Long Island Bahamas - Cape Santa Maria
Long Island Bahamas, cannot be confused with the one in New York. The Bahamians got their version just right; a dreamy, slow-paced island mostly untouched by modern development. From the moment you step off the plane, you get the sensation that time stopped. You can literally kick off your shoes because barefoot is the norm. The island hosts miles of empty beaches inhabited by warm, welcoming locals. On the disconnect scale, Long Island is definitely at the top of the list. In fact, I found myself often looking for the Skipper or Mary-Ann to stumble by looking for the professor. The one main difference from Gilligan's Isle, of course, hammocks are optional. Long Island is a place of comfort and luxury.
There is no charming historical reason for the island's name, it is merely called Long Island because it's long. Early explorers noted the island took so "long" to sail past, and the name stuck. Like a supermodel, the island is tall and skinny, only two miles broad at its widest point. One of the most fascinating characteristics of this paradise are the two contrasting coastlines. The dark blue Atlantic coast consisting of jagged rock face cliffs and crashing waves, versus the Caribbean side with the calm turquoise sea lapping onto pristine endless white sand beaches.
Long Island is home to the most extensive cave system in the Bahamas, purportedly the home to Lucayan Indians in 500 A.D. Long Island also boasts what is believed to be the deepest blue hole in the world, so far successfully measured at 663 feet deep.
Getting to Long Island:
The island has two airports, Dead Mans Cay, and Stella Maris. On our trip, we landed at both. Jeff thought to land at a place called Deadman's Cay was just something he had to do, at least once! We were flying a Cirrus SR20, a four-seat plane, so this side trip was easy en-route to Stella Maris airport; closer to our lodging.
There was not much at Deadman's Cay airport. Circling around the runway before landing, we didn't see much in the way of civilization, just lots of empty beach, dirt roads and brush. There is no tower at Deadman's Cay, which added to the adventure. The rough but ready runway added to the experience. The whole visit felt like something out of an episode of Narcos. On the ramp, there were a few planes, but not a person in sight.
We were not even sure we were in the right place until we found the airport sign, and snapped a photo for our scrapbook. (Well, Instagram)
Stella Maris was quite a different experience. The runway is better maintained, and there was staff on the ground. Mind you, it is a good thing to remember, they do not sell fuel there. Taking a charter from Nassau, this is where you will land. The terminal is a thatched canopy over dirt ground with a few benches and picnic tables. I have never seen a place so underdeveloped before. The Population here is just over 3000 full-time residents, but they are well spread out on the island.
We had prearranged a taxi for our arrival, and he was waiting for us to hop in and head to Cape Santa Maria Resort a genuinely Bahamian experience; slow-paced, off the grid kind of life. Warm, welcoming locals genuine, with big smiles and a familial feel. Time moves at a different pace at the Cape. There is no schedule to keep here, you just go with the flow. It was an exciting experience for us, two people accustomed to schedules and plans. The front desk welcomed us by name, and they greeted us on a first name basis through our entire stay. The Cape Santa Maria can best be described as a laid back luxury at its finest.
The resort boasts only 20 bungalows and a handful of villas. It stretches along a four-mile-long private bay caressed by incredible turquoise waters. It is the most picturesque beach on the island with everything you could want for a tranquil escape.
Every room here is beach front. The two-bedroom villas have a single king or two double beds, each with their own bathroom. With a full kitchen and living area, washer/dryer, balcony and patio, this 1800 sq ft of living space is perfect for a week away. Each unit features stunning views of the beach and turquoise sea. The Bungalows are either one bedroom or two. One bedroom bungalows are four-hundred square feet with king beds, while the five-hundred and eighty square feet, two-bedroom cottages sport queen and twin beds. The porches and balconies a well set up with ample lounge furniture, coffee stands and bar fridges.
The resort boasts a watersports centre, you can take out ocean kayaks, paddleboards, hobby cats, or snorkel equipment; all free for guest use. Surrounding the resort are glorious waters with mangroves and limestone caves where you can spot various sealife including curious, but harmless sharks.
Bicycles are available to explore the island. One morning we took bikes to the Columbus Monument, a historic site, located about two miles from the resort. The roads were bumpy, and admittedly it was challenging to keep the bike upright at times, but it was well worth the effort. The views from the monument hill are extraordinary.
On the resort, you can choose from the restaurant or bar. The bar has a wrap-around, screened, veranda with ocean views on each side. There is a small seating area outside to enjoy an afternoon snack. I appreciated being behind the screens for the most part because flies and mosquitos made an appearance at certain times of the day. No matter where you go here you always have a view of the beach.
The bartender was friendly and got to know our names and our favourite drinks pretty quickly. Jeff insisted I note, they make a killer margarita. If you want to just park yourself in the bar for the night, there is food available, and the sunset views from your bar seating are stunning. Dinner is served upstairs, and although casual, it feels elegant.
On our first morning during breakfast, we were chatting with our server and told her that it was my birthday. She got very excited and insisted that we go to Pratts for dinner. Before we were done eating she was taking our dinner order, having already booked us a table at Pratts. We said we liked jerk chicken and blackened grouper, and just like that the birthday dinner was planned. She even arranged a taxi to pick us up at 7:00 pm. Most exciting, she noted she would stop in to sing happy birthday after work.
As informal as grandma's house and just as yummy, this family-run establishment is highly recommended by the locals; and what it lacks in decor it more than makes up for on your palette. After a twenty-minute cab ride, our driver joined his friends at the bar to await our return ride. Pratt's looks like a typical American dive bar, dark, adorned with tacky ornaments, with a TVs in the corners. Unlike TGIF however, the decor was genuine, and there was no air-conditioning, just a gentle Bahamian breeze through the screened-in shack. The tables were more of the card variety than the eating kind. Local men crowded the bar to catch a game saw us enter and proceeded to greet us take our drink orders, shouting out our drinks to the kitchen. Apparently completely normal here on Long Island. They knew Mama Pratt was busy in the kitchen and thought they should extend that tremendous Bahamian hospitality. For the record, they noted our choices were, soda, rum punch, and beer.
After sitting for a few minutes, we were led to the special dining room, a smaller, slightly brighter room, with more card tables. We would be the only diners tonight, and the one table was set with a jade table cloth and fancy blue glassware and dishes.
The food appeared quickly from there brought out by the platter, peas and rice, veggies, coleslaw, jerk chicken, jerk ribs, lightly battered fried grouper. Oh my god, it was all so delicious.
After we couldn't eat any more, our table was cleared, and the owner popped her head in once more, this time she had a massive grin on her face. She started walking into the room singing happy birthday carrying an enormous coconut covered cake. She baked it earlier in the afternoon, just for me. I was absolutely blown away. Where else on the planet would you get that sort of honour?
Long Island is Bahamian charm at its finest. We shared the cake with the locals in the bar and ironically the six other Canadian tourists who happened upon our celebration. An absolutely perfect Bahamian experience.
What We Love:
The warmth of the people from the moment we arrived, minus the customs guy who was getting bitched out by his girlfriend when we landed. God bless him, I hope he survived whatever that was. The staff genuinely seemed excited we were there and went above and beyond to ensure a fantastic stay.
The enormous crescent-shaped beach with white sand that stretched for miles. You can park yourself far away from other guests to feel completely alone.
Time stands still here. You can move at your own pace and really disconnect from the rest of the world to recharge.
All the authentic local food, especially at Pratts.