To those who can’t resist the charm of blue waters and long sandy palm-fringed shorelines, the Bahamas is a true paradise. From lazing about on the beach to dancing the night away, the Bahamas offer every beach fantasy and more. The 700 islands are dotted with spectacular bays and coves where frothy waves wash over white soft sparkling sand. The azure waters of the Bahamas are amongst the clearest in the world and the marine life absolutely spectacular!
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BAHAMAS QUICK FACTS
Currency: Bahamian dollar (BSD) / US dollar (USD)(Widely accepted)
Area: 13,940 km²
Population: 385 640 (2018)
Language: English, Creole (among Haitian immigrants)
Religion: Baptist 32%, Anglican 20%, Roman Catholic 19%, Methodist 6%, Church of God 6%, other Protestant 12%, none or unknown 3%, other 2%
Electricity: 120V, 60Hz (North American plug)
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BAHAMAS PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 10 January, Majority Rule Day
- 1st Friday in June, Labour Day
- 3–10 July, Independence Day celebrations
- 10 July, Independence Day
- 1st Monday in August, Emancipation Day
- 2nd Monday in October, National Heroes Day
Also, Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Whit Monday (the Monday after Pentecost).
FESTIVALS IN BAHAMAS
Festival Rum Bahamas - (late February) Learn about and drink rum, dance to live bands, eat Bahamian food, and experience the history and culture of the islands at this festival located in the moat, inside and atop historic Fort Charlotte, New Providence.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BAHAMAS
The Bahamas is located on the boundary of the tropical and subtropical zones and, as such, has a semi-tropical or subtropical marine climate, which is moderated by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. The islands experience warm, humid conditions year-round, though with more seasonal variations than the Southern Caribbean islands. There are also variations between the islands of the Bahamas, with rainfall falling twice as much in the north-western islands than in the south-eastern islands, and the more northerly islands experiencing temperatures up to 5° cooler than the southern islands. Average temperatures are fairly high, with the mean daily temperatures fluctuating between 17°C and 32°C.
The best time to visit the Bahamas is from mid-December to mid-April, the country's peak season. Though temperatures here are great year-round (they rarely dip below 16°C), the islands fall within the hurricane belt, so hurricanes may be a factor between June 1 and Nov. 30 (the Atlantic hurricane season). Most of these months (plus May) also fall within the region's rainy season, which can leave you with fewer days spent enjoying the islands' outdoor activities. But keep in mind that mid-December to mid-April's sublime weather attracts hordes of tourists, so prices will be at their highest and crowds at their thickest during this time.
From late April to June and again November to mid-December, hotel prices drop 20% to 50% from high-season prices. There are chances of scattered showers, but expect sun-kissed days and comfortable night-time temperatures, plus fewer crowds.
BAHAMAS WEATHER SYNOPSIS
The Bahamas is located on the boundary of the tropical and subtropical zones and, as such, has a semi-tropical or subtropical marine climate, which is moderated by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. The islands experience warm, humid conditions year-round, though with more seasonal variations than the Southern Caribbean islands. There are also variations between the islands of the Bahamas, with rainfall falling twice as much in the northwestern islands than in the southeastern islands, and the more northerly islands experiencing temperatures up to 5° cooler than the southern islands. Average temperatures are fairly high, with the mean daily temperatures fluctuating between 17°C and 32°C. Mean annual rainfall for the Bahamas varies from about 865 mm to about 1470 mm. Inter-annual variability in climate is strongly influenced by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). El Niño episodes bring warmer and drier conditions between June and August. Located in the heart of the Atlantic hurricane belt, the Bahamas is also subject to hurricanes and tropical cyclones especially during the August – November period.
BAHAMAS TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN BAHAMAS
HIKING & CYCLING IN BAHAMAS
Outdoor activities in The Bahamas are best enjoyed during the drier months from December to April, but are generally accessible throughout the year.
