dishwasher, washer and dryer, towels, beach towels, iron and ironing board, hair dryers, etc. Most vacation rentals on Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells will have many if not all of those items standard, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure.

Privacy is a relative term on Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells. By most people’s standards these islands are very private and the rental homes offer high degrees of privacy. I’ve had visitors comment that sometimes they actually feel less safe because the homes are so secluded that they feel isolated. So, how much privacy is enough for you? Do you want a house without any other houses within eyeshot or one where the nearest neighboring property is several miles away? Is being in a small residential community where you might encounter other people too secluded or too populous? Are you looking to meet other people while on vacation? Remember, too, that a homeowner’s description of the level of privacy their home has may not match your expectations. I find that most homes on Eleuthera fall into one of three categories – semi-private, private and secluded. Semi-private is when there are other homes in the area and you are likely to encounter other visitors or locals. Private is when a house sits on it’s own large lot with enough acreage that you won’t see anyone else on your rental property unless they are visiting on purpose. Secluded is when there are no other homes or souls for miles and the likelihood of encountering someone else is slim.

choose a vacation rental

Getaway in Current settlement is a very secluded rental property.

The quality of the home is also a very subjective term, but one that factors greatly into the selection process. The age of the home matters as does its upkeep. It’s often hard to judge the quality of a property simply from pictures although the rental rate can give you a clue about whether the owner considers their property to be of superior quality. Good questions to ask include how often the owner uses the property themselves since this might indicate the amount of attention, or lack thereof, the home receives. Reviews can also be very helpful in determining quality. If past guests  complained about the quality of furnishings, appliances and appearance then that might be a red flag if those items haven’t been addressed.

Finally, things like a house generator or reverse osmosis water system can be extremely important nice-to-haves. Electric outages are not uncommon and most house water is rain water that is pumped from a holding tank below the house called a cistern. Cistern water is fine for flushing, showering and cooking, but is not very good to drink.

white house harbour island

The White House on Harbour Island has both a generator and reverse osmosis system.

Tip 3 Consider Fees in Budget

You’ve probably considered a suitable budget for your trip, but there can be additional costs that add up quickly. Some houses charge a Value Added Tax (VAT). Oftentimes there is a reservation fee to cover payment processing costs. Homeowners will sometimes charge for excess utility usage for things like electricity and water, costs that can be quite high on a remote island. Cleaning fees can sometimes be separate and you need to know what type of regular cleaning services, if any, are included. Be aware that most vacation rentals are only cleaned once before a party arrives. If you want additional cleaning during your stay it usually comes with a fee. Large Online Travel Agencies, such as VRBO and AirBnB, charge a fee of as much as 20% of the price of the rental for using their service as do rental agents and realtors.

If you want any additional services such as massage, cooking, or house stocking these must be added on, too. Don’t forget to ask about security deposits. Some owners have a fully refundable security deposit that could range from $200 to $1,000 depending on the house. That money is usually held by the owner and is returned in full unless there is damage, excess cleaning or above normal utility usage at which point some or all of your deposit may be held to cover such costs. Make sure you are clear on what conditions would cause a security deposit to not be returned because you’ll usually have little or no recourse. Some owners have security deposits where a portion of it is non-refundable. This is akin to an insurance policy held by a 3rd party that retains a portion of the deposit as a fee in order to handle any claims.

Finally, you’ll want to factor in trip insurance and understand what is or isn’t covered and under what conditions. Trip insurers won’t automatically reimburse you for a canceled trip unless it’s because of a serious illness or severe weather event, in general. Many insurers won’t reimburse you for a trip that is canceled due to failing a Covid-19 test. The Bahamas, as of this writing, requires all visitors to have proof of a negative Covid test within 5 days of arrival. You are also subject to a re-test on island 5 days after arriving as well as having to take a daily email screening survey. There is a cost for the re-test.

Tip 4 Special Considerations – Seniors, Children & Handicapped Needs Come First

When traveling with seniors, children or anyone who is handicapped you need to put their requirements over yours. With seniors, mobility is probably your greatest consideration. While many homes are built all on one level some have stairs both inside and out. Additionally, if you choose a vacation rental that has water access then you need to be aware of any steps to get into and out of the water. Ironshore, a sharp fossilized coral that is found on many properties, is a severe hazard for seniors if they happen to fall on it.

With children you need to consider the height of the property and whether there is suitable railing to protect from dangerous falls. Some properties include cribs, high chairs, pack and plays and children’s toys to keep them occupied, which are nice things to not have to bring or buy on the island. The water entry and ironshore issues are relevant to children, too.

There are very few houses that are fully handicap accessible on Eleuthera. If you require a wheelchair it’s imperative that you find a house that has ramps and handicap accessible toilets. The islands only have health clinics and no emergency medical services. If you have an issue requiring medical attention, then Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells may not be the best choices for you as you would have to be airlifted to Nassau in the case of an emergency.

Tip 5 Don’t Forget About Safety

Our trio of islands is considerably safer than almost anywhere else on Earth. Violent crime is so rare that it’s almost not worth mentioning. However, poor economic conditions have contributed to an increase in petty theft over the years. Twenty years ago I never would have dreamed of locking my doors at night, but times have changed. There have been enough reported instances of petty theft that it’s just common sense to protect your valuables. To limit opportunities, lock doors at night or when you are out. Keep valuables in a safe if one is provided. Don’t leave cash or other valuables in your vehicle or out in the open. Finding a house that has additional security features is an added bonus. Safes, hotel locks, deadbolts and exterior lighting are nice to have when you choose a vacation rental.

