14 Reasons to Visit the Caribbean’s Abaco Islands

The Abaco Islands in the Northern Bahamas often get passed over for other destinations in the Caribbean. But the series of islands, with hundreds of miles of unexplored forests, uninhabited cays, turquoise flats, stunning coral reefs, and villages locked in time, reward adventurous travelers.

The Abacos in the Northern Bahamas are a 120-mile chain of Islands that include Great Abaco, Little Abaco, and countless small cays, coral reefs, mangrove flats, and tidal creeks. If you’re looking for a Caribbean destination that feels off the beaten path, here are 14 reasons you should consider the Abacos…

1. The sandbars of Leeward Beach, Treasure Cay
At low tide, a shallow sandbar opens up access to shells, sand dollars, and sea life.

2. Good things come in small packages.
Seek out the amazing Atala butterfly. With its electric-blue and Chinese-orange colors, it’s one of the most vibrant denizens of the Northern Bahamian dry forests.

3. So many shades of blue.
The water between the Great Guana Cay harbor and the Fish Cays produces some of the Bahamas’ most exquisite shades of turquoise, ultramarine, cerulean, and azure.

4. New Plymouth
Visit historical New Plymouth on the tiny, three-mile island of Green Turtle Cay. This town is one of the most charming in the Bahamas, and is home to the Blue Bee Bar, responsible for the invention of the famous Bahamian cocktail, Goombay Smash.

5. Mangrove forests
Explore the magical mangroves of the Abaco Islands. Red Mangrove forests abound in the Abacos, and they play the role of nursery to coral reefs and other marine habitats. These aquatic forests are rich in life and wonder, and Abaco serves up countless opportunities to explore them by foot, kayak, or boat.

6. Centuries-old Bahamian settlements
Discover Bahamian settlements lost in time on small island cays. Unique 18th-century settlements painted in Bahamian hues abound in the Abaco Islands. Visit the small islands of Elbow Cay, Great Guana Cay, Green Turtle Cay, and Man-O-War Cay.

7. A Hole-in-the-Rock
Discover forests covered with wild passionflowers, untouched coastlines, and stunning blue holes in the lonely southern tip of Great Abaco. Getting to isolated Hole-in-the-Rock, Abaco requires 15 miles of off-road driving. But arriving at one of the most isolated locations in the Bahamas makes the effort worth it.

8. It’s for the birds.
Seek out flocks of brilliantly colored Bahama Amazons in southern Great Abaco. Conservation efforts, and the formation of the Abaco National Park, have helped this subspecies of the Cuban Amazon grow to a population of more than 3,000.

9. You can snorkel one of the largest barrier reefs in the western hemisphere.
Take your mask and snorkel to Great Guana Cay. The barrier reef here, accessible from the beach, is one of the largest in the western hemisphere, and one of the most stunning in the Bahamas. The locals on Great Guana Cay are known throughout the Bahamas for their efforts to save the reef from golf-course pollution and fertilizers.

10. Everything feels wild.
Wildlife is everywhere in the heavily forested Abaco Islands. This Green Heron sits perched in a coastal mangrove forest on Great Guana Cay.

11. Nothing feels rushed.
The Abaco Islands are less about destinations and activities than about getting lost in a wide-open palette of towns, beaches and wildernesses. Locals are friendly and quick to share stories of their island lifestyle and history.

12. One word: lizards.
A green anole catches rays of sun on a bougainvillea plant just off of Bay Street in Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco.

13. The Abacos have style.
Large resorts in other parts of the Caribbean use motifs and décor to approximate the beauty of island life. But in Marsh Harbour, the one-stoplight capital of the Abaco Islands, style and character come naturally.

14. Skip the car. Take a dinghy.
Alternative transportation takes on a whole new meaning in the Abaco Islands. Cars get you nowhere. Ferries, dinghies, small wooden sailboats, one-speed bicycles, and off-road golf-carts are often required modes of transport.

Read the original article from Conde Nast Traveler here.

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