BEACH OPTIONS IN BAHAMAS
Although you can visit the stunning beaches of The Bahamas at any time of the year, the dry season from December to April is by far better.
SURFING IN BAHAMAS
The Bahamas has some great and consistent surf all year round. The best surf is usually from October to April. Eleuthera has some of the most powerful and reliable surf.
KITESURF IN BAHAMAS
The windy kitesurfing season in The Bahamas is from November to April. Check out Nassau, Eleuthera, Spanish Wells & Harbour Island, Abacos, Exumas, Cat Island and San Salvador.
For more details on kite surfing in Bahamas expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN BAHAMAS
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
BAHAMAS TRAVEL COSTS
The Caribbean is not cheap, but there are ways to get the most bang for your buck with a little forward planning and some savvy choices
Budget less than US$150 Room away from the beach: under US$100, Meal at a locally popular restaurant: US$10, Ride local buses: US$3
Midrange US$150–300 Double room in the action: US$200, Visit parks and beaches that are free, rent bikes or snorkel for US$10 per day Rental car for exploring: US$40 to US$60 a day.
Top end over US$300 - Beautiful rooms at the best resorts in high season: US$400 and over, Activities in beautiful places: US$100 and up, World-renowned meals: US$100 per person and more.
Here are some of the best ways to save money:
Travel in groups Bring your friends and other couples along with you and rent a villa.
Book far in advance For high season deals.
Book at the last minute For incredible deals as hotels dump empty rooms.
Follow the divers They demand great value near beautiful waters.
Ride buses and ferries You meet folks and may have an adventure.
Live like a local Save money while having a more authentic visit.
Travel in low season Prices can drop 40% or more.
BAHAMAS TRAVEL TIPS
The best way to get around the Bahamas is by car, whether that’s a rental or taxi. If you’re staying at a big resort and plan to remain on-site for the majority of your trip, then taking a taxi to off-site attractions is more cost effective than shelling out money for a rental. However, if you are looking to do a lot of sightseeing beyond your accommodations, renting a car will be more convenient and budget friendly.
There is public transportation (jitney buses) available on some of the islands, but they have garnered a reputation of not being the most reliable, which could put a wrench in your plans, especially if you have a set itinerary for your trip. If you are looking to travel between Bahamian islands, there are a handful of domestic airlines available that can service your inter-island needs. And in some Out Islands, you can also simply island hop by boat to get to your destination.
Taxis in the Bahamas aren't metered and the government already has fixed rates for most routes. Before you get into your taxi, make sure you are clear on the cost of getting to your destination. Taxis can be hailed in more populous cities or you can get one at a taxi stand, typically located at hotels and popular attractions. On the Out Islands, however, it's best to ask your hotel to order you a taxi.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF BAHAMAS
The roughly 700 islands that make up the Bahamas lure millions of visitors to this paradise's white sandy shores, duty-free shops, fishing and scuba diving excursions and luxurious accommodations each year. Families that flock here tend to indulge in the diversions of Atlantis, Paradise Island and other mega resorts, but this diverse island chain also offers a range of activities away from the hotel zone. Nature enthusiasts can explore pristine protected areas like the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve (on Eleuthera) and Lucayan National Park (on Grand Bahama Island) or take it easy at one of the country's many beaches or private islands. Meanwhile, history buffs can explore the ruins and artefacts from the colonial era and indigenous peoples like the Lucayan Indians.
NEW PROVIDENCE & PARADISE ISLANDS
Nassau and nearby Paradise Island are the most action-packed places in the Bahamas. From flashy megaresorts Atlantis and Baha Mar to fine dining and high-end shopping, development here is unrivalled on any of the other islands. New Providence Island is often referred to by the name of its historic capital city, Nassau. More than two dozen hotels and at least twice as many restaurants lure more than 2 million tourists to the city, and nearby Paradise Island and Cable Beach, annually. The heart of commerce and government and the bulk of the country’s 378,000 people are crammed onto the 21 mile by 7 mile island, less than 200 miles from Miami. Venturing outside the three main tourist areas will give you a better idea of true Bahamian life and a glimpse at some under visited attractions that are worth the trek.
