The Purrfect Paradise. 9 Quirky Rules for Visiting Japan’s Cat Island

Introduction to Cat Island

Cat Island is located in The Bahamas, about 150 miles southeast of Miami. Spanning 48 miles long, Cat Island is known for its pink sandy beaches, clear waters, and laidback atmosphere.

The island has a long and fascinating history. Archaeologists believe Cat Island was originally settled by the Lucayan Indians over 1,000 years ago before Spanish explorers arrived in the 15th century. After Spain relinquished control of The Bahamas in the 17th century, Cat Island became a haven for pirates and smugglers for many years. The island’s unique shape, with bays and inlets, made it an ideal hideout. During the American Civil War, Cat Island was also briefly occupied by Confederate soldiers looking to thwart the Union blockade of Southern ports.

In modern times, Cat Island remains a quiet, rustic escape. With only a small permanent population spread across a few small settlements, the island retains its isolated feel. The main attractions are the stunning beaches, fishing, diving, birdwatching and enjoying the laidback Bahamian pace of life.

While less developed than other Bahamian islands like Nassau or Grand Bahama, Cat Island offers an authentic island experience beyond the crowds and resorts.

Getting There

Cat Island is located off the eastern coast of the Bahamas (1). The island is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the neighboring islands of Eleuthera to the north and San Salvador to the south. Cat Island can be reached by air or sea.

The main airport serving Cat Island is located just northwest of Arthur’s Town. Several airlines offer flights to the Arthur’s Town airport from Nassau, including Bahamasair, Western Air, Southern Air, Flamingo Air, and Tropic Air (1). These flights take around 1 hour. Visitors can also charter a direct flight to Cat Island from Florida with companies like Bahamas Air Tours (2).

Visitors can also reach Cat Island by ferry from Nassau or Eleuthera. The ferry takes 4-5 hours from Nassau. Water taxis are also available from Eleuthera. Cruise ships and private yachts can dock at the main ports at Arthur’s Town, Port Royal, and Old Bight.

Once on the island, taxis are available for transport to hotels and beaches. Rental cars are also available to allow for exploration of the island. Alternatively, travelers can get around by bike or golf cart.

When to Visit

The best time to visit Cat Island is from December to April during the winter dry season. During this period, the weather is warm and sunny with highs around 80°F (27°C) and lows in the 60s°F (15-21°C). The winter months are the driest, with less than 2 inches (50 mm) of rainfall on average (Honeymoon Guide).

June through November sees hotter temperatures, more humidity, and increased rainfall, especially during the hurricane season which runs from June to November. The summers tend to be hot and humid with temperatures in the 80s and 90s°F (27-35°C) along with more frequent thunderstorms (Wild Trips).

If you want to experience local culture and festivities, plan your visit in June for the annual Rake ‘n’ Scrape Festival featuring traditional Bahamian music and dance performances.

Where to Stay

When visiting Cat Island, some popular places to stay include Fernandez Bay Village, which offers private beachfront villas and suites with full kitchens (source). Hawk’s Nest Resort and Marina is another lovely lodging option located on a private beach with a restaurant and bar onsite. For a more budget-friendly stay, try Pigeon Cay Beach Club which has simple beachfront rooms and apartments (source). There are also several vacation rental properties available on sites like Airbnb and VRBO that provide home rentals and private villas around the island.

Things to Do

Cat Island offers a wide variety of activities and attractions to keep visitors entertained during their stay. Here are some of the top things to do on Cat Island:

Swim with Dolphins

One of the most popular activities on Cat Island is swimming and interacting with dolphins in their natural habitat. Several tour operators offer dolphin encounter experiences where you can get up close with these amazing creatures.

Deep Sea Fishing

The waters around Cat Island are teeming with big game fish like marlin, sailfish, and tuna. Book a private charter and try your hand at hooking one of these ocean beasts.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

With crystal clear waters and colorful coral reefs, Cat Island offers fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. Some top spots include Devil’s Point and Cat Island Wall.

Boat Tours

Take a boat tour around the island to admire the beaches, cliffs, and coves that make up the scenic coastline of Cat Island. Knowledgeable local boat captains provide context on the history and highlights.


The shallow flats on the island’s north side are considered among the best bonefishing locales in the Bahamas. Hire a guide to take you to the prime bonefish spots.

