Traveling to the Bahamas with kids doesn’t mean you are limited to all-inclusive resorts in Nassau. With over 700 islands, the Bahamas has so much to offer adventurous and beach-loving families! From insanely remote options to those that are more developed, the Bahamas has something for everyone.
After months of exploring as many as we could, our favorite island chain remains The Abacos. We first fell in love with the Abacos, and Hope Town specifically, when we sailed through back in 2014 on our sailboat, Chance. The gin colored water, the sea life, Piggyville Beach, Bahamas bread, and the tinted pink sand beaches all leave the Abacos a truly magical place and a wonderful family vacation location.
The Abacos is the northern most island chain in the Bahamas and are a 120-mile long stretch of islands and barrier cays. The ocean side is protected by the 3rd largest reef in the world, which keeps the beaches relatively calm and kids entertained as they snorkel their way through amazing underwater landscapes. The Abacos also boast 6 national underwater parks including Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park, Abaco National Park, Black Sound Cay National Reserve, Walker’s Cay National Park, Tilloo Cay National Reserve and Fowl Cays National Reserve.
Abacos, Bahamas With Kids: Table of Contents
Getting to and around The Abacos
Getting to the Abacos is quite simple. You will likely connect to Marsh Harbor (MHH) in Nassau or Ft. Lauderdale depending on your carrier, but the trip overall is very easy. From the airport we hired a cab to the main port.
From the port you have two options for getting to your island of choice. One option is to take Albury’s Ferry. This is likely the easiest option, but you are limited to their schedule. We rented a boat for the week from CJ’s Abaco Dorado Boat Rentals. Having our own boat gave us the flexibility to visit as many islands in the Abacos as we wanted during our stay. You do have to stay within the Abacos, but there is more than enough to do to keep everyone entertained.
Where to Stay
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The Abacos are filled with adorable pastel New England style cottages that you can rent for your Bahamas family holiday. The Abacos don’t really have hotels once you leave Marsh Harbor, so your best bet it to rent a house. And, when you are visiting the Abacos, Bahamas with kids, the amenities a rental house offers can really come in handy. Washer/dryer anyone? AirBNB doesn’t seem to have completely taken over there yet, but you can get a bunch of really great options on VRBO. We prefer to stay around Elbow Cay as it is quite central for getting around the Abacos.
1.We stayed in an adorable cottage on Lubber’s Quarters. The house boasts a very open layout with a master bedroom on the first floor and two additional beds (and a hammock!) up in the loft. It’s not on the beach, but it is about 15ft from a private stretch of white sand. There is a grill, washer/dryer and all your basic cooking needs. It also comes with a private, but shared, dock you can use to dock your boat that you’ll need to get around the Abacos. Note that if you stay on Lubbers Cay you will need your own boat as there really isn’t much to do on the island outside of beach walks and Cracker P’s. There is wifi in the house, but no television which I found particularly lovely.
2.The first time we visited The Abacos friends of ours stayed in this cottage. It is perfect for two couples or a family. The cottage is adorable and is very centrally located in Hope Town. It has wifi, golf cart parking and all your basic necessities.
3.If this place was available when we visited I can guarantee we would have stayed here! This home is absolutely stunning and has an amazing porch to facilitate all your people and boat watching desires. It overlooks the harbor and has a great view of the famous Elbow Cay Lighthouse. It is very centrally located so you can easily explore all of Elbow Cay.
4. If you are looking for something a little different, you can charter a sailboat through one of the many charter companies based in Marsh Harbour. We tried this route, but unfortunately they were all sold out for the dates we wanted to be sailing. We’ve done two different charters with Dream Yacht Charter Company, and have had a very pleasant experience with them. The Abacos offer amazing sailing grounds and there is truly nothing better than waking up at anchor and enjoying your morning coffee while staring into the crystal clear water.
