Bahamas

Bahamas Travel Guide

With crystal clear blue waters, secret sandbars and deserted island beaches, the Bahamas is home to a chain of islands in the Atlantic Ocean. This idyllic, tropical destination is situated just off the east coast of Florida.

The pristine beauty of the Bahamas boasts a stunning array of reefs, beaches, forests and historic towns. They have numerous national parks that are wonderful to explore.

The capital of the Bahamas is Nassau located on the island of New Providence. There are 16 major islands and the main ones are Nassau & Paradise Island, Freeport and Grand Bahama.

The other islands surrounding the main islands of the Bahamas are the Out Islands, or what the locals call the Family Islands. Get lost and explore the beauty of the 700 islands that make up the beautiful Bahamas.

A popular vacation spot, the Bahamas is perfect for families, couples, water sports enthusiasts and nature lovers. They have world-class diving, pink-sand beaches and luxurious accommodations. This travel guide will help you make the most of your time there.

A Bahamas sign with beach in the background.

History

The Lucayan people are the first and original residents of the Bahamas. They are a branch of the Tainos which are the indigenous people of the Carribean that have migrated there from South America.

The first European contact in the island was in 1492 when Christopher Columbus made his first landfall. The island became mostly deserted during 1513 to 1648 when the Spaniards shipped the Lucayan people to Hispaniola.

In 1718, the Bahamas became a British Crown Colony and the Crown resettled thousands of American Loyalists to the Bahamas after the American Revolutionary War and brought with them enslaved people for their plantations.

The slave trade was put to an end by the British in 1807 and and was demolished in the Bahamas by 1834. Freed African slaves and their descendants constitute the majority of the population of the Bahamas. Today, 90% of the population in the Bahamas are Afro-Bahamians.

How to Get There

Worms eye view of a passenger plane.

Bahamas is easily accessible by sea and air. There are three ways to get to the Bahamas: on a cruise ship, a ferry or through flying. The capital of the Bahamas, Nassau, is the country’s gateway for international ports.

Cruise Ship

Traveling on a cruise ship is a popular way to get to the Bahamas and explore the islands.  The cruise ships dock at different places in the Bahamas.

There are numerous cruise lines traveling to the Bahamas like Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Carribean that stop regularly at Nassau or Freeport.

The Norwegian Cruise Line is an easy getaway escape to paradise from Miami, Tampa or New York. The Paradise Cruise Line offers an overnight trip from West Palm Beach in Florida to Grand Bahama Island.

Boating

There are international ferries that service to and from the Bahamas from South Florida. Ferries depart from Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach including the Balearia Bahamas Express which has an express service that operates during day time.

Flying

There are 20 international airports in the Bahamas and the main one is Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport in New Providence, which is just 10 miles from downtown Nassau.

Other major airports are the Leonard M. Thompson International Airport on Abaco Island and the Grand Bahama International Airport on Grand Bahama. The airport receives regular scheduled commercial flights from the US, Canada, Europe and Latin America.

American Airlines, Delta and British Airways are some of the main international airlines that travel regularly to and from the Bahamas. You can also charter a flight to and from South Florida to the Bahamas and across the Out islands.

Planning Your Trip

A girl holding a pencil with map on the table to plan her trip and a camera on the center.

Best Time to Visit

The best month to visit the Bahamas is from mid-December to mid-April. This is the country’s peak season where you can expect the best weather.

Although during peak season, accommodation prices may be higher and places might be crowded with hordes of tourists. The Atlantic hurricane season falls from June to November. These months are also the country’s rainy season that starts in the month of May.

Weather & Climate

The Bahamas has relatively warm weather year round and is often sunny and dry. During summer, temperature reaches 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 26 to 32 degrees Celsius.

During the winter months, you can experience a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 degrees Celsius. Rainy seasons are May to November with May and June having the most rains. The Bahamas has a tropical wet and dry climate.

Getting Around

There are various ways to get around the Bahamas. There are available car, bike and scooter rentals on the island and for some of the smaller islands, there are golf carts available for rent.

Taxis are accessible on the major islands in most hotels and airports and you can easily hail one off the streets. Metered rates for the taxis are set by law and are reasonably priced and vary by island.

For public transportation, there is a bus service called Jitneys that travels on the several main islands. Rates vary on the destination and runs from early morning to around 7:00 PM.

If you want to explore the other islands by sea, there are regular local ferry services that connect between the major islands. Water taxis are also a good option to travel between Nassau and Paradise Island and throughout the Out Islands.

Charter a speed boat and island hop your way around the many beautiful islands of the Bahamas if you want an easy and convenient way to travel by sea.

You can also fly between the islands for a wonderful experience looking down on the turquoise waters and islands. There are scheduled and chartered air services available for your inter-island travel needs.

Multiple domestic airlines are running to and from the islands and you can also charter your own private plane to take you to the most amazing places the Bahamas can offer.

Language

English is the official language in the Bahamas. The majority of the population in the Bahamas speaks in english. Many people in the country also speak in an english-based creole language called the Bahamian Dialect.

Currency

The official currency is Bahamian dollars but both the Bahamian dollar and US dollars are accepted throughout the islands. 1 US dollar is equivalent to 1 Bahamian dollar.

Top 3 Things to Do

There are so many wonderful activities in the Bahamas. Whether you just want to sunbathe on the numerous white sand beaches, or go enjoy a day on the water fishing and diving. There is definitely something for everyone to do in this paradise oasis.

