Where is San Salvador Bahamas? Just follow the crisp ocean breeze, the smells of Indian Spices, the sailor’s instinct, and an unquenching ambition to reach the end of the world. It worked for Columbus many centuries ago, so why not for you? Who says lightning never strikes in the same place twice?
The Italian ship captain made his first landfall on San Salvador Bahamas. It was not the end, but the start of his journey. If you’re looking to embark on an adventure close to the heels of the explorer, you will find this land of undulating hills and turquoise water lagoons the perfect place to begin.
On San Salvador, we’re standing on the tip of a 15000 feet mountain. Rising from the ocean floor, only its peak spikes through the clean, blue waters. Here, we explore depths, not heights. The outstanding reefs surrounding the island make for a unique landscape in The Bahamas.
San Salvador Bahamas – The Gateway to the New World
Warning tip: The San Salvador we’re talking about is not San Salvador, the capital city of the Central American country, El Salvador. To avoid confusion, let’s introduce it by its first name.
Guanahani is the native name. Christopher Columbus called it San Salvador, ‘Christ the Savior’. It is here where his accidental encounter with the New World happened more than 500 years ago. The island hosts too many monuments commemorating the moment to keep count.
The natives to welcome the great conquistador were the Lucayan Indians. Columbus described them in his Diario as ‘sweet and gentle’ people, then walked away in great strides to measure and record this first landing for posterity.
‘I found that part of it towards San Salvador extending from north to south five leagues, and the other side which we coasted along, ran from east to west more than ten leagues.’
Two centuries later, an English buccaneer named John Watling humbly renamed the island in his honor, The Watling Island. In the early 18th century, the United Kingdom took hold of what are now the Bahamas. The descendants of slaves brought to the island by British Loyalists live here to this day.
At the present time, just over 1,000 people call San Salvador Bahamas home, with a quarter of the inhabitants dwelling in Cockburn Town, the seat of local government.
Walk the White Sands of San Salvador
Bonefish Bay – Named for the abundance of bonefish in the area and a favorite with water sports enthusiasts, Bonefish Bay lies on the North West coast of San Salvador Bahamas. It’s relatively long and you will never feel crowded here, even if the area has become rather urban of late.
Long Bay – Located seven and a half miles to the south of Bonefish Bay, this beach commemorates Columbus’ first footfall in The Bahamas. The powder white sands leading to shimmering turquoise waters are therapy for the feet and a feast for the eye.
If restrooms are a reference for developed areas, then we can safely assume Long Bay is as virgin a territory as many thousand years ago. No toilets on this slice of paradise.
Sandy Point Beach – A jaw-dropping view of the ocean together with a hide-and-seek grotto for when you feel playful.
Snow Bay – Named for its fine sand so white it brings snowflakes to mind, Snow Bay is located near the entrance to Pigeon Creek.
East Beach – A three-mile strip of white sand, the gin-clear and calm waters of East Beach offer great snorkeling. As a plus, it is so secluded you might find yourself alone most of the time.
Dive to Meet the Sharks and the Shipwrecks
With more than 50 sites on the island’s lee side, you can’t miss on a diving experience in San Salvador. Some of the most renowned ones include shipwrecks and ruins.
Devil’s Claw and Vicky’s Reef will bring you face to face with stingrays and sharks, while the Elkhorn and staghorn coral French Bay are more of a pleasant thrill.
Step into the Shadow of Columbus
A rich history makes for great museums and an anthology of stories to tell by the beach bonfire.
The Dixon Hill Lighthouse is the last surviving hand operated lighthouse in The Bahamas. Built in 1887 on a former plantation owned by John Dixon, the construction looms 163 feet above sea level and surveys the horizons to about 19 miles in the distance. 400,000 kerosene oil lit candles operate this giant.
Located in Sandy Point, Watling’s Castle is an 18th century Loyalist Plantation dwelling and houses the three-storey “Great House”, slave quarters, barns, and boundary walls.
As mentioned before, first landfall sights abound in San Salvador Bahamas:
- The Chicago Herald Monument, a limestone sphere to honor the 1492 landfall.
- The Nao Santa Maria Monument honoring the Japanese endeavor to recreate Columbus’ flagship
- The white cross in Long Bay.
- The Mexican Monument which temporarily housed the Olympic flame in 1968.
Previously an old U. S. Navy Base, the Bahamian Field Station has been for many years hosting students and researchers working in the fields of Biology, Geology, Archaeology, and Marine Sciences.
Sprawling in the middle of San Salvador Bahamas, the Great Lake Preserve, a central waterway in the past, has been designated as a protected area. Showing a conquistador’s mindset, Columbus mentioned it in his journal as a good site for building a fortress.
At low tide, one can wade out across a shallow channel to Cut Cay. The bright white coral cliffs jutting out from the waters make the place visible from as far as Club Med.
Where to Stay on San Salvador?
Quaint villas tucked into the volcanic landscape, bungalows so close to the beach you can taste the salt water and feel the sand beneath your feet while you have your breakfast in bed. Staying in San Salvador Bahamas is an experience in and of itself.
The Club Med Columbus Isle resort, located just north of Cockburn Town, is a reference point on the San Salvador map. The location is very convenient, especially if you want to jump straight from the airplane to bed.
Overlooking Bonefish Bay Beach, this all-inclusive resort is just across the street from San Salvador Airport and 3 km away from Cockburn Town.
Just in sight of the landing dock is family owned Riding Rock Resort and Marina. Operating since the 1960s, the place fares well with both water sports enthusiasts and the newlyweds who just crave for a cocktail and a lounge chair.
The place offers two room categories: twelve standard rooms facing the pool and twenty deluxe oceanfront rooms towards the Caribbean.
Remember. When you embark on a flight to San Salvador Bahamas from the airport in Nassau, know that you’re just about to step 400 years into the past, when it only took one step to turn this quaint little peak of a submerged mountain into the gateway to the New World.