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How to Get to the Exumas in 2024 (By Boat, Plane, & Ferry)

How to Get to the Exumas in 2024 (By Boat, Plane, & Ferry)

When someone is traveling to the Bahamas, the most common places to wind up are Freeport and Nassau. These are the largest cities, both located on the most populous islands.

But, if you want to see things like the famous swimming pigs, you’ll have to get a bit off the beaten path to land in places like Exuma. The Bahamian Out Islands are a little more remote.

Exuma is an island district made up of over 365 distinct Cays. The largest are Great Exuma and Little Exuma, which are connected by a small bridge. Getting to these destinations requires a bit more footwork than a simple landing in Nassau.

Not all major air carriers fly here, so you’ll have to make a specific plan if you want to experience this corner of paradise. Wanna get to Exuma? These are your options.

What Are the Exuma Islands?

Aerial view of an island where most of its land area is covered with trees, and several boats are anchored on its clear blue waters, an image for a guide on how to get to Exuma Bahamas.


First thing to get out of the way: Exuma is not just one place. The Exumas are around 365 small islands of various sizes. The biggest is Great Exuma, which is around 37 miles in length. This is where you’ll find the capital, George Town.

Right down the way, you’ll find Little Exuma, which is connected to Great Exuma by a small bridge. Exuma International Airport is the main airport in the district. There are also small airstrips in Staniel Cay and Black Point which receive commercial charter flights.

How to Get to the Exumas: All Methods

Many of the islands of the Exumas are tiny and deserted. Others are privately owned and not accessible to the public. A number of others are hard to get to but well worth a visit.

Compass Cay, for instance, lies north of Great Exuma. This is a great place to snorkel over lush reefs just offshore from white sand beaches.

Staniel Cay is known for its clear waters and thriving marine life. It can be reached by boat or plane. Want to swim with Exuma’s famous pigs? You’ll want to head to Big Major Cay. This area is only accessible by boat, but tours are common.

Stocking Island is across the harbor from George Town and can be accessed by water taxi or rented boat. The island has a handful of quiet, luxurious resorts.

By Plane

Grand Exuma’s a thirty-minute flight from Nassau, so a quick puddle jumper flight is the most common way to go. American, Delta, Silver Airways, Bahamasair, and Western Air all have flights to George Town International Airport.

The first three will even take you directly from the states to Exuma without having to make a stop in Nassau first. If you are going to hop island to island, compare a few prices. You can often find last minute deals.

Feeling like a luxe experience? Many people also arrange private charter flights from Nassau to George Town. Expect to pay $1,000 or more for the experience.

By Ferry

Ferries docked on a pier in a tropical islands of Exuma in Bahamas, our pick for a section image on a guide on how to get to the island.

Nalaguraidhoo, Maldives – July 31, 2021: one of the largest resorts on the Indian Ocean in the Maldives/Damira/Shutterstock

If you don’t want to spend the money on a plane, the ferry is another choice that can get you from Nassau to Exuma. The trip is slow, with reports of trips that last anywhere from 10 to 14 hours. The good news is that the most popular options involve travel overnight.

So, you go to sleep in Nassau and wake up in time for a full day in Exuma. If you are considering taking the ferry to see some scenery, you may wind up disappointed.

The waters around the Exumas are shallow, so the big boats typically have to stay way offshore. Between that and the usual overnight schedules, you are not likely to see the scenery you hoped.

The ferries typically only travel from Nassau to Exuma once a week. This can be fine if you are looking for slow, relaxed itineraries, but hard to manage if you are planning on fitting multiple destinations into your trip.

A lot of past travelers say the ferry is worth the trip once for the experience, but that going by plane is far more convenient. After all, you can get to Great Exuma in under an hour by plane, which leaves the slow boat far behind.

By Speed Boat

Most tours that leave from Nassau to take people to Exuma are on speed boats. These can make the trip in a couple of hours. Prices vary greatly, with rates from $200 to $800 or more.