When you arrive in Marsh Harbor, ask your driver to drop you off at Maxwell’s Supermarket and the liquor store (Bristol Wine & Spirits and Jimmy’s Wine & Spirits are our choice spots) before you head to one of the outer islands. While these stores are generally well stocked, be prepared to pay more than you would for items in the US. You are on an island and everything generally has to be shipped in.
Things to Do
1.Snorkel and Dive some of the best reefs in the world. The Abacos hosts one of the largest barrier reefs in the world which leads to some amazing underwater adventures for the whole family. Many islands host diving or snorkeling day trips or you can rent a boat and explore on your own like we did. There is also great snorkeling right off the beach of Guana Cay. Be on the look out for grouper, hogfish, parrot fish, trigger fish and sharks. While snorkeling and diving may be better suited for slightly older kids, the waters are great for kids of all ages. Please remember to never try and anchor in a reef and to only used provided moorings to tie up your boat or you risk damaging the reefs. Always swim with a buddy and never swim during dawn/dusk which are typical shark feeding times.
2. Make friends with the swimming pigs at Piggyville Beach (No Name Cay). The Exumas get all the credit for their wild pigs, but The Abacos have their own too, though in a somewhat more secret location. Nestled on No Name Cay just south of Green Turtle, the pigs can be found on Piggyville Beach. To find them, just dinghy up to the beach and they will be waiting with open snouts. When we visited there were probably 30 different pigs there, including babies! Be sure to bring fresh water as it can be hard to find for them. I know how tempting it may be to pick up one of the little guys, but please do not give in no matter how bad you want that Instagram photo. The pigs can be a little aggressive when they are looking for food, and have been known to bite so keep an eye on your little ones.
3.Explore charming colonial towns of New Plymouth (Green Turtle Cay) and Hope Town (Elbow Cay). New Plymouth is a sleepy, 18th century village with several restaurants, a gallery, gift shops, a museum and several historic sites. A trip to New Plymouth is like taking a trip back in time, when the pace of life was slower and more relaxed.
Hopetown wins the award of our favorite town in the Abacos. The town is dotted with pastel colored homes and is developed just enough so you don’t feel isolated on your vacation. There are plenty of restaurants (our favorites are Cap’t Jacks, Hopetown Coffee Shop and Wine Down Sip Sip), a grocery store and various shops to explore and pick up all the beach toys you’ll need.
4.Search for shells at Tahiti Beach (Elbow Cay). Tahiti Beach may be one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. Located on the southern tip of Elbow Cay, this coconut tree lined white sand beach is the perfect place to search for seashells, starfish and sand dollars at low tide. The beach is relatively secluded (accessible only on foot, bike or boat) so you’re guaranteed to find a stretch of beach to call your own. This is a perfect spot for swimming, windsurfing, sunbathing, building sand castles, collecting shells, and enjoying a cocktail from Thirsy Cuda’s swim up bar boat. This beach is best visited at low tide so you can take full advantage of the incredible sandbar. One good thing about having an early rising baby is that you get this beach all to yourself.
5.Learn about shipbuilding at Albury Brothers Boats (Man-O-War Cay). Originating on Man-O-War Cay, the Albury Brothers have been building boats since 1952. The Albury brothers make some of the most beautiful and solid center console boats I’ve seen. With hulls more than 1″ thick they are built for navigating Bahamian waters and reefs. You’ll see them zipping by all throughout the Abacos (and beyond!) and offer a comfortable ride as you navigate between islands. Kids will love seeing all the tools and what goes into making the boat they are riding around the islands in.
6. Pink Sand Beaches on Elbow Cay. There is really only one word to describe the beach and that is incredible. Crushed up coral from a nearby reef gives the sand a pink tint that creates the perfect setting for lazy beach walks, building sand castles and sun bathing.
7. Swim with spotted eagle rays in Sandy Cay Reef. Located in the Pelican Cays National Park, Sandy Cay Reef is a great place for finding spotted eagle rays and stingrays. Look for them in the sandy patches while you snorkel around the reef. Because this is a national park, you cannot fish or remove anything from the water, but the views are worth the trip!
