Bahamas Travel Guide
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. Whether you’re interested in sunbathing or shark-diving, there’s no shortage of activities in the Bahamas, and the destination is guaranteed to appeal to every traveler—you just have to know where to look. Read on for your ultimate guide to the islands, including the capital of Nassau as well as the out islands: Freeport, Abaco, Eleuthera, Exumas, Grand Bahama, and Paradise Island.
Planning Your Trip
- Best Time to Visit: The ideal time to visit is from mid-April to early July, after the peak tourist season is over, and before the start of the hurricane season.
- Language: English, Bahamian Creole
- Currency: Bahamian dollar; U.S. dollar widely accepted.
- Getting Around: When in Nassau, you will have no difficulty with finding a cab downtown, as it is the most popular island.
- Travel Tip: If you’re visiting in January through May, or October through November, be sure to check out the Tea Party at the Government House, hosted by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. And sign up for a People to People experience at any time of year to have dinner in the home of a local family—another opportunity provided by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.
Things to Do
Unsurprising for an island nation named for its turquoise surroundings (the name ‘Bahamas’ comes from the Spanish term for clear waters, “Baja Mar’), many of the most popular activities correspond to exploring the Caribbean Sea. 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. The most exciting dining and drinking options exist in the nation’s capital of Nassau—we suggest strolling Downtown and visiting the various rum bars and local restaurants for a taste of Bahamian culture.
- From swimming with sharks at the Bimini Scuba Center Bimini to exploring the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden off the coast of New Providence, excellent snorkeling (and, for the more adventurous: diving) opportunities abound throughout the island nation.
- Sunbathe at some of the world-famous beaches in the Bahamas—whether you’re interested in the pink sands of Harbour Island or the Palm-tree lined coast of Andros, there’s no shortage of pristine coastline to satisfy even the most discerning sun-worshippers
- When in the Bahamas, do as the pirates once did, and drink rum! From tasting tours at John Watling’s distillery (order the Rum Dum) to Bahama Papas at the Poop Deck (pair it with conch), you will find that rum is almost as prevalent in the Bahamas as sunshine.
What to Eat and Drink
From Bahama Mamas to Bahama Papas, and Rum Dums to Rum Punch, the Bahamas is legendary for its rum cocktails. Rum has been the drink of choice on the island for centuries—as it has on many Caribbean islands. Thanks to the plentiful sunshine that allows tropical fruit to flourish throughout the Bahamian islands, the local juice is Mother Nature’s perfect mixer (or chaser) for visitors imbibing. Rum is part of the nation’s history, and nowhere is this more apparent than at the historic John Watling’s Distillery in downtown Nassau.
If you’re more of a beer drinker, head over to Pirate Republic Brewing. Wine-lovers should visit Bahama Barrels, the first-ever winery founded in the Bahamas. Scenesters should visit Sip Sip in Harbour Island for the legendary Sky Juice.
Of course, it’s not all about the drinks—even the heartiest rum-lover needs nourishment every once in a while. Thankfully, the food scene in the Caribbean has been flourishing in recent years. Classic Bahamian cuisine includes rock lobster, rum cake, guava duff, and baked macaroni and cheese, and, of course, conch. Make sure to try a conch dish; this chewy mollusk is prepared as chowder, stew, salad and, fritters. Conch in all its variations is a must-order on the island, though we particularly recommend the cracked conch, either as an appetizer or an entree. 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. You’ll notice American South influences in Bahamian dishes like boiled fish and grits. Bahamian specialties are spicy and center on seafood and local produce.