Travel anywhere in the Bahamas and you'll find pristine beaches with crystal-clear water lapping at their shores. While gorgeous strips of sand ring every island of this 700-island archipelago, the destination is a multifaceted one that offers a variety of distinctly Bahamian experiences for every type of traveler.
Chow down on the catch of the day with locals on Grand Bahama or dive into the cerulean depths in the Biminis, hike to the highest spot in the country on Cat Island or shake your tail feathers at Junkanoo – whether you’re a history buff, a carnival-bound reveler, a beach bum in search of solitude, a birdwatcher, honeymooner, spring breaker, or diver, you’re guaranteed to find a corner of the Bahamas that’ll suit you just fine.
Grand Bahama – best for food, diving, nature
Want to take part in a quintessential Bahamian pastime? Find yourself a fish fry on Grand Bahama. Hang out on the beach with locals, knock back cold Kaliks and watch lobster, conch fritters and catch-of-the-day sizzle on oil drum cookers at dusk. Smith's Point Fish Fry (bahamas.com) is a sure bet, and you can join the party every Wednesday night.
Wrecks, walls and holes
Grand Bahama’s got a treat for any diver, whether you’re a beginner looking to check out shallow reefs, or a pro wanting to explore underwater caves and wrecks on the ocean floor.
Hiking into the past
Check out Lucayan National Park, where mangrove trails descend to a secluded beach, and birds and turtles nest in its wetlands and forests. The park is also home to one of the largest underwater cave systems in the world. While swimming in these caves is prohibited, a few are open to the public including Burial Mound Cave, which served as the final resting place of the island’s earliest inhabitants.
Long Island – best for landscapes, beaches, diving
Cliffs, caves and ruins
Long Island possesses some of the most dramatic and varied terrain in the Bahamas. The east coast is lined with precipitous cliffs, fringed by lush flora, while desolate plantation ruins grace the island’s north end. Subterranean adventurers will find a honeycomb of caves with otherworldly rock formations. The landscape is an adventurous ramble and the trails are not clearly marked, however, so it's best to enlist the help of a local guide.
Life’s a beach!
This long finger of land has something for every kind of sun worshipper, from shallow protected coves and long stretches of coarse pink sand with natural ‘swimming pools’, to secluded romantic resorts on powder-white sand and beaches busy with locals grilling fish.
Dean’s Blue Hole
While not quite bottomless, this ink-blue cavern leading into the ocean depths is the world’s deepest blue hole. Watch local daredevils plummet into it from the cliffs above, or don scuba gear to explore it yourself.
Andros Island – best for diving, fishing, birdwatching
Andros Barrier Reef
Fly-fishermen frequently cast their lines along the streams and channels in Andros' wetlands. Thanks to its intricate network of shallow waters and banks, the island is home to the largest bonefish habitat in the world, earning it the title of 'the world bonefishing capital'.
The vast mangrove swamps and mud flats of the Bahamas’ largest island are home to an astounding 300 types of winged creatures. Tour operators are available to guide wildlife enthusiasts and anglers alike to the best viewing and fishing spots.
Biminis – best for sport fishing, diving, snorkelling
Appropriately shaped like a fish hook, the Biminis are the sports fishing destination in the Bahamas. Hemingway got his inspiration here for Old Man and the Sea and Islands in the Stream, and today fisherman troll the big blue for immense tuna, marlin and swordfish.
Reefs and wrecks ahoy!
Biminis’ spectacular underwater walls and reefs attract the big guys: expect hammerhead, stingray, turtle and dolphin encounters. Numerous wrecks are a playground for advanced divers.
Cat Island – best for views, culture, music
On Cat Island, the tiny stone church built by the hermit Father Jerome marks the highest spot in the Bahamas (a towering 63m above sea level). Climb the rock staircase for a 360-degree view at sunset or sunrise.
Island of myth and magic
Explore low-key villages where people still practise obeah (white magic) and cure illness with traditional medicine. Listen to old folks’ stories in a part of the Bahamas where time seems to stand still.
Rake and scrape music
This former pirate haven is the birthplace of the Bahamas’ rake and scrape music, with tunes extracted from recycled objects such as tin washtubs, fishing lines, and goatskin drums. Those wanting to see a stellar show should be sure to catch the Rake n' Scrape Festival that takes place during the Bahamas Labour Day weekend (first Friday in June).
New Providence – best for waterparks, food, carnival
Whizz down a Plexiglass tube slide into a shark-filled lagoon, cannonball along high-speed water slides into lagoons and grottoes, float along a gentle river ride, or kayak and snorkel in a man-made lagoon at this impressive park in Nassau.
Fill your belly
Nassau and Paradise Island, connected by a bridge, form the epicurean epicenter of New Providence. Dining options range from hole-in-the-wall joints cooking up curry goat and conch fritters to celebrity chef restaurants serving designer sushi rolls and arty fusion dishes.
This festival hits Nassau with a vengeance on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and New Year's Day, with costumed revelers filling the streets and the air thick with conch shell blasts, and the thumping of drums and shrill whistles. Parade floats, dancing and music competitions are all part of the action.
Exumas – best for diving, snorkelling, getting away from it all
Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park
Beneath the aquamarine water around these tiny specks of land, you'll find spellbinding reefs, walls, blue holes, coral gardens and wrecks that attract an astounding diversity of fish. You won't be taking any of them home with you though, as the marine life here is protected from any kind of fishing.
This cathedral-like underwater cave system, popular with snorkelers, was made famous twice by 007 in Thunderball and Never Say Never Again.
An island getaway
Exumas are completely exempt from the hustle and bustle of many other Bahamas islands. They are uninhabited and hard to get to, so visitors can only access them if they sign up for a trip on one of the live-aboard dive boats or befriend a yachter in search of their own private slice of tropical paradise. Unless you happen to own your own yacht – then, may the wind fill your sails!
Elbow Cay – best for birdwatching, history
Elbow Cay Lighthouse
Car-free, picture-perfect Hope Town welcomes visitors with its bougainvillea-clad white-and-pastel cottages. Founded in 1785 by Loyalists from South Carolina, this village is a beautifully preserved historical settlement.
Tilloo Cay Reserve
Battered by Atlantic Ocean waves, the pristine Tilloo Cay Reserve attracts nesting herons, numerous seabirds and their binocular-wielding admirers.