Sponsored by Embrace Resort, Staniel Cay
How can you beat a Bahama Island resort experience that begins with a stunning scenic flight over the Exuma Cays and an airport transfer in a golf cart? Needless to say, our getaway to Staniel Cay was off to a flying start (pun intended).
Staniel Cay was everything a tropical Caribbean vacation should be. No development. No frantic pace. Hardly any cars. I felt the tension unwinding as each minute ticked down. For the four days we spent in the Exumas, the rest of the world did not exist.
Our home away from home was Embrace Resort, Staniel Cay’s first Bahamian-owned hotel, from the first female entrepreneurs in its 100-year history!
Our days were spent swimming with pigs and sharks, sunning with iguanas, and witnessing some of the most beautiful beaches and sunsets we’ve seen in the world.
In this guide, we’ll reveal to you everything you need to know about staying at the Embrace Resort as well as all the reasons why we loved it.
Before we share more about the resort and Flyin’ Pig Cafe, let me first tell you exactly where in the world Staniel Cay is!
Where are Staniel Cay and The Exuma Islands?
The Exuma Cays are an oasis of 365 remote islands stretching across the Tropic of Cancer in the southern half of The Bahamas.
They are located about 250-miles southeast of Florida and 75-miles south of Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. The Bahama Islands are actually in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean Sea, but the country is part of CARICOM, the Caribbean Community.
The Exumas are known for being more remote and exotic than the northern islands of the Bahamas, and so you can often find celebrities hiding out here in their super yachts and private islands.
Staniel Cay is one of the larger islands and is located at the heart of the Exuma Cays. As it has one of the only landing airport strips it has become the gateway to the Exuma archipelago.
Many tourists come in and out each day for a swimming with pigs’ tour from Nassau, and this small island community is home to around 100 residents, and the Embrace Resort is located near to the amazing Thunderball Grotto and Pig Beach.
About Embrace Resort in Staniel Cay
Embrace Resort was opened in 2014 by a local Bahamian woman, Nicole (Nikki) who has been working in the tourism industry for 30 years.
The resort aims to embrace the true essence of Bahamian culture – relaxation and a place where families can come together.
We love that Embrace Resort is a family-owned business that is the product of love and experience.
Check-In Experience at Embrace Resort
Our check-in experience was as smooth as to be expected. Our host, Natajia, greeted us in a golf cart with a beaming smile and an exuberant wave like we were long-lost friends, and a welcome I’ve come to know from my global travel experiences.
You know how easy it is for strangers to become friends if you break down initial barriers with a warm and authentic greeting that says, “I’m so happy to meet you! Because I know you’ll have a difference that will intrigue me and a similarity that helps me feel connected.”
“Want a tour of the island before you check in?” she asked. Natajia whizzed around in the golf cart the handful of small streets that made up the tiny village of Staniel Cay.
The island is only half a mile by two miles, so the introduction was short, but enough for me to know I was in the right place!
We drove past spectacular beaches as the sun was setting, roosters running freely, groups of men sitting around playing dominoes, and plenty of smiling faces.
After that, we met the welcoming front desk staff who checked our reservations and showed us to our villa. All you need to check-in here is your booking confirmation and the credit card you paid with (you need to complete an online registration beforehand where you pay via a secure link).
You may need to pay a deposit on arrival for incidental charges, and the reception is open daily from 8.00am – 5:00pm.
Reasons to Stay at Embrace Resort
Now you have been introduced, let’s look at the many reasons why you’ll love staying at the Embrace Resort on your vacation!
1. An Inspiring All-Female Owned Local Business
The thing to love most about Embrace Resort is that it’s an all-woman and locally owned business by a mother-daughter team who were both born and raised in Staniel Cay.
In fact, it was their descendants who first settled Staniel Cay (and played a role in settling the wild pigs on nearby Pig Island.)
Embrace Resort didn’t appear with developer funding or bank loans. It was built on a dream and lifelong commitment to creating a true Bahamian vacation experience for travelers.
