The Bahamas is made up of 700 islands. If you visit just one, it should be Eleuthera – here’s why.
I traveled to The Bahamas fresh off of my time working on a congressional campaign for the 2018 mid-term election in The U.S. Perhaps it was for this reason that I was at a loss for what to do in The Bahamas. Perhaps it was because I needed time to mentally decompress that I did exactly that, laying on the beach and doing little else, and perhaps it was a very good thing for me.
While in The Bahamas, I visited three islands; Grand Bahamas Island, where I stayed in Freeport; Nassau, where I stayed (and just about never left – it was that great) Bahasea Backpackers; and Eleuthera (that’s what I’ve covered here in this Eleuthera visitors guide!). My favorite, by leaps and bounds, was Eleuthera. I found I was busy with things to do on Eleuthera Island and had a great time!
Eleuthera is 110 miles long but just 1 mile wide at its very widest point. It’s full of stunning sand beaches and it’s quiet. No busy nightlife or cruise ships docking every day. This is Bahamian living at its finest.
Here’s your Eleuthera visitors guide to help you navigate the long island.
How to Get Around Eleuthera Island
This might be the most important piece of your planning for your visit to Eleuthera (sorry for burying it). Whether or not you have transportation will dictate everything else you can do on the island.
My recommendation: Rent a car.
There are taxis, but remember what I just said up there in my intro? The island is 110 miles long, that’s going to be a lot of taxis and A LOT of dollars. Since there’s no one obvious center to the island, no population center per say, and plenty of beaches spread across its length, a rental car is by far the best way to get around.
There aren’t any big name rental car companies on the island. They’re all small, locally owned companies, and they’re all expensive. Like, ouch, expensive. I ended up using Berry Cadet and got a three day rental of a Ford Fusion for $261. I ended up with this company because it was the cheapest, and yes, I shopped around.
It does appear that if you fly into Governors Harbour airport you’ll get even cheaper rates as just about all the companies charge for pick up at North Eleuthera Airport (ELH) where I flew into. The charge is $60, so if the difference in flight costs is less than that, head for Governors Harbour and make your way from there.
I made my rental car booking via email and a representative from the company was waiting at the airport with my name on a sign and the keys to the car. I paid for the rental in cash – I could have used a card but there would have been a surcharge and I would have had to arrange that beforehand. The company had nothing from me besides my drivers license number and the cost of the rental. I paid no deposit and was instructed to leave the car in the small airport parking lot before I flew out with the keys under the mat. There’s a lot of trust going on in this system.
I ended up leaving some cash along with the keys when I returned the car because the gas station, just before the airport, wasn’t open when I arrived back early in the morning for my flight.
If you’re dropping off at ELH before 8 AM make a plan to fill up beforehand!
There’s lots of info out there about getting a bigger car to get you around the Eleuthera roads which, besides the one main road running the length of the island, can be pretty rough and sometimes virtually non-existent.
My Airbnb host complimented me on my driving abilities so maybe it was for this reason I didn’t struggle, and I did go down some sketchy lanes, but I say you’ll do just fine in anything similar to the Ford Fusion I had, and if you go for anything bigger, the price of the rental will start going higher.
What to do on Eleuthera Island
Though quiet, small, and secluded, there is plenty to do on Eleuthera. If you’re looking for all night parties, you might want to make a u-turn for Nassau. But, if you’re after beautiful sand beaches, nobody for miles, and plenty of clear, blue water – you’re in the right spot.
The very best spot I found on Eleuthera was Rainbow Bay.
I honestly cannot understand how this beach is not constantly overflowing with umbrellas and beach towels.
While I was there, there was one couple hanging out at the other end of the crescent shaped stretch of beach, and there was me.
The water at Rainbow Bay is crystal clear, the sand is clean, and bright. The sun is shining, it’s right next to, but down from, the road. There are a few covered picnic tables dotted along the sand, no one is around to tell you they cost money, they are just there for your enjoyment. It is perfection all wrapped up into a little rainbow shaped beach.
French Leave Beach
My first night on the island, I went for dinner at Daddy Joe’s I got chatting with the waitresses and asked them for recommendations. One of them mentioned French Leave Beach – I am never one to ignore a local’s recommendation.
The signs weren’t quite clear, nor it appears is Google Maps. The map above shows where I ended up, and where you should aim to end up too. On the opposite side of the island is the French Leave Resort Autograph Collection – I’m not sure what the beach there is like as it’s private for guests. If you stay there, let me know how amazing it is! I did try to see if there are other access points on that side of the island and had little luck. So instead I went for where Google Maps marks French Leave Beach. I kept driving down one the white roads you can see on the map, which turned into less and less of a road, but, since I’ve shaped myself into one hell of a road worthy traveler. I kept on trucking. My rental car might not have been happy with me, but we survived.
