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  • tree-harbor-island-bahamas - The lone tree at Harbour Island, Eleuthera, Bahamas.
  • swimming-pigs-bahamas - In the Bahamas, pigs don't fly but they do swim.
  • beach-cat-island-bahamas - The beach at Alligator Point on Cat Island, Bahamas.
  • Caribbean-Princess-Princess-Cays - Caribbean Princess at Princess Cays on the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas.
  • pigs-in-eleuthera.jpg - Two pigs joust for a carrot in South Eleuthera in the Bahamas.
  • harbour-island-aerial.jpg - Aerial of Harbour Island in North Eleuthera in the Bahamas.
  • harbour-island-beach-bahamas.jpg - An empty beach on Harbour Island in the Bahamas.
  • harbour-island-beach-bahamas2.jpg - Head to Harbour Island in the Bahamas for long stretches of pristine beaches and turquoise waters.
  • Northern-parula-bahamas - A pretty little Northern Parula near Dunmore Town, North Eleuthera, the Bahamas.
  • arriving-princess-cays-eleuthera.jpg - Princess Cays is a tourist resort at the southern end of the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.
  • princess-cays-bungalow.jpg - One of the cute, private air-conditioned bungalows at Princess Cays in the Bahamas.
  • Freeport-Bahamas - Explore the beaches of Freeport, the Bahamas, when you book a cruise on Carnival Cruise Line.
  • Northern-parula-bahamas - A pretty little Northern Parula near Dunmore Town, North Eleuthera, the Bahamas.
  • Carnival-Fantasy-sunset - Carnival Fantasy sails to Freeport, Little Stirrup Cay, Half Moon Cay and Nassau in the Bahamas and to Grand Turk.
  • walking-sticks-freeport-bahamas - Walking sticks in Freeport, the Bahamas.
  • Freeport-Bahamas-2 - Sail to the beaches of Freeport in the Bahamas on Carnival Cruise Lines.
  • women-grand-bahama-island.jpg - Relaxing in the tropical sun near the coastline of Grand Bahama Island.
  • women-happy-hour-bahamas.jpg - Two women celebrate happy hour in the pool at the Grand Lucayan Resort on Grand Bahama Island.
  • women-grand-bahama-island-beach.jpg - Three friends walk along the beach on Grand Bahama Island.
  • women-in-surf-grand-bahama-island.jpg - Three women relax in the surf on Grand Bahama Island.
  • dolphin-activities-bahamas.jpg - Have some splashy fun with dolphins on Grand Bahama Island.
  • dolphin-kiss-bahamas.jpg - A dolphin gives a girl a kiss at a marine attraction on Grand Bahama Island.
  • Water-Trampoline-Grand-Bahama-Island.jpg - Have fun on a water trampoline (it's OK, it's your vacation!) on Grand Bahama Island.
  • horseback-riding-in-surf.jpg - Enjoy horseback riding in the surf on Grand Bahama Island.
  • kayaking-Grand-Bahama-Island.jpg - Take a kayak out for a spin during a glorious tropical day on Grand Bahamas Island.
  • Coco-Cay-aerial-Royal-Caribbean - Walk along the white beaches and turquoise lagoons of CocoCay in the Bahamas. The east end of the private island is where the recreational activities take place, with beaches facing a coral basin where you can see rays, tropical fish and occasional manatees.
  • tree-harbor-island-bahamas - The lone tree at Harbour Island, Eleuthera, Bahamas.
  • CocoCay-snorkeling-group - Grab your snorkeling gear and head out to the pristine waters off CocoCay in the Bahamas on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
  • lighthouse-nassau-bahamas - Lighthouse near Nassau, the capital and largest city in the Bahamas.
  • swimming-pigs-bahamas - In the Bahamas, pigs don't fly but they do swim.
  • paradise-island-bahamas - Along the waterfront on Paradise Island, the popular cruise destination in the Bahamas.
  • Coco-Cay-aerial-Royal-Caribbean-2 - An aerial view of CocoCay in the Bahamas, a private island reserved just for cruise ship guests and run by Royal Caribbean.
  • Coco-Cay-aerial-Royal-Caribbean-3 - CocoCay in the Bahamas is less than than a mile wide and less than 200 yards from north to south. The 140-acre tropical retreat was awarded a Gold-Level Eco-Certification by Sustainable Travel International for its environmentally friendly activities and tours.
  • CocoCay-cabanas - You can rent out a private cabana on the beach during your day trip to CocoCay in the Bahamas
  • CocoCay-floating-mats - Grab a mat and splash your way to some fun on a Royal Caribbean trip to the tropical island of CocoCay in the Bahamas.
  • jetski-in-Coco-Cay - Take a jetski out for your own private tour of CocoCay in the Bahamas.
  • CocoCay-floating-mats-2 - Relax on a floating mat with your sweetie during a day trip to CocoCay in the Bahamas.
  • beach-cat-island-bahamas - The beach at Alligator Point on Cat Island, Bahamas.
  • Northern-parula-bahamas - A pretty little Northern Parula near Dunmore Town, North Eleuthera, the Bahamas.
  • Bahamas-swimming-pigs - Pigs don't fly but they do swim in the Exuma district of the Bahamas.
