Bahamas Holiday Planning Guide
Part of an archipelago encompassing hundreds of islets and cays, Bahamas boast many pink beaches, which get their vibrant color from fractured seashells mixed with ordinary sand. For most pleasure seekers an ideal holiday in Bahamas consists of various sea activities, occasionally interrupted by tours of several cities, offering an eclectic music scene dominated by calypso, soca, and junkanoo genres. Romantic enough to attract newlyweds from around the globe, the islands are also a major center of eco-tourism, with visits to national parks and diving tours in colorful reefs among the most popular things to do in Bahamas.
Places to Visit in Bahamas
Regions of BahamasNew Providence Island
: Known as the "sanitarium of the western hemisphere" since the late 19th century, Providence Island draws tourists with its mild climate, well-maintained roads, modern facilities, and some of the most popular Bahamas attractions.Great Exuma
: The largest in the group 365 islands acts as a gateway for outdoor activities, such as yachting, sailing, diving, and caving; the island also draws tourists with its seafood-based cuisine.Abaco Islands
: Combining luxurious tourist areas with scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities, this long chain of great and small islets boasts a scenic landscape of inlets and bays framed by emerald hills and long stretches of golden sand. Eleuthera
: This long, thin island is known for its pink-sand beaches, pineapple plantations, and a wealth of offshore coral formations bursting with marine wildlife.Harbour Island
: A mixture of colonial English architecture, charming seaside eateries, pink-sand beaches, and a thriving marine world offshore provides plenty of reasons to include this destination on your Bahamas itinerary. Long Island
: Boasting two contrasting coastlines, this serene island focuses mainly on the sea when it comes to tourism and its fishing-based economy. Popular fishing spots, biologically rich dive sites, and calm bays deserve to be explored during your Bahamas holiday.Bimini
: Boasting picturesque beaches and an interesting cultural heritage, the island draws nature enthusiasts and history buffs.
Cities in BahamasNassau
: Once a stronghold of pirates, the capital is a first stop on nearly every Bahamas itinerary. Uncultivated bush until the late 18th century, the town was developed by American loyalists and their slaves who planted the seed of what was to become the commercial heart of the Bahamas. George Town
: The administrative center for over 300 islands that make up the Exumas district serves as a springboard for exploring numerous cays. Its enticing historical heritage filled with stories of pirates and "plantation aristocracy" grabs the attention of most tourists on a Bahamas vacation.Freeport
: The second most populous city in the country draws visitors with some of the island's most popular resorts, pleasant seaside attractions, and diverse ecological heritage. Marsh Harbour
: Tourists usually stop at this tourism and boating center for grocery supplies, to withdraw cash from an ATM, or to refuel before they sail off to the reefs. Those who decide to venture off on a kayaking trip can spend the night at one of town's waterfront lodges.
Popular Bahamas Tourist AttractionsAquaventure Water Park at Atlantis Paradise Island
: Offering treats for the whole family, including six-story slides and an 18 m (60 ft) tunnel drop, this water park tops many family-oriented Bahamas itineraries.Port Lucaya Marketplace
: A shopper's paradise featuring 40 specialty stores, over 100 artist craft stalls, and 14 restaurants, this marketplace has "everything you came for and more."Marine Habitat at Atlantis
: This vast underwater world is among top Bahamas places to see for marine life enthusiasts. Boasting 50,000 aquatic species grouped within themed lagoons, it invites visitors to discover seahorses, lobsters, piranhas, sharks, and many other species.Blue Lagoon Island
: This privately owned island with a lagoon, historical tower, and jungle areas can be explored in a day trip. Apart from guided Segway tours of its sights, it offers you an opportunity to swim with dolphins.Casino at Atlantis Resort
: A beautifully decorated and award-winning establishment, this casino lets you test your luck at tables and slots while sampling free drinks and gazing at tropical fish tanks.Castaway Cay
: A private island and a port for cruise liners built to imitate a castaway community, Castaway Cay offers swimming, cycling, snorkeling, sailing, and shopping opportunities.Cable Beach
: The long, crescent-shaped beach, featuring soft white sand and pristine, clear waters, offers plenty of swimming and snorkeling opportunities for your Bahamas vacation.Queen's Staircase
: This historic monument honoring the monarch who signed the declaration to abolish slavery in 1837 takes you to the top of Bennet's Hill and allows you to see the ruins of Fort Fincastle.Coco Cay (Little Stirrup Cay)
: Pack your snorkeling gear and explore the shallows, white-sand beaches, and inland trails of this small island used exclusively by Royal Caribbean.Junkanoo Beach
: Packed with bars, restaurants, shops, and charming souvenir stalls, this popular beach makes a convenient stop for cruise ships.Straw Market
: This vibrant market stocked with handicrafts and souvenirs attracts visitors who like to test their bargaining skills on their Bahamas holiday.
Planning a Bahamas Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Bahamas with Kids
Mild year-round climate, white-sand shores, colorful marine life, and luxurious accommodations make the Bahamas an excellent choice for a family vacation. New Providence Island
and the neighboring Paradise Island
lure families with their aquariums, snorkeling sites, beaches, and theme parks that keep kids active and entertained for many hours. Also popular as a center of eco-tourism, Grand Bahama Island
adds some underwater caves and botanical gardens to a long list of family-friendly Bahamas attractions. Capital city Nassau
and bustling Freeport
provide a fair share of adventure in exciting urban settings, while Out Islands
ensure a simpler, more laidback Bahamas vacation suitable for the whole family.
