By Kira Turnbull
September 26, 2014

They say you never really appreciate something until it’s gone. That’s how I’ve felt ever since I was twelve when my family and I packed up our bags and headed from a remote island in the Bahamas to the bustling city of New York. There are many extraordinary islands with such unique sights and experiences scattered across the Bahamian waters—the pink sands of Harbour Island (and the swimming pigs!) in the Exumas, fishing in the Abacos, or roaming around Fort Charolette in Nassau. And these are just a few.

With all these wonderful islands to explore, returning to my hometown on Andros island is still such a special experience and gives me a new appreciation for the vibrant life and culture that the Bahamas evokes. After my most recent visit back, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite places to stay, things to do, and eat.

Stay: If you’re an avid scuba diver or lover of all things beach, sun and sand then the first place I’d recommend is the all-inclusive Small Hope Bay Lodge. This unique island getaway is situated right on the white sands of central Andros and has a breathtaking view. As a professed lover of everything food and drink, my favorite part of the all-inclusive package is that you have free reign to roam the fully stocked bar or feast on the conch fritters during cocktail hour. Small Hope is known for its hospitality and friendly guests. From personal experience, there are people I’ve met there that have become some of my dearest friends. If you’re more of the reserved type, tucked away in a field of palm trees and sea grapes is the Kettlestone Villa. It’s a great place for families to stay at who want some private, island time with their loved ones. Along with the main house there are three cabins, a giant pool over looking the cliff, and a fire pit for chilly winter nights.

Eat: One of my favorite dishes to date is Bahamian conch salad. Whenever I want to grab a bite of the mouthwatering delicacy, I head to some of the local food stands. Andros Island is quit remote, so besides dining at the resorts, searching for local eats can be challenging. However, my favorite place to find this Bahamian classic is right on Fresh Creek near Clinger’s Bar & Grill. You go up to the colorful food stand and place your order. Then sit back and relax as the cook brings out some freshly caught, raw conch and dices it up with juicy tomatoes and cucumbers followed by some fiery scotch bonnet peppers.

Do: As one of the largest islands in the Bahamas, Andros is home to the third largest barrier reef in the world, which means it has some of the best diving in the world! Some of my favorite activities include visiting the inland blue holes scattered across the island and scuba diving off the reef. Along with more than sixty scuba diving locations, Small Hope Bay Lodge also provides the legendary shark dive (cue the music from Jaws!). Jump onto their dive boat and dive down to 50 feet where you sit and watch as an array of nurse and reef sharks swim towards the floating chunk of frozen fish. Don’t worry the sharks care more about their frozen feast than your neoprene wet suit. On the days when I don’t scuba dive, I always find peace and serenity by visiting the Captain Bill’s inland blue hole. For those of you who prefer a subtle entrance into this fresh water oasis, there’s a ladder, but for the adrenalin seekers, Captain Bill’s has a patio where you can leap off and jump 25 feet into the blue lagoon.

Kira Turnbull is Travel + Leisure's photo assistant.