8. Explore the mangroves and blue hole around Snake Cay. The waters west of Snake Cay are an area about a mile wide and several miles long that offer a shallow waters, mangroves and rocks that create the perfect habitat for small fish, lobsters and turtles to live. It is a fun area to explore by dinghy as you wont be able to get a deeper draft boat back there. To access, head north of Snake Cay where you will pass a blue hole. We saw a shark swimming in and around the blue hole, so dive in with caution. After you pass the blue hole the waters will open up and offer endless opportunity for exploration.
9.Spear Fishing. Jason first fell in love with spear fishing the moment he first jumped in the water up at Double Breasted Cay. The Abacos boast so many unspoiled and once prized fishing grounds that are now left untouched and fertile. In fact, a giant Nassau grouper (which can only be hunted during a specific season and with a license) swam right up to Jason and stared him directly in the face completely unfazed by the spear in his hand. In the Bahamas you can only fish with a pole spear or Hawaiian sling, which requires you to really hone your skills and there is no better place to work on them than in the Northern Abacos! This one is definitely for older kids, but it can be a great science lesson (physics, biology and more!) as well as a lot of fun.
10.Walk along sandbars at low tide (Treasure Cay). Treasure Cay is connected to Abaco Island and features one of the Abacos’ only resorts. Complete with a marina, golf course, 2 hotels and many homes that you can rent, this is a great area to consider if this type of thing is your jam. Treasure Cay is also home to an incredible 3.5 mile stretch of white sand beach that is even more breathtaking at low tide. You could wander for hours along the sandbars searching for shells and watching the fish swim around. A fun family activity would be to arrange a scavenger hunt – find 5 shells, 1 sand dollar, etc.
11. Pig Roast at Nipper’s Beach Bar (Guana Cay). Every Sunday from 12:30 – 4pm the famous Nipper’s Beach Bar hosts their pig roast party and buffet. Nipper’s is located on Guana Cay on the beach. Just ask anyone on the island and they will be able to point you in the right direction. They boast two swimming pools, great music and enough space to dance the day away or sit back and relax. Even if you aren’t a big partier, this is a must visit. They offer plenty of food and drink options, as well as a children’s menu.
The restaurant is also directly on the beach, so the whole family can run around and play in the sand. Guana Cay features access to a beach side reef that you can swim out to from the shore.
12. Play a game of bingo at Cracker P’s (Lubber’s Quarters Cay). A visit to Cracker P’s is a must while in the Abacos. It’s the only restaurant on Lubber’s Quarters, so will likely require a boat trip to visit. Grab a frozen mojito and try your hand at a game of bingo – its oddly addicting, especially when you win (twice!). The restaurant has paddle boards, beachside games and lounge chairs if you prefer to spend some time on the water. If you’re in town for a full moon, be sure to stop by for their legendary full moon parties ($25 all you can eat, drinks additional).
13.Check out the sculptures at Little Harbor. The Johnson family – Randolph, Margot, Bill, Denny and Pete – sailed into Little Harbor in 1951 and decided to make it their home. The family built Pete’s Pub & Gallery that now exhibits three generations of Johnston art. Bronze sculptures are cast at Johnston Studios Foundry using the ancient lost wax casting method. The studio remains the only bronze foundry in the Bahamas.
14. Walk 101 steps to the top of the Elbow Cay Lighthouse. The Elbow Cay lighthouse was built in the 1860s and is the last hand-cranked and kerosene-burning lighthouse in the world. Every two hours, the lighthouse keeper must hand wind the lens machinery 426 turns to get the weights at the full amount. The lighthouse is so special to the Bahamians, it is even featured on their $10 bill!
