The Bahamas’ Undiscovered Island

Alexander Britell and Guy Britton (Caribbean Journal) bring attention to San Salvador (formerly, Guanahani) in the Bahamas.

“At two o’clock in the morning the land was discovered, at two leagues’ distance; they took in sail and remained under the square-sail lying to till day, which was Friday, when they found themselves near a small island, one of the Lucayos, called in the Indian language Guanahani.” – The Journal of Christopher Columbus, Oct. 11, 1492

There is no one on this beach. 

Nearly 530 years later, and, walking these sands, it should not seem so different as it was to those sailors from Spain, wide and open, a blend of green brush and white beach. 

It’s hard not to feel something when you walk on Long Bay in San Salvador, to consider the moment when the world as we knew it was irreparably, inevitably changed; when the New World began, along with all of the evils and goods that would unfurl themselves over the next few weeks and years and centuries. It’s not hard to imagine that this beach looks just about identical to how it might have in 1492, save for the presence of a large white cross and an Olympic flame from the 1968 circuit. 

It was called Guanahani then, and it is called San Salvador today, and half a millennium later, it is a jewel on the edge of The Bahamas. 

San Salvador is about an hour-long flight from Nassau, a little longer from Miami; there are about 1,000 people living on this 63-square-mile island on the eastern edge of the Bahamian archipelago. 

It is, simply, a beautiful place; you circumnavigate the island on a single coastal ring road, a way to explore its empty, white-sand beaches, its blue holes and its green hills. Even most who travel frequently to The Bahamas have not been here; fewer have heard of it. This is the kind island whose name is, unfailingly, followed by “where?” 

But if you get here, you find a truly special place, where the sandy beauty is surpassed by one of the most remarkable, untouched undersea worlds in all of the wider hemisphere, a place for hammerhead sharks and friendly Nassau groupers and myriad species of tropical fish. 

The most unexpected thing in San Salvador happens when you land on the island’s full-service international runway, not the sort of lightly paved one you might imagine on a frontier island. That’s because, while you’d never even know it was here (and you can’t even spy it from the main road), there is a Club Med resort, one that welcomes regular jets from Paris each week. But it’s not the best place to stay. 

There are a handful of boutique hotels here, some for those in search of old-fashioned beach dreams, and others for diving. 

If you’re looking for the former, it’s unquestionably The Sands Hotel, a 20-room hotel on a spectacular stretch of beach with some of the nicer interiors you’ll find anywhere in the Out Islands: replete with full kitchens, stunning perches right over the water and bright, airy, Bahamian-cool designs. 

If you’re looking to dive, there’s the Riding Rock Resort, the venerable dive resort that’s been family-owned and operated since the 1960s, with 32 rooms, 20 of which overlook the ocean, and an experience tailor-made for divers (and snorkelers) looking to enjoy one of the great diving destinations on earth. [. . .]

For full article and spectacular photos, see

[Shown above: Long Bay in The Bahamas, where Columbus and his crew made the first landfall in the “New World.”]

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