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The Real Bahamas

The Real Bahamas

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Experience the local culture of the Bahamas at a smaller, family-owned resort on Long Island. 

My particular aversion to cold weather sends me south when the weather gets cold. My favorite place on earth—at any time of year—is Cape Santa Maria resort in Stella Maris, a city on Long Island in the Bahamas. 


Very accessible

I have written before about how wonderful the Islands of the Bahamas are, and how accessible traveling there can be, especially for private pilots flying General Aviation airplanes. 

It’s a short 370 nm flight from the mainland United States to Long Island. The longest overwater leg is just 55 nm between Palm Beach, Fla. and West End on Grand Bahama Island. (See map, page 52.)

Sure, you could get there on the airlines—but not easily. And with just a little effort, you can fly your single engine airplane to the “real” Bahamas in less time than a commercial flight. 

While Nassau and Freeport are easy destinations, they are lined with big resorts. The “real” Bahamas, found on the Out Islands, feature small (as small as three rooms!) personal resorts; many are family owned and operated, on deserted beaches. The Out Islands allow you to experience the true culture of the Bahamas that you won’t easily find at a big resort. 

The Cape Santa Maria resort is located on the northern tip of Long Island and from my base in Palm Beach, Fla. it takes me less than two and a half flight hours to get there. The airport of entry is Stella Maris (MYLS) and it has a fully-equipped FBO, with customs and immigration right there. (Be sure to check the hours of operation, though, as they are not always “as published.”)

Experiencing Long Island

This island features some of the most amazing and beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Cape Santa Maria Resort is state-of-the-art. The food in the resort restaurant is to die for, especially if you love seafood. Internet and satellite television are available if you just can’t leave the world behind.

But if you venture just 50 yards from the resort, you will find yourself on a deserted beach, just yards from the entrance to a vast mangrove swamp teeming with bonefish, rays, barracudas and conch. The fishing is excellent. 

If you choose to experience the rest of the island, you can rent a car and head south along the only main road there is. Max’s Conch Bar looks for all the world like a roadside shack, yet it serves the world’s best conch salad—with breadfruit chips. At Max’s you will be dining with the locals, drinking Kalik beer made in the Bahamas.

A little further south is the settlement of Deadman’s Cay. The airport at Deadman’s Cay (MYLD) has no services; it’s primarily to service the harbor at Clarence Town, which is filled all year with vessels of all sizes, from small boats to yachts. Everyone is there to enjoy the amazing variety of sport fishing that is available.

The next settlement is Dean’s, home of Dean’s Blue Hole. It is a 663-foot-deep hole in the ocean surrounded by very shallow water on one side and 33-foot cliff on the other. An international free diving competition is held there every year, but most visitors come to experience this amazing marine anomaly for themselves. It is breathtakingly beautiful. I have been there several times, and more times than not, we were all alone.

Hamilton’s Cave is a geological wonder you need to see. It’s a natural limestone cave complex used by the Lucayan Indians, and you will be guided through this underground maze by a descendant of the Hamilton family. On the wall you will see messages inscribed by visitors going back to the 1800s and stone carvings dating back to the original Lucayan Indians, as well as most species of bats indigenous to the Bahamas.

For those who love history, you can visit the ruins of Adderley’s plantation, a cotton plantation established in 1790 and operated into the 1900s. 

Continue further south in order to visit Galloway and Gordon’s Beach. Once again, these beaches are mostly deserted. It’s not uncommon to see conch just moving along the flats and not another human anywhere in sight.

A truly wonderful place

Of all the islands of the Bahamas, I have fallen in love with Long Island. The people are friendly, the history is rich, and the beaches are among the most beautiful in the world. 

In addition to enjoying Cape Santa Maria on the north end of the island, I have also stayed at Gems at Paradise. This impressive resort is near Dean’s Blue Hole on the Atlantic side of the island. In general, accommodations are not particularly expensive, though food can be. 

Long Island is a truly wonderful place to visit. If you have any trepidation about how to go, where to stay, or what to bring with you, you can always reach me through the association or by email. Many association members have done so in the past and I’m happy to help.

Michael Leighton is a 10,000-hour, three-time Master Flight Instructor and A&P living in South Florida. He can be reached directly at and on the web at flymkleighton.net. Send questions or comments to .



Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort and Villas



Gems at Paradise Private Beach Resort



Further information about Long Island

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism 


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