  • Caribbean-Princess-Princess-Cays - Caribbean Princess at Princess Cays on the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas.
  • fishing-trip-bahamas - A fishing trip in the Bahamas.
  • Coco-Cay-aerial-Royal-Caribbean-5 - You can explore CocoCay, an eco-certified private destination in the Bahamas, through eco-tours, guided nature walks, leisurely kayaking and snorkeling. The secluded island has no restaurants or shops — but lots of shady hammocks.
  • Beach-at-Sandals-Emerald-Bay.jpg - A beach at Sandals Emerald Bay in Great Exuma in the Bahamas.
  • Coco-Cay-Beach-Bed-1.jpg - A beach bed in along the beach on the Royal Caribbean private island of CocoCay in the Bahamas.
  • Great-Stirrup-Cabana-1.jpg - A cabana, available for an extra fee, at Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, the private island run by Norwegian.
  • pulling-into-nassau-1.jpg - Pulling into Nassau, the Bahamas, on a cruise ship.
  • Great-Stirrup-Cabana-2.jpg - A cabana, available for an extra fee, at Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, the private island run by Norwegian.
  • pulling-into-nassau-2.jpg - Pulling into Nassau, the Bahamas, on a cruise ship.
  • Coco-Cay-Beach-Bed-2.jpg - A beach bed along the beach on the Royal Caribbean private island of CocoCay in the Bahamas.
  • coco-cay-beach.jpg - The beach at CocoCay in the Bahamas.
  • Coco-Cay-Floating-Bar.jpg - The Floating Bar at CocoCay, the Royal Caribbean private island in the Bahamas.
  • Coco-Cay-Island.jpg - At CocoCay island in the Bahamas, cruisers can snorkel, kayak, jet-ski, have fun at an aqua park, do a nature walk and more.
  • Great-Stirrup-Cabana-3.jpg - A cabana, available for an extra fee, at Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, the private island run by Norwegian.
  • Great-Stirrup-Cay-Beach.jpg - The beach at Great Stirrup Cay, the private island in the Bahamas operated by Norwegian Cruise Line.
  • Great-Stirrup-Cay-Patron-Bar.jpg - Head to the Patrón Beach bar to quaff a few at Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas.
  • Junkanoo-Beach-Nassau.jpg - Junkanoo Beach in Nassau, the Bahamas.
  • pulling-into-nassau-3.jpg - Pulling into Nassau, the Bahamas, on a cruise ship.
  • women-grand-bahama-island.jpg - Relaxing in the tropical sun near the coastline of Grand Bahama Island.
  • women-happy-hour-bahamas.jpg - Two women celebrate happy hour in the pool at the Grand Lucayan Resort on Grand Bahama Island.
  • women-grand-bahama-island-beach.jpg - Three friends walk along the beach on Grand Bahama Island.
  • women-in-surf-grand-bahama-island.jpg - Three women relax in the surf on Grand Bahama Island.
  • dolphin-activities-bahamas.jpg - Have some splashy fun with dolphins on Grand Bahama Island.
  • dolphin-kiss-bahamas.jpg - A dolphin gives a girl a kiss at a marine attraction on Grand Bahama Island.
  • Water-Trampoline-Grand-Bahama-Island.jpg - Have fun on a water trampoline (it's OK, it's your vacation!) on Grand Bahama Island.
  • horseback-riding-in-surf.jpg - Enjoy horseback riding in the surf on Grand Bahama Island.
  • kayaking-Grand-Bahama-Island.jpg - Take a kayak out for a spin during a glorious tropical day on Grand Bahamas Island.
  • harbour-island-pink-house.jpg - Stroll around Harbour Island (near Eleuthera) and view its colorful homes during your visit to the Bahamas.
  • bahamas-beachside-spa.jpg - Get a relaxing outdoor spa treatment while visiting Grand Bahama Island.
  • Bahamas-Sea-Lion-Encounter.jpg - Have a fun sea lion encounter while visiting Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
  • Bahamas-Dolphin-Encounter.jpg - Experience a dolphin encounter with the family while visiting Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
  • Bahamas-Atlantis-aquarium.jpg - Visit the omnipresent Atlantis resort and its aquarium during your port visit in Nassau.
  • Bahamas-Harbour-Island-architecture.jpg - Be sure to spend time taking in Harbour Island's tropical architecture in the Bahamas.
  • Bahamas-Jeep-Safari.jpg - Wrangle down the beach while on a Bahama Jeep Safari from Grand Bahama Nature Tours.
  • Bahamas-Bimini-fishing.jpg - Go on a fun fishing adventure while visiting Bimini Island in the Bahamas.
  • Bahamas-conch-fritters.jpg - Try a local delicacy, conch fritters, while visiting Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
  • Bahamas-Romantic-Boardwalk.jpg - Go on a romantic walk on one of Nassau Island's boardwalks.
  • Bahamas-Lunch.jpg - Have a tropical-style lunch on the beach while visiting the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas.
  • Bahamas-fresh-fruit-vendor.jpg - Grab some fresh fruit from a local fruit vendor on Grand Bahama Island.
  • Bahamas-scuba-diving.jpg - Go on an unforgettable scuba diving experience while visiting Nassau/Paradise Island.