Mother (and founder), Nicole Ferguson built the villas one by one using the profits made from her golf cart rental business. That’s all she could do as banks kept shutting her down for loans as they did not think a hotel near an airport would be successful (more on that in the review below.)
As we know, never say no to a woman with a dream and a fierce commitment. Because now it is a thriving 7-villa resort property that reflects the tropical beauty, warmth, and friendliness of the Bahamian culture.
While it’s called a resort, the Embrace Resort is not one of those all-inclusive, large, and touristy kinds of places to stay.
It’s warm, friendly, quiet, peaceful, and small. It had a lovely communal feel similar to hostels – you could easily find time and spaces to chat with your fellow travelers.
That’s largely attributed to daughter, Natijia who has used her experience as a global traveler and working in hospitality in Dubai and China to create exceptional customer service for all kinds of visitors.
It’s not just at Embrace Resort where this commitment to creating the best vacation starts and ends. The Mother Daughter team also own 3N’s Exuma Vacations, which was the first travel agency on Staniel Cay, and is rated #1 on TripAdvisor and holds a Badge of Excellence.
Their premium Swimming with Pigs tour is the most popular for the region and caters to travelers flying in from Nassau for the day or joining the tour from Embrace Resort.
3Ns is an acronym for the 3 generations of women, Nellie (the grandmother and inspiration), Nikki, (the mother and foundation), and Natajia (the daughter and continuation).
Late Grandmother Nellie always encouraged Nikki to start a travel agency because of her in-depth knowledge of the Exumas Cays and passion for service.
2. It’s A Sustainable Eco-Resort
Embrace Resort is committed to sustainability and eco-tourism. It was built with advice from OBMI’s Environmental Consultant, Denaye Hinds. They source the majority of locally produced and/or recycled items as much as possible and employ local people.
They have a towel reuse program and encourage guests to turn off electricity and reduce water usage during their stay, and their plant irrigation system has been very successful in reusing water while keeping their gardens flourishing.
EMBRACE plans to partner with organizations like Cans for Kids, Go Green Bahamas, the Bahamas National Trust and the neighboring Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park in the future to help create an eco-friendlier community.
I feel safe in saying all of Staniel Cay is an ecotourism dream destination. Apart from a couple of small, local restaurants, grocery stores and a yacht club, it’s all pristine natural beauty. There are no high-rises, no chains, and minimal vehicles!
Remember to do your part as a traveler who cares about leaving gentler footprints and support local (easy to do here).
Reuse your towels, reduce daily housekeeping, and turn off your AC. Let the fans circulate the air and enjoy that cool Bahamian breeze.
3. It has Bahamian Villas to Suit all Travel Styles
How these villas are named, designed, and created, are testament to the care the Fergusons have applied to make a stay here all about experiencing Bahamian culture.
EMBRACE is an acronym for the names of all the villas, which are named after some of the Bahama islands.
The interior design is aimed to match the character of the island it’s named after. For example, Bimini will have lots of blues as it’s an island known for deep-sea fishing.
- Exuma (2 bedroom) – named after the beautiful Exuma Islands. This villa is perfect for families (where we stayed)
- Mayaguana (1 bedroom) – is one of the only islands to hold onto its Lucayan name (people of the islands) and was the first of the Embrace Villas built. You can choose to have a king bed or two twin beds with this room.
- Bimini (2 bedrooms) – named after the fishing capital of the Bahamas
- Ragged Island – is about romance and seclusion. This honeymoon villa is outfitted with an in-room jacuzzi jetted tub, mood lighting, and a walk-in shower.
- Andros (3 bedroom) this villa matches the name of the biggest island in the country. Comes with a dining room and kitchen.
- Cat Island (1 bedroom) The orange and red hues of this cottage take you back to the days of traditional Bahamian open-fire cooking.
- Eleuthera (1 bedroom) is known for its natural beauty and juicy pineapples!
Not only are the villas reflective of Bahamian culture, but they form a circle around the central swimming area. So, like the Embrace name, it’s giving everyone a giant hug and helping all guests feel like part of the family.
