700 islands &
2400 sparkling cays
A tropical island nation
700 islands &
2400 sparkling cays
GMT -4 hours
Although the Bahamas lie within striking distance of Florida, the 700 tropical islands emit that inimitable Caribbean vibe. It’s the destination Lenny Kravitz was dreaming of when he wrote ‘Fly Away’. Sure, cerulean waters peacefully slip onto white sand shores, but the Bahamas has plenty of character. Plan your perfect escape to converse with locals, who have a lovely English lilt, and join the joie de vivre at Junkanoo celebrations.
Tourism plays a big role in the Bahamas’ economy, so you can expect great hospitality. However, since only 30 of their islands are inhabited, you can easily set sail for a secluded slice of paradise. Tune into the underwater world to spot stingrays and sea turtles amongst schools of fish, and don’t be surprised if you glimpse a swimming pig. Curly shelled conchs are also abundant, and they feature on most menus – as conch chowder, conch salad, conch ceviche and fried conch fritters. Find flamingos, the national bird, in the wild; then linger along the aptly named Pink Sand Beach.
When you’re ready, return to civilisation in the capital. Imagine merchant ships of the wealthy ‘Golden Era’ and swashbuckling buccaneers at the Pirates of Nassau Museum. You can also peek into the not-quite-so-distant past at Forts Charlotte and Fincastle, as well as the limestone Queen’s Staircase, painstakingly built by slaves. Spend your days shopping for souvenirs at Straw Market or slurping Bahama Mamas, essentially a pina colada with orange juice, over some juicy ‘sip sip’ – slang for gossip. Plan your non-stop flights to Bahamas and prepare to start feeling Bahamian.
If the sound of an adult-only, all-inclusive haven makes you feel giddy, book into Riu Palace Paradise Island. In addition to the gym, spa and two pools, the white high-rise hotel features a swim-up bar, reserved beach area and live entertainment.
Meanwhile, the rooms, suites and villas of Rosewood Bahr Mar rest on the white sands of Cable Beach – five miles away from the heart of Nassau. Keep active on site at the golf course, tennis courts and gym. Staying here also grants you free access to the nearby beachfront Baha Bay Water Park.
Self-catering options are available at The Reef at Atlantis Paradise Island Nassau, but you may also dine at the 20+ eateries within the larger Atlantis Paradise Island resort. You can let loose at the 141-acre water park, too.
For a room with a view – and a generous balcony, to boot, pick the pale pink SLS Baha Mar Nassau. Within the larger Baha Mar resort, it provides two exclusive pools, plus access to the Jack Nicklaus Signature designed golf course, ESPA spa, kids’ club and more.
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Bathe in an impressive variety of blue holes and tread upon pearly pink sands. Tee off amidst some of the Caribbean’s most stunning scenery, experience Nassau’s nightlife or try conch come dinnertime. Whatever your heart desires, the Bahamas delivers it with idyllic aplomb.
1. The Blue Holes National Park on Andros is home to 22 inland blue holes – these are special swimming holes, which formed when the island’s limestone bedrock eroded. If you only have time for one, hit up Captain Bill’s Blue Hole. It’s pleasingly round and more than 30 metres deep. A platform from the gazebo invites visitors to jump in, but you can descend the stairs for a gentler entry. Relax on the floating dock and try to spot some rare birds, like the Bahama Oriole and Great Lizard Cuckoo.
2. Ogle artwork in the one-of-a-kind Dolphin House. A quick glance of the stone exterior will tell you this is no ordinary house. It’s studded with seashells and colourful mosaics. Oh, and a lighthouse statue is stationed on top. Bimini historian and poet Ashley Saunders built this tribute to the friendly marine mammals after swimming with them. He has been meticulously placing artefacts into his ever-changing artwork for more than three decades now. The Dolphin House is wonderfully whimsical – with a whiff of kitsch. The upcycled installations are made from litter, including rum bottles; and you’ll find license plates from each of the 50 states.
3. Join the Junkanoo hullabaloo. You’ll likely hear the Junkanoo celebrations well before you see them. Music from whistles, cowbells, drums and brass instruments set the stage of this increasingly flamboyant tradition, which has grown in flashiness but remains undeniably Bahamian. Some participating groups spend nearly a year perfecting their routines. After all, they may win cash prizes for the best costumes, music or theme portrayal. You’ve got a few chances to get in on the national festivities, including Boxing Day and New Year’s morning – and you can always visit the Junkanoo Expo Museum in Nassau.
4. Get your hands on Bahamian batik textiles. You’re right. The unique batik dyeing process was born in Indonesia – but Androsia handmade batik is the unofficial fabric of the Bahamas. Its introduction into national culture can be traced back to the 1960s, when the custom was imported on the shores of Andros by Rosi Birch. The vibrant style suited the locals, so its popularity spread quickly. Today, you can find the fabric in shops (particularly those specialising in souvenirs) across the islands.
5. Make footprints on Pink Sand Beach – arguably the most famous stretch of shoreline in the Bahamas. The sand on Harbour Island is blush by day and tinged red in the evening, comprised of crushed rose-coloured shells of single-cell sea creatures. Visit at sunrise and sunset for the most captivating views. The pics of Pink Sand Beach on Instagram are typically heavily enhanced by filters. But, hey, you get to experience the real deal.
The buzzy capital of Nassau sits near a number of atypical city attractions. The downtown area rests along the coast, sandwiched between Montagu Beach and Junkanoo Beach, so you can always take a breather. Paired with Paradise Island, it’s known as the gateway to the Bahamas.
Get your adrenaline fix at the gargantuan Aquaventure water park – or tee off on an unbelievably green golf course. Otherwise, stick to the shops before grabbing a bite in one of many eateries. You may even try your luck at the casinos or get swept up in the city’s night club scene.
For a touch of the Robinson Crusoe lifestyle, direct your captain to the Exumas Cays, where you’ll find solitude away from Great Exuma and Little Exuma. However, you may find some company in form of affable swimming pigs on Major Cay – or ‘friendly’ sharks beneath a dock on Compass Cay.
Alternatively, channel Daniel Craig’s 007 predecessors just west of Staniel Cay at Thunderball Grotto. The dramatic underwater cave system appears in both Thunderball and Never Say Never. You can snorkel and wade here, but diving equipment is necessary at high tide. When you’re ready for a cocktail, shaken not stirred, make way for Chat’n’Chill on Stocking Island.
Keep it easy breezy while booking your Bahamas holiday. Budget-friendly options, such as the family-friendly Comfort Suites Paradise Island, will give you a great time at good value – with free access to the extensive facilities next door at Atlantis Paradise Island resort.
Otherwise, stay right in the resort at The Royal at Atlantis Paradise Island. Despite its legendary lost city theme, you’ll be in the heart of the action, right next to 141 acres of water park glory. Spend all of your energy within the Aquaventure park, shooting down 18 slides or cruising along a mile-long river ride, and dine voraciously – at more than 20 on-site restaurants.
If you crave a family holiday with a bit more sophistication, Breezes Bahamas is an all-inclusive resort suited to adults and children over 14 years old that is booming with activities, entertainment and restaurants. It comes with sea views and the town is just a short stroll away, so you’ll have everything at your fingertips.
Meanwhile, adults can luxuriate at the serene Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort and Offshore Island on Nassau’s Cable Beach. Soak up the rays from an oversized sunbed, hand-in-hand with your honey – and avail the pool and beachside cocktail service. Book a beachside massage as an additional treat.