Welcome to the Complete Staniel Cay Guide 2018
We have put together a complete Staniel Cay Guide in the Exuma Cays, Bahamas to help you plan your trip to paradise.
75 miles southeast of Nassau lies the magical island of Staniel Cay in the Exuma Cays chain. The Exuma Cays has 365 islands, and Staniel Cay is in the center of a chain of small islands.
How To Get To Staniel Cay
There are 2 ways onto Staniel Cay, air or sea. We went the air route and flew from Nassau with Flamingo Air. They offer 2 flights a day to and from Nassau 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. The same plane turns around from Staniel Cay heading back to Nassau at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Our round-trip tickets were around $250. Watermakers Air offers flights from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, tickets are approximately $650 round-trip.
Staniel Cay can be reached by sea using the mail boat. I spoke with a few locals that said this takes around 12 hours, as the boat makes several stops at neighboring islands. Departs Nassau on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. and returns on Saturdays at 9 a.m. Please note if you choose this option you may be sharing your seat with LIVESTOCK! Not many choose this route due to the time and a flight is only $50 more.
Best Places To Stay on Staniel Cay
Embrace Resort is the newest accommodation option on the island, and the place we called home for a week on Staniel Cay. Embrace Resort offers affordable luxury villas to fit everyone’s budget. With prices ranging from $219 per night for the Mayaguana one bedroom villa to $589 per night Andros 3 bedroom/2 bath villa with complete kitchen. We stayed in the Ragged Island honeymoon villa, complete with jacuzzi. Embrace Resort grand opening is scheduled for 2017 and will consist of 7 villas, pool, meeting room, restaurant, spa, and a fitness center. We found the best Staniel Cay hotel prices and Embrace prices was on Airbnb. Read TripAdvisor reviews here.
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Staniel Cay Yacht club offers waterfront bungalows, ranging from $185-$460 depending on season and bungalow chosen. NOTE: Travel during offseason is on average $100 cheaper a night than during high season. Staniel Cay Yacht club does also offer packages which include 3 meals a day, bikes, snorkel gear, and kayaks.
Staniel Cay rents have 3 villas available as vacation rentals. Their most expensive villa “Dolce Vita” is a whopping 9,000 square feet, 5 bedroom suites, oceanfront, pool, full-time caregiver, sleeps 12, all the bells and whistles you could buy for $19,000 a week or $3,500 night minimum of 5 nights.
The “Farniente” villa has 6,000 square feet of decking surrounding a pool, hot tub, outdoor living rooms, sun decks and beach access. Inside the 5,000 square feet, the villa is 4 bedroom suites, sleeps 8, and is available for $14,900 a week or $2,800 night minimum of 5 nights.
The “Lazy Bay” villa is located in the center of the island, but alongside an ocean-access creek and only short walk away from the ocean beaches. The Lazy Bay is 1,200 square feet, 1 bedroom, 2 baths, and a wraparound deck for $2,500 a week or $400 night minimum of 5 nights.
How Big Is Staniel Cay and How To Get Around?
Staniel Cay is small…very small! Staniel Cay is less than a mile square, and only 80 full-time residents. You could easily get around by foot, but most locals & tourists bum around in golf carts. You can rent a golf cart by the day $50 or by the week $320. Many of the roads are gravel and very rocky, so I don’t think a bike would be very comfortable. I am glad we had a golf cart, as it let us visit all the beaches easily. For the best rates on the island contact 3N’s and speak with Nikki.
Best Time To Visit Staniel Cay
Is there ever a bad time to visit the Bahamas? I would suggest visiting Staniel Cay, not during high-season. The seasons are:
- Off Season: Sept 10-Nov 20
- High Season: Dec 18-Jan 5, March 1-August 1
- Season: Jan 6-Feb 11, Feb 16-Feb 29, August 2- Sept 9
- Mid Season: Nov 20-Dec 18, Feb 12-15
Visiting during the off-season will yield lower rates on accommodation, fewer tourists, and most likely a private beach all to yourself.
