Harbor View Vacation Rental in Exuma

Planning A Day Boating In Elizabeth Harbour-part-two

In the last story I suggested how to spend a morning on a Minns rental boat exploring Elizabeth Harbour.  I left you feeling hungry and on the south side of Stocking Island.  Well, we are spoilt for dining choice !  

chat N chill

We can go to Chat and Chill, anchor off their soft sand beach, and visit our host KB and wife Kwanza, at the bar and enjoy a drink and meal, or stroll along the beach to the Conch Shack.  Here we have a conch salad, a Bahamian speciality, which we can enjoy while we watch the family of Sting Rays that live offshore and are waiting for your conch scraps.


Alternatively we can sit down in the restaurant and experience a wider selection of fare at St Francis Resort.  Run and owned by George and Jillian

Recently the Peace & Plenty Hotel in George Town set up a beach bar. Again we anchor just off their soft powder sand beach, listen to some Bahamian music and down a Kalik, the local and highly rated beer,  while waiting for a wholesome burger from their BBQ.

Peace & Plenty Beach Bar

If we are in the mood for something a little more fancy,  with a touch of luxury, then we would go into the Eastern hurricane hole and tie up at the dock of Kahari Resort Restaurant.  Your not limited here to just burgers, their cuisine is more exotic, and delicious.

Before closing the book on eating on Stocking Island. Let me remind you that you don’t have to rent a boat to dine there. You can get the water taxi from Town to take you to any of these welcoming spots.

So we have quenched our thirst, downed some food and we are ready to continue exploring the Harbour.  Next stop is about a mile west where we find a dock. Now for some exercise. Those of us who are fit and able start the path that climbs through twists and turns, and is steep.  Eventually you come out at the monument on the highest point on Stocking Island (maybe the highest in all Exuma  !).  Stop. Catch your breath and admire the 360 degree view. 

Salt Monuments

The monument was build centuries ago as an indication to passing ships that salt was available.   Return to the dock and energy permitting, walk along the beautiful beach to a deserted building which marks the start of the footpath that takes you over to the Ocean. Tide permitting,  you may be able to walk and explore some of the rock pools and search for some attractive shells.

All aboard !   After a leisurely swim in the 80+ water we will head across the Harbour, traveling southwest and skim past the February Point development and on towards Flamingo Bay where we can pass under the “Bridge to Nowhere”.  This elaborate structure, built in the Italian style, was originally planned to provide access from Great Exuma to the planned development of Crab Cay.  I related in a previous story how Crab Cay was bought by the Murphy Family, the largest pig farmers in the US.  Their plan was to build an Italian style village with restaurants and top end health facilities and then multi-million dollar villas, plus a marina capable of docking some of the Worlds dream yachts. After a couple of years of expense the construction came to a holt.  All we have left to record the sad story is the Bridge to Nowhere.

Crab Cay Exuma

Want to see more?  or do you want to just sit on one of the many beautiful and deserted beaches and relax in the blue tropical waters?  

Time is marching on and I suggest we head back.  Skipper the boat through Kidd Cove, so named after the famous pirate Captain Kidd, who was reputed to have spent some time in Exuma (he did not stay at Harbour View although a few of his doubloons would have been appreciated). Slow down as we approach the low bridge we have to pass under to get into Lake Victoria.  Don’t slow down too much or the strong current will take over and steer you off course. So engine up, under the bridge and back to Minns dock where their efficient staff will refuel the boat while you complete the paperwork in the office.  You will be pleasantly surprised at how little fuel you have used.  So an eventful day, hope you  enjoyed it. 

Minns Water Sports Exuma
Minns Water Sports Exuma

Planning A Day Boating in Elizabeth Harbour

Elizabeth Harbour

Over the years we have helped rental guests at Harbour View plan a days boat rental in Elizabeth Harbour.  So if you are planning to enjoy a day on the water exploring the delights of Elizabeth Harbour you may find the following story helpful in getting the most out of your trip.