  • Bahamas-Long-Island-trophy-fish.jpg - Head out for some deep sea fishing, then show off your catch, on Long Island in the Bahamas.
  • Bahamas-Chat-N-Chill.jpg - Visit the Exuma Beach bar Chat N Chill for a drink or meal.
  • Bahamas-Ocean-Shore.jpg - Go swimming in the clear waters along the Bahamas shoreline.
  • Bahamas-Surrey-Ride.jpg - Go on an enjoyable horse drawn surrey ride through Paradise Island.
  • Great-Stirrup-Cay.jpg - The beach setup at Norwegian Cruise Line's private setting of Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas.
  • Half-Moon-Cay-Bahamas-2 - Horseback riding, hiking and nature walks are as popular as the beaches and snorkeling at Half Moon Cay, one  of about 700 islands that make up the Bahamas.
  • Half-Moon-Cay-Bahamas - Cruise the Bahamas and spend a day swimming, sunning and snorkeling at the beautiful beaches at Half Moon Cay.
  • Carnival-Breeze-Half-Moon-Cay-Bahamas - Book passage on Carnival Breeze to the warm waters of Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.
  • CocoCay-cabanas - You can rent out a private cabana on the beach during your day trip to CocoCay in the Bahamas
  • CocoCay-snorkeling-group - Grab your snorkeling gear and head out to the pristine waters off CocoCay in the Bahamas on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
  • Coco-Cay-aerial-Royal-Caribbean-3 - CocoCay in the Bahamas is less than than a mile wide and less than 200 yards from north to south. The 140-acre tropical retreat was awarded a Gold-Level Eco-Certification by Sustainable Travel International for its environmentally friendly activities and tours.
  • Coco-Cay-aerial-Royal-Caribbean-4 - Explore new aquatic facilities, nature trails and places where you can just kick back, relax and enjoy a tropical drink at CocoCay.
  • CocoCay-floating-mats - Grab a mat and splash your way to some fun on a Royal Caribbean trip to the tropical island of CocoCay in the Bahamas.
  • Coco-Cay-aerial-Royal-Caribbean-2 - An aerial view of CocoCay in the Bahamas, a private island reserved just for cruise ship guests and run by Royal Caribbean.
  • Coco-Cay-aerial-Royal-Caribbean-5 - You can explore CocoCay, an eco-certified private destination in the Bahamas, through eco-tours, guided nature walks, leisurely kayaking and snorkeling. The secluded island has no restaurants or shops — but lots of shady hammocks.
  • jetski-in-Coco-Cay - Take a jetski out for your own private tour of CocoCay in the Bahamas.
  • CocoCay-floating-mats-2 - Relax on a floating mat with your sweetie during a day trip to CocoCay in the Bahamas.
  • Coco-Cay-aerial-Royal-Caribbean - Walk along the white beaches and turquoise lagoons of CocoCay in the Bahamas. The east end of the private island is where the recreational activities take place, with beaches facing a coral basin where you can see rays, tropical fish and occasional manatees.
  • Coco-Cay-Beach-Bed-1.jpg - A beach bed in along the beach on the Royal Caribbean private island of CocoCay in the Bahamas.
  • Coco-Cay-Beach-Bed-2.jpg - A beach bed along the beach on the Royal Caribbean private island of CocoCay in the Bahamas.
  • coco-cay-beach.jpg - The beach at CocoCay in the Bahamas.
  • Coco-Cay-Floating-Bar.jpg - The Floating Bar at CocoCay, the Royal Caribbean private island in the Bahamas.
  • Coco-Cay-Island.jpg - At CocoCay island in the Bahamas, cruisers can snorkel, kayak, jet-ski, have fun at an aqua park, do a nature walk and more.
  • Disney-Dream-Castaway-Cay - Disney Dream at Castaway Cay (pronounced key), Disney's private island in the Bahamas. Enjoy tropical leisure activities, such as snorkeling, parasailing, boating, swimming or just flopping on the golden sands with a beach chair.
  • Bahamas-Nassau - Nassau, the Bahamas, is a popular Carnival Cruise Lines destination.
  • Carnival-Imagination-Nassau-Bahamas - Carnival Imagination at twilight in Nassau, the Bahamas.
  • lighthouse-nassau-bahamas - Lighthouse near Nassau, the capital and largest city in the Bahamas.
  • paradise-island-bahamas - Along the waterfront on Paradise Island, the popular cruise destination in the Bahamas.
  • fishing-trip-bahamas - A fishing trip in the Bahamas.
  • pulling-into-nassau-1.jpg - Pulling into Nassau, the Bahamas, on a cruise ship.
  • pulling-into-nassau-2.jpg - Pulling into Nassau, the Bahamas, on a cruise ship.
  • Junkanoo-Beach-Nassau.jpg - Junkanoo Beach in Nassau, the Bahamas.
  • pulling-into-nassau-3.jpg - Pulling into Nassau, the Bahamas, on a cruise ship.
  • Atlantis-Paradise-Island.jpg - Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas beach resort offers three vacation towers, plus reef and harbor side accommodations for your Caribbean vacation getaway.
  • Atlantis-Paradise-Island-1.jpg - The high-rise Atlantis Paradise Island, about 2 miles from downtown Nassau, offers a sprawling water park, 35 restaurants and bars, 3 private beaches, a golf course, casino and more.

