|Size||5,358 square miles (13,878 square kilometers)|
|Population||395,000 (90.6% Black, 4.7% White, 2.1% Mixed, 2.6% Other)|
|Status||Independent country, part of the British Commonwealth|
|GDP per capita (2018)||$26,005|
|Currency||Bahamian Dollar tied to US dollar|
|Electricity||US standard two-prong|
|Driving||on the left|
If you could take a 700 day vacation and come to The Bahamas, you would be able to spend every single day of your holidays on a different island. What’s even more amazing is that you could find a beautiful sandy beach to relax on most of these islands. If you are still not impressed, consider the fact that of all the islands in the Bahamas 95% of them are uninhabited so if it is privacy you are looking for, this is definitely the place to find it! The Bahamas stretch for well over 500 miles starting with Grand Bahama located about 50 miles east of West Palm Beach in Florida and extending all the way to the island of Mayaguana, situated about 50 miles north-west from Turks and Caicos. All of the islands of the Bahamas are low lying with an elevation no higher than 50 feet above sea level. Hence, don’t expect to find many hills to climb here. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do much hiking here. To the contrary, The Bahamas are lush islands with dense forests and marshes and hundreds of miles of trails you explore. Most of the hiking here will lead you to and from gorgeous and empty beaches, of which many seem to stretch indefinitely.
Besides the wilderness and a quite atmosphere, The Bahamas is also a place of sophisticated fun and adventure. In fact, the island of Nassau is home to the most impressive adventure parks in all of the Caribbean. With its large water and animal parks, classy hotels as well as impressive golf courses and casinos, the island is big draw for visitors from all over the world. Indeed, for families with kids, Nassau’s Paradise Island is as close to a paradise as you can get. For The Bahamas, significant investments in tourism are critical as the country’s economy relies heavily on this industry (it makes as much as 60% the islands GDP). Financial services including offshore banking is the second most important industry here, so you should not be surprised to find many banks and suited office workers in and around Nassau. Overall, thanks to well developed and managed tourism and financial services, The Bahamas are not only beautiful, but also one of the richest regions of the Caribbean. This means you can expect to find high quality of amenities, transportation, accommodations and services here. In a nutshell, it is actually difficult to name any reasons why you should not come to the Bahamas. The only one we can think of is if you have just recently spend the last 700 days here…
There are more than 20 US cities that offer direct flights to The Bahamas, though none of them are on the west coast. In addition, although there are also a few non-stop flights to The Bahamas from Toronto and London Heathrow, you will need a connection from pretty much anywhere else in Canada or from Europe. The two main airports you can fly to is the Lynden Pindling International Airport in New Providence and Grand Bahama International Airport in Grand Bahama. If your final destination is neither of these two islands you will either take a local flight via Bahamasair or a few of the islands like New Providence and Andros Island are connected via a Bahamas Ferry Services, which operate fast and modern boats on a daily basis.
The two most populous islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama have plenty of car rental locations, popular and inexpensive bus systems (less than $2 to get to most destinations) as well as more than several taxi companies that can get you to and from anywhere on the islands. When it comes to all other, smaller islands, your transportation options are significantly smaller. There is no public transport on islands like Andros, Eleuthera, Great Abaco and so forth. In addition, car rentals are in very limited supply so if you are travelling in high season, there is a good chance you will not be able to rent one. In such a scenario, taxis are your best bet though consider also renting out bicycle(s). Since none of the islands are very big and traffic is minimal, cycling around much of The Bahamas is a pleasant experience.
Things to explore
The Bahamas are less developed than most of the other Caribbean islands and they were never a big producer of agricultural products like its neighbours. Therefore, you will not find here as many human made historical sights, though you will find loads of stunning natural wonders and beaches that by many standards are the very best in the region. Nonetheless, if you are keen to explore the history of human settlements in The Bahamas, you will want to head to Nassau near Prince George Wharf. There are at least four interesting museums here showcasing different aspects of life on the islands and their evolution. There is the Pompey Museum detailing history of slavery here, Pirates of Nassau with a real life replica of a pirate ship as well as The Heritage Museum of The Bahamas and Bahamas Historical Society, both of which focus on presenting local culture and traditions. The center of Nassau also has a few cool looking historical sights including four 18th century forts that used to protect the city – Fort Stanley, Fort Charlotte, Fort Montagu and Fort Fincastle, to which you can get to using a picturesque stone staircase.
