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First family trip to Out Islands & need feedback please!

Dallas, Texas
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First family trip to Out Islands & need feedback please!

Starting to think about visiting the Out Islands, first time with family. Have 2 kids (8 and 2), particularly interested in Cape Santa Maria Resort in Long Island (beach looks perfect for us) and Grand Isle Resort in Great Exuma (also perhaps a few places in Harbour Island).

Looking to stay on a white sandy beach with calm (float-friendly), clear water. Also looking for a laid back, relaxing vacation, yet with some fun activities/excursions to do with kids. (Not TOO much activity though, want more beach/down time). Hoping to find a place with decent food choices (more quality choices vs. quantity) onsite or offsite, but doesn't necessarily have to be gourmet. Good, local and simple food is fine. (Beachside or unique restaurant settings would be nice too).

Questions are:

- Which resort or island would you recommend for us?

- What month/time of the year is good for warm water temps (80ish degrees). Would like to go in November or December but if water is too cold for us then, would go March/April 2014 or June/July 2014.

- Considering a split vacation, e.g. few nights in Great Exuma then few nights in Long Island. Is this a good idea with kids? Would this work out logistically? How long to stay on each?

- Leaning toward Cape Santa Maria because of the beach and newer beachfront villas. Like Grand Isle because of the upscale accommodations, nice pool (for kids), other resort amenities (spa, golf cart, etc.) and seems to have more off-resort things to do. Looks like GI has a very nice beach too. How does it compare to the one at CSM?

- Would 4-5 nights be enough time to relax and explore a bit at LI or GE? Would 7-8 nights be too long? For some background, we have spent an average of 7-10 nights in Turks & Caicos (Provo), 8 nights in Grand Cayman and could easily stay longer at either without getting bored. Seems like the Out Islands are more 'off the beaten path' (which is the draw)....just need opinions on how long to stay (at either).

- Are there any other resorts or villas you'd recommend with as spectacular of a beach as what looks to be at CSM? Ideally would like to stay somewhere beachfront, newer accommodations and with easy access to a beach like CSM's.

Sorry for all the questions....just really excited about the possibility of seeing these gorgeous beaches. All feedback and opinions appreciated. Thanks in advance for your help!

Edited: 05 March 2013, 00:36
Mobile, Alabama
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1. Re: First family trip to Out Islands & need feedback please!

If you haven't yet, read Tamsem's trip report on her recent trip to Exuma- near the top of the entries under "Bahamas"- great photos which will give you a feel for Great Exuma and also read about what someone else with children thought of their time there.

Dallas, Texas
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2. Re: First family trip to Out Islands & need feedback please!

Thank you DnAMobile! Read Tamsen's trip report and especially liked viewing the many pictures (thank you Tamsen!). Looks like the style of family vacation we'd like to experience in the Bahamas.

At this point, the Out Islands (in particular, CSM) draws us....just something about those beaches. Can definitely imagine our family doing a lot of nothing but enjoying that beach, water as well as some fishing, snorkeling and exploring. Hope to get more info on the other questions above before knowing for sure if CSM or the Out Islands is for us.

Forest, Virginia
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3. Re: First family trip to Out Islands & need feedback please!

Narrowed it down to the same two resorts when trying to decide on our vacation last year. We ended up going with Cape Santa Maria based on cost. Of course, we stayed in a bungalow which is much less expensive than the villas you are considering. We did get to see one of the villas while we were there and it was really nice, would definitely pick one of those if it fits your budget. Our trip was in May and the water was warm then. I think that 7 nights there would probably be the right amount of time to be able to get a good mix of exploring the island and relaxation. If you have any questions, you can email Cape Santa Maria. They were always quick with responding during our planning.

Dallas, Texas
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4. Re: First family trip to Out Islands & need feedback please!

Thanks for the feedback hokiedave. Very helpful and much appreciated!

Gastonia, North...
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5. Re: First family trip to Out Islands & need feedback please!

“- What month/time of the year is good for warm water temps (80ish degrees). Would like to go in November or December but if water is too cold for us then, would go March/April 2014 or June/July 2014.”

Obviously June/July would be the warmest but you have the possibility of tropical storms or the “H” word. We went to Long Island in early July and loved it but it was definitely HOT! We had an SUV with good AC, cottage with great AC and a pool for which we stayed in when we weren’t in the ocean. It was essential for us to have those amenities. The beach as CSM is by far the prettiest we’ve ever seen as far as calm, wide, soft sand beaches go. Hard to beat that beach. We didn’t stay at the resort though so can’t help you there. We’ve been in early November as well and the water is still very warm. For me personally, I don’t think March or April would be warm enough.

“- Considering a split vacation, e.g. few nights in Great Exuma then few nights in Long Island. Is this a good idea with kids? Would this work out logistically? How long to stay on each?”

We are actually doing this same thing in a few months. Logistics can be a problem. I’m not sure yet how we’re getting from Exuma to LI. We are considering chartering a plane with Island Wings which is $400 each way for the whole plane. You can also charter a boat to take you which I’ve been quoted $500 but that was a while ago. You could always go back through Nassau but you lose a day of vacation almost. This is what we’re doing: CLT-NAS-GGT-SML-NAS-CLT but we have 2 weeks. If you’re only going for 1 week I would suggest picking just 1 island.

