Where can one find stellar scuba diving in crystal clear ocean as well as spectacular white sand beaches where the only footprints you see for miles are your own? True, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find both but they exist in tandem on Long Island in the Bahamas.
Known as one of the “Out Islands” in this nation of over 700 breathtaking isles and keys, Long Island has remained mostly unspoiled by tourism since Columbus came across it in 1492. At about 90 miles long and narrowing to less than a mile in places, you truly can go all day without seeing another soul.
Now you can certainly find this desired seclusion on many other Bahamas islands as most are unpopulated and accessible only by sea with nothing in place to make for a comfortable stay of any duration. But if you want more than a camping experience you either need your own boat on which to live while anchored, or one must search more diligently for places where there are decent amenities but a minimum of people and relatively few visitors.
On the one hand I have found some incredibly luxurious private resorts but unfortunately they cost a kings ransom which most folks, including me, can ill afford. However, there is a reasonably priced, modest place on Long Island in the southern Bahamas called Stella Maris Resort & Club which near perfectly fits the bill.
As a diver, I’d heard about it ages ago from reading articles in dive magazines and had always wanted to visit, especially for the added bonus of being able to dive with sharks. I thought of it again recently when looking to book my next dive excursion and was afraid it might have joined the ranks of the many great locations that ended up over-trampled by tourists in the intervening years thus losing its original unspoiled appeal.
But after some cursory investigation on the web and talking to other divers, it sounded like it may have retained its uncrowded charm. So the trip was booked and I have to say it was exactly as advertised. Miles of desolate brilliant white sand beaches coupled with the spectacular crystal clear waters known throughout these islands and reefs teaming with fish.
The island population has remained small with only about 3500 inhabitants and around 30 or so small villages and towns. There are only a handful of vacation places and they are smallish, nicely blended into the island landscape without overpowering it. Stella Maris is a prime example with accommodations including cottages and small hotel style buildings of only a few rooms each built into the hillsides overlooking the ocean. And yes the views are beautiful!
Because everything is spread out over a fairly large property this resort never felt crowded and was perfect for relaxing. The diving was superb with up to 200 feet of visibility for exploring the many great reefs and several wrecks. And of course there was the shark diving which Stella Maris pioneered. They never failed to attract one or two dozen sharks for a super diving experience safely done.
Topping off the outstanding beaches and diving are other opportunities to explore, like Deans Blue Hole, the deepest ever at 660’, great snorkeling either off a charter boat or places like the Coral Gardens only a short walk away. Plus there are kayaks and bicycles for going further afield.
And last but far from least was the outstanding dining available since being in and on the water always creates superb appetites. Enjoy fine fare in the main clubhouse or down by the beach, and you should also take advantage of the huge outdoor terrace for drinks or just watching the sunsets.
All in all Stella Maris Resort is a great choice for a romantic getaway or just spending time with a few friends and I’d welcome a return engagement. Just note that if you’re looking for intense nightlife then look elsewhere because here you’ll just find a laid-back, unpretentious place to enjoy great diving, exploring, taking long walks on the beach, or simply soaking up the sun doing nothing at all.