Minns Water Sports have a fleet of boats ranging in size from 15ft to 22ft.  Most of the smaller boats are Boston Whalers. A catamaran hull with a 50 horse outboard. They are based in George Town and after a briefing, which includes anchoring, limits of travel and safety equipment, you self drive from the pond into the main Harbour. Each boat has a hand held radio, an anchor and safety vests and a map.

boat rental

One thing you need to know before you set off is the times of low tide and high tide.  Knowing the time of low tide enables you to decide in which order you visit the many attractions the Harbour has to offer.  Let’s assume that low tide is around 9am. In that case we recommend you head East down the Harbour, passing between the colored buoys ( red right returning) that mark the gap in the coral reef halfway down the Harbour. Keep going for about half an hour till you reach the sandbar on the West side of Man O War Cay.  Anchor the boat in the shallows on the eastern side of the sandbar and explore  this pristine sandy stretch for about half a mile.

If you find starfish on the sand put them back in the water.


Taken enough photos?  Let’s up anchor, circle round the southern end of the sand bar. Always remember that the paler the color of the water, the shallower the depth. Now with a quick check to the map, head for Fowl Cay.  This Cay is the Eastern most of the Cays that surround Elizabeth Harbour, and its also the best snorkeling area.  Upon arrival attach your bow line to one of the mooring buoys. Do NOT anchor. If you anchor your anchor will almost certainly damage the coral.  Plus it may get stuck and you could have trouble retrieving it. So snorkel to your hearts content in the gap between Fowl Cay and Guana Cay.  The area is sometimes subject to a swell from the Ocean so if your snorkel skills are limited you could wait to the next stop.

snorkeling in Exuma
snorkeling in Exuma

Untie from the mooring buoy and head West staying several hundred yards offshore. always watch out for dark patches which are probably coral heads. The grey patches you also see are usually turtle grass or just shadows of clouds. You get acclimatized to read the water after a few trips. After Guana Cay the next island is Elizabeth Cay.  As you motor, look over to your left and find those red and green buoys you passed between earlier. This time motor over there slowly and anchor in sand. Not in the channel. Now you are in about 4 to 7 ft of calm water easy for snorkeling to see the many brightly colored fish of all shapes and sizes.

Sand dollar
Sand dollar

Back over towards Elizabeth Cay. At the western end is another shallow patch with ankle deep water that is worth exploring and hunt for sand dollars.  These circular creatures live in and on the sand. The live ones are grey. Leave them alone. Find the white ones, they are dead and make a nice decoration. Problem is they are fragile (paint them with clear Elmers Glue to preserve them). 

Deans Blue Hole Bahamas
Deans Blue Hole Bahamas

Up anchor and head West to the hurricane holes.  These are on the South side of Stocking Island, and as the name implies, this is where boats would anchor when a hurricane was forecast.  Two areas of water surrounded with hill and just a narrow entrance.  Motor into the western hole and you will be faced with about 30 offshore cruising boats that owners have parked while they fly home for some reason. Check the map to locate a “Blue Hole”.  This is a vertical cave which extends out to the Ocean. It’s not safe to dive as there is a strong current.Blue Holes are always swarming with fish in clear water.

Exuma Sound

It is worth noting that a large part of Elizabeth Harbour is part of the Moriah Harbour Cay National Park.

Ready for lunch?  You have several options.  There are four options on Stocking Island.

But let’s leave that for another story. Along with ideas of how to spend your boating afternoon.

Stocking Island in Exuma

Stocking Island

Stocking Island is the largest of the string of islands that line the northern shore of Elizabeth Harbour. It is partly because of these islands that Elizabeth Harbour is so well protected making the Harbour safe and minimizing flood risks for the islands capital George Town.

Stocking Island extends for just four miles running North West to South East. At its western end lies Conch Cut, the entrance from the Ocean into the Harbour. The western half of the island is unspoiled woodland with beautiful unspoiled beaches on both the oceanside and the harbourside.

Salt Monuments

Midway along the southern shore is a dock where you land if you wish to climb the steep hill to reach the monument.  This monolith was built back in the 1700s to indicate to passing ships that there was a safe Harbour and access to bulk sea salt. The salt was needed to preserve the meat and fish onboard, making salt a valuable commodity. There is also a pathway to the Oceanside where lobsters can be found amongst the coral reefs.