Bahamas travel guide: What to do & see

our guide

The vibe

With 700 islands and 2,400 cays sprinkled over a swath of ocean, stretching from the Florida Keys to Haiti, the Bahamas would make up the largest island chain in the Caribbean — if it were in the Caribbean. The coral-based archipelago actually lies entirely within the Atlantic Ocean, although you wouldn’t know it by looking. Like its neighbors to the south, the Bahamas boast sugar-white beaches, turquoise seas and a definite vacation vibe.

 
  CRUISEABLE TRAVEL GUIDES
 
 
 

There’s a definite British vibe, too. While the Bahamas gained independence from Britain in 1973, many colonial customs have been retained — including a local patois spiced with a British accent, policemen in pith helmets, and driving on the left-hand side of the road.

Of the more than 4 million cruise visitors who call in the islands each year, the majority arrive in Freeport or Nassau, making these fast-paced cities among the busiest cruise ports in the world. Several cruise lines also call at private “out islands,” where the pace is easy and shoes are optional.

Cruise ships that call on the Bahamas

Top reasons to go

  • Natural beauty, great climate. The water is amazing and the weather accommodating most of the year.
  • Variety, from action-packed casinos and discos to duty-free shopping, water sports, boating and laid-back beach-bumming.
  • Proximity. Grand Bahama Island is just 75 miles due east of Palm Beach, Fla., making it accessible even on two-night cruises.
  • Go island hopping on a kayak tour. The smaller cays are home to wonderful wildlife and a refuge from busy port cities.
Pigs don't fly but they do swim in the Exuma Islands of the Bahamas.
 Christopher Dorobek / Creative Commons BYPigs don't fly but they do swim in the Exuma Islands of the Bahamas.

