If you’re looking for something fun and a little quirky to add to your Bahamas vacation itinerary, whether you’re visiting on your honeymoon or for a romantic getaway, look no further. How about swimming with pigs in the Exumas at Pig Beach?
Where Can You Swim with Pigs in the Bahamas?
Pigs roam freely on the uninhabited Big Major Cay in the Exumas, an archipelago of 365 islands known for their gorgeous sapphire-colored water and unspoiled, idyllic beaches. Located about 35 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas, the Exumas are also sometimes called the “Out Islands.” No one is quite sure where the pigs on Big Major Cay came from; they aren’t native to the island but arrived sometime in the mid-1990s—perhaps from a shipwreck? There are lots of tales about how the pigs got to Pig Beach, but the most plausible is that they were moved over by farmers from nearby Staniel Cay because the smell bothered their neighbors.
However they got there, they are incredibly cute—and friendly. Accustomed to daily visits, the world-famous “swimming pigs” like to swim out to meet arriving boats and enjoy frolicking in the water with visitors. (Are they really world-famous, you ask? Not only do they have their own hashtag, #swimmingpigs, but they had an appearance on “The Bachelor” and they’re featured in a book called Pigs of Paradise! It’s said they’ve even been named one of the “marvels of the universe”!)
Pig Beach is an easy day trip from Nassau, Great Exuma, or Staniel Cay; plenty of tour operators offer powerboat trips, most of which start at 9 a.m. and last until about 1 p.m. or all day. The trip from Nassau to Pig Beach takes about 2 hours. The closest islands to Pig Beach are Staniel Cay and Fowl Cay, if you want to stay nearby. The boat trip from Staniel Cay to Big Major Cay is just 15 minutes. You can also visit by private plane.
The Best Time to Visit Pig Beach
The best time of the year to go swimming with the pigs on Big Major Cay is from mid-December to mid-April; going during this time frame will ensure that you avoid both the rainy season and hurricane season. The temperatures in the Bahamas tend to stay above 60 degrees year-round, so don’t worry that the winter will be too cold to swim with the pigs. However, this is also peak tourist season; if you prefer it to be less crowded—and less expensive—you might want to plan your Bahamas trip for May, which can have rain but isn’t at risk for hurricanes.
Tip: Try to go to Pig Beach first thing in the morning, rather than in the afternoon, to catch the pigs at their freshest and most frisky. Since visitors feed them, they tend to get pretty lazy as the day wears on!
What to Expect When Visiting Pig Beach
Big Major Cay is a typically gorgeous Bahamian island, complete with white sand, swaying palm trees, and incredibly clear blue water. As you approach Pig Beach, the pigs will swim out to meet your boat and be fed. Once you land, you can wade in the waist-deep water, swim with the pigs, and even cuddle the babies if you want.
Are you wondering whether it’s for the pigs to be such a popular tourist attraction? Don’t worry; it’s not unethical to visit Pig Beach. A group of locals actively cares for them, ensuring they have a consistent freshwater supply, getting them medical care when needed, and enforcing guidelines for visitors on how to interact with them and what to feed them (only fruits, vegetables, bread, and pig feed).
How to Get to Pig Beach
Depending on where you’re staying, you can either book a tour through your resort or with an independent company; ask the concierge or front desk attendant at your hotel for suggestions, or do some online research before you go. Pig Beach tours tend to book up quickly, so to ensure that you get to go while you’re in the Bahamas, it’s best to make reservations as far in advance as possible.
How much does it cost to visit Pig Beach? The island is free, but prices range from $180 to $450 per adult for boat trips to Pig Beach, depending on the type of tour and amenities included. You can also charter a private boat for a luxury experience, or take a 30-minute flight from Nassau.