Cruising sailboats Exuma
Cruising sailboats Exuma

As you travel East you come to the areas that have been more developed. Partly because of the beautiful soft sand beaches and partly because of the “hurricane holes”.  These natural phenomenon are two areas where a narrow entrance leads to landlocked “ponds” perfect for hiding many boats when a hurricane approaches.  These hurricane holes are also useful for snow birds who leave their boats, in the care of locals, during the summer months.

This is the area where the water taxis take visitors from the mainland to either St Frances Resort or Chat & Chill Bar & Grill. Here you find a line small boats and dinghies anchored in the shallows while their owners enjoy the camaraderie and food. One speciality is conch salad. Made with chopped fresh conch meat with onions tomatoes and squeezed orange and lemon juice.. delicious !  Because of this popular dish the shoreline is also the home to a group of sting rays, as tame as tame can be.  Put a small piece of conch meat in your palm and hold still just below the water  and they will take it from you. These graceful creatures have skin like velvet. They are black on  the top and white underneath. An experience not to be missed.

Peace & Plenty Beach Bar

Next stop on our journey eastward is to Peace & Plenty Beach Bar. The P&P, as its fondly known is the original hotel in Exuma, located in George Town.  The beach bar is their get-a-way  where they ferry their guests, and anyone else who want to explore, for a day on a soft sand beach, with a full bar and barbecue.

Then we come to the last property on Stocking Island.  Kahari Resort.  This is a high end hotel resort with a restaurant open to non residents.  The accommodation is in thatched huts. Kahari has both an indoor restaurant and an outdoor one. Again the water taxi can provide access.

Lumina Point

From there on eastwards the island is as God made it, natural palms, mangroves and spotless beaches. So when you make your Exuma trip don’t miss a day over on Stocking Islands, a day not to be missed. Stay at Harbour View for more information

Crab Cay Exuma

Crab Cay Exuma

The largest island within Elizabeth Harbour is Crab Cay. The appeal of Crab Cay is partly its location. It is protected by a string of offshore islands so hurricane surge is not a problem. The many small soft powder sand beaches that dot the shores of the 200 plus acre island shores invite you to take advantage of the wonderful, warm climate of The Bahamas.

Crab Cay Exuma

Back in the late 1700s the Walker family needed to leave their home in Eastern North America because they had supported the British, the losers in the American war of independence. The family, along with their slaves, sailed to set up home on the land provided to them by the King of England, on The Exumas, a group of islands in the central Bahamas.  The Walkers  set up home on the island of Crab Cay inside Elizabeth Harbour.  Their properties were built using local stone.  As was the custom, the kitchen was a separate building from the living quarters. This was the practice due to the risk of kitchens burning down due to the presence of open fires, plus the need to keep the heat of cooking away from the living area. They tried to develop their land by growing cotton but after some years they gave up and moved on.

Crab Cay Exuma

The ruins of their home still exist to this day.

After the end of World War II, the story goes that a group of very wealthy individuals decided that they wanted to invest their funds in land. Not just any land, but in tropical islands. So they chose a trusted member of the group and he spent some years traveling the globe and buying tropical hotspots. After their targets were met the purchaser was rewarded by the group by allowing him to choose two islands as a reward for his diligence.  He chose Crab Cay and Elizabeth Cay, both island being at Elizabeth Harbour In Exuma.

Fast forward 40+ years and the tourism industry is booming. Wealthy investors led by Michael Jordan descend on Exuma with a view to buying and developing Crab Cay.  Word reaches the press that the asking price is ten million.  The investors decided to walk away, but the government heard the rumors and informed the island’s owner that according to their records he had not paid the property tax which had accumulated, a figure reaching millions of dollars. The Crab Cay owners was therefore forced to put the property on the market for sale.

Crab Cay Exuma

Eventually the island sold to the Murphy family. One of, if not the largest pig farming enterprises in the US. The Murphys put together a consortium with CN Luxury and drew up plans for Crab Cay.  By 2007 they intended to build a world class development, with a hotel, and Italian style hub with luxury restaurants, spa sports facilities and high end shops. then high end multi-million dollar homes spread along the shoreline. Then, of course there was to be a major marina, capable of taking the world’s mega yachts. The whole project was planned to be “the pre-eminent island destination in The Caribbean”. The plans were eventually passed and work began on the dredging for the marina.  Work progressed for some time then came to a halt and the project stopped.

