Best seen below the waterline, here is a country where the highest point is a mere 400m above sea level, and the rest is almost mangrove! Tucked in between Cuba and Florida, the Bahamas offer an exquisite island paradise dominated by turquoise seas and white sand. The capital, Nassau offers great shopping opportunities, and with over 700 islands to explore in this massive archipelago, it’s best to just set your watch to ‘island time’ (i.e. throw it away), kickback and luxuriate in the salubrious surroundings. The locals are friendly, everything is relaxed and there are a multitude of activities to enjoy.
Nassau: check out the mixture of museums, pastel-colored Georgian architecture, forts and markets amid the modern attractions.
Bimini: fishing, lounging, drinking and chatting are all on the agenda on the lovely island of Bimini.
Andros: the massive coral reef offers some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world; not to be missed.
Exumas: sailing around these beautiful islands and their many hidden treasures is a wonderful experience.
Long Island: virtually untouched by tourists in parts, Long Island is a true island getaway and one for solitude-seekers.
Two weeks in the Bahamas is enough to see most of the best bits although you could be here for a while if you want to see all 700 islands.
Explore the modern sensibilities and old-world charm of Nassau, once home to pirates, prostitutes and urchins aplenty.
Take a breathtaking voyage around the bays, coves and coral of the Exumas.
Grab a beer and chew the fat with fishermen in intriguing Alice Town, Bimini.
Scuba dive, snorkel, fish or just lie flat on your back on the untouched and beautiful beach on Long Island.
Scuba diving or snorkeling on Andros is fabulous.
Stroll around the straw market in Nassau and haggle your way to a handmade straw masterpiece.
Muck about with bottle-nosed dolphins on Blue Lagoon Island.
The Bahamas is a very safe place for tourists but, like any touristy place, there are occasional acts of petty theft. Make sure you pack sunscreen as one thing you can pretty much guarantee is that it’s going to be blazing hot. The tap water is okay to drink but tastes a little salty for some. Make sure you have travel insurance as medical treatment can be costly.
There are two main ways to get to the Bahamas: fly into Nassau or arrive on a cruise ship. The airport is well served by flights arriving from the USA, Europe and Asia, and the port is one of the busiest for cruise ships in the world. In Nassau and Freeport, buses (or jitneys) are fantastic. Every journey costs a flat, inexpensive rate and they’ll take you pretty much anywhere. Elsewhere however, transport services are pretty limited so it’s usually best to hire a car. Be aware that gasoline is expensive in the Bahamas.
What’s cool: Chilling and strolling in the historically rich capital, bronzing and looking fabulous on one of the many beautiful beaches, scuba diving around the third-longest coral barrier reef in the world, seeing where Hemingway once lived and fishing on the beautiful island of Bimini, enjoying the pineapple plantations and pink beaches on the island of Eleuthera, sailing around the astonishing bays and reefs of the Exumas. Atlantis hotel on Paradise Island, Nassau.
What’s not: Paying stupidly high prices for gasoline, waking up after a night on the Bacardi and not knowing what day of the week or year it is, getting caught in a hurricane or tropical storm, finding out first-hand how badly regulated the water sports industry on the islands is, the effect ‘island time’ has on punctuality.
The weather in the Bahamas is amazing. Slightly cooler than the other Caribbean islands due to their proximity to North America, temperatures still rarely dip below 68°F (20°C) all year round. May to October is the rainy season, when a couple of showers a day could disrupt your fun. The hurricane season runs from June to November, and if one of those babies hits, your fun will be seriously disrupted. The best time to go is between December and April to avoid the rain.
While the parties and festivals are always rocking, don’t turn up early or you will be the only one there.
March: Georgetown, Exuma hosts the annual, family-friendly, Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival.
May: the eternal juiciness of the Eleuthera pineapple is celebrated in style every year in Gregory Town.
June: Junkanoo Summer Festival, an extension of the main celebrations in December, is a heady mix of street parties, food and music.
July: the 10th is Independence Day so expect lots of fun and games on all of the islands.
December: the Bahamas’ main festival is the unusually named Junkanoo, similar in style and wildness to the carnival in Rio.
Scuba diving: available everywhere, notably on Andros, diving in the crystal clear blue waters of these islands is a dream come true.
Sailing: many operators offer sailing trips, the best undoubtedly around the Exumas.
Fishing: Bimini is reputed to be the world’s big game fishing capital. If you’re feeling bold, try and catch the ever elusive bone fish.
Partying: having a good time is high on the agenda of most locals and tourists so just join in. The Junkanoo festivities are the undisputed highlights.
Haggling: get lost in a world of trinkets, straw sculptures and high stake haggling in any of the many markets on the islands.
Seafood is understandably prominent on the menus of the islands. On the whole, the food is excellent, particularly at one of the many fish fries or barbeques you can easily stumble into. The service in the Bahamas can be a little slow by certain standards, as stopping and chatting to customers, whatever the setting, is positively encouraged. The soft drink of the islands is undoubtedly Goombay punch, a pineapple based sugar fest. If you’re after something a little stronger, the beer is more than adequate, but rum is the drink of choice.