Top things to do & see in the Bahamas

Kick around in Freeport

The busy port of Freeport on Grand Bahama Island is just 70 miles off the coast of Florida, making it a regular stop on the short-cruise circuit. You’ll find casinos here, along with lots of come-on hustle and tempting merchandise at shopping meccas like the Port Lucaya Marketplace and International Bazaar (word of warning: don’t point your camera at vendors without asking permission first; they don’t like it). But you’ll also find golf courses, rustic restaurants on gorgeous beaches, water activities galore and Lucayan National Park, home to two of the largest underwater cave systems in the world and a showcase for all six of the archipelago’s ecosytems. The easiest way to get there is on a guided excursion that might include kayaking and hiking as well as cave exploring.

Lucayan National Park

Lucayan National Park, on the island of Grand Bahama, is home to all six of the island’s natural ecosystems, including one of the longest underwater caves in the world.

Nassau

The soul of New Providence Island, Nassau is a shopping and entertainment mecca. The high and low-end shops vie for your attention on Bay Street while hawking jewelry, perfume, liquor and souvenirs. This same energy is poured into the discos, bars and nightclubs that pulse along the streets after dark. Connected to New Providence by bridge, Paradise Island is a much smaller island dominated by the sprawling Las Vegas-style resort, Atlantis.

Out Islands

The Out Islands of the Bahamas, including Abacos, Cat Island, Bimini, Exuma and Harbor Island, are  smaller, quieter places exuding the tranquil solitude of a genuine island getaway. 

Gardens & birds

A pretty little Northern Parula near Dunmore Town, North Eleuthera, the Bahamas.
Mike's Birds / Creative Commons BY-SAA pretty little Northern Parula near Dunmore Town, North Eleuthera, the Bahamas.

Birders will have a field day at Rand Nature Center National Park in Freeport, which also features native plants once used in Bahamians’ daily lives. The private Garden of the Groves is another great option for visitors interested in tropical vegetation.

Getting out on the water

Choices for beaching it on Grand Bahama are many, with Fortune and Lucayan on the north shore considered the most family-friendly strands due to off-shore reefs that limit wave action. Paradise Cove Beach has a close-in reef good for snorkeling, while Peterson Cay National Park, a mile offshore, is favored by divers. Coastal boat tours, visits to out islands (including the Abacos chain, a renowned sailing paradise), kayaking, exploring the island’s famous “blue holes” and deep-sea fishing are among other day-tour options.

Nassau/Paradise Island: Shop on!

Nassau, the nation’s capital, is on New Providence Island, connected by causeway to Paradise Island. These urban-resort enclaves are the Bahamas’ shopping and entertainment meccas. High-end shops selling duty-free jewelry, perfume, liquor and souvenirs vie for attention on Nassau’s Bay Street, while discos, bars and nightclubs pulse after dark. Nassau’s famous Straw Market, which recently got a major makeover, is here, too. Bargaining is expected for merchandise ranging from hand-woven mats and bags to conch-shell jewelry and T-shirts.

Over-the-top paradise

Paradise Island is dominated by the 3,400-room, Vegas-style Atlantis Paradise Island mega-resort, is spread over 171 acres and counts among its amenities 40 restaurants, three casinos, 19 swimming pools, a vast water park, a swim-with-dolphins attraction and an underwater “Mayan temple” (go figure). A mile-long artificial river, meant to be floated on inner tubes, twists through the property. Many cruise passengers visit Atlantis on day passes.

Joining Atlantis since 2015 is Baha Mar, a sprawling resort along a lengthy tropical coast and white-sand beach. It offers modern rooms and suites, a large casino, multiple dining options, a beachfront bar, nine outdoor pools, a swim-up bar and a poolside lounge. Other amenities include a fitness center, a nightclub, a kids' club and a spa with a sauna and a steam room.