Crab Cay Exuma

All that remains is a beautiful bridge, built in the Italian style, which joins Crab Cay to the mainland of Great Exuma. Known locally as “the bridge to nowhere”.

And that, unfortunately, is where we are today !  Waiting for the next chapter to be written on this beautiful island with great potential, Crab Cay.

Crab Cay Exuma

If you want to visit the ruin of the Walker family, or cruise round Crab Cay we would welcome you at Harbour View for a vacation, just visit our website for details and loads of other stories about our vacation paradise .

“Big Noch’s” Bar & Restaurant in Exuma

Big Nochs Bar

Big Noch is the nickname of an Exuma taxi driver and owner of the bar and restaurant of the same name in Rolle Town Exuma.

The bar has been open for some years but more recently it has gained a good reputation for their food.  Like many bars on island, it started catering to the local Bahamians, but now its appeal has spread to the tourist trade.  Their dining area is small and very basic (but adequate).  Their big growth is in  their  take out trade.

Big Nochs Bar

Based just a two minute drive from Harbour View, our rental guests have phoned Patrina and placed an order for collection some 20 minutes later.  The fare is traditional Bahamian with fresh produce including fish and lobster in season.

As an example, cracked conch is priced at $15. A peppered steak is $15. Your options range from chicken, pork, some curried dishes and fresh caught fish, conch and lobster.

Big Nochs menu

While Big Nochs does not have a seaview it certainly is convenient to have some fresh food available on our doorstep.  Give Big Nochs a try. 242 345 5013 and place an order with Patrina.

Pretty Molly Bay, Favorite Exuma Beach.

Pretty Molly Bay

Which beach is the best in Exuma? I suggest that Pretty Molly Bay is top of the long list.

Pretty Molly Bay is located on the northern shore of Little Exuma, just before Forbes Hill when motoring East. It has long been one of our favorite beaches. Its charm is the fact that it is a curved soft sand pristine beach with rocky outcrops at the sides. So its shape provides protection from the Ocean and the water remains a calm blue color even when the wind is strong.

Pretty Molly Bay

Years ago there was a plan to build three cottages on land by the bay. Construction started but never finished and over time the half finished cottages deteriorated and building debris littered the approach to the beach.

Well now for the good news !   The ground from the Queens Highway to Pretty Molly Beach has now been cleared.  Now there is a designated parking area, and a footpath that leads directly to this picturesque location.

Pretty Molly Bay footpath

I can guarantee that as you walk down the short path and Pretty Molly Bay’s beach comes into view, it will get a “Wow” and have you reaching for the camera.

Be aware that all beaches in Exuma are open to the public from the Ocean to the high water mark.   Private property starts above the high water mark.  So explore the many beaches that Exuma has to offer and see if you agree that Pretty Molly Bay is the best.

The beach is just a five minute drive from Harbour View rental property.

Pretty Molly Bay

New Restaurant in Exuma

Blu on the Water

WOW !  That is the reaction as you drive over the brow of the hill and Blu On The Water first comes into view. 

If I was given complete freedom on choosing a location for a restaurant it would be right where Blu On The Water is located, it’s that perfect !

Blu on the Water

Blu is the brainchild of Ty and Sam (with a little help from their daughter Kylee) who have been catering to Exuma customers for some years. First  at what used to be Sam Grey’s restaurant at the marina in George Town, then later over on Stocking Island at Lumina Point.  Now they have their own location.

Blu on the Water

So Blu On The Water is in Rolle Town.  Between Master Harbour and Rolle Town settlement, about five miles East of George Town. As you arrive at Blu your reaction will also be “Wow”.  The view that faces you is the restaurant on your left, but your eyes will be drawn to the Ocean. It’s truly is a World class setting,  it’s stunning. To your right is Man O War Cay and directly in front is one of Exuma’s favorite tourist attractions, the Large sandbar that appears at low tide and extends for about half a mile. Left of the sandbar the Ocean colors change from white to pale blue to darker blue, as your eye travels westward you look into Elizabeth Harbour and its tantalizing line of offshore islands. ….The view is simply  stunning !

