Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kiteboarding Destination Guide - Harbour Island, Bahamas

Although the islands of The Bahamas are not specifically known as an epic kiteboarding destination like Hawaii, the Dominican Republic or Brazil, it's certainly worth it to explore as an option if you are looking for someplace new and different for your next kiting escape. The Bahamas offers fairly consistent windy days throughout the winter, mild water temperatures and endless expanses of remote white sandy beaches. Pair that with quaint towns, friendly people and breathtaking natural beauty, both on land and in the water, and you won't have to look much further.

In the northern and central Bahamas, we're not quite in the prevailing trade wind path. But during a good winter we'll see plenty of nor'easters blow through, providing us with ample winds to indulge in our kite habits.

I've kited all over the Bahamas including many remote areas of the Exumas which are only accessible by boat. The Exumas boasts some of my most favorite spots, however they're difficult and expensive to get to. I was fortunate to live there for several years so I took advantage of kite spots that I may never get back to.


Setting up for a beautiful session 
at a sandbar in the Exumas

If you don't have the luxury of island hopping and are looking for some fellow kiting comrades, Harbour Island is a fantastic spot to visit. If you plan on bringing your family, there's plenty of things on the island to keep them entertained while you kite. As accessibility and amenities go, Harbour Island offers everything you would need, and it's just a short 1 hr flight from Miami. There are plenty of shopping options including boutique clothing stores, art galleries and straw markets. There's also local and specialty food stores and several liquor stores including a new wine shop with a wide variety of international wines for the discerning palette. Harbour Island offers some of the best restaurants in the Bahamas, from local Bahamian fare to high-end dining. If you're looking for nightlife, several clubs offer music and dancing into the wee hours of the morning.

Kite Spots

Pink Sands Beach - One of the most beautiful beaches in the Bahamas, Pink Sands Beach is 3 miles long and offers plenty of room for launching. Head to one of the northern beach accesses so you're away from the crowds at the hotels. At high tide there's small beach breaks that can be fun if you like surfing the waves. At low tide the reef acts as a barrier for the chop, creating a fairly smooth ride. When the winds are directly from the East, you can cruise North/South along the entire 3-mile stretch of beach without getting far from shore. Since the beach is dotted with hotels, restaurants and vacation rentals, you will always have a captive audience cheering you on when you show off your stuff. There's typically a few other kiters out on a good day, but it never feels crowded.

Best Winds: E, NE, SE
Best Tides: Low

Girl's Bank - Just north of Dunmore Town is a shallow sandbar that runs about a mile out. Launching can be tricky at high tide as the beach is mostly under water and Casuarina trees surround the access. At low tide there's plenty of room to spread your gear out and launch. Since it's on the protected harbor side, water conditions are generally butter calm and it's never crowded.

Best Winds: S, SW, W, NW
Best Tides: Low

Man Island - If you have access to a boat, Man Island, located 2 islands north of Harbour Island, is a great spot to ride. There are two beaches on the harbor side. One is on the north end of the island, and the other one on the south end. The north beach has a sandbar jutting out at low tide, but the entire area is shallow, sandy and flat calm. If you prefer kiting in solitude or with just a small group of friends, Man Island is the spot. 

Best Winds: S, SW, W
Best Tides: Any



The winds are generally 15-20kts, occasionally up to 25kts. Based on what I've seen, most adult males will be happy riding a 12m kite. As an average sized female, I'm typically riding on my 9m or 10m kite. You'll have to bring your own gear since there's no kite schools or places to rent equipment on the island. The wind forecast is always subject to change, so if you have two favorite kites, you might want to make an effort to bring both.

When To Visit
Wintertime is our windy season when the cold fronts blow in from the mainland US. The water temperature rarely falls below 72 degrees, but it can feel quite cool when the air temperature drops into the 60's. The winds start picking up in November and blow through March. My favorite time of year to be in the water is May, but the windy days aren't as frequent at that time. The holidays are considered peak season, so hotels and vacation rentals charge a premium price and they tend to book up quickly. Best bet is to come in January after the holidays, and before the mid-winter and spring-breakers arrive.

Unless there's a hurricane, the summer months are rarely windy. Harbour Island shuts down from August-October so don't bother planning your visit during that time. All the shops and restaurants are closed, it's peak hurricane season and it's hot, humid and buggy.

Getting Here
From Miami take American Airlines direct to North Eleuthera Airport (ELH). 

From Nassau take one of 7 daily scheduled flights to North Eleuthera on Pineapple Air, Southern Air or Bahamas Air. When returning to the US, skip the hassle of customs and immigration state-side and enjoy the ease of pre-clearing at Nassau's new international terminal. 

From North Eleuthera Airport take a 5 minute land taxi ($5/pp) and a 10 minute water taxi ($5/pp) to arrive at the Government Dock in Harbour Island.

If you're traveling with a lot of gear, the Bohengy Ferry with the Bahamas Ferry Service runs daily from Nassau directly to the main dock in Harbour Island. 

Lodging 
Coral Sands Hotel - Newly renovated rooms in 2014 in the main building, 1 & 2 bedroom beachfront cottages, restaurant, beach bar and swimming pool on Pink Sands Beach. 
Valentines Resort & Marina - Multi-bedroom condos and suites on the harbor side, restaurant typically has live music/DJ on the weekends, marina, dive shop, swimming pool. 
Royal Palm Hotel - For the budget traveler, modest rooms in-town. 
Vacation RentalsIf you're coming with a group, consider renting a beach house. There are plenty of options for home rentals on the island. 

Wind Forecast
Windfinder Harbour Island

Tides
Eleuthera Tide Table

Local Kiting 
Bahamas Kiteboarding/Bahamas Kitesurfing
Bahamas Kiteboarding

I hope this is helpful information for planning a kiting vacation. Please feel free to contact me with any questions about kiting in the Bahamas or Harbour Island in general. You can reach me through the email icon at the top of the page, or comment directly on this blog post.


Eleven-year-old Conor having a great session
Here's a teaser of a few sessions from 2013-2014 winter kiting season on Harbour Island, a combination of Pink Sands Beach and Girl's Bank



4 comments:

  1. Kiteboarding can be done in the ocean and and it is expensive.
    Kiteboards

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  3. Great post about kiteboarding in Harbour Island. Are there companies that rent equipment and give lessons there? I would like to learn.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Josh, unfortunately there aren't any companies that rent equipment in Harbour Island. Everyone brings their own gear. If you are interested in learning check out Exuma Kitesurfing at www.exumakitesurfing.com, which are located further south in The Bahamas.

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