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Bahamas featured image
Bahamas featured image
Bahamas featured image

Bahamas

A nation of 700 islands, The Bahamas is a deservedly popular, affordable, and easily reached retreat favored with perennial sunshine, white-sand beaches, and warm, clear seas. Christopher Columbus opened The Bahamas up to the Western world, and for centuries afterward, pirates gave these islands a different kind of fame. Today, they are famous for the fantastic vacations they provide thanks to countless gorgeous beaches, world-class casinos, championship golf, every water sport under the sun, award-winning cuisine, nature excursions, and so much more.

Unhurried and utterly breathtaking, The Bahamas harbors an endless bounty of vacation delights, and with so much to see and do (and eat, and drink, and buy) in this island chain, the best question to ask yourself may be: where to start?

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Our favorite beaches

Cable Beach

Situated amid all the action on New Providence Island, The Bahamas' most well-known strip of sand, Cable Beach, is easily accessible and loaded with facilities and resorts, making it a favorite among families and recreation-oriented vacationers.

Cabbage Beach

Lined with cocoa plums, sea grapes, and casuarinas, Cabbage Beach is a veritable institution for sunbathing and sports on Paradise Island. Sprint across the white sands and dive into clear aquamarine water, but watch out for all the WaveRunners and sailboats – this is a beach with loads of energy!

Xanadu Beach

Calm waters make for carefree swimming on Grand Bahama's most popular beach. Rent chairs and umbrellas, and lounge the day away. Or go sailing and jet-skiing with the entire family. Dining, shopping, and the International Bazaar are all within walking distance

Cat Island

If peace, quiet, and seclusion sound like what you’re looking for in a Caribbean getaway, then you want to visit the serene pink-sand beaches of Cat Island.

 

Food, music, and culture

The unique culture of The Bahamas reflects its Caribbean surroundings and its English and African heritage. The music here weaves these influences together, heard in the sounds of Bahamian Goombay and Rake and Scrape music.

Bahamian culture is on full display during Junkanoo, a lively street parade held across The Bahamas on New Year’s Day, Boxing Day, and Independence Day. The festival is believed to have started in the 16th or 17th centuries, although its origins are unclear. But the parades, the largest of which happen on New Providence Island, involve colorful costumes, music, and dancing.

Bahamian cuisine consists largely of seafood, and you’ll find a number of ways to enjoy conch (pronounced “konk”) while you’re there. “Sea snails” might not sound particularly appetizing, but you can’t leave without trying it in one of its popularly prepared forms:

  • Conch fritters – deep-fried balls of conch served with hot sauce;
  • Conch salad – uncooked conch mixed with peppers, onions, and hot pepper sauce;
  • Cracked conch – conch served breaded and sautéed, like a veal cutlet in The Bahamas.  

 

Know your island

New Providence Island

Much of the action in The Bahamas can be found on the island of New Providence. Here, you’ll find Nassau, The Bahamas’ vibrant capital city, and the seat of Bahamian culture, history, and shopping. Packed with colonial charm, it offers the closest thing to an urban experience, and is an ideal base for day trips to other parts of the Bahamas. Nearby Cable Beach is a glittering strip of hotels, restaurants, and casinos.

Fun Fact: In the early 1700s, Nassau was essentially run by pirates, and was the base for some of the most famous names that still capture imaginations today, such as Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Woodes Rogers, an English sea captain and first Royal Governor of The Bahamas, expelled the pirates in 1718 and restored order. 

Paradise Island

Just off of the northeast coast of New Providence Island, Paradise Island is an adult playground boasting numerous resorts, including the Atlantis mega-resort, complete with marine habitats, thrilling water slides, and culinary heavyweights such as Bobby Flay, Nobu Matsuhisa, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Atlantis is truly the most over-the-top resort in The Bahamas, and one you must see to believe.

Fun Fact: Paradise Island was formerly known as Hog Island, and the Hog Island Lighthouse, built in 1817, is the oldest and best-known lighthouse in The Bahamas.

Grand Bahama

The northernmost island in the chain, Grand Bahama features gorgeous beaches along its south shore. It’s also home to the family-friendly Freeport and Lucaya resort areas, with their broad beaches, challenging golf courses, out-of-this-world scuba diving spots, and plenty of water sports excitement. Freeport, Grand Bahama’s capital, also invites cruise ships to its harbor. Beyond its resorts, Grand Bahama offers three national parks and one of the world’s largest underwater cave systems to explore.