TOP REASONS TO GO TO NEW PROVIDENCE & PARADISE ISLANDS
- Beach-hop - New Providence beaches, though less secluded than those on the Out Islands, still tempt travellers with their balmy breezes and aquamarine water. Choose between the more remote beaches on the island’s western end, action-packed strips on Cable Beach, or public beaches in downtown Nassau.
- Dine with the best - New Providence is the country’s culinary capital. Eat at a grungy local dive for one meal, then feast in a celebrity-chef restaurant for the next.
- Experience Atlantis - Explore the world’s largest outdoor aquarium, splash around in the something-for-everyone water park, or dine at one of the 40-plus restaurants, all while never leaving the resort property.
- Celebrate Junkanoo - This uniquely Bahamian carnival takes place the day after Christmas and again on New Year’s Day. If you miss it, there are smaller parades in Marina Village on Paradise Island each Wednesday and Saturday at 9:30 pm.
GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND
Only 52 miles off Palm Beach, Florida, 96-mile-long Grand Bahama is one of the chain’s northernmost islands. Freeport and Lucaya are its main cities, comprising the second-largest metropolitan area in the Bahamas. Lucaya sees the most action, as Freeport struggles to regain ground lost in the hurricanes and financial setbacks of the last decade. The town of West End, once a quiet, colourful fishing village, was nearly decimated during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. The residents have pulled together to reconstruct their homes, and the conch shacks that lined the road along the coastline are slowly being rebuilt. Its upscale Old Bahama Bay Resort and marina are the extent of tourism on this end of the island. East of Freeport-Lucaya, small fishing settlements, secluded beaches, and undeveloped forest stretch for 60 miles to the outlying cays, and luxury bone fishing lodge, Deep Water Cay.
TOP REASONS TO GO TO GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND
- Take endless strolls on your own beach - Sprawling, reef-protected shoreline and cays offer more than 50 miles of secluded white-sand beaches along the southern shore.
- Get under the water - Between the shipwrecks, caves, coral reefs, and abundant marine life are some of the country’s most varied and vivid snorkelling and diving.
- Party at the weekly fish fry or a beach bonfire -Head to Smith Point to feast and party with locals, or dance around the bonfire at Taino by the Sea with all-you-can-eat authentic Bahamian cuisine and Bahama Mama cocktails.
- Swim with the dolphins or feed the sharks - Several professional dive shops stand ready to introduce you to some of the ocean’s most interesting characters.
Shallow, translucent waters, top-notch marinas, and idyllic, historic settlements spread over 120 miles of cays (some uninhabited) give the Abacos the apt title of “Sailing Capital of the Bahamas.” The Abacos, 200 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida, are the northernmost chain of cays in the Bahamas. Covering 120 miles, this mini-archipelago offers both historic settlements and uninhabited islands. Great Abaco is the main island, the chain’s largest and its most populated. Up north on Little Abaco, a smaller cay connected by bridge, tourism is less prominent and locals live as they have for the last 100 years. Running parallel 5 miles off the east coast of these islands are the Abaco Cays, including Green Turtle, Great Guana, Man-O-War, and Elbow. The majority of the other 146 cays are uninhabited.
TOP REASONS TO GO TO THE ABACOS
- Bonefish the Marls - One of the most spectacular bone fishing flats anywhere, the Marls is an endless maze of lush mangrove creeks, hidden bays, and sandy cays. Hire a professional guide to show you the best spots.
- Cay-hop - Rent a boat and spend a day (or more) skipping among 150 cays. Settle onto your own private strip of beach and enjoy.
- Beach bash - When the Gully Roosters play on Green Turtle Cay, the island rocks. Stop in at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar first for a mind-altering rum, pineapple juice, and apricot brandy Goombay Smash; it’s where the popular drink was born. On Great Guana Cay, Nippers’s Sunday pig roast is the best beach party of the year—and it happens every week.