Getting Around

Transportation options on Cat Island are fairly limited compared to some of the more developed Bahamian islands. However, there are still reliable ways to get around Cat Island.

Rental cars are available on Cat Island, but it’s recommended to reserve one in advance since the supply is limited. You’ll likely be renting an older model jeep or sedan. Rental car companies are located near the airport in New Bight.

Taxis are also readily available for hire across the island. They tend to congregate around the airport, hotels, and downtown areas. Taxis don’t have meters so you’ll need to negotiate the fare upfront. Expect to pay around $20-30 per trip.

Some hotels and resorts provide shuttle service around the island for their guests. If you’re staying at one of these properties, check with the front desk about scheduling shuttle transportation.

There is a public bus system on Cat Island but the routes are limited. The main bus route connects New Bight to Arthur’s Town multiple times per day. Fares run just a couple dollars per ride.

For getting between beaches and attractions, many opt to rent a bicycle or scooter during their stay. This allows flexibility to explore at your own pace. Just be wary of debris on the roads.

Finally, walking is an option in the compact downtown areas. Just be ready for longer walks along the coasts between destinations.

Food and Dining

The local food of Cat Island is simply amazing. Visitors will find flavors unique to this region of the Bahamas. The food is more rustic and involves a greater emphasis on traditional home cooking with fresh local ingredients.

Seafood is of course a staple, with regular catches of grouper, snapper, tuna and conch served up with both local and Caribbean inspired flare. Conch fritters and cracked conch are not to be missed. They are encrusted in local flour and deep fried, simply delicious.

Other specialties include Boil’ Fish, Peas n’ Rice, Macaroni n’ Cheese and of course traditional Bahamian cuisine like Souse, boiled fish served with grits and Johnnycake.

Some of the top local restaurants in Cat Island to enjoy authentic Bahamian cuisine include Da Smoke Pot, Sammy’s Place, Country Breeze Restaurant, Rowdy Boys Restaurant & Bar and New Bight Restaurant.


Cat Island is not known as a major shopping destination, but there are some nice options for picking up souvenirs, local crafts, groceries, and other necessities during your visit.

Some of the top spots for souvenir shopping include Pam’s Boutique at Fernandez Bay Village, which offers resort wear, flip flops, hats, t-shirts, and other mementos. The gift shops at some of the larger resorts like Hawks Nest and Fernandez Bay Village are also good spots to pick up keepsakes from your trip.

In terms of groceries and everyday supplies, there are a few small markets scattered around the island like Alvernia Foods that offer basic groceries, local produce, and can special order items. Prices are generally higher than Nassau though, so plan accordingly.

Safety Tips

Cat Island is generally very safe, especially compared to busier islands like Nassau. However, it’s still important to exercise common sense precautions.

According to Frommer’s, you should avoid deserted areas of beaches at all hours and not leave valuables unattended. Use hotel safes when available.

As noted on Tripadvisor, petty theft does sometimes occur so keep an eye on your belongings. Violent crime is very rare though.

When it comes to health, no special vaccinations are required but it’s wise to be up-to-date on routine ones. Mosquitoes can carry diseases like Zika so wear bug spray. Also drink bottled water and avoid undercooked food.

Follow all local laws and customs. Public intoxication, nudity, and drug use are prohibited. Use caution with alcohol and know your limits.

As always when traveling, avoid walking alone at night and don’t accept rides from strangers. Stick to populated areas and trust your instincts if a situation feels unsafe.

Unique Rules and Customs

Cat Island has some unique rules and customs to be aware of as a visitor. When it comes to local etiquette, it’s important to dress modestly when visiting churches and be respectful of local culture. Public displays of affection may be frowned upon in some areas. Visitors should also avoid using profanity in public.

Some taboo activities to avoid include littering, which can carry fines. Hunting and removing natural artifacts without a license is also prohibited. Drug use, even marijuana, is illegal. Gambling is also mostly outlawed outside of a few regulated casinos.

In terms of regulations, according to the Bahamian Government website, bringing pets can be tricky but possible with proper forms and procedures (source). Boaters need to acquire the proper cruising permits and clear customs when entering ports (source). Importing prohibited items like fireworks can lead to items getting confiscated or fines.

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