Cultural & historical attractions

Delve into the Bahamas history and culture at Nassau’s Pompey Museum at Vendue House, recounting the history of slavery in the islands; the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, showcasing the work of Bahamian artists; Retreat National Park, an 11-acre botanical garden housing one of the largest collections of palms in the world; and Forts Charlotte and Fincastle, both bristling with pirate lore.

It’s all about the water

For watersports and bikini-watching, head to in-town Junkanoo Beach, popular with the spring-break set and cruise passengers who don’t have time to head farther afield. Cable Beach, on the island’s north shore, is not a single beach, but a miles-long resort district lined with sugar-white sand. The Goodman’s Bay section has public facilities, and barbecue vendors often are present on weekends. Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island is another popular strand. Access to some sections is restricted to hotel guests, so patronize a restaurant or bar if you need to use the facilities. Better yet, ask your cruise line about purchasing a day pass at a beachfront resort hotel. That way, you’ll have access to pool, chairs and entertainment as well as sand and sea.

The beach at Alligator Point on Cat Island, Bahamas.
Trish Hartmann / Creative Commons BYThe beach at Alligator Point on Cat Island, Bahamas.

The cruise lines' private islands

Many cruise passengers count days ashore on private islands owned or leased by cruise lines as their favorite stops on a Caribbean itinerary. Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay, Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Great Stirrup Cay and Carnival/Holland America’s Half Moon Cay have all been transformed into tidy, no-hassle paradises. Each offers a similar atmosphere: protected water for swimming, barbecues and buffets, island-style entertainment, water sports and various types of excursions. Princess Cruises doesn’t have a private island per se, but its 40-acre Princess Cays resort on the island of Eleuthera clings to the same concept. The cruise line's private islands

Best bets for dining

Though a variety of international cuisine can be found on the islands, there are many native dishes unique to the Bahamas. With a bounty of fresh seafood coming into restaurants daily, conch, land crab, crawfish, grouper and red snapper are favorites among locals and tourists alike. Look, too, for specialties such as guava duff, johnny cake, peas ‘n’ rice and sheep-tongue or chicken souse, an authentic breakfast stew.

For a truly Bahamian experience in Freeport, seek out the Big Daddy’s Brown Conch and fill up on fried conch and lobster. On the upscale end, Flying Fish, specializing in innovative seafood dishes, is the islands’ first restaurant to earn a AAA Four Diamond rating. In Nassau, dining doesn’t get more elegant than at Dune, set in a hilltop pavilion with ocean views at the One & Only Club.  For authentic fish-fry, try the very colorful Goldies Conch House on Arawak Cay, where you can enjoy conch salad and a local Kalik or Sands beer with your fried grouper.

For a truly Bahamian experience on Nassau’s Cable Beach, check out Cafe Johnny Canoe for blackened grouper and guava cocktails. For an eclectic and creative menu serving everything from Cuban-style sea bass to New Zealand lamb, try waterfront Ferry House on Bell Channel Bay in Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island. An upscale choice serving gourmet versions of local specialties on New Providence Island is Dune, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the One & Only Ocean Club resort.

Fish-fry mecca

Arawak Cay, an artificial island connected by bridge to Nassau, is where the locals go for Sunday fish fries, and where tourists can go any time to experience a recreated “authentic” Bahamian atmosphere chock-a-block with casual restaurants serving fried grouper or jack with French fries and sweet island bread. It’s also a great place to hear the catchy, African- and calypso-inspired island music known as goombay.

Along the waterfront on Paradise Island, the popular cruise destination in the Bahamas.
James Willamor / Creative Commons BYAlong the waterfront on Paradise Island, the popular cruise destination in the Bahamas.

Family-friendly options

Aside from casinos and discos, what’s not to like for families? If the islands’ natural attractions aren’t enough, consider kid-pleasing alternatives such as Pirates of Nassau, an interactive museum with a three-masted pirated ship, living-history demos and a high entertainment factor; or the over-the-top, 141-acre water park at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. 

YOLO (You only live once!)

Swim-with-dolphins attractions have popped up in many places in the world, but in the Bahamas, there are multiple ways to get up close and personal with these engaging marine creatures. Dolphin Encounter’s marine mammal program, based on Blue Lagoon Island (Salt Cay) three miles from Nassau, includes a variety of options for all ages, from swims with dolphins to shallow-water encounters to sea-lion introductions. At the sprawling Atlantis Paradise Island resort’s 14-acre marine environment, guests can also swim with stingrays or sign up for a “trainer for a day” program.

