With 700 islands, 2,500 cays and 500 miles of the clearest water in the world, the Bahamas have it all: glorious beaches, warm surf, fabulous coral reefs, and challenging golf courses. The most popular destination is Nassau/Paradise Island, located on New Providence Island and just 35 minutes by air from Miami. Grand Bahama Island is home to Freeport. On the Out Islands (the Abacos, Eleuthera/Harbour Island, Long Island, Cat Island and The Exumas, among others) you’ll find pristine diving and fishing sites and a more authentic West Indian character.
Bahamas Basic Travel Information
- Location: In the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida and northeast of Cuba.
- Size: 700 islands, 30 of them inhabited, for a total of 5,380 sq miles. See Map
- Capital: Nassau
- Language: English
- Religions: Anglican, Roman Catholic, other Christian denominations
- Currency: Bahamian dollar; U.S. dollar widely accepted.
- Telephone/Area Code: 242
- Tipping: 10-15%. Many hotels and restaurants include a service fee.
- Weather: Rainy season May to October. Sept.-May temps 70 to 75°F; 80 to 85°F in summer.
- Bahamas Flag
- Airports: Lynden Pindling International Airport, Nassau (Check Flights); Grand Bahama International Airport, Freeport (Check Flights); Exuma International Airport, Exuma (Check Flights); Governor's Harbour Airport, Eleuthera (Check Flights)
The Bahamas' most popular activities center on diverse natural attractions: swimming and diving in the clear waters; lounging on white sandy beaches; and hiking and bird-watching in the national parks. If you prefer card sharks to makos, head to the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort & Casino, one of the gambling capitals of the Caribbean. Nassau abounds with historical attractions such as Fort Fincastle and The Cloisters in the Versailles Gardens. Or soak up the local atmosphere at Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay and at the Straw Markets in Nassau and Freeport.
Bahamian beaches are incredibly varied. Six-mile long Cable Beach on New Providence Island (Nassau) is lined by shops, casinos, restaurants, bars, and water-sports operators. Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island is flanked by mega-resorts and can be crowded. Those seeking solitude head to Treasure Cay in the Abacos, a stunning, almost empty, 3.5 mile flour-white strip. Pink Sand Beach on Harbour Island is a popular spot for destination weddings. Gold Rock Beach is part of Lucayan National Park, a protected area that contains some of Grand Bahama’s wildest, most secluded, and gorgeous beaches.
Bahamas Hotels and Resorts
Hotel options in the Bahamas range from all-inclusive resorts with such a dizzying array of food and entertainment options you’ll never need to step foot off the property, to quiet and homey guesthouses. Resorts like those on Cable Beach are great options for families and you can often get steep discounts if you book your flight and room together as a package deal. For a more authentic, Bahamian experience, look for a smaller inn or a private guesthouse, particularly in the Out Islands. Try the welcoming Seascape Inn, Compass Point, or Dillet’s Guest House.
Most resorts have fine-dining restaurants serving anything from continental cuisine to sushi, but try to seek out small local places where you can sample authentic island cuisine. Bahamian specialties are spicy and center on seafood and local produce. Make sure to try a conch dish; this chewy mollusk is prepared as chowder, stew, salad and fritters. Crawfish, crabs and fish like grouper and red snapper are all popular. Other local dishes are fish stew, peas ‘n’ rice, and Johnny cake, a pan-cooked bread. You’ll notice American South influences in Bahamian dishes like boiled fish and grits.
Bahamas Culture and History
The Lucayan Indians lived throughout the Bahamas from 900-1500 A.D. but were wiped out by slavery and disease within 25 years of Europeans' arrival. In 1648, a group of English Puritans landed, seeking religious freedom. The Bahamas became a British crown colony in 1718 and remained under British rule until July 10, 1973. Approximately 80 percent of Bahamas residents are of West African descent, ancestors of slaves brought to work the cotton plantations. Bahamian culture combines influences from Africa and Europe, and is related to Caribbean Creole culture as well as the Gullah culture of the southern U.S.
Bahamas Events and Festivals
The Bahamas' best-known special event is Junkanoo, a musical street parade comparable to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. It is held on Boxing Day (December 26th) and New Year’s Day and features bright, colorful costumes and irresistibly rhythmic music produced by cowbells, drums and brass horns. A Junkanoo summer festival is held throughout June and July. The Bahamas hosts an International Film Festival in December. Other special events include weekly cricket matches weekends from March to November and a bird walk held the first Saturday of the month from September to May.
Nightlife options in The Bahamas range from the glittery casinos of Nassau and Paradise Island like Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino and Atlantis Paradise Island Resort & Casino to homier bars like Ronnie's Smoke Shop & Sports Bar on Eleuthera and Palms at Three Sisters in George Town, Grand Exuma. You’ll also find plenty of clubs offering music and dancing throughout the islands.