On the one hand, the short 25-minute flight from Nassau to Staniel Cay on a small 18-seater plane was quite nerve-wracking, but on the other hand, it raised my level of excitement about my stay on the small island. Because the closer we got to our destination, the more we got to see of the small cays that make up the Exumas island chain beneath us.
And not just the small islands – each of which seemed to have deserted sand beaches – caught our attention, but also the different shades of blue of the ocean. The color of the water ranged from azure blue to turquoise and sapphire, and every once in a while, a sandbar popped up, looking as if a painter had drawn it to intercept the different shades of blue with dots of a white-ish yellow. The plane landed on a tiny airport and everyone grabbed their luggage before walking off the airfield to an area where golf carts where waiting for new arrivals to be transported to their respective resorts or Staniel Cay hotels.
The hotel I was staying at, Embrace Resort, offers free airport shuttles, but when I loaded my bag onto the golf cart only to unload it two minutes later, I chuckled. The resort was so close to the airport that a pick-up wasn’t even necessary – at least if you’re traveling with as little luggage as I did on this trip. Knowing I’d be flying on a small plane, I packed only a few essentials: a couple of bikinis, a couple of dresses, a pair of shorts and a tank top, flip flops, a small bottle of sunscreen, a couple of books, my underwater camera, my regular camera, and a sun hat. When you prepare to visit Staniel Cay, don’t plan on doing much: this tiny island paradise begs you to do nothing. Except for visiting the famous swimming pigs of course, but more on that later.My check-in and introduction to the resort was quick and easy: there are only seven villas, all set around a small plunge pool. The pool is bordered by a covered lounge area on one side, and sun loungers on the other side, and even though it is small, it is just enough for a refreshing dip.
The seven villas vary in size and amenities. You can choose between:
- The Honeymoon Villa, with 1 King Bed and a jetted tub
- The Exclusive Cottage with 1 Bedroom, a refrigerator & microwave
- The Exclusive Duplex with 2 Bedrooms
- The Comfort Villa (a Studio that sleeps three)
- The Family Villa (2 bedrooms with 4 twin beds)
- The Family Townhome, 3 Bedrooms
- The Signature Bungalow with 1 Bedroom and Concierge Service
The villas all have flatscreen Fire TVs, which means you can connect to most streaming services you have an account with. The wireless internet is fast enough to let you stream movies, and I was also able to stream workouts via the Peloton app on the TV. My bungalow had a small refrigerator and a microwave (which I didn’t use, but the fridge was great to keep drinks and fruits cool), and there’s a coffee maker in the room, too. Coffee is provided, as are a few dishes, such as bowls, cups and silverware. What was a nice touch was that there was a cooler in each room – perfect to ensure that you have cool drinks on a beach day.
While I wasn’t able to cook in my bungalow, I was able to peek inside a 2-bedroom villa during my stay, which has a large, well-equipped kitchen. In addition to a regular coffee maker, it comes with a Moka to make espresso, a blender, and there are even utensils to bake! The 2-bedroom villas also have a separate lounge area with couches and cushions and a large flatscreen TV, and a table with four chairs to eat at.
Concierge Service & Tours to Pig Beach
The resort offers a concierge service that can plan private tours and plane rides to other islands in the Exumas, and they also have standard tours to popular sights such as Pig Beach and Compass Cay, where you can swim with nurse sharks.
There is a tour that goes just to Pig Beach, which costs $59 per person, or you can take a full-day tour that includes Pig Beach and five additional stops: a picture-perfect sandbar, swimming with sharks, snorkeling in a grotto with beautiful fish, snorkeling above a plane wreck, a stop at iguana beach and lunch. On this tour, snacks are also included.
The tour is usually $250 per person, but guests who stay at the resort get a 30% discount, bringing it down to $175 per person.
Pig Beach Tours can be customized to your individual interests if you opt for a private tour.
Golf cart rentals
Embrace Resort also offers golf cart rentals which are $59 per day, but hotel guests get a 30% discount. If you don’t want to walk around in the midday heat but want to see more of the island or simply get to the Yacht Club for lunch or dinner, golf cart rentals are recommended. If you don’t mind the heat and enjoy walking, or you don’t want to leave the resort much, you can get by without renting a golf cart. I was able to walk to my favorite beach (Pirate Beach) on the northern tip of the island in less than 30 minutes from the resort.
Stand-out feature: Top-notch customer service & hospitality
I felt very well looked after during my stay and I was always able to get in touch with someone via text message when I needed something (one night when the power went out during a storm, for example). Natajia, the manager, and her assistant Dexi were always available and eager to help. They shared information about the island with me, the shops, where to find vegetarian food, and of course they’re able to book you on a tour to Pig Beach and other nearby attractions, as mentioned above.
Because the resort is so small, it is a much more intimate experience than staying in a large resort where nobody knows anyone’s name. At Embrace Resort, you’ll leave feeling like you’ve made new friends in the Bahamas. You’ll feel like you’re in the know about the latest island gossip, life on Staniel Cay, and the inspiring woman who has dreamed up and built this resort independently, without the backing of big banks or investors.
Room for improvement
The only complaint I have about Embrace Resort is the fact that the water in the shower never got really hot. I can live with a lukewarm shower for a few days, but washing my hair with cold water isn’t great. Adding a boiler to provide hot showers is something the resort should consider.
Embrace Resort Staniel Cay: The Details
Location: B&G Highway, Staniel Cay, Bahamas
Amenities: Swimming pool, AC in all the villas, complimentary airport shuttle, WiFi and TV with streaming services, tour desk, golf cart rentals, concierge service, 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom villas have fully equipped kitchens
Rates: 1-bedroom villas start at $219; 2-bedroom villas start at $438; 3-bedroom villas start at $589 per night.