Conclusion

I probably made this more complicated than it needs to be, but there ARE a lot of factors that go into how you choose a vacation rental. While location and travel times are still the most essential considerations, especially on Eleuthera where things are very spread out, which house to select comes down to a myriad of personal choices and priorities. We’ve discussed the type of property, wants and needs, costs and fees, special needs and safety. If you are having a hard time boiling all that down then make a list. Number all the factors that are a priority and then search accordingly.

Good luck finding the vacation property of your dream. With a little patience and a bit of knowledge from these blogs I hope it is now easier to find what you are looking for!

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3 of the best Eleuthera Lodging House Rental options

lodging, tips, Travel - Bret S. - January 7, 2021

indigo seas rainbow bay eleuthera bahamas lodging house rental

Eleuthera Lodging House Rental Tips

When visiting Eleuthera you have several lodging options. Unlike many major tourist destinations the lodging choice of preference on Eleuthera is a house rental. While there are several small boutique hotels, motels and condo style resorts, there are just a few of them compared to the number of houses available for rent and they tend to be either high end or budget oriented limiting their appeal to many Eleuthera vacationers.

Most visitors choose house rentals on Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells due to their superior locations, abundance of amenities, added space and comfort, privacy and attractive pricing. Simply by cooking several meals at your house rental you will save enough money to do fun things on vacation or splurge a little more when you do eat out. The small resorts up and down the island are considered a good choice for those who prefer to vacation in a more social setting. You won’t find any large hotels nor household brands such as Hilton or Wyndham although one of the boutique resorts is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection.

Read on to see various lodging and house rental options or read this blog first, which will give you some ideas on how to pick your lodging on Eleuthera.

lodging house rental

1. Vacation Rentals by Owner

Renting a house directly from its owner is the easiest and most affordable way to book a house rental on Eleuthera. There are several websites that aggregate house rentals together so that you can easily search, compare and reserve them while still working directly with the property owner. Alternately, you can search for properties individually. If the owner has their own website then you can contact them directly via their website, but, if they don’t, then they are likely listed on one of the aggregation sites. However, the aggregators differ significantly in terms of fees and services offered.

a) EleutheraDirect.com – is the only owner direct aggregator exclusively dedicated to house rentals on Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells. They have a growing inventory of properties plus a number of distinct advantages such as having no AirBnB or VRBO service fees. This alone will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars on your vacation.

They offer all of the great search capabilities that you expect from a high quality website while also offering some Eleuthera specific search capabilities like searching based on Atlantic (eastern) versus the Caribbean (western) side of the island or by local settlement. Additionally, your communications with the owner are not moderated or filtered like on VRBO and AirBnB. EleutheraDirect.com is an excellent choice for finding the lowest rate with the best search features while also benefiting from unmoderated communication with the property owner.

Here are some more tips on how to choose a house rental on Eleuthera.

eleutheradirect lodging and house rental

b) VRBO, AirBnB, & TripAdvisor – these large brand name online travel agencies (OTAs) have fallen more and more out of favor with savvy renters who realize how much VRBO fees for renters negatively impact the quality of their vacation without providing any real value. Many, many years ago the ‘original’ VRBO set the world on fire by offering a very easy way to find quality vacation homes while only charging homeowners a small advertising fee, but that has all changed.

Now, these companies still charge homeowners a hefty fee to advertise on their platforms while simultaneously charging renters anywhere from 3% to as much as 20% commission to use their software to make a booking. Additionally, they monitor and filter all communication between the homeowner and renter until after the booking has been concluded making it difficult to exchange information.

They have further eroded the trust of homeowners by imposing strict hotel-like policies that make it very difficult to manage their rental businesses. As a result, the #bookdirect movement is occurring and many homeowners are moving away from these platforms as they simply offer no value. Their only real value to a renter is the choice they offer by having a large number of properties in inventory. Once that advantage goes away there will be little use for their service.

c) Owner direct websites – are still a great way to find a property you love, communicate directly with an owner, and save money by not paying any commissions or booking fees. The only real negative with this method of house renting is that you have to spend time finding each individual owner. Not all have their own websites and many of the websites aren’t well organized. Still, if saving money by booking direct will let you have a better vacation, then consider this. Use the OTA websites to find the house you like and then do a Google search to find the homeowner’s own website. You can then book direct and avoid the VRBO service fee.

Note: Eleutheradirect.com provides direct links to owner websites and videos if the owner provides them.