Blu on the Water

Having taken the obligatory photos, it’s time to turn you attention to the restaurant.  As you enter this new building you will be greeted by the friendly smiling staff and shown to one of dozen or so tables, all with views of the Ocean. Sip your favorite cocktail or a cold beer while you study the menu. The cuisine is international fare and prepared in the brand new kitchen under the watchful eye of your host Ty.

Blu on the Water

Blu on the Water is open daily from 11.30 through till 10 pm. I personally recommend you pick a time when the light allows you to fully appreciate the view. If you want a quality souvenir of your visit, there are tee shirts and labelled Tiki insulated mugs.

If you are staying with us at Harbour View then you are a five minute drive away.

Ty and Sam we wish you every success in your new venture. Phone 242 807 9265

Nelson Ranger. Exuma Photographer

Nelson Alexander Ranger, the owner of IMAGES by Alexander, Exuma’s best known photographer, is also a strong voice and advocate of positive actions that  effect the Out Islands of The Bahamas and Exuma in particular. His Facebook page is avidly followed with great interest by over 5,000 viewers, many of whom live on our island paradise.
weddings by Alexander
Born in Hatchett Bay Eleuthera, he moved with his parents to Exuma as a youngster and grew up in The Ferry settlement on Little Exuma.
After leaving school he started as an interior designer in Nassau, while spending as much time as possible on the golf course perfecting his new interest in golf.  By the age of 19 he won his first tournament as an amateur and set his sights on a golf career.
Nelson A Ranger
With the help of a scholarship from the Lyford Foundation and The Bahamas Golf Federation, Nelson studied at the Golf Academy and got a job at the prestigious Butch Harman Golf Academy with locations in Las Vegas and Freeport . Like all newbies, he started at the bottom rung, hand washing 1000s of golf balls each morning ready for the future stars to work on their game.
Nelson’s career, and his game, flourished, and took him to many prestigious clubs, like the Commonwealth Club in Virginia where he was Director of Instructions for 5 golf courses, the Ocean Club in Nassau, The Maddison Club in Palm Springs, Gozzer Ranch in Idaho, Yellow Stone Club in Montana and the Country Hills Club in Chicago where he worked in a total of 5 different states as a Golf Professional/ Director of Golf Operations. Eventually he returned to his Bahama roots and settled at The Four Seasons course here in Exuma as the Golf Director.
Exuma bride
To give back for receiving so much, Nelson created the Nelson A. Ranger Scholarship Fund in Memory of Andrew and Kerry Bowe who introduced him to golf. This fund has assisted 11 Exumian high school graduates to college over the last 10 years that they have been functioning. He runs bi-weekly Golf and Tennis camps for kids 7-17, offers academic awards to encourage more educational excellence, host an annual Golf, Tennis, Reading, Music and Music camp as well as sponsor the annual Spelling Bee.
teaching golf
Throughout his golfing career Nelson had developed an interest in landscape photography, specializing in golf course landscapes.
The event that spurred his current career as professional photographer was the birth of his daughter Denell. He wanted a photographic record of her life, an interest that still inspires him today some 30 years later. Before long he was getting requests from family and friends to record their children, their daily events, their weddings. And so it grew to where he is today. Flitting from Exuma to other Bahamian islands, to the US, to photograph some of his old golfing buddies, to receiving bookings for celebs, sometimes not even knowing who it is till he arrives. For example the time he was hired to film the wedding of the drummer for the band Queen.
weddings by Alexander
 Another time he set up his equipment and all he knew was it was a wedding. A famous celeb walks in in golf togs, introduces himself (which was hardly necessary as everybody recognized him), returns minutes later in full wedding attire,  snap, snap, snap, and the groom is back onto the golf course after a quick change.
one for the family album
So, if you have a special occasion coming up, be it a wedding, an anniversary, or just a souvenir of your vacation. I suggest you contact “IMAGES by Alexander“.
The results will be hanging on your wall for years to come.
           Congratulations Nelson, you are an inspiration to the younger generation.