Nassau and New Providence have plenty to offer for nature lovers as well. In the western Nassau you will locate Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Centre where you will spot many of the famous pink flamingos whereas elsewhere on the island there are two places worth a visit if you like hiking and a chance to spot unique exotic birds, fish and reptiles. On the south coast of the island is the tranquil Bonefish Pond, a popular spot for bird watchers and kayakers whereas on the western tip of New Providence you can locate Clifton Heritage Park with several miles of trails and a serene beach that is great for snorkeling. Speaking of beaches, The Bahamas have more fantastic stretches of sand that we are able to describe or even list out. Some of our favourites are located on Grand Bahama and one of them, Gold Rock Beach is located just a couple hundred feet away from the entrance to Lucayan National Park, home to several stunning caves you can explore. Bones of Lucayan Indians were found here suggesting that these caves were an important spot for these Indians hundreds of years ago.
When it comes to national parks, The Bahamas have a few of the. Besides the mentioned Lucayan National Park, there is the Blue Holes National Park as well as West Side National Park on Andros island. The first of these two is a great spot to hike whereas the second is one of the wildest places to sail, kayak or fish in the Caribbean. This area of at least 100 square miles is home to extensive mangroves, which are home to some hundreds of species of plants and animals.
When it comes to animals, there is one type of them that you wouldn’t necessary expect to find living in the wild on a Bahamian beach. One of the islands of Exuma is home to tens of pigs, which live in the wild and mostly on the beach. The legend goes that not too long ago a crew of a ship carrying pigs dropped them on the island to come back later and eat them, but never they never did. To the benefit of tourists, the pigs are a popular attraction and the Pig Island now gets hundreds of visitors every day, who play and take pictures with the sea swimming piglets. If you are keen to do the same, you will first need to take a flight to Great Exuma or Staniel Cay and from here get a charter boat or join a larger tour that sails to pig island. Note however, that a boat trip from Great Exuma will take you three hours each way, whereas it will only be a 20 minute sail from Staniel Cay. Read more about Exuma pigs from our post here.
Hotel options very greatly between the different Bahamian islands. The most variety and count of lodgings is along the coast of New Providence where you will always find a room from one day to the next, even in high season. Prices here start for as little as $80 in a modest guesthouse (like Da Pink and White Palace) and go all the way to $2,000 for a beachfront villa on Paradise Island (the Four Seasons Ocean Club). However, the most popular hotel on the island is the Atlantis since it has everything right there on its premises – water parks, casino, spa as well as many tasty restaurants and lively bars. It is also one of the most marketed hotels of the Caribbean with posters promoting it showing up at train stations in cities like London, Moscow and even Tokyo.
If the busyness of Nassau is not what you are looking for, you are still very much in luck. At least 10 of the smaller islands have several hotels each at a minimum. Grand Bahama has the most of them and the hotels here are actually the least expensive across the whole archipelago. A decent three star hotel around Freeport should not cost you more than $200 and you can find deals for as low as $100 per night. Elsewhere in The Bahamas you will find a good number of choices on Great Abaco, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Great Exuma and Andros. The last island mentioned is an especially good pick if you want to spread out and have not one, but several beaches just to yourself. The small hotels and villas here are widely spread apart and each one fronts a beautiful calm beach. Though a similar story could be said about many of the other islands as well – The Bahamas is where every one can find their own, not so little, paradise.
Food & restaurants
Just like with accommodations, the you can expect to find the largest variety of food and restaurants on New Providence. Indeed, Nassau has almost any type of a restaurant you can think of. As a general rule, prices are 20-25% higher in and near bigger resorts and the food is more international. If you are keen to try many Bahamian dishes than you will want to venture out of the hotel zones into town and its suburbs. Locally owned and very casual restaurants are some of the best spots to try Bahamian cuisine and do it inexpensively. What does Bahamian cuisine consist of, you may ask? For one, it is dominated by seafood like grouper, conch, lobster and crab. Second, it includes many varieties of stews – made with fish, meat or just vegetables and always rich in spices. Finally, it replaces bread with Johnnycakes, made with flour (rarely with cornmeal like the ones originating from New England), butter, milk and sugar.
