Visitors to the Bahamas soon discover that instead of arriving at one destination, they’ve stumbled upon many! Just 50 miles off the Florida coast, the islands of the Bahamas are as diverse as they are lovely. The bustling marketplaces, marinas, and hotels of Freeport and Nassau seem worlds away from the pine forests and mangrove swamps of the Lucayan National Park . The more cosmopolitan islands provide traditional tourist fare, but others offer secluded beaches, tiny palm-lined villages, and stalagmite-filled caves. Stretching from Grand Bahama and Abaco at the north to Great Inagua at the south are 23 inhabited islands and hundreds of uninhabited islands and cays (pronounced “keys”). With six distinct ecosystems and many different adventures to be had, the islands of the Bahamas offer visitors a paradise of possibilities.
Activities in and around the sea are understandably popular, especially the sailing, diving and deep-sea fishing, which are amongst the best in the world.
The three busiest islands in terms of tourists are New Providence Island, Paradise Island and Grand Bahama, all of which have great hotels, restaurants, casinos and nightclubs. The Out Islands on the other hand (which include Andros, the Exumas, the Abacos, Bimini and Eleuthera), are harder to get to and therefore less crowded. This is where you’ll stand the best chance of finding your own deserted beach.
Paradise Island (half an hour away, linked by road bridge) is where you’ll find the swankiest (and most expensive hotels), the glitziest casinos, the ritziest nightlife and the widest range of entertainment – all at a price, of course.
Somewhat cheaper, Grand Bahama has well-developed facilities, especially round the tourist hot spot of Freeport/Lucaya. There’s good hiking here, and some of the Bahamas’ best beaches, along with great golf courses and excellent diving.
Andros, the largest island, receives less tourists and isn’t as developed – but is a big draw for divers thanks to the world’s third largest barrier reef lying just offshore. It also has a range of accommodation choices from large resorts to small guesthouses.
The Berry Islands, too, are particularly popular with fishermen.
The Abacos are a cluster of small islands that are a favourite haunt of the yachting fraternity.