15. Listen in on the Cruiser’s Net. VHF CH 68 every day at 8:15 AM. The Cruisers Net happens every day at 8:15am. Its a mix of the Weather Channel, the Discovery Channel, an events calendar and a swap. It is where you find out exactly what is going on throughout the islands each day. Designed mainly for the boats in the islands, many rental houses even come with their own VHFs so you can listen in. Lucky kids may even get their shot at hosting or making an announcement.
16.Try your hand at bonefishing through The Abacos flats. The famous Marls on the west side of Abaco Island offer over 200 square miles of first-class bonefishing flats. There are plenty of guides to take you out all year round but I’ve been told that in May and June the fish are so plentiful that you can’t wade in the water without bumping into them.
17. Check out the costumes and parties at Junkanoo. There are Carnival and Junkanoo festivals all throughout the Caribbean, and they offer one of the most unique looks at the local culture of the island you are on. Marsh Harbour hosts a Junkanoo and Junior Junkanoo festival and it is truly like nothing else I have experienced. The music and costumes are incredible and make for such a fun day (and night!).
What to Eat
1. Conch Salad. The Bahamas is known for this local delicacy made with freshly caught conch (pronounced “conk”). There is a technique to keeping the meat tender and heavy competition for who makes the best. Our favorite comes from Showbo the Conch King’s harbor side stall in Marsh Harbour. On our first trip through, he walked us through his process and even let us film a fun little video with him! You can find him located next to the Union Jack Public dinghy dock. He will be sure to make a show of the process for the kids and maybe even convince them to try a new food!
2.Fresh Seafood. It should come as no surprise that the Bahamas has some pretty amazing seafood. Some of my favorites are snapper, hogfish, triggerfish and grouper. Honestly, anything will taste better in the Bahamas! Some restaurants may even let the kids pick out their own fish, which is an opportunity to better understand where their food comes from.
3.Bahamas Bread. Bahamas bread is pure magic. It is a sweet dense bread that is perfect for eating with butter, making french toast or just devouring in one sitting. It is so addicting. You can find it on most populated islands and comes in a plain and coconut form. I unsuccessfully tried replicating it on my own, but haven’t found the right recipe, so do yourself a favor and stock up on a few loaves while you are there.
What to Drink
While alcohol should never be consumed by kids, they can certainly be enjoyed responsibly by adults while spending time with their families. All the bars we visited allow kids to come in with their parents and many even have board games and activities to keep them entertained.
4. Bahamian Beers. There are a few main beers found in the Bahamas – Kalik, Sands and Bush Crack. The name Kalik is derived from the sound of cowbells heard during the annual Junkanoo festival and is the more popular beer you’ll see on menus. It’s made in Nassau by Commonwealth Brewery which locally brews Heineken and Guinness. Bahamian Brewery brews both Sands and Bush Crack. Bush Crack is a little harder to find, but the name and can design are worth the trip. It can usually be found at Jimmy’s Wines and Spirits in Marsh Harbour.
5. Rum. Let me put it to you this way, rum is cheaper than beer or wine in the Bahamas. Significantly cheaper. Whether you prefer it in frozen cocktail form or as a sipper, you have to try the sweet flavor of rum at least once (or as many times as you want – we won’t judge!) while in the Abacos. While the Bahamas aren’t known as a huge producer of rums (the soil isn’t the best for producing sugarcane year round), there are a few locally distilled rums including Ole Nassau Rum and Ricardo.
6. Drink a Goombay Smash at Miss Emily Blue Bees (Green Turtle Cay). If you are looking for inspiration on how to best sample rum in the Abacos, you may want to mosey on up to the bar at Miss Emily Blue Bees on Green Turtle for their signature Goombay Smash. The cocktail is available in other parts of the Bahamas, but Miss Emily was the creator. The bar is now run by her daughter and her husband and rumor has it that no one really knows the recipe outside of the family.
What to Pack
You don’t need much to enjoy your time in the Abacos, but there are a few things that will be easier (and much cheaper!) to bring with you than try and find in the islands.