1. Fishing

A black fishing rod on stand-by waiting to catch a fish.

The Bahamas is an incredible fishing destination that holds record-breaking catches. Fishing on the islands is suitable all-year round. You can go deep sea fishing where you can catch marlin, tuna or sailfish.

Go on a family-friendly fishing boat trip and go fly-fishing or reef fishing where you can get a chance to catch grouper, snapper or trigger fishes.

2. Diving

A woman scuba diving making okay sign in the sea with fishes besides her.

The Bahamas is home to the world’s third largest barrier reef, the Andros Barrier Reef. The islands have diverse dive sights such as blue holes, coral reefs, shipwrecks and wall caves.

The warm waters and the visibility of up to 150 to 200 feet makes the Bahamas a favorite dive spot for both first time and experienced divers.

For a thrilling and exciting experience, dive with the sharks on the different dive sites to get up-close to tiger sharks, hammerheads or silky sharks. Dive to the shipwrecks underwater and explore the wall caves, caverns and tunnels that surround the island.

Don’t forget about the blue holes, as Bahamas has several blue holes with Dean’s Blue Hole being the second deepest blue hole in the world.

3. Explore the Nature Parks

An aerial view of an island.

The Bahamas is known for its beautiful nature parks all around the country. There are at least 32 nature parks in the Bahamas. The most popular ones are the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park which has pristine turquoise waters and white powdery sand.

You can kayak around the cays or sunbathe on the beach for a day of bliss and fun. The Blue Holes National Park claims the highest number of blue holes in the world.

Hike and explore the bat caves and beaches of Lucayan National Park. See the national bird of the Bahamas, the West Indian Flamingos at the Inagua National Park which has the largest breeding colony of flamingos.

Top 3 Places to Eat & Drink

A bowl of salad and a drink in the blur background.

1. Cafe Matisse

Cafe Matisse is a classic gourmet dining restaurant located in Nassau. They serve Italian food but with a Bahamian twist and they use locally sourced produce for their dishes. Cafe Matisse has a romantic ambiance and splendid service.

2. Curly’s Restaurant and Bar

Taste some local flavor at Curly’s Restaurant and Bar situated on the Fish Fry Strip in Nassau. They serve delicious Bahamian and seafood dishes like the conch fritters and grouper.

3. Margaritaville

The laid-back and tropical vibe at Margaritaville will make you want to order one of their handcrafted cocktails and munch on their cheeseburgers or fish and chips.

This is a great place to dine and drink located in the Ferry Terminal Building in Paradise Island.

Where to Stay

Best Hotels

A hotel near the sea.

1. The Island House

The Island House is Nassau’s first boutique hotel and gathering space. This palm-studded estate has an infinity pool, an in-house cinema, a spa and a private beach access. The Island House is a relaxing place to stay at with an elegant and contemporary feel.

2. Small Hope Bay Lodge

Small Hope Bay Lodge is the oldest dive resort in the Bahamas and has been catering to divers, travelers, snorkelers, fisherman and eco-tourists since the 1960’s.

Located in Andros Island, Small Hope Bay Lodge arranges diving trips and courses for both first time and experienced divers. They also arrange fishing trips and offer rental equipment such as snorkeling and diving gears.

3. BahaSea Backpackers

An affordable beach front accommodation in the Bahamas, BahaSea Backpackers offers hostel bunk beds and private rooms. They are located in the heart of Cable Beach and are close to downtown.

Just a few steps to the beach, they have a pool right on the ocean and have a friendly atmosphere.

Best Resorts

1. Atlantis, Paradise Island

The Atlantis in Paradise Island is a majestic and massive resort by the sea. Choose one of the six hotels in this sprawling resort and explore the resort’s casino, pools, restaurants, bars and their open-air marine habitat.

The Aquaventure waterpark in the resort is a great way for families to spend and enjoy time together.

2. Pink Sands Resort Harbour Island

Splurge in a luxurious resort located on the wonderful 3-mile pink sand beach. Relax and rejuvenate in Pink Sands Resort and have a blissful retreat. The resort’s timeless elegance, stunning views and warm hospitality will make for a heavenly stay.

3. Rosewood Baha Mar

Rosewood Baha Mar has a sophisticated and calming atmosphere and is one of the island’s most luxurious stay. Rosewood is part of the three-hotel complex of Baha Mar on Providence Island.

Enjoy their many amenities like the golf course, casino, pools, spa, fitness center and their many restaurants and bars.

Money-Saving Tips

The Bahamas might be a luxurious travel destination but money shouldn’t deter you from traveling to this beautiful country. Here are some tips to save money during your trip to the Bahamas.

Visit Outside the Peak Season

Consider visiting outside the peak season to grab discounts to restaurants and accommodations. Plan a trip during late spring and early fall and enjoy discounts, fine weather and fewer crowds.

Find Travel Deals

There are a lot of travel deals for restaurants and accommodations in the Bahamas throughout the year. Sign up for Nassau Paradise Island’s e-newsletter to get the latest travel deals.

Eat and Drink Like a Local

Eat locally and skip the expensive resort restaurants. Check out the local eateries in the area if you want an authentic experience.

Munch on the island’s famous johnny cakes, bahamian rock lobster and deep-fried conch fritters during your stay. 

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