All villas will have views over the small pool and with the lush gardens surrounding the property, it feels very tropical. They also have a living area with sofa bed and a kitchenette with microwaves.
As you can see, they have villas to suit all types of travelers. All guestrooms come with the amenities you would expect from a resort, such as safety features like smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in the room, a flat screen tv with cable channels, free toiletries in the bathroom, and of course, free wifi.
At the time of writing (January 2023) room prices start at $250 for one bedroom, $550 for 2 bedroom and $600 for 3 bedrooms. You can also put in special requests for cribs and rollaway infant beds, but there are no extra beds for adults.
Embrace also offers vacation home rentals on the island, which can sleep from 2 to 10 people depending on which property you choose.
If you’re traveling with a large group of 10 to 25 guests, you can even book out the entire Embrace Resort – perfect for those wanting a destination wedding!
4. Exuma Villas Are Great for Families
We stayed in the Exuma villa, which is perfect for families, with two bedrooms downstairs and a living area and kitchen upstairs.
We loved the extra space the villa gave us all, especially now we have a teen and tween. We had a lovely balcony we could sit on to enjoy the views and Bahama Breezes, and we could see quite a bit of the island from here.
As Staniel Cay is a quiet island – no real nightlife – we enjoyed relaxing on the couch for an evening watching Netflix, reading books, or crocheting (Savanna’s new hobby). Perhaps pack a deck of cards or other small games your family likes to play together!
The self-contained kitchen is perfect for families and guests wanting to reduce their costs of eating out, and there are three grocery stores on the island where you can get supplies:
- Pink Pearl Groceries – cheapest.
- Burke’s Convenience Store – the most expensive.
- Isles General A-Z Store – closest to Embrace Resort.
There is also a liquor store for more affordable alcohol options. Don’t forget duty free on your way to The Bahamas.
As supplies are limited on the island, Embrace Hotel has a provisioning service where they can have groceries from Nassau ready for you when you arrive.
If you don’t want to worry about cooking and have a budget that allows for it, Embrace Resort has an affordable on-site café – the Flying Pig.
5. Affordable Upscale Dining at the Flying Pig Café
I had a few people warn me about how expensive The Bahamas would be for food, so I was pleasantly surprised that the food at the Flying Pig Café was quite on par with what you’d pay in the States.
Some meals were a little more expensive but bear in mind food has to be imported from Nassau or the USA so costs will be higher. Meals will be a little smaller than you get in the USA too, which is not a bad thing at all.
It also means some menu items may not be available each day if they run out before the next supply run. So be flexible and patient. All meals are made from scratch with fresh ingredients daily.
All the food items we had were delicious with quite a few upscale items, like shrimp ceviche. Except they were out of shrimp, so I had lobster ceviche instead. YUM!
The flying Pig is a new addition to the Embrace Resort and opened in the summer of 2022.
We ate at the Flying Pig almost every day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – during our four-night stay and loved the freshness of the food. I was very happy to see quite a few gluten-free options on the menu too. Vegans and vegetarians will have options as well, like a coconut chickpea curry.
Breakfast at the Flying Pig
Expect to pay $6-12 for breakfast. Our girls loved the chocolate chip waffles. They were large and fluffy and oozing with chocolate goodness. They were probably some of the best I’ve ever seen and only $6.
They have other pastry items available like croissants and cinnamon rolls, as well as parfait, French toast and acai bowls.
Craig and I enjoyed a western omelet most mornings, which came with toast, and breakfast potatoes. This was $12 and very filling.
And here’s a GREAT thing: The Flying Pig café is a coffee shop that makes GOOD coffee! It’s the only place on the island to get a proper cup of coffee, made to order.
M Tip. Have your morning latte with coconut milk. It tasted way different to the USA – creamy and without added sugar.
Lunch and Dinner at the Flying Pig Cafe
For lunch and dinner (same menu) expect to pay around. $12 – $35
Our teen said the chicken bacon melt was the best she’s ever had and ordered it multiple times. The wings were delicious – we loved the sweet guava sauce ($12)
The grilled mahi mahi fish was so fresh and delicious ($30+) and I loved putting it on my Greek Salad and Savannah loved stealing half my fish, if she wasn’t having it in the form of fish fingers ($15).