1. Hats for the whole family. It is pretty obvious that the sun can be brutal in the Bahamas. To help protect your face from those harmful UV rays, a good hat is essential. If you are going to be zooming around on a boat during your stay, make sure you get one that ties so it doesn’t blow away. We love the iPlay hats for babies and toddlers, and I pretty much live in one of my Wallaroo hats. They are perfect for travel as they are packable, have a wide brim and super cute.
2. Swim Diapers for the little ones. If your babe is still in diapers, be sure to bring swim diapers with you as I don’t recall seeing them anywhere. I prefer the reusable iPlay versions. They are easily washable (even by hand) and good for the environment. You can even get in the nautical theme with an adorable sailboat covered one.
3.Sunscreen. While you can absolutely find sunscreen everywhere, you should either be ready to sell your first child to afford it or bring your own. We like Babyganics for the tots as it is a mineral based sunscreen and contains no nano particles which can threaten the reefs. It is water resistant, so be sure to reapply after exposure. And just because it is there, I usually just use it for myself as well.
4. UPF clothing. Even better than sunscreen are UPF protecting clothing and swimsuits. You don’t have to worry about missing any spots, and they don’t wear off after a dip in the ocean or sweating in that hot Caribbean sun. There are so many options now, and you can easily find cute and functional options.
5. Bugspray. The bugs can get BAD in the Bahamas. Bring bug spray with you. I’ve also recently discovered these Para Kito bands that hold a pellet that deters bugs for up to 15 days. It holds the pellet away from the skin, so there is no direct contact. They are also Deet free. I got a clip on version and the bracelet version.
6. Reusable Water Bottle – Make sure you always have water with you as some of the more remote islands will not have any available. Be sure to bring a bottle for each person in your family. Most restaurants will let you fill up before you leave as well. To make sure your water stays ice cold as the temps rise, get an insulated water bottle. We love Avex water bottles as they have always kept our water cold, even in 100 degree heat! They also have a carry ring that you can attach a carabiner to.
7. Baby Carrier. If you have a wee little one with you, a carrier will be essential. It will allow you to keep them safe as you are underway jetting between islands or allow them to nap on the go. A lot of areas of the Bahamas aren’t stroller friendly so having the carrier is essential. We love the Ergo Omni 360 and the Tula Toddler carriers.
8. Travel Stroller. While you won’t be able to use your stroller everywhere, they still do come in hand from time to time. For example, when you need to make a liquor run and can’t carry it all back to your boat. I kid – kind of! The stroller is great for walks around town, or when you want somewhere for your babe to nap while you are eating dinner. We love the Uppababy Minu as it folds nearly flat for naps on the go, is super lightweight and has built in suspension that can handle the uneven roads. We’ve also tried the Yoyo, GB Pockit and Colugo strollers and this one is our favorite for travel.
9. Child & Baby life vests. Depending on your tour or rental company, they may not have the best options for your smallest family members. This is one of those cases where it is absolutely better safe than sorry, so we recommend you bring your own life jackets for the kids, particularly the smaller ones. For babies, we recommend the Salus life jacket. There are a lot more options for slightly older kids, so it may be best to go and try a few on locally to see what is the most comfortable for your kids.
10. Sunglasses and sunglasses leashes. Our eyes need protection too, so be sure to bring a pair for everyone. Polarized versions allow you to see all the different gradations of the insanely beautiful water a little easier, and can help when trying to gauge depth and watch out for rocks. I love my Costa Copra sunglasses. Don’t forget the leashes though! Love Cablz. You don’t want to have an expensive pair accidentally fall overboard. Don’t ask how I know.
11. Laundry detergent sheets. A lot of rentals include washing facilities which is great for getting all the salt water, sweat and sunscreen out of your clothes. I recently found these laundry detergent sheets made by LG that are amazing. You can use them to wash things by hand or throw them into the machine. I was even able to get blueberries out of a white shirt with them!