2. Boutique Resorts and Small Motels

Eleuthera, Bahamas does not have anything that would qualify as a traditional American, Canadian or European hotel. Instead, it has a handful of small motels, boutique resorts and one glamping resort. Below are most of what is available on Eleuthera listed more or less in order from north to south.

a) The Other Side – is a  beautiful solar powered ‘glamping’ site situated along Cistern Cay Beach. You’ll find nothing but palms, tents, shacks and a salad garden. The property is within short proximity of all the raw beauty of Eleuthera as well as the neighboring Family Island of Harbour Island, which has one of the longest and widest pink sand beaches in the world. It is best described as home meets safari with a few conventional hotel amenities. Rates range from $550 to $750 per night.

b) The Cove Eleuthera – is the highest end luxury resort that can be found on Eleuthera boasting 55 rooms, suites and villas. It features two private white sand beaches, a spa and fitness center, oceanfront dining and an open-air sunset bar. The price for a suite starts at $859 per night.

c) The Sunset Cove & Rainbow Room – formerly known as The Rainbow Inn, this property consists of a series of 11 affordable suites and cottages plus an on premise restaurant, bar and pool with prices ranging from $85 to $222 per night. Each of the 7 luxury suites and 4 classic beach cottages has its own unique design.

d) Sky Beach Club – is an intimate collection of seven oceanview accommodations including 7 villas and 4 poolside bungalows. It features its own restaurant and swim up pool bar and is just steps from one of the best beaches on the island – Hut Pointe Beach. Prices for a 2 person bungalow start at $235 per night and go up to $800 per night for a 4 bedroom villa in non-holiday season.

e) Hut Pointe Inn – is a family owned, eco-friendly, all-suite inn located directly on Queen’s Highway across from Hut Pointe in the settlement of Governors Harbour. Rates for a 2 bedroom suite with kitchen start around $255 per night.

f) French Leave Resort– is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection. This lodging option is located a short walk from downtown Governor’s Harbour with views overlooking the Bight of Exuma and nearby Cupid’s Cay. There are 20 Bahamian villas, either one or two bedroom units, plus 1648 Bar & Grill, pool, fitness center, spa and a small marina. Rates start just below $500 per night, but are mostly in the $900 per night range. It also has one 4 bedroom house rental for $2,600 per night.

g) Squires Estate – is a collection of restored nineteenth-century rental houses perched on a hillside overlooking Governor’s Harbour and the Bight of Exuma. The Estate offers a wide range of accommodations including grand homes, romantic cottages, hillside pools and harbour views. Prices range from $145 per night for a small cottage to $650 per night for a large rental house.

h) Pineapple Fields – is a grouping of 32 one and two bedroom condos located just across the street from one of the more popular restaurants on the island, Tippy’s, and it’s beautiful pink sand beach. Rates start at $219 per night for a one bedroom in low season and go up to $439 for a two bedroom in high season.

i) La Bougainvillea – is a boutique hotel & restaurant located on a very secluded 50 acre estate. It is located between the settlements of North Palmetto Point and Governor’s Harbour, but closer to the former. It’s private pool overlooks one of the prettiest beaches on the island. It has 6 rooms, 1 cottage and 1 six bedroom rental house with prices ranging from $250 to $1,250 per night.

j) Unique Village Resort – this quaint beachfront resort is comprised of 14 units – 10 hotel rooms, 2 two-bedroom villas and 2 one-bedroom apartments. It has a delightful pool, oceanside restaurant and bar with authentic Bahamian cooking, and outstanding elevated Atlantic Ocean views. Prices start at just $110 per night.

lodging eleuthera

Unique Village Resort in North Palmetto Point, Eleuthera, Bahamas

k) Northside Inn – if you want to stay closer to a dive shop then look no further than Northside Inn, perched on a private hillside on the Atlantic Ocean just outside of the main downtown area of the Rock Sound settlement. It has 3 stand alone cottages with a total of 5 rooms directly on the Atlantic Ocean and its own private beach. Run by Rose Gibson, you’re sure to enjoy the sandy floored bar and restaurant right next to the cottages. Many consider this the best restaurant on the island. Rates are $110 and $120 per night based on season.

lodging house rental

Red Pond Beach is just 1/2 mile north of Northside Inn in Rock Sound, Eleuthera, Bahamas

l) Cape Eleuthera Resort & Marina – is a modern condo development & marina located on the very southwestern tip of Eleuthera. It has condo rentals, a very nice marina, if you happen to come by boat, a pool next to Harbour Pointe restaurant, and a nearby bar called Barracuda’s that has nightly happy hours. Rates start at $265 for cottages and $399 for villas. The marina has 47 slips that accommodate vessels up to 200′ in length. The resort has 14 two-bedroom villas and 18 one-bedroom cottages.

3. Home Rental Agency / Realtor

There are several agencies and realtors that offer private vacation homes for rent. This is a good choice if you aren’t sure what you are looking for and need some hands-on assistance from someone with more knowledge of the island. They are commission based and either charge owners 10-20% for their service or simply add their commission to the homeowner’s standard rates. It’s best to find out how they earn their commission as you might be able to book directly with the owner and avoid that additional fee. Below is a list of some of the local realtors and agencies.

a) Sotheby’s/Damianos International Real Estate – offers transformative experiences through a global network of exceptional agents.

b) HG Christie’s –  claims to be the largest full-service real estate agency specializing in luxury homes and condos, vacation homes, beachfront properties, development properties and private Islands, as well as a full selection of rental properties throughout the Bahamas.

c) Eleuthera Vacation Rentals – based in Florida, EVR has been renting private vacation house rentals on Eleuthera since 2009. They represent over 100 beach houses, beach cottages, and beach estates.

d) Island Real Estate – is one of several realtors who specialize in vacation rental properties and property sales exclusively on Harbour Island.

e) Spanish Wells Realty, Ltd. – is one of the more notable providers of lodging and real estate on Spanish Wells.