Staniel Cay Weather
The weather in Staniel Cay is near perfect year-round, with an average high of 77-86 degrees Fahrenheit. The coolest month is February with average lows of 65, and average highs of 77 and the hottest month being July-September with average highs of being 86. The wettest month is October, with an average of 12 rainfall days. December- July has an average of 6 rainfall days a year. Water temperatures are great year-round at 70-80 degrees. We visited mid-November we had one full day of rain, and the other 6 days it rained for small periods throughout the day.
Best Beaches On Staniel Cay
There are four main beaches on Staniel Cay that can be all be reached by foot, a few of them you will have to park the golf cart to reach them.
The easiest beach to access in Staniel Cay is Town Beach. If you are staying at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club you will be either right on Town Beach or right next to it. Town Beach is between Staniel Cay Yacht Club and Taste & Sea Restaurant, right on Kings Cross Highway. This beach is a great place to come and watch the sunset before heading out to dinner.
Pirate Trap Beach
Our personal favorite beach on Staniel Cay is Pirate Beach. Pirate Beach is accessible only by foot, you’ll have to park your golf cart up at the top and walk down. Make sure to bring sandals as you will have to walk on rocks/coral to access this beach. Also, be prepared for the rocks to be covered depending on the tide. We basically had the beach to ourselves every day on our trip to Stanley Cay.
Ho Tai Cay Beach
Hoi Tai Cay beach was the most difficult for us to locate due to the road being washed out. When we visited Staniel Cay the airport was under construction and rains have washed out the road to Hoi Tai Cay beach so we had to park our golf cart next to the airstrip and walk. Hoi Tai Cay beach doesn’t have a ton of dry sand but like all the other beaches on Staniel Cay it’s gorgeous. Definitely worth find when spending a week on Staniel Cay.
Looking for a sandy beach on Staniel Cay head to South Beach. We never saw anyone else here. If you are at Hoi Tai Caty beach follow the trail a little further and you will end up at South Beach.
Ocean Beach isn’t a beach for swimming, due to the number of rocks and the size of the waves. There were a few signs to Ocean Beach, but the road was washed out due to rain so we had to abandon the golf cart and walk. I’d suggest coming here for sunrise in the mornings.
Restaurants On Staniel Cay
When it comes to dining in Staniel Cay there aren’t many options. There are only 3 restaurants on Staniel Cay, and all are within 3 minutes from each other.
Staniel Cay Yacht Club
The most popular restaurant on Staniel Cay has to be the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week. Breakfast is from 8am-10am with breakfast plates ranging from $12-14. The lunch menu is offered noon-9p.m. and offers salads, sandwiches, and catch of the day. Adam loved their conch po’boy sandwich (pictured above) for $14 served with fries, and I typically went with the hamburger with fries for $12. Dinner is served Bahamian style, reservations are required and your order must be placed before 3:30 pm that day. Depending on the season they will have 1-2 dinner seatings, when visited in November they had one at 7 pm.
Dinner entrees range from $23-42 and all include soup, salad, and dessert. Beverages are $3 soda, $4 beer, $10 daiquiri. NOTE: 7.5% VAT and 15% Gratuity is added to all bills at Staniel Cay Yacht club.
Taste & Sea Restaurant
One cook, one line, good food takes time… that’s the slogan at Taste & Sea. This is a true Bahamas joint, we ate here every day for lunch. All the local construction workers came in for lunch, and they were a loud hungry group! If you plan on eating at Taste & Sea you need to make sure to get there early in the day, as they tend to run out of food often. They are open for lunch Monday-Friday 11:30am-1:30 pm, and Dinner Tuesday-Sunday. We typically got their cheeseburger or chicken burger with fries, all were good. Prices are reasonable and no additional taxes and fees like at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
Big Dogs Bar
Big Dogs is right across the street from Taste & Sea. We never eat here, we did, however, stop in for one beer. Note I said one beer, well one beer turned into two and two beers turned into five. We had a blast chatting with the owner and the other bar patrons. There is no official menu at Big Dogs, we stopped in on a Friday night and they were serving traditional Bahamian “souce”. A local favorite, Souce, is a soup/step made with chicken, onion, pepper, carrots, potatoes, allspice, and some other secret tasty spices.