- Swim with the fishes - With clear shallow waters and a series of colourful coral reefs extending for miles, the Abacos provide both the novice and the experienced underwater explorer plenty of visual stimulation.
(Loads more location information and points of interest are available in the above map)
ANDROS, BIMINI & THE BERRY ISLANDS
The north-western islands of Andros, Bimini, and Berry lie just off the east coast of Florida. Bimini is 50 miles from Miami; the Berry Islands are a 30-cay chain 100 miles east of Bimini. Andros comprises the Bahamas’ largest landmass (about half of all the Bahamas’ land in total), and is split into three islands: North and Central Andros, Mangrove Cay, and South Andros. Two tidal estuaries called Northern and Middle Bight separate North and Central Andros from Mangrove Cay, and the Southern Bight splits Mangrove Cay and South Andros. Remote beaches and small settlements stretch along the eastern shores while a vast wilderness of mangrove estuaries and swamps characterize their western leeward coasts.
TOP REASONS TO GO
- Bonefish - Andros, Bimini, and the Berry Islands have world-class reputations for bone fishing. Hire a guide to show you how to fly-fish, then hunt the bights of Andros or the shallow flats of Bimini and the Berries in pursuit of the elusive “gray ghost".
- Casino cruise - From Miami, catch the Bimini Superfast cruise ship to Resorts World Bimini for gaming, beaching, and a menu of fun shore excursions.
- Dive Andros or Bimini - Go with the diving experts at Small Hope Bay or Kamalame Cay and drop “over the Andros wall” or at Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Centre to explore magnificent wrecks and reefs.
- Fish for big game - Charter a boat and experience the thrill of catching deep-sea prizes such as marlin, mahi-mahi, tuna, and wahoo.
ELEUTHERA & HARBOUR ISLAND
The Nantucket of the Bahamas, Harbour Island—rimmed by its legendary pink-sand beach—is the chicest Out Island. Eleuthera is the opposite, with historic churches and pretty fishing villages, unpretentious inns, and a few upscale, intimate beach resorts. Eleuthera, at the centre of the Bahamas chain, is a narrow, 110-mile island. The fierce, deep-blue Atlantic is to the east, and the usually placid azure and teal shallows of the Bight of Eleuthera and Great Bahama Bank are to the west. Eleuthera’s mainland holds the majority of the island’s residents, about 8,000. The rest of the 3,000 residents are split between 3-mile Harbour Island, 1 mile off Eleuthera’s northeast coast, and 2-mile Spanish Wells, 1 mile off Eleuthera’s northern coast. The island is 200 miles east of Florida and 50 miles east of Nassau.
TOP REASONS TO GO TO ELEUTHERA & HARBOUR ISLAND
- Play in pink sand - Glorious, soft pink sand, the ethereal shade of the first blush of dawn, draws beach connoisseurs to Harbour Island. Plenty of pretty pink beaches also dot Eleuthera’s east and north coasts.
- Ogle island architecture - Historic homes with storybook gables and gingerbread verandas are the norm on Harbour Island and Spanish Wells. Picturesque Victorian houses overlook Governor’s Harbour in Eleuthera.
- Savour soulful sounds - Nights here rock with the Bahamian group Afro Band, the hip-hop of TaDa, the traditional sound of Jaynell Ingraham, and the calypso of Dr. Sea Breeze.
- Indulge in alfresco dining -Harbour Island’s intimate restaurants have reinvented regional cuisine. On Eleuthera, Governor’s Harbour has a number of laid-back spots with memorable menus and magnificent views.