Summary

You have three basic types of lodging on Eleuthera – house rentals, boutique resorts and inexpensive motels. House rentals are preferred by most travelers. If you choose to rent a house you’ll need to narrow your lodging selections. There are several ways to find and reserve a private house rental – aggregators, owner direct website, or realtor/agency.

Aggregators and OTAs such as Eleutheradirect.com, AirBnB and VRBO offer many lodging choices, but only Eleutheradirect.com has zero renter fees while also improving direct renter to owner communication by not filtering or masking parts of your message.

Owner direct websites are a good booking option especially if you can find the name of the house on one of the OTA websites to help shortcut searching for them directly. However, you have to invest time searching and comparing each individual home through independent websites, which can be time consuming.

Commission based realtors and agencies can be very effective if you need some extra hand holding. Just make sure they are not passing on the cost of their service to you, the renter, and that they have recent first hand knowledge of the property you are renting. Realtors and agents will have some knowledge of the property you are renting, but nobody knows their home as well as its owner.

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Click to see Indigo Seas in Rainbow Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas. This is the property featured in our cover image for this article.

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The top 3 secrets to pick a vacation rental on Eleuthera revealed

lodging, tips, Travel - Bret S. - November 16, 2020

3 secrets to pick a vacation rental on Eleuthera

This is the first in a series of blogs about how to pick a vacation rental on Eleuthera. It will focus on the most important aspect of your selection – LOCATION! We will reveal the 3 secrets that you need to know to make a great selection. We’ll also link to a few properties that give you an idea of what we mean when we offer these tips. For some general tips on selecting a vacation rental, check out this blog.

You’ve been shopping for a tropical vacation for some time now. You’ve finally narrowed your choice to the islands of The Bahamas and have further narrowed your island choice to Eleuthera because you want privacy, great secluded beaches and a very laid-back casual vacation. How do you narrow your selection down even more?

tips to pick a vacation rental

The Glass Window Bridge – one of the major natural attractions on Eleuthera


How to Pick a Vacation Rental on Eleuthera – Secret Tip #1

If you have chosen your house and then hope it’s in the right location then you’ve gotten it bass ackwards, as they say. If you’ve gone to the trouble of carefully selecting the best island for your vacation then you need to go the extra mile and choose the right location on the island, too. There are several important things to consider.

The island of Eleuthera is 100 miles long and 2 miles wide. It’s rental houses are located north (Current, Whale Point, Gaulding Cay, Oleander Gardens, Gregory Town, Alice Town, Rainbow Bay and James Cistern), central (Governor’s Harbour from GHB airport south to the capital settlement, North and South Palmetto Points, Double Bay, Ten Bay, Little Bay, Savannah Sound and Windermere Island) and south (Tarpum Bay, Winding Bay, Rock Sound, Jack’s Bay, Cotton Bay and Cape Eleuthera in the deep south). That’s a lot of ground to cover if you are going to explore. If you plan on just staying put for a week then this choice matters much less, but there are still some things you should know.

eleuthera map pick a vacation rental

Most first timers to the island choose a central location in or around Governor’s Harbour. Why? Because this gives them the best opportunity to explore both north and south while having no more than an hour’s drive in each direction. The center of the island is also more populated so offers more choices in terms of grocery shopping, restaurants and other vacation essentials. In general, it’s simply much more convenient to pick a vacation rental in or near the center of the island if you haven’t experienced Eleuthera before.

The farther north and the farther south you go the more remote and private things get. For example, the northernmost settlement of Current has very little around it in terms of places to dine or shop. (Check out this awesome Current vacation rental called Getaway if you love privacy). The same can be said for Cape Eleuthera in the south.

As you move towards the middle of the island you have more choices. The major northern settlements are Gregory Town and James Cistern. The major southern settlements are Rock Sound and Tarpum Bay. As you consider various vacation rental options consider how far they are from these major settlements. Staying in or around the settlements will greatly reduce travel times. The other settlements and communities I previously mentioned are mostly residential. That means you’ll have to drive farther to find things you might need such as groceries, restaurants, bars and entertainment. The tradeoff is that the communities tend to be quieter and more private.

In my opinion, the main decision point comes down to where you want to spend most of your time. If you want to see the whole island then choose central. If you want a shorter drive to the northern attractions – Glass Window Bridge, Preacher’s Cave, Sapphire Hole, The Hatchet Bay Caves, The Cliffs, The Queen’s Baths, The Cow and Bull, Current Cut, and the nearby family islands of Spanish Wells and Harbour Island, then staying farther north is a better choice. If you want to see the southern attractions – Lighthouse Beach, The Ocean Hole, The Boiling Hole, The Cathedral Caves, The Island School, and the Cape Eleuthera Institute, then the south is a better choice. The north has more natural attractions. The south has better diving and snorkeling. Additionally, the farther south you go, the more likely you are to find completely deserted beaches.

How to Pick a Vacation Rental on Eleuthera – Secret Tip #2

Because the island is so narrow, an important consideration when you pick a vacation rental is which side of the island to stay on. This doesn’t mean you can’t hop from one side of the island to the other very easily, but you do want to choose the side that you’ll want to spend the majority of your time on. That being said, there is a big difference in the water quality between the east coast (Atlantic Ocean and a.k.a. ‘the Atlantic side’) and the west coast (Great Exuma Bight and a.k.a. ‘the Caribbean side’). There are also some areas that face more northerly, such as part of the settlement of Current, and one community, Whale Point, that fronts the bay between Harbour Island and Eleuthera. Several properties can also be found along the southern coast in Cape Eleuthera. For this discussion, however, we will focus on the differences between the Atlantic and Caribbean sides.