Eventually, I found a pull off right next to pinker sands than the pink sands beach on nearby Harbour Island. No joke. Plus, yet again, NO ONE WAS THERE.
O.K., there were two specs of people way off in the distance, but that was it. So few people were there, I went topless. I don’t go topless.
Visit Glass Window Bridge
Glass Window Bridge is one of the most famous spots on the island. It’s a spot where the island essentially disappears and is connected by nothing more than a narrow little bridge. And, since Eleuthera divides the Atlantic from the Caribbean, you can stand on the bridge and see the distinct difference between the two seas. The fierceness of the Atlantic crashes into the north side of the bridge while the water lays calm and peaceful on the south side.
Watch the Oceans Collide
If you’re into the idea of watching the worlds of the two oceans collide, drive out to the point of Eleuthera Island closest to Harbour Island. I ended up out there because I thought it was where the ferries left from, it’s not. But it is even more dramatic than watching the waters come together at The Glass Window Bridge. You can stand on the point of Eleuthera and between there and Harbour Island, which you can see, the waves smash and swirl into one another. It’s captivating.
Visit Harbour Island
As I mentioned earlier, there are pinker sands on Eleuthera, but don’t tell the Harbour Island tourists that – they’ve named a beach after it over there. Harbour Island is a bit glitzy, celebrities visit and workers ferry over from Eleuthera. But it’s worth popping over for a day, an explore, and a cocktail.
How to get to Harbour Island from Eleuthera
This information was something I could not, for the life of me, find. So, you’re welcome.
As I mentioned above, I thought the ferries to Harbour Island might go from the closest point to Eleuthera, they do not. Instead, they go from a point beyond North Eleuthera Airport. If you’re looking at a map, the ferry port is completely unmarked.
The ferries go continuously throughout the day, they leave whenever the boat is full. The trip is 10 minutes long and costs $5 each way. I heard that the boat drivers are known to start drinking once the sun begins to set, so don’t plan on returning after dark, it’s best not to be stuck with an intoxicated pilot, even on a short crossing.
What To Do on Harbour Island
Things don’t look a lot different across the waters, you’re still likely to be laying on sand in the sun. But maybe your get a fancier cocktail over here.
When you get off the ferry on Harbour Island, there will be offers of golf carts for rent. Unless you have physical limitations, these are unnecessary, the island is very walkable. Here’s what to do for your day trip to Harbour Island.
Eat a Conch Salad
Get a conch salad at Queen Conch. This little beachside shack is just to your left when you get off the ferry. You’ll pass through a small gathering of brightly colored buildings, Queen Conch is in that cluster, on your left, the ocean side of the road. The conch salad there is on point, and also spicy! You can watch them being made fresh in the front kitchen, but sit out back on the open deck atop the waves and amongst the seagulls.
Walk on the Pink Sands Beach
Is it possible to have too much sand? Much less, too much pink sand? I don’t think so.
From Queen Conch, head across the island to its eastern side where the pink sands beach is. This beach fluctuates in its pinkness, which is not actually sand but rather tiny pieces of the broken shells of foraminifera – tiny marine creatures. The entirety of the beach is free to access, I cut through the path at Pink Sands Resort to reach the ocean. If you want a sun chair, there are locals, not associated with any of the resorts, which rent them out for the day. I skipped the sunbathing and just walked along the sand, which goes for quite some time.
Have a Cocktail at Pink Sands Resort
When you’ve had your fill of sun beating down on your face, head up to the deck overlooking the beach at Pink Sands Resort. You don’t have to be a guest to get a cocktail, mocktail, or snack up here. This was, for me, the perfect cap to a day out on the island.
Where to Stay on Harbour Island
I didn't stay on Harbour Island. Therefore, my following suggestions are based on my research, not my experience.
Harbour Island is about 3.5 miles long and only about 1.5 miles wide. So you can imagine accommodation options are limited. This is a good thing, honestly. I hate overcrowded spots. But, it means what is available is not cheap. You’re looking at spending $400+ per night if you choose to stay on this island, while on Eleuthera you could find much more affordable (though still not cheap) options.
Located on the eastern coast – the outer coast – of Harbour Island, at Pink Sands Resort you’ll be smack on the long, pink sands beach and the clear water of the Atlantic.