New Peace and Plenty Beach Bar

Peace & Plenty Beach Bar

A lot has been happening in Exuma this summer, especially at the Peace and Plenty Hotel.  Peace and Plenty Hotel is the oldest hotel in Exuma. Originally it was a customs house, then it was converted to a home for the Minns family.  Then the Minns sold to Stan Benjamin who with the help of his sons, converted the property into the hotel so many have come to enjoy.

Peace & Plenty Beach Bar

It was about two years ago that the hotel changed hands. The new owners updated the property and have built a great reputation for hospitality and cuisine.

Then this summer we heard that Peace and Plenty had taken over the luxury resort on Stocking Island known as Lumina Point.  Currently closed for hurricane season and therefore receiving a new coat of paint and some modification ready for another busy season.

Peace & Plenty Beach Bar

But it doesn’t stop there !  Now P&P have taken over the eco friendly resort of Higgins Landing, again on Stocking Island.  While the cottages are being renovated, the new P&P Beach Bar has been constructed.  With a fully stocked bar  in the capable hands of Wizard, and the BBQ ably controlled by Jerome, and the whole enterprise managed by Greg.   So  great burgers and generous drinks at reasonable prices, What more could you want?  How about the softest, safest white sand beach you could imagine with sunbeds and umbrellas and rental paddleboards to explore.  All this in the protected calm waters of Elizabeth Harbour.

Peace & Plenty Beach Bar

Take the water taxi or rent a boat from Minns Water Sports and have a fun day out, Sun, Sand, Music ( a little on the load side for my tastes, but I’m an old fart!).

So welcome to the Peace and Plenty Beach Bar, keep the Kaliks cold, the burgers hot and the beach pristine.  Good Luck Guys!   May you prosper and grow like Dora-Lee from years ago

Planning your Vacation…Book Direct & Save

Harbour View Exuma

Book Direct

Book Direct is simply cutting out the middlemen fees. Simple.

  • You, the guest, save money when you Book Direct
  • The Hospitality Owner saves money
  • You get better, local (not overseas) customer service
  • The Owner gets better information
  • You get personalized ideas and help with your vacation, plus support local businesses.
  • The Owners get to share their pride in their community with visitors

Hotel vs Vacation Rental? Still Book Direct?

Sometimes a hotel is the perfect way to go. Like a quick one night stopover on your way to somewhere else. But when you are coming to the Grand Circle to do the Parks and explore the endless red rock trails and all that Southwestern Utah has to offer, you are gonna need a few days.We are all about the beauty of the Vacation Rental experience.But even Hotels now are educating travelers to Book Direct. From small boutique hotels to large chains like Hilton and Marriot, from Vacation Rental owners to B&B associations, hospitality owners and managers are educating travelers about Book Direct.The Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals has asked travelers to Join The Movement

Hoteliers have joined forces with Vacation Rental owners for #BookDirectDay the first part of every February to help spread awareness through social media. Not just that one day, but every day.We understand when putting considerable $$ down on a vacation we all need assurances. Especially in this day of scammers everywhere we turn. I’m sure you have seen them on social media and the news. We all have cause for concern. So how do you plan your next vacation?

Booking Your Vacation

Most travel accommodation bookings happen in one of two ways.

– You the Traver, look online. The first 2-3 pages of Google will be one of the big OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) and their paid ads, such as VRBO, Airbnb, Homeaway, etc. You find a great place to stay and book through that middleman platform.


– You do a little more research and find a great place to stay and book directly with the owner of that VR (or Vacation Rental) Property. (Go to the bottom of this page to find ideas on how to do that “little more research”!)

Let’s talk about those two differences –

Why Book Direct?

 Pricing and Payments –  Let’s get the biggie$ out the door first!


Straight up – the best price will always be when you book direct – no service fees or commission added on for the middle man!

So here is the deal on why the price varies – Airbnb and VRBO/Homeaway charges each guest a variable service fee on each booking.

  • – As owners, we can not even tell you what that service fee is going to be. They do not show us. All we know is they have “Algorithms” that determine your fee according to “the current dynamics”

logo From Airbnb Help Page: “This fee is typically under 13% of the booking subtotal. The fee varies based on a variety of booking factors and is displayed to guests during checkout before they book a reservation.”

