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Atlantic in Eleuthera, Bahamas

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 - 8,114
Government - Constitutional Parliamentary Democracy 
Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time - GMT -5
Telephone Area Codes: 242
Country dialing code: +001 (inbound), +011 (outbound)
Electricity: 110 volts
Languages: English 

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 enjoy slow paced life, and funky establishments. 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 is an island in the Bahamas, lying 50 miles east of Nassau. It is unusually long and thin - 110 miles (180 km) long and in places little more than a mile wide and averaging 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. 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. For more information about Harbour Island, please see our travel guide for that destination. 

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 he was able to return with more supplies. It was William 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 Bahimian 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 devestated by the hurricane and rebuilding has been very slow. Part of the reason for this is that after 9/11 it was difficult for the Bahamians to get loans from America, however, development is accelerating now. There is some construction going on and there are several projects in the planning stage including a couple of resorts and condominium complexes. During the recent economic woes of the U.S., many locals were without jobs and many left to Nassau and other locations to pursue work. Local construction companies could not afford the usual wages and began paying the minimum wage which resulted in an influx of Haitians and people from other countries that were willing to work for the lowered wages. The unemployment rate continues to be very high. 

Bahamians are very friendly and it is customary to wave at people when driving or say "hello" when walking by someone. Most of them are very quiet and reserved, although we did meet a few people that were more 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. 

Drugs have become a big problem on the island and drug runners have been using this island as a place to funnel drugs into the U.S. Because of this, the U.S. and Bahamian governments have been cooperating to attack this problem and there are now many undercover DEA agents on the island. I was offered marijuana twice on our trip. Just up the road from where we stayed is a luxurious compound that was owned by a major drug dealer who was recently busted and extradited back to the U.S. to face charges. 

Despite the drug problem, Eleuthera seemed very safe and very free. There is very little police presence and very basic laws. As long as you aren't disturbing others, you can pretty much feel free to do what you like. 

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. 

Restaurants may keep irregular hours and are also on island time. 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 we were here off-season, so the hours may vary by season and how busy things are. The standard tipping practice is 15% which is usually automatically added to the bill. Despite what other web sites say, credit cards are NOT accepted at most locations. 

Like the restaurants, the stores may keep irregular hours. The stores are much smaller than our supermarkets, but do contain mostly American brand name foods which are brought in from Florida. In Governor's Harbor, there are 2 main grocery stores. One is called Burroughs which is located right on the Queen's Highway. I do not know the name of the other one, but it is located across from the police station at the Shell gas station. If you can't find what you need at one of the stores, check the other because they do not always carry the same items. For example, Burroughs was out of pineapple, but the other store had plenty. The largest grocery store that we saw was at the north end of Rock Sound in a strip mall and they had the best produce and meat selection that we saw. 

Beer and liquor are only sold to go in liquor stores and some bars (to go). Beer is ridiculously expensive in Eleuthera. The local beer is Kalik (pronounced kalick) which averages about $36.10 for a case (24 beers). Other beers we saw in the liquor stores include Guinness, Grolsch, Bud Light, Budweiser, Heineken and Corona. These typically ran $40+ for a case. We did find a liquor store in Rock Sound that sold Mike's Hard Lemonade for $22.80 per case. This liquor store was the Kalik distibutor located in the building next to the big grocery store. Liquor is very reasonable here and they do have most major brands. The drinking age in the Bahamas is 18 years old. 

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 were down at times. Most expenses are comparable to U.S. prices. The exceptions would be beer (as previously mentioned), and gas which runs about $4.00/gallon. 

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 cheap, 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 and the economy is in shambles, you can still get a house with all of the modern amenities. House may include features such as A/C, satellite television, DVD player, stereo, hot tub, new appliances, etc. 

Getting 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 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. The folks at the Rainbow Inn keep very short work hours and we were never there at the right time to get the map. 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 is the current weather conditions at Governor's Harbour. 

  • 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 over friendly or helpful to you, there is a good chance that they will expect a tip for their services. As examples, several kids did flips and dives off the rocks surrounding Ocean Hole and asked us for money when they were done. Another man showed me a large house selling for a very low price and asked me to buy him lunch in exchange for the tip.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, bring, use, or express an interest in drugs (including marijuana) while in Eleuthera. They take this very seriously and their are many DEA agents on the island.
  • It can be extremely hot during our (U.S.) summer months in Eleuthera. There were a few days in the high 90s where it was difficult to even be outside. It is probably best to go during the winter.
  • Hurricane season is from June to November

Credit by : http://www.triptutor.com/travel_guides/north_america/bahamas/eleuthera_bahamas_travel_guide.html#.UYpeJaUplP4
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