Comprised of over 700 islands and cays, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a feast for all the senses. Located north of Cuba and Hispaniola, the Bahamas was a British colony until becoming an independent Commonwealth in 1973. Tourism and finance now drive the economy for over 321,000 residents.
More than 60% of the Bahamian GDP can be attributed to tourism, much of this due to being a popular cruise destination. The tourism industry employs over half of the country’s workforce as well. New Providence and Grand Bahama are the two most populated of the 700 islands and cays. Nassau, the country’s capital, is located on New Providence, the island that holds majority of the country’s population. Freeport is the second largest city and is located on Grand Bahama.
There is something for everyone in the Bahamas. From pristine beaches and clear waters to adventures for the ecotourist, these islands will provide what your soul is seeking. Shopping can be an escapade of its own with open-air markets and stylish boutiques offering a wide variety of local crafts and jewelry. Traditions and skill retained from the early Lucayan and Taino Indians can be seen in the artistry offered by local craftsmen.
A journey to the Bahamas is best made with an open mind and open heart. The islands will offer peace, adventure, great cuisine, and the perfect backdrop to make long lasting memories.
When to Travel
The climate is consistently warm throughout the year with an average of temperature of 77°F. In the winter months, the lows are around 70°F; the highs in the summer months are around 82°F. Average rainfall is only 55 inches per year, with summer being the wettest season. The weather is not only perfect for year round blooms for the yellow elder, the national flower, but also for a myriad of outdoor activities.
The driest and most expensive time to travel is in the peak winter months, roughly December to April. Travel during this time should be booked well in advance to avoid disappointment. This is especially true for Christmas and the spring break period in March and April.
Hurricane season officially extends from June to November, although historically the effects of these storms are felt in the Bahamas between July and October. No need to fear this season, however. Hurricanes do not occur with regularity. In fact, these can be the most affordable times to travel as it is the low-season for the destination.
For the cost sensitive, the low season is a great way to not only save money, but to enjoy what the island has to offer. Amenities are more readily available and prices are reduced on almost everything. Savings can range from 5% to up to 60%. With the consistency in climate for the islands, there is little to be lost from the high to low seasons. There is a trade-off, however. Renovations tend to occur in the low season, as well as some reduction of services.
Cuisine and Drinks
Food in the Bahamas is an eclectic mix of Caribbean, African, and European flavors. A hint of the American South can also be found on occasion. Seafood, specifically conch, is a Bahamian staple. This, along with fruit and a whole host of spices make up the local ingredients the eateries use to tickle the palate.
The Bahamian style lemonade is a must-have. This sweet, slushie-like beverage will cool you off on even the hottest of days. Sky juice is another drink that is sure to leave a mark on the memory. Made of coconut water or milk and mixed with condensed milk, served in a coconut, and topped off with nutmeg and cinnamon, this drink is the best of local flavor and ingredients. For adults, ask for the leaded version and it will come with a nice kick of gin to sweeten the deal. For beer fans, try one of the local brands, Kalik or Sands.
The local Fish Fry is a lively hangout that offers a fun Bahamian experience. A variety of fried options are available, from fish to conch and everything in between. Don’t miss the experience of the conch salad. The lively knife skills of the chefs make this option a treat for the taste buds and the eyes. This one is not only a palate pleaser, but a great way to meet new people, both local and fellow tourist.
In the morning, take the opportunity to experience a true Bahamian breakfast. Boiled or stewed fish served with johnnycakes are a traditional way to start the day. If these options aren’t what the palate calls for, opt for the grits which are often served with either tuna or corned beef.
In addition to the local foodstuffs, there are numerous international restaurants available. The Atlantis resort, located on Paradise Island, is well-known for its dining options. Everything from celebrity chef restaurants to casual dining are available. The Black Cod with Miso dish at Nobu, the world renowned restaurant of Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, is a dish all should experience in a lifetime. If classic French faire is more your style, the imagination of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten will suite your whims at Café Martinique.
Restaurants in downtown Nassau offer a wide variety of international dining in addition to local flavor. Greek, Indian, and Italian are all available. If you are looking for something with a bit of Asian flair, check out the strip between Cable Beach and East Bay Street.
Preacher’s Cave – Both beautiful and historically significant, this cave on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera is quite the sight to see. The rock formation was a shelter and burial ground originally used by the Lucayans, the inhabitants of the Bahamas prior to European discovery. When British adventurers shipwrecked on the coral reef in the mid-1600s, the cave was used as a place of worship.
Dean’s Blue Hole – On Long Island, just west of Clarence Town, you will find the world’s deepest known saltwater blue hole. A blue hole is a sinkhole with the entrance below water level. Enjoy an afternoon on the gorgeous beach at Dean’s Blue Hole before exploring this unique island. Approximately 80 miles long, it is no more than 4 miles wide at any point. The Tropic of Cancer divides the island, giving it two differing coastlines with both white and pink sand beaches.
Blackbeard’s Cay – A tiny island just northwest of the eastern point of Nassau, this private retreat is named after the famous pirate himself. Here you can snorkel with Atlantic Stingrays so gentle they will eat right out of your hand. This adventure is a once in a lifetime opportunity in the most idyllic of locations.
Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation – This museum is dedicated to telling the story of slavery and emancipation in the Bahamas. The museum’s namesake, Pompey, was a slave on the island of Exuma in the early part of the 1800s. He led a rebellion that is considered a precursor to emancipation which occurred almost a decade later. Many remarkable exhibits can be seen here, making this a worthy stop on your tour.
Lucayan National Park – Here you will find one stop shopping for ecotourists. This park encompasses all six of the ecosystems found in the Bahamas. This 40-acre park contains one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world and an impressive variety of flora. Be prepared to be amazed when you set foot in this park.
English is the official language of the Bahamas, although often spoke with a Bahamian dialect. Bahamian Creole is an English-based language also spoken most prevalently in urban areas. This language is considered to be a base of British English with African and Bahamian island influence.
Baseball, basketball, and American football are the most popular sports on the island. Cricket is also very popular and distinguished as the oldest sport in the country still played today. Obviously, water sports are also very prevalent. Sloop sailing is the designated national sport.
The official currency is the Bahamian dollar. The country has a fixed one-to-one exchange rate with the US dollar, so most businesses will accept either currency. The highest concentration of ATMs is located on New Providence Island. ATMs can also be found on Grand Bahama Island, but with much less availability. ATMs on other islands are very rare.
Many establishments on New Providence Island and Grand Bahama Island will accept credit cards, but acceptance is not guaranteed or universal. It is becoming more common to require your card have an RID chip embedded to be used. Be aware that international fees for credit card or debit card use are often much higher than domestic rates.
Although not always a necessity, it is a good idea to inform your bank or credit provider that you will be traveling abroad. This can reduce the chance of your card being frozen for fraudulent purchase investigation or declined charges. It is also a good idea to check with these providers regarding money withdraw procedures and fees.
Traveler’s checks are also a currency option that includes additional fees. Be sure to keep a record of your check numbers in case of theft or loss.