Hundreds of islands skip like stones across the Tropic of Cancer, all with gorgeous white beaches and the most beautiful water in the Bahamas. Mainland Great Exuma has friendly locals and great beach parties. Thirty-five miles southeast of Nassau, Allan’s Cay sits at the top of the Exumas chain of 365 islands (most uninhabited) that skip like stones for 120 miles south across the Tropic of Cancer. Flanked by the Great Bahama Bank and Exuma Sound, the islands are at the centre of the Bahamas. George Town, the Exumas’ capital and hub of activity is on Great Exuma, the mainland and largest island, near the bottom of the Exumas’ chain. Little Exuma is to the south and connected to the mainland by a bridge. Together, these two islands span 50 miles.
TOP REASONS TO GO TO THE EXUMAS
- Party like a local - Hot spots include the Fish Fry on weekends for conch salad and fresh fish and Chat ’N’ Chill on Stocking Island for Sunday pig roasts.
- Island-hop - Spend a couple of days boating through the 365 cays (one for every day of the year, as the locals say), and spot iguanas, swimming pigs, and giant starfish.
- Enjoy empty beaches - Empty stretches of bleach-white sand are yours to explore.
- Explore the Land and Sea Park - Snorkel in the 176-square-mile Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park and see queen conchs, starfish, and thriving coral reefs, as well as the endangered hawksbill and threatened green and loggerhead turtles.
THE SOUTHERN OUT ISLANDS
The Bahamas’ southernmost islands have so few visitors and so many natural wonders. Cat Island boasts the highest natural point in the country, San Salvador marks Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Western world, and Inagua is home to one of the largest flamingo colonies in the world. The southernmost Bahamas islands are remote, exposed to the open Atlantic, and ruggedly dramatic. One hundred thirty miles southeast of Nassau, Cat Island lies to the west of diminutive San Salvador, about the size of Manhattan. Long Island stretches 80 miles across the Tropic of Cancer, due south of Cat Island. Windswept Crooked and Acklins islands, with about 300 and 600 residents, respectively, are southeast of Long Island. And way down at the southernmost point of the country is Inagua, only 55 miles northeast of Cuba and 60 miles north of Haiti.
TOP REASONS TO GO TO THE SOUTHERN OUT ISLANDS
- Disappear - Discover your inner castaway on islands way off the trampled tourist track. Pink or white sand, calm azure coves, or rolling ocean waves - you’ll have your pick.
- Create your own tall fishing tale - Whether deep-sea fishing past the Wall off southern Inagua or bone fishing in the crystal-clear shallows on Cat Island’s east coast, your fish-capades will be ones to remember.
- Explore historic lighthouses - Surrounded by treacherous shoals and reefs, the Southern Out Islands have the country’s most famous 19th-century lighthouses, most of which you can climb for stunning views.
- Feast on the reefs and walls - Spectacular diving and snorkelling, and even specialty shark dives, are on the menu for nature lovers when visiting these secluded southern isles with their calmer, clearer waters undisturbed by cold fronts.
WHAT TO PACK FOR BAHAMAS
The Caribbean islands are casual, so bring light, comfy clothes: a bathing suit, T-shirt and shorts will be your wardrobe. Add long pants or a dress for nights out.
Sun hat Buying at home ensures a better fit.
Quick-dry towel A small one, for when the whim to swim hits.
Flashlight For night-time reading, blackouts.
Resealable bags / Drybags Essential for keeping things (cameras, air tickets, passports) dry on boat trips.
Snorkelling mask with corrective lenses Suddenly, reefs are in focus!
WHAT TO EAT IN BAHAMAS
There’s nothing fancy about Bahamian food, just fresh ingredients and unique peppery spices. Breakfasts include standard American fare like eggs, bacon, and pancakes, or Bahamian favourites such as chicken souse, boil’ fish, or stew’ fish, served with grits and johnnycake. Lunch standards include: fresh fish, conch, or chicken sandwiches, or hamburgers sided with French fries, coleslaw, or local favourites like peas ’n’ rice or baked macaroni and cheese with locally grown goat or bird peppers. At dinner you’ll find fish, fried chicken, and pasta. “Steamed” fish means cooked with tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Order any fish “Bahamian style” and it will be baked and smothered in tomatoes and spices.
