Paradise Found - Ottawa Citizen - Grand Isle Resort & Spa

Paradise Found - Ottawa Citizen - Grand Isle Resort & Spa

April 13, 2012

Paradise found

In search of the elusive Tropic of Cancer Beach (and lots of adventures in


By Steve MacNaull, Postmedia News

The extra effort to find Tropic of Cancer Beach in Exuma in the Bahamas is well worth it.

Photograph by: Steve MacNaull, Postmedia News

EXUMA, Bahamas — It’s quite possibly the hardest to find strip of sand in the Caribbean.

It’s Tropic of Cancer Beach in Exuma, Bahamas, an elusive powder white crescent that we

sought directions for three times, yet ended up passing by twice before finally locating it with

gasps of equal parts relief and slack-jawed awe.

Yes, this beach’s initial cachet is its famous name. The Tropic of Cancer, that imaginary line at

23 degrees latitude that marks the northernmost point of the tropics, runs right along the edge of

where scrubby dune meets pristine sand.

As a helpful visual someone has painted a line on the walkway down to the beach complete with

Tropic of Cancer lettering and the latitude and longitude particulars.

But beyond the catchy moniker, Tropic of Cancer Beach could quite possibly be the most

beautiful and peaceful find in the world.

We shuffled through the thick sand, marvelled at the colours of the water — think melted

gemstones from diamonds to the darkest sapphire — swam, lounged and gabbed about how

lucky we were to find this slice of paradise.

Which brings us to the protracted tale of just how difficult Tropic of Cancer Beach is to find.

First of all, guide books wax poetic about it, proclaiming it to be the prettiest beach in the


Therefore, you have to go. Anticipation builds and a day trip is planned entirely around time at

this must-see-and-experience place.

But no map of Exuma we have has the beach on it. So down we go to the front desk of Grand

Isles, the family-friendly luxury condominium resort where we are staying.

The clerk first tells us that there’s no sign on the main road identifying Tropic of Cancer Beach.

It keeps getting stolen. Seems everyone wants to have a sign with the famous Tropic of Cancer

name on it.

She tells us from the bridge that connects Great Exuma to Little Exuma go five miles and turn

onto the dirt road with the abandoned car seat at the corner.

We climb in the rental car and set off, I and my wife in the back seat, our friend driving and his

wife riding shotgun.

First stop, the Exuma Tourist Office in the capital of George Town to pick up a map that has

Tropic of Cancer Beach on it. No such luck.

But we’re tipped off that the turnoff also has a utility pole with a bunch of blue reflectors on it.

We set off again, over the bridge, counting the miles, looking for that abandoned car seat and the

utility pole with all the reflectors.

We only stop when we hit the end of the road, which is at the tip of the island, and can go no


The car is turned around and we stop at the first place we can for directions — Santana’s Grill

Pit — a roadside shack restaurant with signs for cold Kalik (Bahamas’ national beer) and the best

cracked conch (the national dish).

Macy Rolle at Santana’s Grill Pit will give you directions to hard‐to‐find Tropic of Cancer Beach.

Photograph by: Steve MacNaull, Postmedia News

Cook-bartender-waitress Macy Rolle throws her head back in laughter and tells us everyone

drives right on by the turnoff and ends up here begging for directions.

We order Kaliks, it’s almost 11 a.m. after all, and sit down facing the ocean to get directions:

head back the way we came about a mile and a half and take the second right after the Church of

God that’s under construction. While we finish our beers a couple from Northern California

skids in, ask for the same directions and order Kaliks.

We get to talking and it dawns on us that maybe it’s Santana’s that keeps swiping the Tropic of

Cancer Beach sign — after all, the steady stream of lost tourists isn’t exactly hurting business.

We pile into the car and drive away and yes there it is: the turnoff with the abandoned car seat

and utility pole with all the reflectors.

The stone and sand path in front of us can hardly be called a road but we nonetheless make it the

few hundred metres in the car to a pavilion with an ever-so-small sign finally identifying Tropic

of Cancer Beach.

Just so you don’t think we spent the entire time in the Exumas haplessly searching for an elusive

beach, we had more than ample time to explore surrounding waters and islands, eat and drink at

places ranging from authentic beach shacks to gourmet restaurants and be spoiled at Sandals

Emerald Bay Resort, where we moved after two days at Grand Isle.

Serendipitously upgraded to a butler room at couples-only Sandals, we started to act like rock


We kept our around-the-clock roster of butlers — Bernard, Valentino and Deepak — busy

packing coolers and towels for our excursions; making dinner reservations; setting up couples’

massages at the spa; reserving prime cabanas beside the pool; and fetching champagne and

snacks whenever the mood struck us.

The best excursion was the Full Day Adventure Tour with Four C’s Adventure Tour that took us

through shallow waters a kaleidoscope of colours past private islands owned by country singers

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, actor Nicolas Cage, musician David Copperfield and the late

actress Jessica Tandy.

Stops included Big Major Cay to feed the swimming pigs — yes, swimming pigs — from the


Yes, swimming pigs meet the tour boat at Big Major Cay in the Exumas.

Photograph by: Steve MacNaull, Postmedia News

Then came snorkelling at the grotto where parts of the James Bond movie Thunderball were

filmed; paddling across a sandbar in the middle of nowhere; swimming with nurse sharks at

Compass Cay; and lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, where the rich and famous stop for a bite

when they tire of spending time on the mega-yacht.

Postmedia News

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