At the Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Resort and Spa on Great Exuma (the largest of the Exuma islands), the “Exuma Cays Swimming Pigs Adventure” is a full-day tour of more than twenty cays on a 35-foot PowerCat. Starting at $220 per adult, this trip takes you to spectacular unspoiled islands, including one with 360-degree views of the entire Exumas chain. You’ll receive first-class service as you swim, snorkel, and explore deserted beaches as well as play with the pigs. Keep an eye out for exotic marine life like pufferfish, sea turtles, stingrays, or even reef sharks in the water.
Staniel Cay Adventures is a tour operator that offers a seven-stop boat trip that leaves from Staniel Cay and goes to Pig Beach. Other highlights of the trip include swimming with pet nurse sharks on Compass Cay (or just petting them if you’re a little nervous, although they are very gentle); visiting endangered Bahamian rock iguanas on Bitter Guana Cay; snorkeling Thunderball Grotto (a limestone cave that was used as a set in the James Bond movie “Thunderball”) and an airplane wreck; visiting the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, and enjoying spectacular secluded sandbars where you can splash in the crystal clear sea. Group tours start at $250 per person and snacks and beverages are included.
The tour will go out rain or shine unless water conditions are too rough or the rainfall is too heavy (which is very rare). This company also offers private charter trips and a day trip by air from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport in Florida, as well as many luxury upgrades (ultimate private island experience, anyone?). For questions, details, and to book, visit www.stanielcayadventures.com, email [email protected], or call 242-524-8062.
You can also find tours on major travel sites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Airbnb. Some of these offer visits to different beaches that also have swimming pigs, such as Adelaide Beach and Rose Island, so be sure to read all the details of the trip if you have your heart set on visiting Big Major Cay. But if you’re just interested in swimming with pigs in the Bahamas and you don’t particularly care where that happens, these tours can be a shorter and less expensive option.
“Swimming with Pigs in Nassau Bahamas” on AirBnB Experiences provides a 2-hour tour of Adelaide Beach that starts at $129 and includes two complimentary drinks, paddleboards and kayaks, and time to relax in hammocks on the beach as well as swim with and feed the pigs. Adelaide Beach is just a short drive from Nassau, so if you’re staying there and don’t enjoy boat rides, this could be a great choice for you.
What to Bring to Pig Beach
When you visit Pig Beach, you’ll want to wear clothes that are suitable for the day’s weather with a swimsuit underneath, and bring:
- a towel and a change of clothes (you will definitely get wet, and may not want to wear the same wet items all day)
- a sun hat and sunscreen to reapply—the sun is intensified when you’re out on the water
- water shoes or shoes that can get wet
- insect repellent
- a camera
Dos and Don’ts When Swimming with Pigs in the Bahamas
- Do make a reservation for your trip as far in advance as possible.
- Do try to go early in the day.
- Don’t wear jewelry or anything that can get ruined if it gets wet.
- Do wear a swimsuit so you can swim with the pigs!
- Do bring your camera for unforgettable pictures—and be sure to post a selfie with the pigs!
- Don’t feed the pigs junk food or meat—only give them approved food.
- Don’t feed the pigs on the beach; only in the water. They forage for themselves on land, and if they’re fed on the beach that could interfere with their natural instincts.
- Do be respectful of the pigs and follow all guidelines.
- Do make sure the food is out of your hands before the pigs get to it; they are clumsy eaters and you don’t want to get nipped by accident.
- Do show the pigs your empty hands if you are out of food so they won’t bother you for more.
- Do bring cash so you can purchase extras and souvenirs, as well as tip your boat captain and staff if you enjoy your tour! Tips aren’t required but are much appreciated. Both U.S. and Bahamian currency is accepted in the Bahamas.
- Tours are not accessible for the physically challenged, so don’t book a reservation if you need special accommodations. Also, don’t go on a Pig Beach trip if you are pregnant, have respiratory or heart problems, have back issues or recently had back surgery, or recently had arm or hand surgery.
Are you ready to experience a truly unique travel adventure? For more information about how to swim with the pigs in the Bahamas, you can call the Exumas Tourist Office at 242-336-2430 or visit www.bahamas.com/experiences.