Things to Do in Bahamas with Kids
From organized adventures at Aquaventure Water Park at Atlantis Paradise Island
to swimming with dolphins and stingrays at Blue Lagoon Island
, and all the pink beaches and snorkeling sites in between, there is nothing your kids won't love on your trip to Bahamas. Take the advantage of the islands' inclination to eco-tourism and introduce your young ones to pink flamingos at Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Center
or show them the colorful underwater world of corals and tropical fish at Marine Habitat at Atlantis
. For an exciting history lesson go to Pirates of Nassau Museum
or spend a lazy afternoon at Versailles Gardens and French Cloister
, where you and your little ones can recharge your batteries among lily pad ponds and lush green terraces.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Bahamas
If you want to stay on a budget while enjoying your Bahamas vacation, plan your meals in advance. Most hotels have kids' menus and some restaurants, like the one at Marina Village
, serve abundant family meals. You can always reach out for a fast food option as the last resort.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Bahamas
Cuisine of Bahamas
Due to the islands' diverse history and blend of cultures, authentic Bahamian cooking includes many influences. Fresh seafood dominates the menu overall, and the influence of the American South remains more obvious here than in any other cuisine in the Caribbean. The food is often spicy but subtle and never bland. Lime, hot peppers, cilantro, and coconuts are some of the popular ingredients used in everyday cooking. Favorite side dishes include potatoes, pigeon peas, and rice (the famous peas 'n' rice). Salt pork and tropical fruits (notably pineapple) from the fertile Out Islands
are also prominent ingredients in the Bahamian diet. If you need a break from the seafood, or have a craving for a juicy burger, New Providence Island
and Paradise Island
are home to several American fast food chains.
Shopping in Bahamas
The first thing you need to know when shopping locally is that the country abolished all import duties in 1992. Apart from duty-free shopping for perfumes, jewelry, watches, crystal, leather, and cameras at big malls like Harbour Bay Shopping Centre
, you can spend time searching for some local crafts that reflect national heritage. At Bahama Craft Centre
you can find handmade souvenirs, while Central Bank of The Bahamas
showcases and sells artworks by established Bahamian artists. Straw Market
remains the best place to pick up authentic straw products and locally made batik fabric.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Bahamas
Interesting Facts About Bahamas
● The Bahamas sit on the edge of the infamous Bermuda Triangle and boast 700 islands, only 30 of which are inhabited
● The name of the archipelago comes from the Spanish phrase "baja mar," meaning "shallow sea"
● The Bahamas boast one of the world's longest underwater cave systems
● Even though the islands used to be a British territory, today Bahamians have more in common with the Americans--even their currency (Bahamian dollar) is equal to the U.S. dollar
● The spirit of the Bahamas is invigorated by rum, which was once used to fund slavery in the Americas and today is an essential ingredient in Bahamian cocktails
Things You Should NOT Do in Bahamas
If invited to a local home, dress formally and arrive on time to show respect to your hosts. Also, don't sit until shown to your spot and wait for the hosts to start eating before you do. Remember that swimsuits are appropriate attire for the beach only, so don't wear them on the street.
Holidays & Festivals in Bahamas
Expect all public offices, banks, schools, and many stores to be closed during major public holidays, including New Year's Day, Easter, Labor Day (June 3), Independence Day (July 11), Emancipation Day (August 1), National Heroes Day (October 10), and Christmas. Probably the best way to observe living culture in the Bahamas is to take part in some of the many traditional festivities, such as Junkanoo--a Bahamian version of New Orleans' Mardi Gras or Rio's Carnival. Plan your Bahamas vacation keeping in mind that most of the colorful regional festivals happen between the end of December and the end of March. In July and August, don't miss the opportunity to sample tasty Bahamian cuisine, which is showcased at large festivals held in honor of Independence Day and Emancipation Day.
Useful Bahamas Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Bahamas
Even though Bahamians may appear a bit more aloof compared to other Caribbean natives, they will look you in the eye and approach you with a smile, a handshake, and a welcoming English phrase--usually spoken with a musical quality of the dialect influenced by their West African roots.
Climate of Bahamas
The Bahamas enjoy a mild tropical climate thanks to the persistent but gentle trade winds. As a result, though temperatures vary slightly from island to island, the Bahamas as a whole don't experience an off-season--you can swim, dive, and snorkel all year-round. The Bahamas boasts some of the clearest waters in the Caribbean and nearly 340 sunny days per year. If you time your Bahamas vacation for the period between May and November, you can experience rare and short-lived tropical rainstorms.
Transportation in Bahamas
While ferries and rental boats are indispensable while island hopping, there are many options to keep you moving once you get to the island of your choice. If renting a car or a scooter, stay safe during your Bahamas holiday by remembering that British driving rules apply here. Larger islands like Paradise Island
and Grand Bahama Island
boast public buses called "jitneys." Some islands, such as Harbour Island
are so small that people prefer moving about their pristine areas in golf carts.
Tipping in Bahamas
Unless you're staying at an all-inclusive resort, you should always tip if satisfied with the quality of service. Bellboys will expect a small cash tip per bag, while waiters, taxi drivers, and masseurs usually receive additional 15 percent for their services. Before you do anything, it's a good idea to check the bill to see if gratuity has already been included.