Bahamas Out Islands: Cat Island, with Videos
Cat Island is located some 300 miles from Miami and 130 miles southeast of Nassau. The island is 48 miles long and 4 miles wide at its widest point. It has the distinction of being home to Mount Alvernia – the highest point in the Bahamas. The “mountain” is 206 feet above sea level, and on its top is a rock-hewn monastery known as The Hermitage, created by Father Jerome Hawes in 1939.
Cat Island is largely undeveloped and is surrounded by 60 miles of white and pink sand beaches, coral reefs, tall cliffs, and beautiful turquoise water. The inland is comprised of gently rolling hills, caves, fresh water lakes, and streams.
The island is great for a get-away-from-it-all vacation and is perfect for honeymooners and couples who want privacy and solitude. There are no theme parks, fancy casinos, amusement rides, high rises, or fast food restaurants.
Long before Cat Island was called by its present name, it was known as San Salvador for almost 400 years. According to some historians, it was here that Columbus first landed in the New World. When another island assumed the name of San Salvador, the island changed its name to Cat Island.
There’s debate on how the island got its name. Some say Cat Island was named for Arthur Catt, a British sea captain and pirate. Others claim the isle was named for the numerous feral cats the English found here when they arrived in the 1600s. Supposedly, the cats’ ancestors had been left on the island by the earlier colonists from Spain.
In 1783, Loyalists from America settled on the island and established cotton plantations and cattle farms.
Visitors can walk among the ruins of the cotton plantations and the eighteenth-century slave huts or visit one of the caves of the Arawaks. There’s also a small museum in Knowles where visitors can learn about the island’s past. You can also see actor Sidney Poitier’s boyhood home in South Bight.
The beaches of Cat Island are truly breath-taking. Some have white sand, and others have pink sand. But whatever the color, you won’t have to worry about crowds. These beaches, for the most part, are usually practically empty. The best beaches are mostly found on the leeward side of the island, especially those along Exuma Sound.
Fountain Bay Beach is a great place to visit. The beach is about a mile long, and in the bushes near the flats is a natural fountain. At the end of the beach is a lagoon with a reef – a great place to snorkel.
If you want to rub elbows with the locals, visit New Bight Beach. Here, you’ll discover beach dances and picnics on the weekends.
Cat Island is famous for its great diving opportunities. Coral reefs, wrecks, rock walls, underwater caverns, submerged canyons, and blue holes abound. Experienced divers can explore on their own, while those with less experience might want to hire a local guide to help them navigate.
Some of the best dive spots include The Tunnels, White Hole Reef, Blue Hole, First Basin Wall, and Third Basin Reef Wall. In addition to interesting reef formations and caves, divers can expect to see sharks, dolphin, rays, huge lobsters, and plenty of tropical fish.
Because of the clarity of the water and the abundance of marine life, snorkeling is a favorite pastime on the island. Some of the best spots are found at Naked Point, a submerged cavern; Hazel’s Hideaway, with lots of hard and soft corals; Port Howe and its various types of sponges; Shipwreck, where grouper, lobster, sea fans, and small fish can be viewed; and Dry Head, with its grunts, yellow tails, and corals.
Bring your snorkel gear with you – you won’t find any for sale or rent on the island.
Like most of the Bahamas, Cat Island is known for its fishing. In fact, most of the native Cat Islanders fish just about every day. In the shallow flats and tidal creeks, bonefish are the favorite target for visiting anglers. Deeper water will reward fishermen with catches of grouper, sharks, mahi-mahi, wahoo, blue marlin, tuna, and snapper. Also, some of the largest lobsters in the world are taken at Cat Island, so you might want to try your luck with them. Local marinas can arrange boats and fishing guides.
Several resorts, villas, beach cottages, vacation homes, and inns provide accommodations to visitors. Some of the more popular are Greenwood Beach Resort, where a room with a ceiling fan is $110 per night; Fernandez Bay Village, where family-size villas start at $335 a night and cottages start at $235 per night; Sammy T’s Beach Resort, where rooms start at $145 a night; Pigeon Cay Beach Club, with rooms for $160 per night in the off season; and Island HoppInn, where suites start at $225 per night.
Some of the resorts and hotels offer package deals with meal plans.
You can also rent a private beachfront home with three bedrooms, two baths, and air conditioning for an amazing $1600 per week! Cat Island is definitely a place to find a cheap Bahamas vacation!
Cat Island is very natural and undeveloped, so don't expect the glitz of Nassau, Freeport, and Paradise Island. Nightlife consists mostly of the type of music made famous here - the Rake n Scrape. Local bands use conch shell horns, saws, goatskin drums, and whatever else they can find handy to create music. Sometimes an accordion is added to the mix. This is the real Bahamas, mon!
How to Get There
Commercial flights from Nassau fly to Arthur’s Town five times a week. Numerous charter flights also make the journey from Nassau or Florida to Cat Island. A round-trip ticket on Gulf Stream Air is around $400 per person from Ft. Lauderdale.
Read more about great vacations:
- find great vacation deals in the US and Caribbean
Cheap vacations, travel tips, great beaches, all inclusive, hotel package deals
- Summer Vacation: Panama City Beach Hotels and Motels, with Pics and Video
Panama City Beach is located on the beautiful Rivierano, not the one in Europe the Redneck Riviera, on Floridas panhandle! If you've never seen this section of Gulf of Mexico beaches, you're in...
- All About Guyana, with Videos
Most of Guyana is covered by dense rain forest. Guyana has beautiful waterfalls. Guyana has a diverse geography. One of Guyana's beaches. Overview Guyana is a small nation located on the northern coast of...
- Best U.S. Beaches for Families, with Videos
The United States is blessed with miles and miles of seashore on the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Gulf of Mexico. With all this shoreline comes many, many wonderful beaches. Some are great for surfing,...
- Travel Tips: Jekyll Island's Best Beaches with Photo Tour
Jekyll Island is located just off the Georgia coast. One of the Golden Isles, Jekyll is a favorite destination for families and couples. Since it's owned by the state, much of the island has been left in...
- Best Resorts in Nassau, Bahamas, with Photos and Video Tours
Nassau is the ultimate beach vacation experience. If you've never been, the first thing that will fascinate you is the impossible shades of the water. It ranges from baby blue to turquoise to the dark blue...
- Bahamas Out Islands: Bimini, with Video Tours
Bimini is one of the Out Islands of the Bahamas and is the closest one to the continental U.S. In fact, the island lies just 53 miles off the coast of Miami, Florida. Actually, Bimini is made up of two...
- Paradise in the Bahamas: Atlantis - an Overview, with Videos
Paradise Island is in the Bahamas, just across a short bridge from Nassau. The island is named appropriately it truly is a tropical paradise! No written description does the natural beauty of this...
- Anna Maria Island Vacations: Best Beaches, with Photo Tour
Anna Maria Island is located just south of Tampa, in the Gulf of Mexico. It's just across the bay from Bradenton and Sarasota. The island is laid back and friendly, and it has some great beaches. There's a...
- Bahamas Out Islands: Eleuthera, with Video Tours
Where do members of the British Royal Family go when they want to get away from it all on a tropical island? Eleuthera! Its an undeveloped natural island with rocky cliffs, pink and white sandy beaches,...