What you have to consider is what type of water you prefer. If you have small children then you’ll definitely want to favor the Caribbean side due to how shallow and calm the water is under normal conditions. Here are some excellent vacation rental properties on the west coast in Ten Bay that have pictures showing what the water is like. All bets are off when the wind blows from the west, but that isn’t the usual prevailing wind on the island. Beaches on the west coast tend to be shorter and narrower, and the water stays shallow for 50′ offshore and sometimes even more depending on the tide. The color of the water on this side of the island is a crystal clear aqua that almost seems to glow in the sun. Finally, because the water is shallower, it tends to be warmer.

Caribbean side of Eleuthera

On the Atlantic side, in contrast, the water gets deeper much faster especially along unprotected coastline. There are more waves and you are more likely to encounter rougher conditions rather than something resembling a lake. If you want to body surf  and enjoy long beach walks then you’ll definitely favor the Atlantic side. The water color is a deep, dark blue and the temperature can run a few degrees cooler. It’s also said that because the prevailing winds are from the east that you are more likely to have less problems with no-see-ums, a flying insect that bites and has spoiled many a vacation. Having a light breeze keeps them from landing and biting.

Here are some rental choices along the Atlantic coast of Eleuthera. If you pick a vacation rental in one of the protected bay communities such as Winding Bay, Jack’s Bay or Cotton Bay, the water conditions will be similar to the rest of the Atlantic coastline except the ocean will be much calmer.

Atlantic side of Eleuthera

You now have some idea of what the differences are in water quality and wind conditions on each side of the island, but making the decision boils down to personal preference. What water conditions do you prefer? Just know that regardless of what the conditions are like, you can always take a short drive over to the other side of the island. When the wind is from the west, just move to the east coast for calm conditions and vice versa. You’ll almost always be able to find more benign conditions somewhere on the island if you follow that advice. Here is a video from one of my go-to places to escape windy conditions called Papaw Bay in South Palmetto Point.

Want to Earn More Rental Income? 11 Keys to Create Great Vacation Rental Listings

How to Pick a Vacation Rental on Eleuthera – Secret Tip #3

While we’ve discussed the water quality between coasts, I think there’s an even more important consideration, which is so important that I wanted it to stand on its own, and that’s your preference between sunrises and sunsets. As we all know, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and that is even more noticeable on an island where your predominant view is likely to be an endless ocean. If you love seeing the sun splash an array of dazzling reds, oranges, purples and sometimes a splash of green as the sun dips into the ocean, you are definitely going to want to be on the Caribbean side of the island. Picture a unique oil painting being painted brushstroke by brushstroke each night; one that features an assortment of clouds, shadows, water colors and the sun being dripped across your own personal canvas, as if it were painted just for you, each and every evening. That’s what staying on the Caribbean side is like!

Caribbean sunset at Ten Bay

On the flipside, some people are early risers. They much prefer the invigoration that accompanies the first few rays of sun followed by a brisk morning beach walk and finished off with a delightful swim in the refreshing, cool ocean. If you like to see Mother Earth as she awakens from the night’s slumber then you’ll definitely appreciate being on the Atlantic side of the island.

Atlantic sunrise Davilla Eleuthera


So, there you have it, your 3 secret tips to picking the right location on the island.

Let me summarize:

  1. North, Central, South – choose central for convenience, north for proximity to northern attractions, south for proximity to Lighthouse Beach
  2. Atlantic or Caribbean side – choose Atlantic for its rugged, deep blue ocean and prevailing winds, Caribbean for its calm, shallow aqua sea
  3. Sunrise or sunset – choose Atlantic side for sunrises, Caribbean side for sunsets

Oh, and the bonus tip…if the wind is from the west go to an east coast beach and vice versa.

I hope you find these tips helpful and find the location on Eleuthera that you were dreaming about. If you need any help choosing what part of the island to stay on please contact us at support@eleutheradirect.com.

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Want to Earn More Rental Income? 11 Keys to Create Great Vacation Rental Listings

tips, Travel - Bret S. - October 14, 2020

11 tips to create a great vacation rental listing

Great vacation rental listings are created much like cooking a fine meal. Start with the right ingredients and portions. Blend them together with love and attention. Apply heat for the right amount of time. Then, sit back, indulge in the taste and watch the income pour in!

The most effective way to market your vacation rental is by listing your property on a vacation rental listing site such as VRBO, AirBnb, TripAdvisor and of course, your local regional site, such as EleutheraDirect.com. In addition, you should be using social media channels such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram as well as your own website. Business listing sites such as Google Business and Bing Places are also helpful in getting the word out. Pay-per-click ads (PPC), such as Google Adwords, can be effective, but can be quite costly especially if you are looking to buy a lot of clicks for high traffic keywords.

The best overall strategy for your vacation rental listing, quite simply, is to get the word out in as many places and in as many ways as possible. Let’s face it, though, the large listing sites have an advantage that you, as an individual, just can’t match. CHOICE. The #1 reason that renters choose to start their search on a vacation rental listing site is because they can search and compare from amongst a number of different properties that occupy the same general geography. Location is generally their first search criteria and the vacation rental listing sites are the best equipped to offer superior choice using a geographic search because they are an aggregator of properties in the same geography. So, what does that mean to you? It means you need to come up with a way to stand out or get lost in the crowd.

