Looking for a one of a kind out-island experience that will leave you thirsty for more? Situated approximately 350-miles southeast of Miami, Rum Cay is arguably the greatest secret in the entire Bahamian archipelago. Combine a unique old Bahamas ambiance, pristine vistas, unrivaled hospitality and close proximity to fertile fisheries, and you have an exotic destination that’s nothing short of paradise.
At approximately 30-square miles, this sparsely populated jewel of The Bahamas is said to have received its name in remembrance of a shipwreck loaded with none other than a cargo of rum. Having visited this quaint island retreat on previous occasions, I was well aware of what was in store—incredible island cuisine, superb hospitality, world-class fishing opportunities and extreme adventures of all kinds. Here you won’t find cruise ships, high-rise hotels or crowded bazaars, rather seemingly endless beaches and quiet solitude. Whether you visit this slice of heaven for rest and relaxation, red-hot fishing, snorkeling and diving, or more extreme water sports like surfing and paddleboarding, Rum Cay undoubtedly offers something for adventurous souls of all ages and experiences.
There's a post office, medical facility with registered nurse, a couple of restaurants and bars and a general store aptly named Last Chance.
Legend has is that in search for spices and treasure Christopher Columbus made his second landfall in Rum Cay on his famous 1492 voyage to the New World. Loyalist settlers didn’t arrive until the 18th Century and at one time, Rum Cay was a prosperous island with a few thousand inhabitants. Locals worked in the salt ponds mining sea salt destined for far away locales. While pineapples, cotton and sisal were other island staples, nearby competition combined with unfortunate natural disasters have all but wiped away the remnants of these once prosperous endeavors. Common to other islands in the Caribbean, Rum Cay has seen its fair share of economic booms and busts with the 1990 census tallying a mere 53 inhabitants. Today the only settlement, Port Nelson, lies on the southern coast and this picturesque village offers little more than historical charm. There’s a post office, medical facility with registered nurse, a couple of restaurants and bars and a general store aptly named Last Chance. Be aware that like most islands in The Bahamas normal business hours are anything but normal. The rest of the island is completely uninhabited with once booming settlements run down and overgrown, offering breathtaking views and miles of deserted beaches waiting to be explored.
While there are a handful of rental properties on the island, Sumner Point Marina offers the only resort-like accommodations. The hurricane-protected harbor is nestled along the southern coast and provides dockage for 30 vessels, with long term, seasonal and transient boaters always welcome. It is here where you will have the pleasure of meeting Bobby Little—the man behind the fame of Rum Cay. For more than 45-years Bobby and his family have called the island home. An experienced pilot, angler, surfer, diver, cook and extreme sports enthusiast, Bobby provides guided island tours, big-game fishing adventures, surfing expeditions and bonefish hunts just to name a few. If you’re more into relaxing be sure to investigate the mud baths in the salt pond. Spend the day touring with Bobby and you’ll surely have a remarkable experience with memories that will last a lifetime.
With my last visit to Rum Cay over 10-years ago, I was excited to see what had changed, although I was well aware of the slow paced island life and wasn’t expecting much in terms of major development. I was happy to see that Bobby was still the Rum Cay renaissance man, with Rasta his dedicated right hand man, checking fish traps, creating incredible culinary treats and keeping tabs on what’s going on around the marina.
Die-hard blue water anglers who enjoy the thrill that goes along with fishing unpressured waters beyond the reach of the general fleet understand the reason for venturing this far off the beaten path. While fuel and freshwater are hot commodities in the farthest reaches of the southeastern Bahamas, big fish are the norm and angling fantasies often come true…on a daily occurrence! The fertile waters surrounding Rum Cay are arguably the most prolific in all of The Caribbean.
When you study a chart of the southeastern Bahamas, Rum Cay is strategically located only a few miles southwest of San Salvador and due east of the northern tip of Long Island. With prime position on the eastern edge of the Bahamian island chain this distant outpost is in the path of practically every migratory species that traverses through the western Atlantic Ocean.
One excellent feature is Rum’s inherent size. While most of the angling action takes place in proximity to the islands southeast and northeast points, since the island is so small anglers can make a quick run to the leeward side when the winds and seas kick up. Upon departing Rum Cay Marina, Sumner Point on the southern coast, anglers will find themselves in nutrient-rich blue water. Most crews drop their riggers once they pass the last navigational buoy marking the jagged staghorn corals. Nestled along the edge of a sheer underwater cliff that drops thousands of feet into the blue abyss, unbelievable sport fishing opportunities abound along this former pirate’s hideout.
While the laid-back out-island experience interests true connoisseurs, it is the incredible fishing that keeps visitors coming back for more. Powerful currents collide with deep ledges to create an upwelling effect that congregates forage and predators in copious amounts. Typical with other Bahamian destinations, the winter season is all about wahoo and here striped torpedoes reach epic proportions. A testament to the fact that wahoo reside in these waters year-round, a behemoth 130-pounder was subdued this past March.
Like wahoo, schools of roaming yellowfin tuna can be encountered on virtually every day of the year, although the main run starts in March and continues through June. While slammer dolphin are another consistent target, they begin to show in numbers during March and April. Some have claimed that Rum Cay offers the best marlin fishing in all of The Bahamas, with the recent full moons in May and June offering the best chance for success.
During our mid-April adventure, we were blessed with good winds, clear skies and red-hot fishing. In only two days we raised several billfish, boated gaffer wahoo and dolphin, and chased surface busting schools of juvenile blackfin and yellowfin tuna. While the on-the-water action was indeed incredible, it was only part of the fun. Wading the salt ponds for spooky bonefish, diving for conch, surfing and feeding the sharks, Rum Cay is a true waterman’s paradise.
With another stamp in the passport and memory cards full of images, this tucked away destination holds a special place in my heart. My hat goes off to Bobby and Rasta for their incredible hospitality. If you’re searching for an a la carte vacation that offers something for everyone, be sure to visit this amazing locale before the word gets out. Fortunately, I think you have quite some time before this distant destination becomes overcrowded.
Visiting Rum Cay
American Airlines, Bahamas Air, Jet Blue and Spirit offer daily non-stop flights from Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) and Miami (MIA) to the capital city of Nassau (NAS). The flight is approximately 30-minutes and a valid U.S. Passport is required for both entry and exit into The Bahamas. From Nassau, Cat Island Air is the only commercial airline with service to Rum Cay. As of press date, flights are only available on Tuesdays and Saturdays. As with all aspects of island life, schedules don’t mean too much. Cat Island Air has a reputation of not being on time and not flying on schedule, so be prepared!
Rum Cay Marina, Sumner Point