Grocery Stores On Staniel Cay
I wouldn’t call these grocery stores per say, they are more like mom and pop mini stores. There are 3 mini stores on the island: Pink Pearls, General Isles, and The Blue Store. Make sure to do all your shopping during the week and always before 5:30 pm as we found hardly anything was open on Sundays or during the evenings.
Pink Pearl was our go-to lady, if she wasn’t open, she would open for us. Her prices were the best we saw on the island. Super friendly lady, and happy to see us come daily. A can of coke is $1, a gallon of water $2.98, Snickers bar $1.50, and can of local beer $4.
Day Trips from Staniel Cay
Get out and explore the nearby gorgeous islands. Either rent a boat and explore on your own or have a local guide/expert bring you to the best of the best!
Swimming With The Pigs
The highlight of our stay and one of the main reasons we came to Staniel Cay was to swim with the pigs on the neighboring island. A short boat ride landed us on to a beach where the only inhabitants walk on four legs and had funny noses. Our arrival woke up the pigs from their afternoon naps in the sand. A group of them came to greet us, sticking their snouts over the sides of the boat. With GoPros in hand, we hit the water. The big male of the group was the most adventurous, swimming out past where his short legs would keep his head above the water. We had our fun splashing and running around the crystal clear water with the pigs. It’s not every day that you get to play with pigs in the Bahamas! For more pictures of the swimming pigs go here!
Make sure to bring some snacks, as these are some hungry pigs. WARNING the pigs aren’t the biggest fans of selfies…One of the pigs snipped at me so be careful. Make the pigs work for the food, we brought the food out in the ocean getting them to come out and swim with us. We were fortunate to have Pig Island to ourselves, just us and some fat lazy pigs!
Just off of Staniel Cay lies Thunderbolt Grotto, an underwater cave system. The grotto got its name back in 1965 from the James Bond movie “Thunderball” which was shot here. Several movies since have been shot here. Hire a boat to bring you out to Thunderbolt Grotto at low tide, as this is the only time snorkelers can get into the cave. Entering at high tide is possible with diving equipment. Thunderbolt Grottos is a popular spot for underwater cave diving, but diving is not required to have an amazing time. Expect to see exotic marine life, bright coral reefs, yellowtail snappers, angelfish, and much much more.
Our hotel Embrace Resort arranged a boat with a local guide Cliff to take us. Cliff’s current rates per person as of October 2015 are: $35 Pig Island only, and $75 Compass Cay swim with sharks, Thunderbolt Grotto, Iguanas on the beach, and swim with the pigs on Pig Island. Just ask for Cliff, everyone on Staniel Cay will know him.
Staniel Cay Plane Wreck
Said to be one of the most accessible plane wrecks in the world sits just off the shore of Staniel Cay. In just 6 feet of water lies the remains of a small plane. Just a short boat ride from the Staniel Cay Yacht Club pier or even closer to the Happy People Marina and Government docks.
Are There ATM’s Or Banks On Staniel Cay?
There are no ATM’s or even a bank on Staniel Cay. Make sure to bring more than enough spending cash to the island. Credit cards are accepted but expect to pay a 5% fee. If you’re coming from the United States, the USD is used widely. As the exchange rate is fixed $1 is 1 Bahamas dollar, and often your change will be half Bahamas currency and half USD.
Average Daily Spending On Staniel Cay
Staniel Cay is not a budget destination. Don’t leave home without your wallet. Expect to pay: $30-34 breakfast for 2 with coffee at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, $25 lunch at Taste & Sea for two people with a soda, and $60-120 for two people to have formal dinner and a drink at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. If you stay at Staniel Cay Yacht club offer a meal package, this can be a savings depending on the person. I’d suggest bringing $150 a day for two people, as you can always use your credit card at Staniel Yacht Club but there is a service charge for doing so.
We spent an amazing week exploring Staniel Cay and can see why people come back year after year. By the end of our week on Staniel Cay, the locals recognized and already knew our names. I could really get used to island life.
Have you been to Staniel Cay? Share some of your tips below so I can add them to the complete Staniel Cay guide.