Less than 200 miles (300 km) off the coast of Florida, the sandy archipelago of the Bahamas is filled with treasures and pleasures for the tropical traveler. Warm, turquoise-clear waters, colorful gardens of coral, underwater caverns, palm trees, powdery white sands, and rich Bahamian culture make the Bahamas one of our favorite Caribbean destinations. Here’s our top 10 things to do while you’re there.
10. Shopping at Port Lucaya Marketplace
Port Lucaya Marketplace is a bustling marketplace along the waterfront filled with colorfully painted huts that house vendors selling all kinds of riches, from Bahamian baskets and handbags to couture dresses and oil paintings. Strolling musicians and steel-drum bands keep the marketplace lively. After shopping, rest your feet at a waterfront café and count the yachts moored out in the harbor.
9. Explore Lucayan National Park
It may already be on your list of top things to do in the Bahamas, but Lucayan National Park still deserves plenty of kudus. Stroll down the wooden path that winds through fragrant mangrove, palm, and pine trees and you’ll uncover a lovely secluded beach fronting crystal clear water. Snorkelers should bring their gear to glimpse the kaleidoscope of colorful sea life that flitter and glide over the offshore coral reef. If you only have time for one activity, take a trip inside the world’s largest underwater cave system, where a bounty of ancient Arawak treasures awaits your discovery.
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8. Sun and Fun on Cable Beach
The most popular stretch of beach on New Providence Island, Cable Beach is perfect for families with its soft white sand and gentle waves. It’s also a spot to sign up for parasailing, scuba diving, snorkeling trips, and party cruises to offshore islands. The hotels that line beach provide plenty of restaurants and bars to just hang out and watch the parade of sun-tanned people moving up and down the beach.
7. See Bahamian Art at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas
Housed inside a stunning mid-19th century Italianate-colonial mansion, with double-tiered verandas with elegant columns, Nassau’s National Gallery of The Bahamas is a great showcase of Bahamian art. Inside you can explore religious and folklore paintings, which are divided into historical and contemporary collections. Don’t miss stopping at the gift shop, which stocks an eclectic collection of quilts, books, and crafts.
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6. Experience the megafun activities at Atlantis Paradise Island Resort & Casino
Across from Nassau on Paradise Island, this fantasy megaresort is a destination all its own. The glitzy casinos of Atlantis are the big draw, but the resort is also filled with high-end couture emporiums, dazzling restaurants and cafes, and a rejuvenating spa. Kids of all ages can’t get enough of the water park, which holds such water-filled attractions as the wild water slides of Paradise Lagoon and labyrinth of streams and waterfalls at Aquaventure. For a break from the fun, head to the Marina Village and browse the shops and bars; live musicians keep it lively.
5. Tour Historic Nassau
Away from the beaches, Nassau is rich with Bahamian history, architecture, and culture of the Bahamas on a historic tour of Nassau. You can climb up the 18th-century Queen’s Staircase to Fort Fincastle, wander around Fort Charlotte, the largest fort in the Bahamas, and see the stunning late 18th-century government buildings on Parliament Squarer. Other nearby sites include the late 18th-century Nassau Public Library and Museum and the Royal Victoria Hotel. For a look at Bahamanian culture, head to the Pompey Museum for its impressive collection of Arawak artifacts. For something more romantic, see historic Nassau from a horse-drawn surrey.
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4. Take a break offshore at Blue Lagoon Island
Located off the eastern end of Paradise Island, Blue Lagoon is beautiful private island oasis with seven beaches and lush natural beauty. Relaxing is key here, with ample spaces for sunning or swaying in a hammock under a coconut palm tree. If you want to dip in the crystal-clear waters, you can swim with dolphins, float in a sea kayak, or snorkel the coral reefs. A short ferryboat ride take you there.
3. Snorkeling at Peterson Cay
Jump in a kayak and take a day-trip to Peterson Cay, a tiny sun-drenched island just a mile offshore from Barbary Bay Beach on Grand Bahama. A half-hour trip across the calm waters takes you to the cay, where you’ll spend the day snorkeling among the coral gardens and shallow limestone reefs, spotting flittering tropical fish in all colors, sea fans, and maybe even sting rays and barracudas.
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2. Wander around Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Park
One of the highlights of visiting the Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Park is the parading flock of elegant pink flamingos, which is national bird of the Bahamas. Three times a day, you can watch these magnificent birds perform on command—a thrilling sight. The zoo is fascinating, as well, with an eclectic wildlife collection of iguanas, lemurs, macaws, and many other rare and endangered species. In the gardens, you can get up close to the islands exotic flora, including coconut palms, vibrantly-colored bougainvillea, and orchids.
1. Diving in Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
Forgo the reefs on New Providence, Paradise Island, and Grand Bahamas and hire a boat to take you to Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. This remote paradise stretches some 22 miles (35 km), with some of the most colorful sea gardens, caves, and coral reefs in the Caribbean just offshore. Diving is spectacular here, and you’ll uncover a rich underwater world of abundant marine life. Wandering the unspoiled beaches also reveal such treasure as the endangered Bahamian iguana and ruins of an 18th century settlement.
- William Travis