Fun Fact: Grand Bahama was virtually undeveloped all the way until the 1950s when Freeport was established.

Cat Island

Find peaceful seclusion on this Out Island, known for the presence of pink sands and the absence of almost everything else! This island unlocks natural treasures and The Bahamas’ rich history for those who venture here. You have 150 square miles of unspoiled beauty to explore, and the island serves as the source of The Bahamas’ Rake and Scrape music, and much of the folklore that is part of the Bahamian culture.

Fun Fact: Cat Island is believed to be named after the pirate Arthur Catt, and is home to the highest point in the Bahamas, atop Mt. Alvernia where a monastery called The Hermitage sits.

The Exumas

Stretching across 365 cays and islands, The Exumas were originally settled by British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. These islands are known for rich and famous visitors, celebrity-owned islands, private homes, and luxury resorts. The area offers untouched beaches and unmatched landscapes.

Fun Fact: Boats arriving to Major’s Spot Cay are greeted by…swimming pigs! They expect to be fed, so be prepared.

Harbour Island

Ranked in 2005 as “the Best Island in the Caribbean” by Travel & Leisure magazine, Harbour Island offers stunning tropical scenery and gorgeous pink-sand beaches.

Fun Fact: Get ready for a slice of New England on this Caribbean island, as much of the architecture and way of life here is influenced by the British Loyalist settlers from New England who arrived in the late 1700s.

Bimini

A favorite among historical figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ernest Hemingway, Bimini is the closest island to the U.S., which also gives it a place in history as a convenient stop for rumrunners during Prohibition. Consisting of three islands, Bimini is a haven for sport fishing, diving, and snorkeling.

Fun Fact: While Atlantis Resort sits on Paradise Island, some believe the road to the Lost City of Atlantis from popular legend is located off of North Bimini Island. The controversial “Bimini Road” is an underwater rock formation, and debate continues as to whether the structure is manmade or a unique natural phenomenon.

Andros

The largest but most sparsely developed island in The Bahamas is a bonefishing hotspot for those who are up for the challenge. Bonefish are alert, lightning-quick, and challenging for even the experienced fisherman, so be ready to match their skills with stealth, a sharp eye, and a well-placed cast.

Fun Fact: Andros is home to the deep trench known as the “Tongue of the Ocean,” and also contains a high concentration of blue holes — vertical underwater caves. Legend says the blue holes here house the sea monster Lusca.

 

Things to see and do

Island Hopping

With so much to do on hundreds of different of islands and cays, there’s no reason to confine yourself to one spot in The Bahamas. Nassau serves as a great jumping off point to explore the surrounding hotspots and hidden gems. Many islands have airports with daily service from Nassau, or you could explore by boat!

Shallow Water Dolphin Interaction/Atlantis Paradise Island

This is your opportunity to have a close personal encounter with a beautiful Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin. A marine mammal specialist provides an informative presentation of dolphin behavior, physiology, the importance of marine conservation, and safety requirements for the interaction (Deep Water Dolphin Interaction also available).

City and Country Tour

Drive through romantic old Nassau and environs to see ancient Forts Fincastle and Charlotte, the Queen's Staircase, Government House, picturesque Gregory's Arch, the Water Tower, the native Straw Market and other historical sites.

BAHAMAS FAST FACTS

Approximate flight times

  • NYC/Newark 3 hours
  • Philadelphia 3 hours
  • Boston 3 hours
  • Chicago 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Miami 1 hour
  • Los Angeles 6 hours

Entry/departure requirements

A valid U.S. passport is required. The departure tax is $25 throughout The Bahamas; in Grand Bahama (Freeport) there is an additional $3 airport security fee.

Climate

The Bahamas have a typically subtropical oceanic climate, warmed by the Gulf Stream in winter and cooled by trade winds in summer. Average temperatures range from 75°F in winter to 84°F during summer. Average annual rainfall is 46".

Official language

English

Official Currency

Bahamian dollar

Marriage requirements

Couples may apply a day after their arrival and can be married once they receive their approved license the day after application. Passports, birth certificates, photo IDs, and divorce/death certificates (if applicable) are required. The fee for a marriage license is $120.