“- Leaning toward Cape Santa Maria because of the beach and newer beachfront villas. Like Grand Isle because of the upscale accommodations, nice pool (for kids), other resort amenities (spa, golf cart, etc.) and seems to have more off-resort things to do. Looks like GI has a very nice beach too. How does it compare to the one at CSM?”

Can’t speak to Exuma yet but I would imagine from my research that there is more to do on Great Exuma. CSM’s beach is awesome but the resort is on a bit of a remote peninsula. You’d need a car to get to anything outside of the resort.

“- Would 4-5 nights be enough time to relax and explore a bit at LI or GE? Would 7-8 nights be too long? For some background, we have spent an average of 7-10 nights in Turks & Caicos (Provo), 8 nights in Grand Cayman and could easily stay longer at either without getting bored. Seems like the Out Islands are more 'off the beaten path' (which is the draw)....just need opinions on how long to stay (at either).”

See above. I did some research on the Caymans and T&C before picking Bonaire for our fall trip last year. The impression I got is that you can kind of compare the out islands of the Bahamas with the islands like Little Cayman or Cayman Brac and Grand Turk or Salt Cay. Grand Cayman and Provo are a lot more built up than any of the Bahamian Out Islands. Again, these are just impressions I got from asking questions here on TA. I’d still like to visit those other islands but will definitely skip Grand Cayman or Provo as we’ve had a taste of the out islands with their remoteness, lack of tourists, super friendly people and charming settlements.

Mobile, Alabama
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6. Re: First family trip to Out Islands & need feedback please!

I have been to both and did not have time to respond earlier and was trying to decide what to say but I think jungledriver gave you great advice. Personally, if this is your first out island adventure, I think I would pick Exuma for your family. Also, if you are from Dallas you are certainly accustomed to heat and probably, like me, like your ocean water to be nice and comfortably warm. If so, I would not go before early May. So, given your choices, I think that November or early December is a time when the water should still be warm from the summer and the air temps still moderate so that is an option or late June/early July would be a choice as well. Personally, I would not go in March or April after having a much too cool and much too windy experience one year in mid April in nearby Eleuthera. All the other trips I have made to the out islands (Harbour Island, Long Island, Staniel Cay, many of the Abacos many times) have been between May and August and were always good. IN some places the beginning of June can be a rainy time. See what advice you get and have a great time!!

Pittsburgh...
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7. Re: First family trip to Out Islands & need feedback please!

chloe_jade, you've narrowed down your choices to two awesome islands. I loved Cape Santa Maria on LI. The water is so calm it would be perfect for your 2 yr old. It lives up to your float-friendly clear water that you are looking for. And the villas/bungalows are steps away from that blissful water. The staff at the Cape make you feel like family. The only downfall might be that the food is not on par with say Turks and Caicos or the Caymans. We escaped to the Cape in late April and the weather was nice and the water was warm, yet when we went out on the snorkel trip I was actually a little chilly on the boat after getting wet. Keep in mind there is no swimming pool at the Cape, but once you see the water you'll realize you don't need one :-) The beach at the Cape will be more private than Emerald Bay in Exuma (at Grande Isle.)

Grande Isle on Exuma is a beautiful resort on a beautiful calm beach. There are many cays you can explore. You can swim with pigs on Big Major Cay or swim with nurse sharks at Compass Cay. On the same tour have lunch on a sand bar that seems to go on forever. You definitely have to get out on the water if you choose the Exumas. The water is stunning. People that see our photos think we were swimming in a pool. (that's 30ft deep :-)

I personally loved both islands and when I saw jungledrivers idea of a LI/Exuma split it got my wheels turning. Thanks, jungledriver! I don't think you would get bored staying 7-8 days on Exuma or LI. I say the more the better. The Out Islands are off the beaten path but have a vibe to them that can't be replicated.

Whichever you choose, I doubt you will be disappointed. Happy travels!

Dallas, Texas
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8. Re: First family trip to Out Islands & need feedback please!

Thank you all so much for all of the thoughtful and detailed feedback. So helpful and much appreciated!

On paper, CSM would not be our first choice....primarily because of the logistics of getting there (small planes make us nervous), no resort pool, its remote location, lack of dining options/variety onsite or close by (from what we can tell) and less to do (which actually could be a good thing for us).

But for whatever reason, each time to look at pictures CSM, *something* about that place speaks to us. Definitely has to do with the beach. Not to say the other Out Islands (i.e. Exuma's) beach photos aren't also stunning....they are. But CSM's beach seems to have something extra special about it. Are we just imagining this? Also read several of the guest reviews and many seem to elude to the fact that the CSM beach is one of the 'best' out there (even compared to other well-known top beaches).

So really what it comes down is are we willing to compromise on some of the other things we typically look for on vacation (and Grand Isle seems to have more of) to experience CSM and its beach? I think perhaps we are. It just seems that special. But hard to say since we've never been.

Thanks again for your replies and feedback. Lots to think about!

Edited: 10 March 2013, 05:51
Dallas, Texas
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9. Re: First family trip to Out Islands & need feedback please!

Ha! Apologize, this sentence above should have read as:

<<But for whatever reason, each time we look at pictures of CSM, *something* about that place speaks to us.>>

Edited: 10 March 2013, 05:56
10. Re: First family trip to Out Islands & need feedback please!

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