The Bahamas: seven hundred islands. Twenty-five hundred cays. Four days of vacation. What do you do? From Nassau to the Out Islands, here’s our cheat sheet for the Bahamian best in exploring, imbibing and just plain loafing.
Each of the 700 Bahamian islands provides something unique to enjoy © Danita Delmont / Shutterstock
1. Kayaking & kiteboarding, Exumas
Hundreds of cays swoosh over a 120-mile span of crystal blue in the Exumas, a shimmering natural playground anchored by lonely coves and critter-filled reefs. Glide past palmettos and plovers near George Town or paddle to iguana-owned shores in Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park. Adrenaline junkies may prefer swooping the gusty banks by kiteboard. Visit Out-Islands Explorers for kayaking info and Exuma kitesurfing for catching air.
2. A goombay smash at Miss Emily’s, Abacos
Miss Emily’s Blue Bee shines like a bright blue gumdrop near the center of New Plymouth, a gingerbread town clinging tight to windswept Green Turtle Cay on Abacos. For decades, yachties and day-trippers have drifted into the Blue Bee for jug-poured goombay smashes – the drink was created here – and the easygoing charm of Violet Smith, Miss Emily’s daughter. Ferries depart the Green Turtle Ferry Dock near Treasure Cay.
3. Diving with friends, Andros
Divers swap stories and lies at Small Hope Bay Lodge, Andros, where the only thing better than peering over the Tongue of the Ocean is talking up the adventure with friends. And everyone’s a friend at this affable, family-owned retreat near Fresh Creek. With its home-cooked buffets, eco-friendly accommodations and laugh-filled happy hours, Small Hope serves up everything but the camp songs.
Junkanoo is rooted in West African traditions © Jo Crebbin / Shutterstock
4. Celebrating Junkanoo, Nassau
Christmas doesn’t end in Nassau with lullabies and sugarplums. It parades out of town in a jostling blast of whistles, horns, drums and cowbells that whirls down Bay Street in the wee hours of Boxing Day. In this brightly costumed celebration, which traces its roots to West Africa and plantation-era religious rites, neighborhood teams compete for prizes. If you miss the parade on Boxing Day, there’s a second one on New Year’s Day and a warm-up in the summer.
5. Stylish loafing, Harbour Island, Eleuthera
Roving roosters and sputtering golf carts are part of the charm in Dunmore Town, a chichi Harbour Island village where Wall Streeters, supermodels and kitesurfers come for the shimmering pink sand beach. Beyond loafing, requirements are few: lunch at Sip Sip, cocktails at Rock House and mingling at Vic Hum Club, where the basketball court doubles as a dance floor.
6. Apres-snorkel at Nippers, Abacos
Mother Nature smiled when she created Great Guana Cay, a breezy isle floating just a few kicks away from the fish-and-coral treasures of the Great Abaco Barrier Reef. Nippers Beach Bar & Grill adds a wink to that smile with cold Kaliks, beach-shack conviviality and free use of its snorkel gear. The Sunday afternoon pig roast is a legend. The ferry to Guana Cay docks beside the Conch Inn in Marsh Harbour.
7. Aquaventure & aquariums, Paradise Island
Got the grownup blues? Hurtle back to your childhood with a 60-foot plunge, a bobbing river ride and a shark-encircled waterslide at the 141-acre Aquaventure at Atlantis, on New Providence. More than 20,000 exotic fish and sea creatures – from orange Nemos to stately manta rays – float past in the resort’s vast-but-walkable network of tanks and lagoons.
8. Pirate wanderings, Nassau
Governor Woodes Rogers may have expelled Nassau’s pirates in 1718, but that doesn’t mean they actually left. Engaging displays about parrots, peg legs and Blackbeard keep swabby legends alive at the Pirates of Nassau Museum while the 260-year-old Graycliff Hotel charms guests with swashbuckling tales of its buccaneer founder. A statue of Rogers stays vigilant from his pedestal in the middle of town.
Conch fritters are definitely on the menu at Smith's Point Fish Fry © Designs by Jack / Shutterstock
9. Smith’s Point Fish Fry, Grand Bahama
Every taxi driver on the island knows the way to the Fish Fry, a Wednesday night tradition at Smith’s Point, east of Lucaya on Grand Bahama. Locals queue early for grouper, lobster and snapper, fried up Bahamian-style under a wooden shack by the sea. Trust us, everyone’s here or on the way. Stick around for after-dinner dancing.
10. Go exploring at Lucayan National Park, Grand Bahama
This 40-acre national park is a natural treasure. About 25 miles east of Ranfurly Circle, the park is known for its underwater cave system, which is one of the longest in the world. Visitors can easily check out two of the caves – Ben’s Cave and Burial Mound Cave – via a short footpath. Ben's Cave provides a refuge for tiny buffy flower bats, while bones of the island’s earliest inhabitants, the Lucayans, were discovered in Burial Mound Cave in 1986.
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This article was first published in June 2011 and updated in June 2019.