A regional listing site can be even more effective in helping you stand out since renters can search within a more specific geography. Additionally, regional sites offer a much higher return on investment for a property owner. A regional site provides targeted searching coupled with in depth local knowledge that the big online travel agencies (OTAs) like VRBO just can’t match. Regional sites provide better service, charge less to advertise and eliminate rental commissions for your customers. A regional vacation rental listing site that incorporates links and videos to your own site is really one of the best and smartest advertising investments you can make since they are helping to drive business directly to you.

But, back to our original question, how do you stand out? There are things you can do to improve your own listing’s appeal and ultimately make it the needle that stands out in a stack of needles. Read on to learn our best tips and tricks for creating your own great vacation rental listing.

We here at EleutheraDirect.com have been doing this for decades, and we are sharing our tips for success!

Most travelers will quickly glance at rental listings looking for one that appeals to their eye. In searching for great vacation rentals they will only stop at those listings that wow them. You only have seconds to attract them to your listing so how do you get them to click on yours? A great thumbnail photo and benefit oriented headline description are what you need to grab their attention and make them want to learn more about your property. While these two things are essential, they are just a few of the pieces of the puzzle.

Below are more ideas to help you create great vacation rental listings that generate bookings.

1.  Thumbnail Photo

Your first vacation rental listing photo usually becomes the thumbnail photo that vacationers see first before clicking into your full listing. As such, you have to consider what it is about your property that is unique and jaw dropping. You want to show vacationers what their vacation will be like, not necessarily what your house looks like, unless your house is so unique that it is what actually draws people to your property or its destination.

You have seconds to attract the travelers’ attention. That first picture has to sell your property and motivate a traveler to click on your listing. The picture itself must be clear, professional, have bright colors with good contrast, and make a statement about why your property is the perfect location for a dream vacation. Is it the home itself?  Is it the view? Is it a special room in the house? Is it the house’s proximity to something fabulous such as the ocean or the beach? Remember that people aren’t going on vacation just to experience your house. They are going, first and foremost, to experience where your house is. A picture that incorporates a key feature of your house, such as an elevated deck or where it is in relation to the outstanding feature of your property, is usually your preferred thumbnail image rather than a picture of the house itself or a room in the house.

2.  Headline

As with the thumbnail photo, your headline text is where you get to make a first impression with your vacation rental listing.  A stop-them-in-their-tracks benefit laden headline is your first statement regarding your listing.  It should highlight what benefits your property offers rather than simply be a description of what the house is. What makes your property unique? What makes it standout from other neighboring properties? Why is your location special? Keep it short and simple. Make it accurate. Really try to hit home.

Here are some examples:

  • Your own Private Beach!
  • Experience the BEST sunsets in the Bahamas!
  • The most Romantic Location. Steps to the Ocean!
  • The CLOSEST Vacation rental to Pink Sands Beach!
  • Come, Swim with the Turtles and the famous Swimming Pigs!
  • 10 Bedroom House with Majestic Ocean Views!
  • Very Private with Commanding 360 Degree Views!

3.  Description of your Vacation Rental

Your description is where you provide the information a renter needs to decide whether your property meets their essential requirements.  It should highlight your selling points while also provide a thorough yet concise description of your rental property, its amenities, location and key features. You can also include details about your property that might be helpful in screening out renters who may not be a good fit for your vacation home. If the headline can be considered the benefit statement for your property then the description explains its features.

  • Describe your residence, i.e. number of bedrooms and bathrooms, types of beds, family room, kitchen, dining room, deck, etc.
  • Include unique features, i.e. are you located on or near a popular beach, one of the settlements or a major attraction such as Lighthouse Beach or the Glass Window Bridge
  • Respectfully explain features that might impact certain travelers, i.e. many stairs to climb, does it require guests to have 4WD, is it very isolated, etc.

The description helps sell your property, BUT it is equally important that you set expectations and help identify characteristics of your property that may make it less desirable to some renters. It needs to be honest and accurate. Consistently exceeding customer expectations is what you need to do to build repeat customers, a key factor for financial success.

4.  Photos

Your portfolio of pictures will likely be one of, if not THE, key factor that solidifies the renter’s decision. The number of photos in your vacation rental listing matters greatly. The more photos you have, the better you can show your prospects why your house is a cut above and the right choice for them. Clear, detailed, high-quality photos that are current are very important!  Most travelers (and people in general) have short attention spans and prefer to look at pictures rather than read about your property.

At EleutheraDirect.com, we offer two vacation rental listing subscription options with either 24 or 50 photos per listing depending on which one you choose. We don’t filter out owner contact information or watermarks from your photos like some other vacation rental listing sites. We highly recommend owners utilize all of the pictures that their packages offers. Additionally, there are some technical details that are important to consider.