Great. So most folks can plan on somewhere under 13% in extra service fees from Airbnb…..?

As an owner, I also pay Airbnb an additional 3-5%.

In December 2016, VRBO and HomeAway were both purchased by Expedia for 4 BILLION dollars.Now, Expedia needs to earn back that money. Open your wallet, that commission is coming from you.Prior to 2017 Owners paid a flat rate to Vrbo for listing on their site. Now owners pay a flat rate or a Pay-Per-Booking rate AND our guests get to pay a fee. Don’t know how much.logo From the Vrbo help page “How is the fee calculated? The service fee is a percentage of the total amount of the reservation, excluding taxes and refundable fees. The percentage rate may change from time to time. Generally, the higher the reservation amount, the lower the percentage of service fee.”

Great. So most folks can plan on between 6-12% in extra service fees from Vrbo…..?

As an owner, I also pay Vrbo an additional 8-9%.

Booking.com has no traveler fees, Yay! Oh wait, Booking.com charges owners a 15% commission. I promise you are paying that. Owners must add that commission to your price or they are not going to stay in business.

As an owner, I pay Booking.com 15%


– The large, OTAs will tell you that theirs is the ONLY safe way to rent a Vacation Rental.

Please rest assured, all of our Credit Card processing is safe and secure, done by Stripe or PayPal. You enter the info and submit on our easy, professional reservation software. We never see your number and only use the most secure portals.Would you rather send a check or Venmo and get a 3% discount? We can do that!Want to split your booking in two separate payments? We can do that.We have even been known to take cash at the door (gasp 😀). Whatever makes you the most comfortable. (After your initial deposit to secure your dates)

  • Owners do not receive your OTA payment until the day after you check in with Airbnb, and VRBO has recently changed to 3-7 days after you check-in instead of “at time of payment”!? (I promise this has owners on edge, yikes! What are they doing with your/my money all that time?)

Extra Fees

Most homeowners will try really hard to keep all those add-ons to a minimum. There are a few we may not have control over. Taxes or HOA resort fees are a couple. We may have some say over cleaning fees and pet fees, but for us remote hosts, we are in the hands of those good housekeepers that we want to keep.

  •   – The price advertised on the OTAs is SELDOM the price you end up with. And we owners have no control over that! They love to give you an “average” price that often includes high season and low season rates. Plus those ambiguous “Service” fees that mysteriously go up and down….
  •   – Most Short Term Vacation Rentals will charge a separate cleaning fee. Why do they do that and Hotels do not? Argh, a pain point for all of us!

Cleaning fees

Hoteliers have many rooms to keep up so can keep a full-time staff and often pay housekeeping extremely low wages and roll it into their rates. Vacation Rentals have far fewer turnovers, yet still need to keep good, reliable housekeepers.

Housekeepers in our area get $25 hr. for VRs. How long do you think it takes to REALLY clean a two-bedroom, two-bath house? I have done it many times and I promise it is NOT happening in less than four hours! My housekeeper and I pride ourselves on “Super Clean” and our reviews show it.

Can I negotiate?

If someone were to ask to negotiate the cleaning fee – as I recently saw recommended in a Washington Post article – I would just ask them which toilet they prefer not cleaned or which floor they would rather not have mopped or which sheets they don’t want washed…? It really does take that long. But still, I know how we all HATE added cleaning fees. I tried rolling it into the rate for a while, but it put my rate so much higher than all the other area properties I was not even in the competition. So I met guests halfway! My cleaner charges $100 for a turnover, I charge guests half and I pay half. Because I really do want you to have “all the way” clean! And a reasonable rate.

If you find a VR with no cleaning fee, then the owner is doing it themselves and not getting reimbursed, or have rolled into their nightly cost.

did you know  – Our tax rate includes sales tax and TRT or transient room tax. Taxes for the city, county and state. Ugh. Death and taxes…… What more can I say. The “added fee” that none of us can do anything about.


OTAs insist on all communication through their site, for your safety. I think it’s to make sure they don’t lose any of their cut of the proceeds. How does talking to me make you less safe??

What it does do, is keep me from calling you to let you know there is a real person here.It keeps you from calling me to see what are the best tours in our area, or what’s my favorite hiking trail. Communication is essential for your perfect vacation!

