Throwback Travel Log: Exuma, Bahamas And The Conch Salad I’ll Never Forget
WOW, do I miss traveling or WHAT!? Anyone who knows me knows that travel is a huge part of my life. I’ve definitely been feeling the wanderlust lately and I’m working on plotting my next trip (stay tuned for that!) but for now I’m left scrolling through my camera roll looking at memories from my time actually wandering… just trying desperately to remember what a cold beer tastes like from a tropical beach.
When I think back at some of the moments that stand out to me most from my travels in the last few years, there’s one moment in particular that just captivates me to this day: The moment I tasted the Conch Salad at a beach shack in Exuma, Bahamas. I wanted to tell you about this amazing trip because it was seriously incredible! I’ll try to give you all the juicy details so we can all pretend we’re there together. Haha!
It was Christmastime in 2015 and we wanted to go somewhere fun for the holidays. We chose Exuma because it was warm and living in Northeast Ohio through the winter is NO JOKE. We wanted to go somewhere in the Caribbean and my mom is great at finding prime vacation spots for our family trips… Exuma had literally everything we were looking for: It was the right price, there was stuff to do, it was safe, it was tropical. We went with my parents and immediate family to visit this little treasure in the Bahamas: Exuma.
Exuma is the smallest part of the Bahamas, it’s known for its cays. Exuma is basically a cluster of cays (small, sandy, low-elevation islands on top of a coral reef). There’s a large cay called Great Exuma (about 37 miles long) connected by a bridge to a smaller cay called Little Exuma. Apparently Johnny Depp owns his own cay (big Jack Sparrow move, there!) but we didn’t see him during our trip!
If Exuma sounds familiar to you it’s probably because it was the location of the infamous Fyre Festival disaster. Fortunately, we were NOT there to see Blink-182 and visited this tropical oasis before Billy McFarland and Ja Rule graced its sandy shores… ooops!
We stayed at Grand Isle Resort and Spa. Fun fact, The Bachelor (Ben Higgin’s season/Season 20) was hosted here! The resort has its own private beach and waterfront restaurant, golf course– it is seriously so amazing! You even get a golf cart with your villa! Everything is walkable on the resort… It’s just a super-super cool place. Another bonus perk is that the Grand Isle is right next to a Sandals resort. There you can get a day pass and enjoy their grounds/amenities too! We were so happy to be there and I’d definitely recommend it.
During our stay, we did a day trip on a boat with Exuma Water Sports, a great local tour company. One thing Exuma is famous for is their swimming pigs and we did NOT want to miss out on that. We went on a private tour on a small sport boat that took us through many cays and rock formations around the main island. We landed on some beaches and there were wild pigs and you could feed them and swim with them. There was a cat with iguanas! We fed them grapes. The wildlife is crazy there… we saw stingrays and sharks and the most beautiful fish. The views here are unbelievable. The water is like a dream. Exuma is definitely one of the top three most beautiful places I have ever been. As far as travel destinations go, it doesn’t have the most things to do but it is absolutely stunningly beautiful!
A short drive away from our resort was Big D’s! Great Exuma is covered in local stands- just small restaurants, food, and drink spots. Big D’s Conch Sand Bar and Grill was about 5 minutes from the resort… we kept hearing about it — and we soon figured out why: IT. IS. AMAZING.
We had a local drive us and he really guided us to many great spots but he said Big D’s was his favorite place. They do live music a few days a week and you won’t find a bunch of tourists here; it’s a hidden gem kind of spot with music on the ocean, who doesn’t like that!? You could just sit there on the beach, drink a Kalik Light (the local beer) and eat the tastiest treats… this is where the Conch Salad comes in.
You can get conch at a lot of places near the water. Usually, it’ll be a chewy, fritter or fried situation. But when you order a Conch Salad at Big D’s, you watch them go right out into the ocean in front of you, catch the conch from the sea, and prepare it for you immediately. They squeeze fresh citrus, lemons, limes, oranges. They chop tomato and bell pepper and red onion. It’s so fresh. So light. It’s different than anything else I’ve ever tasted. The guy put so much time and effort into this small bowl of conch salad and it was just SO delicious. There was nothing chewy about it. It was a clean and bright flavor. If you’ve never had conch before, it just tastes like the ocean: so fresh with an earthy-sea flavor, a little salty, a little fishy, but so well seasoned with the citrus. So refreshing and bright! I think about it all the time. We
were just sitting there at the table watching them catch and clean the conch, do all the knife work, and just craft such a beautiful and tasty dish. It was so cool.
I’d definitely recommend a trip to Exuma to anyone who can go. And Big D’s is a MUST EAT. More than any of that, I think the most important thing is to fully dive in when you travel. Talk to locals, eat local cuisine, try new things. It’s such an enriching way to live and broadens your life, palette, perspective, and experiences.
Check Out @rumheartsarah for a delicious example of Conch Salad!