Pink Sands Resort is where I had cocktails, and it’s where I cut through the island to get from ferry to beach. I like resorts that aren’t so exclusive that they won’t let non-guests come and spend money there. So, at least on that point Pink Sands has my vote. If you stay, I don’t doubt for a second the stay will be lux, but you will definitely pay for it.
Budget Range: Luxury
Valentines is on the west side of the island, so it looks out back towards Eleuthera. It’s just next to the ferry and close to the selection of beachside restaurants and shops on the island.
Valentines is basically your only other good option on island. Again, it’s pricey. I didn’t go anywhere near this resort so I have even less to say about it from my experience, but the reviews are clearly positive (clean, quiet, comfortable) and the pictures are gorgeous (though I’d like to politely encourage them to invest in some better social media management). If you stay in either of these spots, let us all know how it was!
Budget Range: Luxury
Where to Stay on Eleuthera Island
Your options on Eleuthera are many more and reasonably more reasonable – though do be aware that The Bahamas is all together not a cheap country. Again, I only stayed in one spot (you can see where I indicated which one that was below) so the rest of my recommendations are based on my research, not my experience.
Located in Governor’s Harbour, in the center of Eleuthera, Villa Allamanda is a great big house. It’s just a street or two over from the coast on either side and about a 15 minute walk to Twin Coves Beach.
The views look pretty rad, and the deck is beckoning. This is a homey property with a hands on host who will help you figure out logistics if you need. There are a number of different room options, some of which include a kitchenette.
Budget Range: Mid-Range
Out on the Southwest tip of Eleuthera, Cape Eleuthera Resort puts you right on the water with what I can only imagine is an epic sunset. You will be at the other end of the island from the North Eleuthera Airport, the ferry port to Harbour Island – about a two hour drive), and a good distance from Governors Harbour Airport (about an hour and a half drive)
There’s a restaurant here, which is convenient since you’re a bit of a drive from the rest of what’s happening on the island. Accommodation options include villas or single rooms and are all reportedly comfortable and clean.
Budget Range: High-End
Probably the cheapest options you’ll find on the island are Airbnbs. I stayed at this one, which was down a very bumpy dirt road. This was in what’s called Surfers Beach. I didn’t see any surfers around but I did see lots of massive waves.
There are loads of other options on Airbnb, and if it’s your first time booking through the site you can get up to $50 off using my link.
Other Eleuthera Island FAQ's
So you’ve decide you’re adding Eleuthera to your Bahamas trip. Good. I’m excited for you. Seriously! Here are some other tips that might help you plan you trip as successfully as possible.
Is Eleuthera Island safe?
The short answer, yes.
My Airbnb host, a native Bahamian, made a point of telling me how safe Eleuthera is. It is not Nassau, she said. And remember, I was instructed to leave an unlocked car at the airport with the keys in it.
The one thing to be weary of: driving at night. The roads are pitch black, people tend to drink, and drive too fast (even if they’re not drinking), and the road is narrow. I made a point of getting off the road before sunset – or only driving a short distance in the dark if I needed to go out for dinner.
How Do I Fly to Eleuthera?
There are three airports on Eleuthera:
- North Eleuthera International Airport (ELH)
- Governor’s Harbour International Airport
- Rock Sound International Airport.
ELH has flights daily from Nassau, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Atlanta, and Charlotte. This is the airport I flew into. I came from Nassau on Bahamasair. It was an unbelievably short flight with unbelievably spectacular views.
What is the Main Settlement of Eleuthera?
On the main island, Rock Sound has the biggest population. Rock Sound is on the south end of the island, I didn’t make it that far so don’t have much information on what the area is like.
There are other little dots along the island: Governs Harbour, Gregory Town, Spanish Wells. None of these are big cities, or even towns. A clump of shops is the very most you should expect anywhere on the island.
Is There a Ferry to Eleuthera Island?
Like I mentioned, I flew from Nassau. Flying was the cheaper, and much faster option. But there are ferries to Eleuthera. No matter where on the island you’d like to get to, all ferries will come from Nassau. So if you’re looking to get to Eleuthera by ferry from any one of the other Bahamian islands, you’ll need to make your way to Nassau first.
If you’re looking for a quiet getaway, I highly recommend Eleuthera. People tend to flock to Nassau. It’s the better known of the Bahamian islands, which is exactly why I’d recommend avoiding it – or using it as a transit spot.
Go to Eleuthera, hands down.
Got any other questions or a report from your time on Eleuthera? Let me know in the comments!