Don't miss

Conching out

You’re probably familiar with the large, spiral shells sold in souvenir shops around the world, but don’t leave the Bahamas without trying the meat of this giant sea snail (pronounced “konk”). Once tenderized, the calamari-like flesh is turned into chowder, salad and fritters. It’s found in one form or another on almost every Bahamas menu.

Partying like it’s Junkanoo

Junkanoo is the Bahamas’ carnival tradition, replete with parades, home-grown goombay music and lots of partying in the streets. The fest traditionally takes place over the Christmas holidays, but a summer festival has been added that brings the party to the streets of Nassau, Freeport and other island towns throughout June and July. In addition, junkanoo dancers perform daily at the cruise-ship wharf in Nassau.

Getting into the rhythms

Goombay, the distinctive music of the Bahamas, can be heard at every turn. It’s a blend of African rhythms, Caribbean calypso and English folk song set to rolling beat produced by goatskin drums.

Best time to go

While the weather is pleasant year-round, you’ll take your chances (but enjoy lower prices) if you cruise during the August-November hurricane season. Summer is the most popular time for families to cruise to the Bahamas, while in winter, ships tend to fill up with grateful snowbirds from northern climes.

Caribbean Princess at Princess Cays on the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas.
loimere / Creative Commons BYCaribbean Princess at Princess Cays on the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas.

Fun facts

  • Hail Columbus: When Christopher Columbus’ famous trio of ships, the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, arrived in the Bahamas in 1492, the islands were inhabited by the indigenous Lucayan people. Sadly, slavery and disease rendered them extinct within 25 years.
  • Puritans and pirates: The first British colony in the Bahamas was established by Puritans in 1647 on the island of Eleuthera. Piracy flourished in the late 1700s and early 1800s, spurring Britain to establish a government and declare the islands a crown colony in 1718. The Commonwealth of the Bahamas became an independent nation in 1973.
  • Flamingos and marlins: The national bird is the flamingo, the national fish the blue marlin and the official flower the yellow elder.
  • Snow has fallen only once in recorded history in the Bahamas, on January 17, 1977, in Freeport.

When you arrive

Docking information

For Freeport, ships dock at Lucaya Harbor, a 10-minute drive from town and about a half-hour from Port Lucaya attractions. In Nassau, ships dock right in the middle of town at King George Wharf. At the cruise lines’ private islands, passengers are ferried ashore.

Getting around

Taxis go everywhere, and it’s common to share with locals or other tourists. Jitney buses, water taxis and horse-drawn surreys are among other options. Rental cars are available, but be aware that driving is on the left-hand side of the road.

Need to know

Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport.

Language: English. Between themselves, however, Bahamians speak a local dialect that is difficult for outsiders to understand.

Currency: The Bahamian dollar, traded on par with the U.S. dollar.

Your take

Have you been to the Bahamas? Please share a story, tip or discovery. What was the highlight for you? Please share in the comments below.

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Overheard

“From pirates and blockade dodgers to rum smugglers, wily go-getters have converged and caroused on the country’s 700 islands and 2,400 cays for centuries.”

Lonely Planet

“Blame it on Bond ... James Bond. In 1965, Sean Connery starred in Thunderball — the fourth installment of Ian Fleming's 007 series — an action-packed movie shot mostly underwater and on the Bahamian island of New Providence. The film's classic moments firmly established the old colonial capital, Nassau, and the beaches of offshore Paradise Island, as the getawayfor the jet set.”

Travel & Leisure

“With a few hours in Lucaya, enjoy a nature tour while kayaking through the jade-colored waterways of Lucayan National Park.  Looking for less adventure? Head to the Perfume Factory to whip up your own signature blend.”

Lonely Planet

“The archipelago of the Bahamas spans over 100,000 square miles and boasts more than 700 breathtaking islands, cays and islets. You'll find some of the clearest crystal-blue water you've ever seen, as well as the world's third largest barrier reef.”

Condé Nast Traveler

“No trip to Nassau is complete without a pilgrimage to colorful Arawak Cay. For true Bahamian eats, munch on conch fritters and sip on ‘sky juice’ (gin and coconut water) while listening to Junkanoo beats.”

Lonely Planet

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