Craig and I loved the flank steak with charred asparagus and potato wedges ($28). Everything was cooked perfectly and beautifully seasoned. It was hard NOT to order this every night.
Kids meals were your typical pasta, chicken nuggets and grilled cheese and cost $8-10. Compared with the Staniel Cay Yacht Club where they were $15.
For a taste of the Bahamas, be sure to order some conch. It comes in various styles: chowder, fritters, and bites.
While we did not have any dessert, they do have it on the menu: coconut mousse, guava cheesecake, and flourless chocolate cake ($7-$12).
The café also has snacks like chips, muffins, fruit, chocolate, and muesli bars. And, they have a full bar and signature cocktails – made with the Bahama’s favorite liquor – rum.
I enjoyed my “Getting Piggy With it” and “Bahama Mama”. Again, both were $12 which I think is quite reasonable in comparison to US prices and for a resort on a remote island.
As everything is made to order and can get busy, expect a wait for your food. Sit in the sun – or at shaded tables – order a rum punch and enjoy relaxing into Bahama time.
We’d order our food and then either get ready for the day or attend to other tasks while waiting. Be sure to allow time before your excursions for the day to order and eat. We’d allow for an hour.
Also, you can always take food from the café back to your villa or out on your day trip.
We had this lovely picnic on the incredible Pirate Beach with food and really good drinks we packed into our cooler (which comes with each villa).
The Flying Pig Café has a lovely outdoor seating area with shaded tables. Inside are more tables and a lovely modern design inside with pig paraphernalia, pink walls, bright paintings, and floral arrangements.
Yes, you can eat at the Flying Pig Café even if you aren’t staying at the resort. It’s an affordable place to eat and we saw many people walking in or riding in on their golf carts to dine there.
NOTE: The 3N’s Exuma Vacation Swimming with Pigs tour stops here for lunch after the tour.
As it’s next door to the airport, it’s a great place to eat while you’re waiting for your plane – way better than sitting round at the airport. You can even hear your plane arrive, so you know when to walk over.
- Hours: Monday – Saturday 7:30AM – 9:00PM; Sunday – Closed
6. The Swimming Pool is Amazing
While we loved spending time at the stunning beaches every day, we also enjoyed time to relax around the outdoor pool.
As this area is also known for swimming with nurse sharks (especially around Compass Cay marina), I liked the addition of the shark mosaic tiles at the bottom of the pool, a little unnerving but a fun touch!
There is a shaded cabana-style deck area above the pool with oversized couches adding to the lux feel.
All villas include beach towels and a cooler for you to take with you to the beach.
7. Personalized, Friendly Service
With its small size, and family-style atmosphere, personalized service is easy to get at Embrace.
Staff was always on hand to answer questions and help us. Tajia helped make our vacation experience better by sharing lots of stories about the island and tips like Pirate Beach, which hardly anyone goes to, and turned out to be one of our favorite beaches in the world!
All guests get a complimentary airport and marina transfers – enjoy that golf cart ride!
She also helped organize a massage therapist for us with Khori from Illusions by the Sea. Khori came to our villa for an incredible deep-tissue massage, which helped me feel like a new person. My knots were BAD!
You know you are in good hands when your massage therapist is the masseuse to the stars. Yep, we were one degree of separation from many famous stars including Michael Jordan, Paris Hilton, Johnny Depp and Pooh Bear.
8. Effortless & High-Quality Swimming with Pigs’ Tour
Joining a Swimming with Pigs tour is effortless when you stay at Embrace Resort. As mentioned, they own and run the number one rated tour in the Exumas for this.
You’ll be taken to the boat dock when the tour is ready to go and dropped back off for lunch at the Flying Pig Cafe. Guests of the resort get a 30% discount off their swimming pigs’ tours.
