By Noelle Khalila Nicolls
November 04, 2014
James Quine / Alamy

If you’d rather not stay in a hotel in The Bahamas, there are a few other options available to you. For a very local people-to-people experience you can opt to stay with a Bahamian family (there is actually a Ministry of Tourism-sponsored program to help you find good matches); or you can go the more popular route, and rent a private vacation home for your very own island retreat.

The vacation rentals in the islands (usually second homes of upscale residents) often trump the offerings of small Bahamian hoteliers—which, though unfortunate for the local economy, is somewhat understandable when you see the wealth of options. Rental homes almost always have the best views and the most modern amenities. Whether you want a luxurious or quaint vacation home, though, check out the top five areas on my list. You’ll find these places have the best variety of properties to choose from. 

Pigeon Cay

On the Northwest tip of Cat Island you will find Pigeon Cay, a coastal area bracketed by a beautiful stretch of beach to the west and scenic mangrove creeks to the east. Upscale homes—many of them offered as vacation rentals—line this secluded part of the island and make for perfect holiday getaways.

Highbourne Cay

There are three ways to get to the ultra-private Highbourne Cay: by helicopter, seaplane or private boat. However you arrive, though, you’ll find you have eight beaches to choose from on this three-mile island.  You will never have to worry about overcrowding; there are only eight luxury rental cottages here. But all are choice properties. 

Winding Bay

Not to be confused with Winding Bay, Abaco, the private homes set along Eleuthera’s Winding Bay have one major asset in common: turtles, turtles and more turtles. So famed is this area for sea-turtle sightings, many of the guest books at the various rental properties include hand-drawn maps and logs showing where past visitors have spotted them. 

Gaulding Cay

Gaulding Cay is a small neighborhood of private homes set a short distance away from Eleuthera’s signature attraction, the Glass Window Bridge (a narrow strip where the dark-blue waters of the Atlantic meet the pale Caribbean Sea). Casuarina trees create ample shade on this secluded beach; the private rental homes skirt the coastline, tucked into the foliage. 

Schooner Bay

This residential resort in Marsh Harbour, Abaco is attempting to lead the way in sustainable tourism development. It is a relatively new harbor village that prides itself on the use of traditional Bahamian architecture, hydroponic agriculture and green living. Whether your interest is to purchase or rent a home in Abaco, Schooner Bay deserves a first look. 

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