A quick snack or light lunch on the go can be picked up at most gas stations or bakeries on New Providence. Grab a hot patty—peppery chicken or beef is most popular—or a yellow pastry pocket filled with conch. One of these with a “coke soda”—the generic name for all brands of soft drink - will tide you over until your next real meal.
Look out for:
Guava Duff - A local favourite similar to English pudding. A guava fruit compote is folded into a sweet dough and wrapped up in aluminium foil, and then steamed or boiled for as long as three hours. It’s topped with a sweet rum or brandy sauce.
Johnnycake - Not actually a dessert but a thick, heavy, slightly sweet bread that’s typically served alongside souses, soups, and stews.
Peas ’n’ Rice - A popular side dish is made of white rice cooked with salt pork, thyme, a dab of tomato paste, and fresh or canned pigeon peas.
Rum cake - An all-time favourite on the islands. Rum is mixed into the batter and then poured in a syrupy glaze over the fresh-out-of-the-oven cake. The alcohol cooks off when it bakes.
These dishes can be found across the Caribbean:
Callaloo - A creamy thick soup or stew blending a variety of vegetables (eg spinach, kale, onions, carrots, eggplant, garlic, okra) with coconut milk and sometimes crab or ham. The base can be spinach-like.
Roti - Fiery chutney sets off the curried chicken, beef, conch or vegetable fillings in these burrito-like flat-bread wraps.
Conch - Look for farm-raised versions as conch in the wild are endangered. This large pink mollusc is cooked with onion and spices in a stew, fried up as fritters, or sliced raw and served with a lime marinade.
Take time to meet the locals by doing what they do – you’ll enjoy a more affordable and authentic experience.
Eat at lunch wagons or stalls. The local fare is cheap and often incredibly good.
Drop by a local bar – often the de facto community center. Besides a drink, you’ll get all sorts of useful – or wonderfully frivolous – advice.
Look for community fish fries or barbecues in the Eastern Caribbean.
LGBTQ IN BAHAMAS
WHERE TO STAY IN BAHAMAS
NEW PROVIDENCE - If you want to mix with locals and experience a little more of Bahamian culture, choose a hotel in downtown Nassau. Its beaches are not dazzling; if you want to be beachfront on a gorgeous white strand, stay on Cable Beach or Paradise Island’s Cabbage Beach. Reasons to stay in Nassau include proximity to shopping and affordability (although the cost of taxis to and from the better beaches can add up). The plush Cable Beach and Paradise Island resorts are big and beautiful, glittering and splashy, and have the best beaches, but they can be overwhelming.
GRAND BAHAMA - Grand Bahama accommodations remain some of the Bahamas’ most affordable, especially those away from the beach. The majority of these provide free shuttle service to the nearest stretch of sand. The island’s more expensive hotels are beachfront, with the exception of Pelican Bay. Small apartment complexes and time-share rentals are economical alternatives, especially if you’re planning to stay for more than a few days. Rates post-Easter through December 14 tend to be 25%–30% lower than those charged during the rest of the year.
ABACOS - Intimate hotels, cottage-style resorts, and rental homes are the rule in the Abacos. There are a few full-scale resorts in Marsh Harbour, Treasure Cay, Green Turtle Cay, and Hope Town—with multiple restaurants, bars, pools, and activities—but most accommodations are more homey. What you might give up in modern amenities you’ll gain in privacy and beauty. Many hotels have water views, and with a cottage or private house you may even get your own stretch of beach. Air-conditioning is a standard feature, and more places are adding luxuries like cable TV and wireless Internet. Small and remote doesn’t equate with inexpensive, though; it’s almost impossible to find lodging for less than $100 a night, and not uncommon to pay more than $300 a night for beachside accommodations with all the conveniences. Both restaurant meals and hotel rooms as well as just about every other goods or service you purchase also now incur an additional 7.5% government VAT.
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