  • did you knowIf you send me your phone number or email address the OTA will redact/remove the number or email from the note you wrote.
  • did you know  – If you contact me on an OTA, I am bound to book you on the OTA. And I am fine with that. That is the bargain I have made with the OTA for advertising on their site. We made a deal. So please do not email me from their platform and ask to Book Direct once you see the fees. I cannot do that. I will get kicked off the platform🙁.


Some good, some bad, just educate yourself on possible scenarios. Admittedly, there are some bad owners out there. Just remember there are two sides to every story. (Spoiler: Most of those 5-star reviews, are for great hosts with lovely homes, not the VRBO corporation 😀)

My Guarantees

  • did you know – If you have a problem or a question with the home or area, It is myself, my husband or our housekeeper that will help you with every question and make sure you have everything you need. It will never be someone in a call center on the other side of the world, it will not even be someone in a nice corporate office (even if they did know the best restaurants in Exuma, and they don’t. )

  • did you know we have a basic Short term Rental agreement we both sign. You promise to treat my home nice and I promise to have everything nice as promised.
  • did you know – I will ask for a copy of your photo ID at the time you sign the rental agreement. That way I’m guaranteed you are who you say you are. And you are guaranteed someone didn’t just take your credit card and try and go on vacation with it!
  • did you know My home is not “an Airbnb” or “a VRBO”. Even if I do advertise on their site. (But sometimes they like to act like they own it, when they dictate who I may or may not rent to and under what conditions…..sheesh. I wish they would pay their share of the mortgage then….. Sorry, I digress.)

So how do you know if WE are Guaranteed owners with your best interests at heart!?

Good question. Here are some ideas – 

  • Go to  https://www.visitsouthernutah.com/ The Kane county tourism website, you will find The Western Star Bungalow and The Star Garage Studio in their listings. Call and ask to speak to Josie if you would like to ask questions about us. 1-800-SEE-KANE

  • Call Kanab city offices 435-644-2534 ask them if John and Sherene McClellan have a current business license for My Star Vacation rentals.
  • Go into Honeys Marketplace (largest grocery store) in Kanab, Ask for Susan Honey the owner, ask her about The Western Star Bungalow or The Star Garage Studio. 260 E 300 S, Kanab
  • Call me, Sherene McClellan at 435-262-6119 or
  • My husband John McClellan at 435-262-1000

We would love to answer ANY questions you might have.

Help me find a “Book Direct” property. Or, how to do that “little more research” we talked about!

teach me

  • Look for LOCAL area rental sites. Search for “whatever my destination is”, “vacation rentals” or “Book direct”. Scroll down past the OTA paid ads.
  • Search on Fee Free sites such as VacationSoup.com or Houfy.com
  • Find a place you like on an OTA, then search the name of the property or owner in search engines and social media. Savvy owners can leave you clues, but direct info is banned from the listing sites. (I had a guest recently follow my breadcrumbs to my website and saved $500 on her family’s stay!)
  • Search Local area Tourist information sites
  • I have a small list of other trusted great owners from around the world. Might spark your next great adventure! https://mystarvr.com/stays-around-the-world/

So here is a break down of “Booking your Vacation Rental Direct” Pros – 

  • Cheaper, it really is
  • More space than a hotel room for your group
  • Kitchens for meal prep if you want
  • Real owners, no middle man
  • Localized knowledge. We can recommend some AWESOME places
  • Flexible payments
  • Direct communication
  • Some of the nicest properties are not on the OTAs (Some of the great experienced hosts are fed up with OTA greed. Some of us little guys just can’t make it alone quite yet…)

You cannot replace an Owners passion with the Corporate process.

Personal passion vs corporate processCheers and Good luck when planning your next vacation, wherever you might stay! -Sherene and John

Don: “This report is so thorough and accurate that I left the dedication to Sherene and John who own “The Western Star Bungalow” intact.  The same comments and money saving advise applies equally to our rental Harbour View in Exuma.  So whether you want a vacation in Utah or Exuma or wherever, talk direct to the knowledgable, local owners to get peace of mind and savings….Book Direct and Save”