Run away to...Cat Island!
“It’s Better in the Bahamas.” You know that advertising slogan? People can make some pretty wild claims, but if you seek extraordinarily clear water in a miraculous array of blues and greens, maybe it really is…better in the Bahamas.
One of my earliest “Island Runaways” took me to a remote, slender island paradise in this tropical chain. I was 5 years old, turning 6, and my Dad flew me, my mother, and my little sister in a four-seater Cessna 172 first to Nassau, to go through Bahamian customs, and then onto Cat Island.
Located approximately in the center of the Bahamas chain, Cat Island covers about 150 square miles, with a population just over 1500 residents. Adjectives like “unspoiled” and “pristine” definitely apply to this exquisite Caribbean location.
The sand is so white that it almost glows. The azure-blue ocean fans out beneath a sky so pure, open, and unending that it made you wonder if the rest of the world actually exists.
Cat Island may not be the most well-known Bahamian island, or the largest, or the smallest, but it is something truly special. An 8-mile Pink Sand Beach, nature trails, and the unique “Rake and Scrape” local music played on recycled and found objects: there are things to explore, but you can also just be.
Besides being beloved for its incredible natural beauty, Cat Island is known as the place where actor Sidney Poitier grew up, and also where the Bahamas reaches its highest elevation, at Mt. Alvernia (a whopping 206 feet).
Over that Cat Island stay all those years ago, I turned the ripe old age of 6. My mother asked a Bahamian lady to bake me what I loved best -- a coconut cake – for my birthday.
The cook’s son spent much of the morning getting coconuts from trees, then slicing them open with a machete, so his mother could grate fresh coconut. I remember sitting on a log watching him work in the hot tropical sun.
When it came time for dessert, the cook proudly presented a platter of little sugar-y, coconut-y “cakes,” which resembled macaroons or candies. My mother thought her six year-old would be disappointed because it wasn’t a layer cake, but then we tasted one. Amazing. Chewy, slightly crunchy, delicious. Sweet and coconut-y and totally addictive. We ate the whole plate of them.
Just like I’ve never forgotten that deliciously unusual birthday cake, I’ve never forgotten Cat Island. Although years have passed since that childhood trip, this Bahamian paradise remains unspoiled, a magical place to visit. If you want to replace the noise and frenzy of urban life with a serene oasis, it’s worth exploring Cat Island, one of our top picks for an Island Runaway to remember.
(Photos: 1. Distant Kayak on Cat Island, Trish Hartmann, 2. Cat Island Bahamas (license plate), Jerry "Woody", 3. Beach at Alligator Point on Cat Island, Trish Hartmann, 4. Coconut Palm by Koshy Koshy, 5. Morning in Orange Creek, Trish Hartmann. Flickr license here.)