  1. Order and Composition: The first picture MUST be your best. This is the image that will  attract them to click on your ad and view the rest of your listing. We DON’T RECOMMEND using an interior picture of the house as your first image unless it somehow shows off the exterior of the house and its location in a unique way. Subsequent images lead the renter on a virtual tour of your property. The final pictures need to make a lasting memory. Think of the pictures as a circle where we want to take the viewer back to where they started. We recommend starting with pictures of the exterior of the property, followed by pictures of the house, the main rooms, the bedrooms, the bathrooms and then back to the exterior using sunrise or sunset photos to end the sequence. Try not to use pictures of furnishings unless they are done artistically. Make sure that there is no mess or clutter in any of the photos. Avoid pictures that look like your family vacation. Make sure any subjects in the photo are examples of how your renters will be having their vacation. You can use photos of island attractions, but limit them. If you are going to use attraction photos then make sure to caption them and explain what they are so that there is less confusion.
  2. Size & Resolution: Pictures should be large, high quality, and high resolution. An image resolution of 72dpi is considered adequate for websites. Small pictures that have to be enlarged by the website will cause blurring and distortion. The minimum size in pixels for your horizontal images used in your Eleutheradirect.com vacation rental listing should be at least 640px by 480px and ideally 1132px by 768px.
  3. Orientation: It is important that all of the images you use in your vacation rental listing are of similar size and orientation. Too often pictures switch orientation between landscape and portrait. They also switch between large and small. This lack of consistency becomes disorienting to a viewer and makes your listing less appealing. It is also critical that photos are rotated properly to be right side up. Eleutheradirect.com has a picture rotation tool included with its picture loading tool.
  4. Light: Images of dark rooms should be avoided. Your photos should be light and airy. Pictures should be taken on sunny days. Interior photos should have the shades left open, lights on, and, if necessary, a flash. If you are taking exterior pictures be sure to move any vehicles from the shot and make sure everything is neat and orderly.
  5. Time Stamps: Photos that have timestamps are distracting. They also can point out that the pictures are not current if you are using photos with older time stamps. This leaves the impression that the house may not be as advertised. We strongly recommend avoiding time stamps on images and refreshing your pictures with current ones every 6 to 12 months.

We recommend including photos of:

  • Interior
    • Main living area
    • Kitchen and dining area including any special breakfast areas
    • All bedrooms
    • All bathrooms
    • Unique features such as a high quality entertainment center
    • Amenities such as a washer and dryer, but only if they are an absolute selling point of your property. Renters aren’t choosing your house to do household chores, but it is sometimes nice to know that important appliances are available and included.
  • Exterior
    • Images of the outside of your property, garden and grounds
    • Outdoor features including decks, pools, gazebos and hammocks
    • Amazing views, sunrises, sunsets, your closest beach and any other special features that are associated with the location of the property
  • Extras
    • Bikes, kayaks, canoes, fishing poles, or any other specialty items that you provide
    • Scenic images of nearby attractions such as beaches, caves, natural attractions or nearby settlements

Be sure to add a profile picture to your vacation rental listing! Don’t you like to see the person you are buying from? Studies show that accounts with a profile picture receive more clicks than those that don’t have one. If you prefer not to use your own profile picture then use your main thumbnail picture instead.

great vacation rental listings

5. Reviews

Reviews add credibility to a vacation rental listing. They also provide renters with an unbiased opinion of your property, location and customer service from someone who went out of their way to share their experience. Reviews carry weight. They provide renters with a way to get to know what you and your property are like through the experience of those who have gone before them.

Reviews are a great way to display positive and independent feedback from satisfied guests and receive recognition for all your hard work! Adding a reply to someone else’s review shows graciousness as well as providing a method for you to highlight other key benefits of your property while also addressing any issues a renter might have had. If you receive a negative review use it as an opportunity to explain what you did to correct the issue so that others won’t experience the same thing. Don’t be defensive. It’s important for you to listen to your customers while allaying any concerns that future renters might have. Always thank the traveler for their candid feedback, whether positive or negative.

Recent reviews carry more weight than older ones. You don’t need thousands of reviews, but if all you have are older reviews then consider contacting some recent guests and ask them to post something more current. When a renter finds a property with only older reviews they think that something has changed that has caused people to stop reviewing your property favorably. Make sure you have at least 3 to 6 recent reviews within the last twelve months.

6.  Videos

If a picture is worth 1,000 words then a video is worth 4,000 and is an integral component of a great vacation rental listing! More and more Internet searches are conducted on mobile devices and the most consumed media are videos making it imperative that you have a high quality property video. Even if you can’t afford to hire a videographer and do a professional shoot then you should at least create a video using your pictures. You can add motion to them using a program like Adobe Premiere Pro, Premiere Rush or something similar making the appearance of a video. One-third of online activity is spent watching video while more than 500 million hours of videos are watched on YouTube…EVERY DAY! Additionally, because videos can be watched across a variety of social media platforms and different devices, having a video will allow you to market effectively across the major social media outlets such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

7.  Rates

Providing current and accurate rates extending for at least one year and preferably two will allow travelers to decide whether your property is within their budget and is a good value for the money. These days with so many choices renters are picky and oftentimes are bargain hunting. Seeking a discount has become the norm instead of the exception. Setting your price should be a function of occupancy balanced against the cost of operating your rental business. If you use the hotel business to compare, a house that meets or exceeds 70% occupancy is statistically doing well.

As a general rule of product sales you want to avoid being in the middle when setting your price. However, we don’t agree that that holds true for vacation rentals. Pricier homes will often get overlooked as being too expensive while lower priced homes can sometimes be harshly judged as lower quality. Renters want the nicest home that they can afford. In the vacation rental business an owner can only rent their home once for a given date range. How many renters are seeking properties in your area for that specific set of dates? Will all the homes eventually get booked up leaving your house as their only choice? The amount of demand for certain dates is a critical factor when pricing your home.

