June 30, 2014

The Ultimate Island-Hopping Caribbean Vacation: Fowl Cay In The Bahamas

Fowl Cay Resort In The Bahamas      

I’ve been to resorts where every room gets its own cruiser bikes, where every room gets its own butler, where every room gets its own golf cart. But Fowl Cay Resort in the Exuma islands of the Bahamas puts them all to shame.
There, each of the six villas comes with its own 17- or 18-foot powerboat, a sweet perk that general manager Yves Verhoustraete says is “almost unheard-of.” (And he should know, as he and his wife and co-GM, Martha, are lifelong boaters and came up in the travel world aboard ships—useful experience for running a small, self-sufficient private island resort that Martha likens to managing a yacht.)

The boats come with driving lessons for guests who need them, or local guides for guests who don’t want to bother with navigation, and they’re even more appealing given Fowl Cay’s terrific location.

Pretty much smack dab in the center of the Central Exumas, the resort is a fine base for island hopping to the north or the south, an easy ride to vibrant reefs for snorkeling, uninhabited beaches whose sand is so white and fine it might as well be salt, a tourist attraction where visitors can swim with nurse sharks, and islands inhabited only by iguanas or pigs. The latter of these have learned to swim out to boats in hopes that people will feed them, thus becoming one of the star attractions of the Exumas. (According to my guide, the pigs swim there because that island’s eccentric owner thought it would be funny to have pigs. He was right.)


The resort, which is owned by Sandals founder and chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart, is also a seven-minute boat ride from the airstrip in Staniel Cay, where the easy Watermakers charter flights from Fort Lauderdale (from $610) land daily, and where the sundowners scene at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club is lively. (Fowl Cay’s boats are due back before it really gets going, but resort staff can ferry guests over after boat curfew.)

But most people I met during my stay (as a guest of the resort) seemed perfectly content to have happy hour in their private island paradise. Families with teenage children and couples celebrating anniversaries struck up conversations and friendships over Bahama mamas and piña coladas at the Hill House bar—and those connections are one reason Fowl Cay has such a high repeat guest rate.

The one-, two- and three-bedroom villas were all redecorated within the past two years, and have a chic Caribbean sensibility, with ample indoor and outdoor gathering places and bang-up ocean views. They aren’t cheap—the starting rate during low season for the one-bedroom villa is $1,471, with a five-night minimum—but taking a page from the Sandals playbook, that rate covers everything: the villa; the boat; all meals and drinks; abundant breakfast foods and snacks in the villas (though several guests expressed dismay at the lack of healthy choices, and one couple vowed to bring their own coffee next year); gratuities; and toys like cruiser bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards.

But ultimately, Fowl Cay isn’t a place you visit for the food or the onsite entertainment. You come here for access to some of the most enticing turquoise water and white sand in the western hemisphere, and the freedom to explore it all on your own.



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