Over Christmas break our family traveled to the Bahamas for 12 days in paradise. Once you know we traveled with children you might assume this was a trip and not a vacation. I am writing to assure you that it was indeed a vacation for all of us. My wife spent time with her kids and her sisters and mother, my kids engaged gleefully with their Montana cousins and I read books, stand up paddled, napped in a hammock, day drank, and still maintained my training schedule. We had all the fabulousness because we rented the amazing Five Palms beach house on Eleuthera, an out island in the friendliest place in the Caribbean. How did you get there? How did you find the house and what made it so special? What did you eat and what did you feed your children? What activities are there? How was the weather? These are the things you want to know and I will tell you.
How did you get there?
My wife and I have been to Eleuthera once before in 2009. We rented a house in the busiest area of the island, Governor’s Harbour, specifically, Banks Road. When I say busy, I mean probably the easiest place to be if you are feeling somewhat out of your element and you need to be surrounded by others just like you. Although, truthfully, Harbour Island is more for you if you’re feeling this way, but that’s another post. My point is, we knew that Eleuthera was slower, less populated, and much more rustic than some of the other places in the Bahamas. Just our style. We enjoy places that are somewhat difficult to reach. It keeps the riff raff out. You must fly into Nassau and catch a Bahamas Air or Pineapple Air flight into GHB (Governor’s Harbour), ELH (Northern Eleuthera) or RSD (Rock Sound). Alternatively, you can fly from Fort Lauderdale into ELH, but that’s mainly for people headed to Harbour Island – it’s way north, and Eleuthera is a LONG island. You could also charter from Fort Lauderdale, West Palm or Nassau. During the Christmas holiday, that’s not a bad option, but $$$.
We flew Charlottesville to Atlanta to Nassau and then overnighted before our Bahamas Air flight the next day or so we thought. Bahamas Air, for whatever reason, delayed so late that evening that the “sunset rule” came into play. No flight can and on the out islands after sunset. What?! So we had to spend another night unexpectedly in Nassau and that was $$$. We could have chartered at that point. My advice? Book Pineapple Air. All their flights got out on time. But they only go from Nassau.
I was weary of schlepping our shit and our kids’ shit. But we made it, the next morning and all was well. We were greeted at the airport by the lovely house manager and our rental van which, by the way, accommodated our entire party of 11. The van came with the house at an additional fee and was perfect for our needs. When in Eleuthera, be advised, there is no Enterprise rent a car, you must know someone who knows someone. Ask your house manager or the people you’re renting from or the hotel you’re staying. Cabs are $$$ and inconsistent. You’ll want a car.
How did you find the house?
I started looking almost a year in advance and I found Five Palms on VRBO. It had stellar reviews, it accommodated my large group nicely with 7 bedrooms, plus an additional guest house if you need it, and the owners’ don’t change the rates for holidays. HUGE BONUS. When you’re looking at rates, remember to factor in a huge VAT tax (13%), cleaning fees, and tips for the house manager and team. This house also had the added bonus of its own website so we could see additional information such as local fishing rentals, in home cooking services, and we avoided VRBO’s ridiculous service fees which would have added over $1000 to our cost. We booked directly with the family through their paypal. Easy peezy, lemon squeezy. My biggest concern was that the house was so far south for us, but it turned out to be the perfect location.
Why was it so special?
Five Palms has room for all the family to have their own space and bathrooms. That’s crucial. It also had everything we needed. The game room and entertainment space for the kids (and the rest of us really) was amazing: cushy wrap around couch, big tv and over 250 movies for movie night, games galore, books, puzzles, gobs of legos, an art center for the littles, a wii system and games. I’ve rented all over the world from VRBO houses and I’ve never seen one this stocked. We had access to washer and dryer, the house was fully stocked with paper products, cooking products including two coffee makers, waffle maker griddle, crock pot, margarita maker, pizza stone, lobster pots. The kitchen was spacious and was even able to handle all the people who wanted to be in it at the same time. The dining room was set up perfectly for large families and included lots of placemats, cloth napkins, coasters, candles, everything we needed to make our dinners magical. Julian, the caretaker, was there every single morning to clean the pool and beach and pull out what we needed: kayaks, surfboards, SUPs, fishing gear, boogie boards, floats, life jackets, snorkel gear, chairs, towels, you name it. They even had sunscreen, bug spray, coolers, and beach bags. The beds were super comfy, the bunk room for the kids was a dream and they all wanted to sleep there together. That was a first for us and very special. Sunrise every morning was a shared event either on the back deck or through the gigantic wall of windows across the living, dining and kitchen area of the house. My mother in law liked to jokingly say, “Another terrible day on this god-forsaken island!”
We could have stayed at the house everyday, but we did venture out. We explored Ten Bay Beach twice, the beach across the street was great for shelling and snorkeling and we drove up to Harbour Island one day, too. It was horribly crowded and we were so glad to get back to Five Palms, stopping by French Leave for sunset on the way back.
What did you eat and what did you feed your children?
We ate mostly what we eat at home. Beryl, our lovely house manager, stocked us before we got there with my own grocery list I emailed a week ahead. She also ran out for us mid-week because it was a holiday week and we were running out of milk. She called around, found it and ran to get it for us. And she was the best price in Eleuthera, guaranteed. Very is also available to cook for you. She made dinner for us one night and it was spectacular local grouper. What a treat! We did take down a cooler of meat we’d frozen before we left. We brought organic beef from Costco, a huge whole filet tenderloin (for Christmas dinner), chicken breasts, and pork chops. Fresh fish can be bought on island. Also, the best grocery store in Eleuthera is in Rock Sound, minutes from your doorstep. Fresh produce, cereal, milk, eggs, cheese, ovaltine, doritos, organic chicken, whatever you need. But expect to spend big bucks at the store. That’s just the rule. Everything is brought in. We ate dinner out one night at Rainbow Inn – love the atmosphere. The food is fine. Mostly we ate meals in or packed lunches for the beach.
We sailed, swam, snorkeled, fished, shelled, walked, ran, stand up paddled, boogie boarded, sunbathed, kayaked, explored, and boozed it up a little. I read a lot. The kids did all of the above and created lots of art, played games, watched a couple movies (at night) and did sparklers, danced, surfed on floats in the pool, you name it.
No one was ever bored.
How was the weather?
AMAZING. I was super worried it would be shite. The year we went (2009) it was cloudy, overcast, gray, dreary, rainy and crap. It was even cold, windy, uninviting. I was so paranoid it would be like that again, but it was a dream. Every day was in the 80’s and sunny. We had one windy day at the house and we simply trotted over to the beach across the island and it was perfectly calm and delightful.
I cannot rave enough about this vacation. It was a very special one for our whole family and we are so incredibly grateful that we found this place and were able to gather together for memory making. Our kids will talk about it for a long time. Forever I hope.