Often, these are small tours with specific destinations in mind. You might catch one specifically for going to Pig Beach or one that takes you bar hopping in Staniel Cay. Look into various options to see which one fits your personal idea of a perfect trip to the Exumas.

The one thing to keep in mind is that the speed boats will only go out if the weather is agreeable. If you want to go to Exuma on a choppy day, you may find your trip canceled.

By Mail Boat

A closed mail boat navigating near the side of the coast with lush forest, an image for guide about how to get to Exuma Bahamas.

Picton New Zealand- February 21 2007; Marlborough Sounds mail Boat delivers mail and supplies while taking tourists for scenic trip./Photos BrianScantlebury/Shutterstock

If you are on a budget and looking for an adventure, the mail boat is definitely an option. But, read the reviews before you decide to cut corners on cost.

The mail boat is not a passenger boat. It’s a freight boat that sometimes takes passengers. You are as likely to wind up sitting on a bag of concrete headed for the Out Islands as you are to find a spot with an actual seat.

The arrival times are not always traveler friendly. In a recent search, a TripAdvisor poster could only find 12-hour trips that had them landing at 2:00 am and 14-hour trips that put them in port at 6:30 am.

Mailboat schedules are not set in stone or published anywhere online. They vary depending on current needs and are only known to each mailboat captain and his office or dock master. You can call the Port Department at  (242) 326 7354 to get the most up-to-date information.

There is also an email contact (, but past travelers report a lack of success getting answers through this avenue.

Experienced mailboat travelers recommend stocking up on drinks and snacks in advance. The trip is long and you won’t have many opportunities to pick up snacks on board. There is often a meal of chicken and rice provided.

Ports can be crowded and confusing. Plan to get to the port a couple of hours in advance to be sure you can find your boat. During your trip, you can hang out in the air conditioning inside or have a beer with the locals outside.

Bring along your seasickness remedy of choice. Waters can sometimes get rough. And, if you think you don’t get seasick, just know: you just haven’t gotten seasick yet.

Barefoot Charter

Don’t want to be on anyone else’s timeline? One option is to charter a sailboat and set your own route to Exuma. The best bet is to start from Nassau. You can head from there to the northern and central Exumas.

Pick a boat with a shallow draft, as this chain of cays can have very skinny waters. There are a ton of sheltered anchorages, and most will never feel crowded. You may even have them to yourself since there are so many to choose from.

Prefer a little more convenience? Head for one of the marinas. These can be pricey, though, with weekly rates at high as $1,000.

Frequently Asked Questions

A boat docked on a pier in a tropical sea of Exuma Bahamas with clear waters, an image for the guide on how to get there.

Capricorn Studio/Shutterstock

What airport do you fly into for Exuma?

If you are flying into Exuma, you’ll likely land at Exuma International Airport. This airport is on Great Exuma, just outside Moss Town.

How long is a boat ride from Nassau to Exuma?

It depends on the boat. Taking a speed boat? You’ll travel about three hours to get from Nassau to Big Beach. Taking the ferry? The trip is anywhere from 10 to 14 hours. You ride overnight and wake up near George Town.

How do you get from Nassau to Exuma in the Bahamas?

Plane, speedboat and ferry are all valid options. Check out all of them to see which fits your schedule, your expectations, and your budget.

What airlines fly to Great Exuma Bahamas?

Major airlines like United and American Airlines both have flights to Great Exuma. You can also find flights with small local carriers like Silver, Western Air, and Bahamasair.

Bottom Line: How to Get to Exuma, Bahamas

Exuma is not just one destination. It’s a district with over 350 islands spread across 100 miles. How you get there will depend on what you plan for the rest of your trip. Some people just want a day jaunt to swim with the pigs.

Others want to spend their entire trip away from the touristy bustle of Grand Bahama or Nassau. Which way you get there will depend on your skill, flexibility, budget, and personal preference.

As with any Caribbean travel, be flexible, patient and open to activties. Many people think of Exuma and other Out Islands as the real Bahamas, a place less commercialized and more in line with the natural beauty and slow pace they are looking for.

Getting there is only half the fun. The rest starts when you arrive. So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip to Exuma today!