Here are our guidelines for setting rates:

  1. Try to be somewhere in the middle compared to other houses in your locale
  2. Use seasonal pricing to maximize profits during peak seasons
  3. Don’t make seasonal pricing strategies overly complicated – 2 or 3 is ideal
  4. Use special holiday rates

When displaying your rates in your vacation rental listing it’s important to include the following key information.

  • Minimum night requirements
  • Daily, weekly, and monthly rates
  • Seasonal or holiday rates
  • Any additional charges i.e. VAT, cleaning, security deposit, additional guest fees, pet fee, etc.
  • Payment terms i.e. initial deposit, balance due date, etc.
  • Payment options i.e. credit card, PayPal, check, etc.
  • Any special deals or discounts

8.  Policies

It’s important to set the rules for your property, but just keep in mind that renters tend to gloss over them if you are only including them in a written contract. Any important policies should be spelled out not only on your vacation rental listing, but also in your contract and in any guest literature that you provide before someone arrives at your rental. Keep your vacation rental listing up to date with your current policies.

Items to cover include:

  1. Check-in/check-out time
  2. Changeover days and times, if applicable
  3. Pet and smoking restrictions
  4. Max guest limit
  5. Handling and returning of security deposits
  6. Restrictions on utility or water usage
  7. Refund terms and penalties for cancellations or date changes
  8. Event policies
  9. Suitability details such as a minimum age for renters, wheelchair access, or other aspects of your property that would make it unsuitable for certain guests

It’s good business practice to clearly and accurately communicate your policies to guests in your vacation rental listing so that all parties are aware of them and in agreement prior to finalizing your rental agreement.

9.  Amenities

In addition to the stand out features that your rental has to offer – think pool, big screen TV, standup paddleboards, kayaks – consider supplying your rental with extras that you might find in a hotel or items that they will need to enhance their vacation. These can go beyond standard appliances such as a coffee maker, blender, and hairdryers. Consider including small soaps, shampoo and conditioner. For beach houses include beach chairs, towels, umbrella and a blanket. Equipment for snorkeling and fishing are very welcome. Include local maps and business cards for tour guides, restaurants and grocery stores. Indoor entertainment can include board games, cards and a selection of movies and music.

If you really want to go all out consider adding a local bottle of rum or wine or any other type of small gift that can only be locally found that will make the experience even more memorable.  Don’t be afraid to mention these amenities in your rental listing because they come across as thoughtful touches that illustrate your kindness and attention to detail, which travelers appreciate.

10.  Advertising and the Value of Repeat Business

You need to let the world know you are out there because you have a lot of competition. The large OTAs have gotten expensive and they change their rules frequently making them exceedingly difficult to work with. PPC campaigns can be effective, but they are also costly. Paying for clicks can quickly eat up your advertising budget without gaining you any customers. Remember this adage, people will click on anything, but that doesn’t mean they intend to buy something. As small business owners, every dollar counts. Listing your property on vacation rental listing sites like Eleutheradirect.com is one of the most economical ways to gain exposure as they maximize your exposure through a strong social media presence plus superior positioning for organic search keywords that are hard to compete for as an individual homeowner. While you can do some of those things yourself it’s very difficult to achieve the same result compared to an aggregator like Eleutheradirect. Regional websites focus on your destination and market exclusively to vacationers who are more likely to generate bookings for you.

In our many years in the vacation rental industry, we have found that advertising locally can also be a very cost effective way to reach travelers, however, what’s even more valuable is to focus your attention and energy on turning each customer into a repeat customer. You’ve already spent the money that earned their initial business. Now work twice as hard to turn them into regulars so that you can start reducing your advertising spend. Following some of the previous suggestions that turn their vacation into the best trip of their life will be worth every penny you invest. Consider sending a reminder about your booking your property  in a special mailer. Generate an email campaign offering specials, or book early discounts for future years. Small gifts and thank you cards go a long way towards building loyalty.

11.  Calendar

vacation rental listing calendarHave you ever spent time planning a trip only to find out that the place you thought was available was not?  You don’t want to be the source of this frustration for your potential guests because it’s likely that you won’t get a chance to get them back. Your vacation rental listing calendar must be current and accurate.  Additionally, having an up to date calendar will help travelers find your home while they are searching for particular dates that align with your own availability.  EleutheraDirect.com offers owners the ability to sync their calendars with up to 5 different listing sites. This means you can conveniently manage one calendar rather then multiple! We recommend using one calendar as your master. That one should be updated manually when necessary, but when automated bookings come through from any source then the calendars will synchronize on a regular and continuous basis.


Eleutheradirect.com is here to help!  We are experienced fellow vacation rental homeowners who simply enjoy helping other vacation rental owners be successful. If you have a challenge, chances are we’ve had it before or one of our clients has had it. We are happy to share our knowledge and solutions.

Are you ready to take control of your vacation rental business? Are you ready to manage your vacation rental property your way?  Are you looking to claim your freedom from the big box listing sites that have made your life difficult while decreasing your exposure and revenue?

To showcase your property and start matching travelers to your property, list your vacation rental with Eleutheradirect.com today. Join the #BookDirect movement and start paving your path to independence!

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