9. Convenient Location
Remember when the banks denied Nikki funding because of her location next door to the airport and not on the beachfront? Now, usually, if you were anywhere else, particularly a big city, this would be a negative, but on Staniel Cay it’s not.
Due to the size of the island, everywhere is near the airport. And a two-minute golf cart ride will get you to the beautiful Public Beach, which is great for sunset. And just down from there are the grocery stores, and the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, also popular for sunset drinks.
And our favorite beach, Pirate Beach, was only a five-minute drive away! You can also walk to all of these places, with Pirate Cove being the furthest at twenty minutes!
Being near the airport certainly makes your airport transfers easy. In fact, you can sit on the patio of the Flying Pig café until you hear the airplane land, and then it’s a 2 min walk to the airport to board – no more waiting around with the crowds.
And there are no noise pollution issues either as the runway and planes are small and the flights don’t start going until around 8am and finish at dusk!
Golf Cart Rentals
I mentioned it was fun getting picked up from the airport in a golf cart, what’s even better is zipping around the island in your own rental.
You can get anywhere on the island within 5-10 minutes. You certainly won’t be complaining about the spectacular open-air views and cool breezes.
This was the first thing the girls wanted to do when we arrived, and they asked for it often during our stay. They loved sitting in the back watching Staniel Cay village go by with the wind whipping their hair.
Our 15-year-old was disappointed she couldn’t drive it, but you must be 18 with a valid license. They are strict with it on the Cay and will dish out fines!
You can rent 2, 4 and 6-seater golf carts, and guests of the resort get 25% off.
The Spa for Embrace Resort is not yet open, but you can still order some spa treatments such as massage services to your room. A fitness center is also due to be added to the resort very soon.
How to Get to Staniel Cay
Unless you’re sailing in, the only way to get to Staniel Cay is by small plane. It’s just another reason to visit this beautiful island in the Exumas as the 30-minute flight is a scenic one.
It was overcast and at dusk when we flew into Staniel Cay from Nassau, so did not see too much below but had front row seats to a beautiful sunset.
But, on the way back to Nassau, our morning flight with bright sunny skies unveiled a stunning vista below of the Exuma Islands, which we flew over almost the entire way.
Those coming into Staniel Cay for a day trip to see the swimming pigs will also fly in from Nassau.
You can either fly in from Nassau (Bahamas) via Flamingo Air or Titan Air or fly in from Ft. Lauderdale (Florida, US) via Makers Air or Staniel Air. Flamingo Air, Titan Air, and Maker’s Air have flights twice daily.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here’s what people usually ask us about visiting the Exuma and staying in Staniel Cay.
How will the weather be?
The Exumas have a tropical savanna climate with dry winters. The yearly average maximum temperature in Exumas is 81°F (ranging from 76°F in march to 85°F in august). Annual rainfall is 64.3 inches, with a minimum of 2.1 inches in March and a maximum of 11.7 inches in October.
We visited in the first week of January and had lovely warm weather (80F) every day with a few sudden, but quick rain showers. Understand that weather is always unpredictable and cannot be controlled. Learn how to dance in the rain!
Is there an ATM on the island / are cards accepted?
There is no ATM on the island, so bring cash.
You can use USD or Bahamian dollars. It’s a 1:1 currency exchange. You may receive Bahamian change if you use USD, or vice versa. Credit Cards are also accepted.
Is Staniel Cay Safe?
As with any place you travel to, it’s important to use common sense and be aware of your surroundings. We found Staniel Cay to be very safe and did not feel nervous or afraid once.
Theft or crime is not really a problem, locals even leave the keys in their golf carts and sleep with doors unlocked.
The island is small and everyone knows everyone, so there’s not a lot that can go by undiscovered. But again, that doesn’t mean things can’t happen so be cautious.
It’s supporting and experiencing locally owned businesses and stories like this that always make my travels so much better. I travel to understand the locals more, to feed my curiosity and sense of awe, and develop empathy.
Embrace Resort will be so much more than just a bed to sleep in and will enhance those precious memories you make in the stunning Exuma Islands.
Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, mosquito repellent, a happy disposition, and purchase travel insurance!
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