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Eleuthera, Bahamas Travel Guide Hot Popular
Last Updated: Apr-03-2015, Hits: 48,488, Rating: 5, Reviews: 2, Votes: 2 Bookmark and Share
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Harbour Island, Bahamas Travel Guide
Location: Caribbean
Geography: Island, Beach
Vacation Type: Relaxation
Popularity: Off-the-Beaten Path
Costs: Moderate
Attractions: Scenery, Boating, Fishing, Scuba & Snorkeling, Surfing

Facts and Stats:
Island population: 8,202
Land Area: 200 Square Miles
Elevation: 0-168 feet
Country dialing code: +001 (inbound), +011 (outbound)
Telephone Area Codes: 242
Electricity: 110 volts
Languages: English
Currency: Bahamian Dollar/American Dollar
Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time - GMT -5
Current Time:

Why Go There?
Eleuthera definitely isn't for everyone. It is for those who like getting off the beaten path, spending all day ALONE on amazing beaches, and enjoying island time. If you are looking for the royal treatment, amazing food, and hopping nightlife, Harbour Island or Nassau would be a much better choice for you. Eleuthera is also one of the best bonefishing locations in the world.

Eleuthera, part of the Greater Antilles, is an island in the Bahamas located 50 miles east of Nassau. It is unusually long and thin - 110 miles (180 km) long, in places a little more than a mile wide, and averages about 3 miles wide. On the west side of the island is the calmer Caribbean Sea, and on the East side is the more turbulent Atlantic Ocean. The 2 bodies of water can be viewed simultaneously at the Glass Window Bridge.

Eleuthera is surrounded by several smaller active islands included Windermere Island, Harbour Island, and Spanish Wells. Windermere Island is connected to Eleuthera by a bridge and is still used by British royalty. The island is guarded and you must make a reservation way in advance if you wish to visit it. Spanish wells is occupied by blond-haired European descendants, and is mainly a fishing community. Harbour Island is a popular destination in its own right and more information can be found in our Harbour Island travel guide.

The island of Eleuthera is largely infertile as it is made up of limestone and sediment. Still surprisingly unknown, the island has dozens of world-class beaches that bring tourists in the know. Locals also make a living off of the abundance of fish in their waters.

Brief History:
Eleuthera (called "Lutra" by the locals) was originally called Cigatoo, and was initially inhabited by Arawak (Taino) Indians. When Columbus landed in the region in the 1400's, the Spaniards killed most of the natives and exported the rest to be slaves leaving the island mostly uninhabited. In the 1600's, William Sayle (British) attempted to relocate to Cigatoo from Bermuda. One of their ships was sunk and most of their supplies were destroyed. They took refuge in the famous "Preacher's Cave" until Sayle was able to return with more supplies. It was Sayle that renamed the island Eleuthera, which means "Freedom".

From 1950 to 1980, Eleuthera was a hot spot and attracted celebrities and other wealthy travelers. Shortly after Eleuthera's independence from England in 1973, the Bahamian government changed foreign investment laws which basically forced most of the resorts out of business by 1985. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd wiped out several resorts including Club Med and the Cotton Bay Club which was frequented by many Italian tourists. This left only a couple of active resorts. The local economy was devastated by the hurricane and rebuilding was very slow. Since that time, the island seems to suffer from a constant state of flux between development and abandonment.

Bahamians are very friendly, and it is customary to wave at people when driving or say "hello" when walking by someone. In general, the locals are quiet and reserved, although gracious and willing to engage in conversation.

When visiting a place like this, keep in mind that the locals are on "island time" and unless you want to spend your vacation frustrated, you should get on island time too. It can sometimes take a while to be served in a restaurant, or get your check at the end. In addition, many establishments often do not follow posted business hours

In a nutshell, Eleuthera is very safe and very free. There is very little police presence, and very basic laws in effect. As long as you aren't disturbing others, you can pretty much feel free to do what you like. Do not, however, mistake this laid back atmosphere as any sort of tolerance to drug use.

Food and Drink:
Most restaurants in Eleuthera (with a few exceptions) basically serve the same fare. Conch and grouper are the main staples. For lunch, American style sandwiches and burgers are common. The restaurant scene has matured a little over the years and now offers a little more diversity.

Restaurants may keep irregular hours and are also on island-time. As previously mentioned, they may or may not keep their posted hours. If you want to get lunch in a restaurant, you will need to be there before 2pm at most places. Many of the restaurants are not open for dinner. Keep in mind that business hours may vary by season, and how busy things are.

Like the restaurants, the stores may keep irregular hours. Grocery stores here are much smaller than the types of supermarkets you may be used to, but do contain mostly American brand name foods which are brought in from Florida. In Governor's Harbor, there are 2 main grocery stores. If you can't find what you need at one of the stores, check another because they do not always carry the same items.

Beer and liquor are only sold to go in liquor stores and some bars sell takeout as well. Beer is ridiculously expensive in Eleuthera. The local beer is Kalik (pronounced kalick) which will run you about $40+ for a case (24 beers). Other beers you may find might include Guinness, Grolsch, Bud Light, Budweiser, Heineken and Corona. These will typically run $50+ for a case. Liquor is very reasonable here and they do have most major brands. The drinking age in the Bahamas is 18 years old.

The municipal water in Eleuthera is safe to drink, however, most rental houses and many establishments on not on that system. In those cases, the water is often supplied by rain catchment and stored in large cisterns. This water may or may not be safe to drink, and it is probably better to err on the side of caution. Having said that, the Bahamas government is making strides in improving water quality and availability on the island.