As mentioned earlier, besides New Providence and to some extend Grand Bahama and Great Exuma, where you can usually find a couple restaurants and grocery shops within a mile of where you are staying, other islands of the Bahamas have only a handful of food stores and restaurants. In addition, due to limited supply of ingredients, there is only a set number of meals you will be able to make or find in menus. Therefore, you need to plan your dining in advance. Consider bringing some of your favourite ingredients (in small portions) with you and look up the locations and opening hours of shops and restaurants so you know where and when you can find them open. Finally, when it comes to drinking water, you will be relieved to know that tap water is safe to drink here so there is no need to buy bottled water, of which however, there is plenty in grocery shops.
Whereas most of The Bahamas is quaint and quiet at night time, Nassau parties until morning hours on most days of the week. There are tens of bars and nightclubs lining up Bay Street along the water. Though opening hours vary, there is always something open after 2am and you can often still get a drink and dance to a tune as late (or as early!) as 4am. If you like to dance, consider visiting Club Luna, Xscape Lounge & Nightclub and Aura on Paradise Island. All three clubs have high ratings and host many popular DJs. One more dance floor you may want to check out is part of the large Dragon’s Casino on Paradise Island where you can play black jack for a while and then be on a dance floor just a few minutes later celebrating all your, no doubt high, winnings. Finally, if you don’t mind spending several hundred dollars on tickets, Bay Street is also home to a large entertainment center called Rainforest Theatre. This venue hosts some of the biggest local and international music stars as well as theatre and comedy shows. Note that tickets for a lot of the best shows sell out early so check the theatre schedule and buy tickets as soon as you book your visit to Nassau.
Sports & adventure
Sailing, fishing, snorkeling and kayaking are all popular activities in The Bahamas. In fact, as the islands are coral-based, their waters are very rich in various species of fish and water creatures. Hence, fishing and snorkeling here is highly rated and among some of the best in the Caribbean. You can plan your fishing or snorkeling excursion by looking up boat charter companies based in Nassau and Grand Bahama. As far as costs, expect to pay $1,000 – $1,200 for a half day rental of a modern fishing boat. If this sounds expensive, you can always join a larger group on a bigger boat where you will pay $200 – $300 for the same experience, but with company and a set destination. When it comes to kayaking, you can rent a kayak in and around marinas or near hotels on most of the bigger islands. You can also join lots of kayaking tours that will take you around mangrove swamps where you are sure to see lots of species of fauna and flora. One kayaking tour company based in Nassau that has high reviews and we are happy to recommend is Wolf Kayaking Club Bahamas.
Nassau and more specifically its Paradise Island is considered by many to be a theme park capital of the Caribbean. This may have something to do the with the fact that Paradise Island is home to a highly sophisticated and expansive water park with tens of slides tens of feet tall, three marine habitats with large aquariums and dolphin shows, an 18-hole professional golf course with ocean views, a replica of part of Versailles Gardens in France and on top of all that, a couple miles of stunning beach with several excellent snorkeling spots. The water park itself called Aquaventure is part of the Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas hotel and if you are not a guest you will need a day pass to visit. As of March 2019 a weekday pass costs $157 for an adult and $103 for a child. Although this may sound expensive, the park is an architectural wonder and the attractions are truly out of this world so you should definitely consider a visit. Similarly, the nearby marine habitats are also impressive. You can watch sophisticated dolphin and sea lion shows and/or play with them, explore various aquariums filled with exotic fish and sea creatures and of course, take lots of fantastic pictures and videos.
Safety and security
Although the population of The Bahamas is relatively well-off, crime is a growing problem here. In fact and sadly, the US State Department issued a travel warning in February of 2019 intended to those traveling here. It advises to exercise caution when visiting the islands as “violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault, is common”. The traveling warning specifically states that vast majority of crime occurs on New Providence and Grand Bahama, though caution is recommended everywhere. Of course, the islands are still generally safe to travel to and your chances of being a victim of a crime are very low. Nevertheless, the US State Department must have had a good reason to release the travel warning so make sure to remain vigilant during your visit. Make sure not to carry your valuables with you, explore in a group and do not walk around late at night if you don’t have to.