When you hear people mention Abaco, there are a few things they could be talking about. They might be referring to Great Abaco, Little Abaco, or maybe even North, Central, or South Abaco, but chances are they mean the entirety of the extremely popular Abaco Islands, otherwise known as The Abacos. If you didn’t know the name before, you do now.
But there are a lot of other names you should know as well—Walker Cay, Grand Cay, Elbow Cay, Green Turtle Cay, and Great Guana Cay are just some of them. Popular resorts in the chain include Abaco Beach Resort and Treasure Cay, while The Abaco Club on Winding Bay, an already legendary members-only community, is located on Great Abaco. Some smaller hotels also make for great starting points in bigger adventures, so choose accordingly.
What many people know about the Abacos is that this destination is the boating capital of the Bahamas, but you don’t need to be a sailor to visit. However, the experience is better for any traveler with these handy tips.
The most photographed pig beach belongs to the Exumas; however, Big Major Cay—a day trip from Nassau—offers a white beach where oversized piggies paddle out to boaters, hungry for handouts. There’s also Abaco’s answer to the photo-op phenomenon: No Name Cay, offered as a day trip from Grand Bahama and Great Abaco (Sunset Marine and Boat Rentals is one operator that’ll bring you out). The difference between Big Major Cay and No Name Cay is that the latter sees smaller crowds, making for longer interactions with the animals.
Drop Anchor and Stay Awhile
Some people believe the Abacos are the sailing capital of the world. Of course, a few other destinations, including the British Virgin Islands, would debate that moniker. But the Abacos do deliver, with steady windy, and an abundance of protected bays and coves ideal for sailors.
If you’re greener or would simply like to leave stress out of the captaining experience for a multi-day trip, know that The Moorings rents sailboats and powerboats either with or without a captain (if you’re going to DIY, you simply provide a boating resume).
Sunday Funday Bahamas Style
Nippers on Great Guana Cay is the predominant beach bar experience, with Sunday hailing as the epic fun day (just ask Justin and Hailey Bieber). Rum reigns in the go-to drink—Nipper Juice Cocktail—along with pineapple, orange, and cranberry juices with a splash of the fruity, vanilla-forward Nassau Royale Liqueur.
Several day-trip companies can cart you over to the island: Book on Sunday, and most will let you linger on island long enough for the pig roast come day’s end. Note that the bar closes at 5 p.m. and isn’t open on Tuesdays.
Tie One On
There isn’t a style of fishing that Abaco doesn’t offer a great set-up for. The area known as The Marls, a 300-sq. mi. flats fishing paradise, lies within the bend of Great Abaco, and is one of the most celebrated spots for permit, snook, pompano, and more.
Galloup’s Bonefish Lodge sits just yards from a fishable flat on Sandy Point, one of Great Abaco’s southernmost points. Beyond the location of the lodge, it’s the guides, notably legend Ricardo Burrow, that keep guests coming back. This newly remodeled fishing lodge makes up for the fact that The Abaco Lodge, also famous for flats fishing thanks in part to a choice location in the Marls, is still rebuilding post Dorian.
Southern Abaco is especially famous for deep water fishing, regularly offering up marlin, sailfish, dorado, wahoo, and tuna. The island chain is so dependable when it comes to big fish that it hosts the Bahamas Billfish Challenge every year, along with Walker’s Cay Blue Marlin Invitational Fishing Tournament.
Under the Sea
Nothing is perhaps more hidden than the reason that scuba divers keep Great Abaco on a short list of must-sees. Great Abaco is home to an underground cave system known as Crystal Caves—room after room of glittering stalactites dripping with beauty. This experience, however, is limited to travelers holding a Full Cave Diver certification course.
But underwater Abaco is a place of extremes: The caves require the utmost in training, whereas the coral reefs are shallow, in water 60 feet or less, making them available to newer divers.
Walker Cay stands out as the highlight of the bunch, known for underwater walls as well as a shark dive. Walker’s Cay, a resort and marina, offered scuba trips before Dorian, and is in the process of building and readying to accommodate divers, fishermen and travelers as soon as supplies allow.
Wide Open Spaces
Part of the true beauty of Abaco is how much travelers can spread out. Abaco National Park on South Abaco spans more than 32 square miles and offers a prime location for birding. You can spy the Bahama parrot, loggerhead kingbird, and many more species. Note that the park only welcomes visitors on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Abaco has also taken big steps to protect their wealth of blue water. Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park—sister park to the neighboring Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park—stretches 2,100 acres. Find its four cays and innumerable coral reefs south of Marsh Harbor. It’s a popular snorkel day trip not just for the elkhorn corals, but for the encounters with green and hawksbill turtles as well as eagle rays—a highlight of any underwater outing.