Bahamian money is on the same scale as the American dollar, and you can use both while here. In other words, 1 Bahamian dollar is equal to 1 American dollar. Make sure that you use all of your Bahimian money while you are there or exchange it before you leave because you will get a worse exchange rate (in the USA at least). ATMs are readily available in most of the major settlements, however, they use satellite connections and are down at times. Most expenses are comparable to U.S. prices. The exceptions would be beer (as previously mentioned), and gas which is running towards $5/gallon in early 2015.

The standard tipping practice is 15% which is often automatically added to the bill. Despite what other web sites say, credit cards are NOT accepted at many locations.

Where To Stay:
There are very few resorts on the island, and the ones that do exist are small, intimate resorts. And they are not inexpensive, running about $150-$200+ per night. Prices are seasonal.

If you don't want to stay at a resort, there are plenty of houses to rent, and this seems to be a popular option. Despite the fact that Eleuthera is relatively unpopulated, you can still get a house with all of the modern conveniences. Houses may include features such as A/C, satellite television, DVD player, stereo, hot tub, new appliances, etc.

Getting There and Around:
Eleuthera has 3 airports which are serviced by "puddle jumper" flights from Florida. If you are travelling to Spanish Wells, Harbour Island, or any destination on the North end of the island, you want to fly into North Eleuthera Airport. You can take a 5 minute water taxi ride to get to Harbour Island or Spanish Wells. If you will be staying in the middle section of the island, you will want to fly to Governor's Harbour. In the off chance that you will be staying on the south part of the island, you will use South Eleuthera Airport located in Rock Sound. There is also Fast Ferry service from Nassau to Eleuthera.

Car rentals run around $80 per day, however, many house rentals come with a car. Make sure you check before reserving a rental.

NOTE: In Eleuthera, you drive on the left side of the road. Driving in Eleuthera is somewhat nuts. For starters, it is apparently legal to drink alcohol while driving. There are 2 speed limits that nobody follows - 15mph in towns and settlements, and 40mph on the Queen's Highway which runs the length of the island. We never saw a single policeman patrolling the roads which is probably why everybody drives as fast as they want to. The highway is somewhat narrow, so you need to be careful. Most of the roads on the island outside of the settlements are unpaved and in very bad shape. Your car will take a beating. Most attractions are very poorly marked or are not marked at all. In order to find things, you will need to either spend a lot of time exploring the many dirt roads that branch off of the Queen's Highway, or get a map from the Rainbow Inn. For more information about Eleuthera's Beaches, check out the attractions section of this site where we have GPS mapped all of the beaches we are aware of.

Below are the current weather conditions at Governor's Harbour.

The table below shows the weather averages for Eleuthera.

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg High 76 79 80 82 86 86 89 90 89 88 83 80
Avg Low 65 68 68 69 73 76 79 78 74 75 73 68
Precipitation 2.0" 1.6" 1.6" 2.2" 4.5" 8.5" 6.0" 7.0" 6.5" 7.0" 2.5" 2.0"
Humidity 73% 76% 75% 75% 79% 80% 78% 78% 79% 79% 74% 74%
Water Temperature 71 70 73 75 78 80 82 83 82 80" 79 72

  • It is probably best to fly to the airport nearest the settlement you are staying in. Eleuthera is very long and settlements are far apart. A taxi ride from the north part of the island to the south would cost around $150.
  • Eleuthera is very safe, however, theft can be a problem. Make sure that you keep close track of your valuables.
  • If someone is being overly friendly or helpful to you, there is a chance that they will expect a tip for their services.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, bring, use, or express an interest in drugs (including marijuana) while in Eleuthera. They take this very seriously.
  • It can be very hot during our (U.S.) summer months in Eleuthera. It can get into the 90's making it less fun to be outside. It is probably best to go during the winter and spring months.
  • Hurricane season is from June to November.

Photo Gallery

User Reviews (2)

Reviewed by: GalleyWenchTales
Review date: May-04-2014

Overall agree with the review, except the Southern part of Eleuthera offers some great beaches, most notably Lighthouse Beach (yes, another long dirt road ride). As well, Cape Eleuthera Institute is worth a stop for the marine curious and environmentally oriented. There are also some excellent caves scattered across the island. Hatchet Bay Cave (about midway up) is particularly long and intriguing. I would strongly recommend renting a 4 wheel drive for all the bumpy dirt roads; we didn't but wish we had. The pinkest beach we saw was on the Atlantic side of Governor's Harbour (but not French Leave) found by taking the dirt roads until we found an entrance. Levy [Garden] Preserve is also worth a wander; a steal at $5/person. We a spent a couple hours wandering their 25 acre paths. 

Reviewed by: sloshed
Review date: May-07-2009

Eleuthera probably is not for everyone, but I really liked it. The beaches are INCREDIBLE and a couple of them have made top beach in the world lists at various times. Best of all, they aren't crowded. Unlike many other off-the-beaten-path destinations, you can get a rental house with all of the modern conveniences (AC, satellite tv, modern appliances, etc) that you can get at home. We went in the middle of summer which was good because there were no mosquitos and we had the beaches to ourselves, but bad because it was way too hot. We stayed in a house on the Atlantic side at South Palmetto Point. Spent a lot of time at Ten Bay Beach and Tippy's. Definitely go check out Harbour Island and have some drinks at the Blue Bar overlooking the Pink Sand Beach. Maybe we missed something, but the southern end of the island didn't seem to have much to offer. 

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