Strewn out in stretched cays and specks of land between the shimmering beaches of the American Sunshine State, the verdant coastal mountains of Cuba, and the gorgeous Turks and Caicos, the iconic Bahamas remain one of the most coveted holidaying and travel destinations in the entire Caribbean region.
And with so much diversity, things to do and places to see on the menu (sandwiched between those local conch salads and fish fries, of course), it’s easy to see why! Islands like New Providence pulse with energy and action, colossal casinos erupt on Cable Beach and Atlantis booms with waterparks and luxurious sunning terraces.
Nassau, meanwhile, is riddled with colonial history and rum houses, which’s all balanced by the wild, wild depths of places like the Lucayan National Park and paradisiacal Eleuthera.
There are SCUBA opportunities amongst the barrier reefs, surfing beaches and hiking trails too, not to mention plenty of relaxing tropical sands to simply kick-back on and unwind!
Let’s explore the best things to do in The Bahamas:
1. Enjoy Caribbean beauty on Pink Sands Beach
Away from the booming resorts and gaudy casino complexes of Nassau, pretty little Pink Sands Beach offers a more quintessentially Caribbean experience.
It can be found on the less-trodden east coast of Harbour Island, just a short jaunt north of Dunmore Town.
The sea laps the shoreline softly, its rollers broken by walls of coral gardens and sand banks just a little from the shore.
There are small clutches of palm-topped umbrellas and sunbeds to unwind on, along with some of the island’s most enticing boutique hotels, all hidden amidst the dunes and blooms of manchineel that run along the back.
However, it’s the pink-hued sands that take the biscuit here, glowing in a soft rose colour under the Bahamian sun!
2. Swim with dolphins on Blue Lagoon Island
Once a hideaway for pirate buccaneers and later a diver training ground during the Second World War, Blue Lagoon Island (officially known as Salt Cay) has established itself as one of the top all-round family attractions in The Bahamas.
Draws include the gorgeous stretches of white sand that line the shores, the stony McCutcheon’s Tower that offers sweeping views of the Caribbean Sea, seemingly endless Segway tracks and walking paths through the coastal coconut palm groves, and an inland lagoon that’s packed with wildlife and watersports opportunities.
Oh, and this is also the home of the acclaimed Dolphin Encounters program, affording travelers a chance to check off a line from the bucket list and swim with the ocean’s most intelligent mammals!
3. Ride the slides at Paradise Island Water Park
One of the very many attractions hidden amidst the sprawling grounds of the colossal Atlantis Bahamas Resort, the Paradise Island Water Park makes its home on the northern fringes of Nassau.
Accessible, fun and family-friendly to the T, it comes complete with oodles of winding water slides and splash pools.
For the adrenaline seekers there’s the appropriately-named Leap of Faith, which shoots passengers swiftly down the terraces of a make-believe Aztec temple, not to mention the fear-inducing Abyss, casting folk 15 meters into a darkened hole before hitting the water.
There are also adult-only pools with bars and grotto pools to enjoy, along with a lazy river and some shimmering white beaches to boot.
4. Go beachcombing and caving in the Lucayan National Park
A 40-acre slab cut out of the southern coast of Grand Bahama, Lucayan National Park is a wild landscape of mangrove swamps and beaches, pine forests and weaving boardwalks just waiting for the budding bird watchers and wildlife seekers heading this way from Freeport.
However, the protected area’s most fascinating feature has to be its subterrane.
Delving deep into the heart of the island, the underwater cave systems here are considered to be some of the longest and largest of their kind on the planet.
Visitors can peer into the caverns to spy out sleeping bats and jungle creatures, and learn all about the unique ecosystems that are supported by the environment.
5. Shop till you drop in Port Lucaya Marketplace
You simply can’t miss the Port Lucaya Marketplace.
It stands tall and vibrant on the harbour’s edge of Freeport on Grand Bahama, painted in classically Caribbean colours of bright pink, turquoise, yellow and green.
Eager shoppers can pass through into the central plaza and enjoy more than 40 boutique outlets selling local straw crafts and art pieces, not to mention countless eateries and cafes, beer bars and hole-in-the-wall food vendors.
Hang around until after dark for some of the top nightlife and DJ shows in the town!
6. Check out the amenities on Cable Beach
Cable Beach is amongst the most developed and built-up in the Caribbean.
Fringing the northern coastline of Nassau, it’s not only easily accessed from the country’s capital, but also from the nearby Lynden Pindling International Airport.
Along its length there are countless golf resorts, luxury hotels and casino halls, like the Cable Beach Golf Club and the Sandals Royal.
On the streets just back from the sands, travelers will find everything from English-style country pubs to sushi restaurants, while the beach itself is a truly handsome affair, complete with an ivory-white hue and swimmable waters.
7. Tour Eleuthera Island from head to toe
Out of the spotlight and void of all the swish celebrity mansions and resorts of Nassau and Harbour Island across the bay, Eleuthera remains one of the real natural jewels in The Bahamas.
Stretched out in a backwards C and covering more than 100 miles from top to bottom, it’s got oodles of hidden coves and coastal crevices to explore, where boulders spatter the empty sands and sea grasses bristle against the trade winds.
Spots like Surfers Beach are popular with wave seekers, while horse riders will love seeking out the caves and curious geological creations that erupt from Whiteland down to Rock Sound.
Yep, pretty, slender Eleuthera is a real paradise to behold!
8. Sip coconuts at Tiki Bikini Hut
A cluster of red brollies and swaying palm trees marks out the brainchild of happy-go-lucky local, Byron, from the sands of Junkanoo Beach on the northern reaches of Nassau.
Uber-welcoming and chilled-out to the hilt, this bubbling little joint ticks over the sounds of South American samba and Caribbean steel drums.
A scrappy little laminated menu outlines the drinks offering: passion fruit cocktails and mango infusions, pina coladas and fresh lime sodas – or $30 for an unlimited shebang if you dare! There’s also a medley of conch fritters and hotdogs to enjoy here, served up straight to the salt-washed timber tables and beach beds just meters from the shore!
9. Cruise Castaway Cay
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to alight on the sands of Disney’s Castaway Cay unless you’re a passenger on one of the company’s colossal cruise liners that drift in and out of the private island just off the headland of Sandy Point on Great Abaco.
In fact, every one of its 1,000 acres of land is now privately owned by the Disney company, leased for almost a century from the Bahamian government.
The result? An all-in-one resort destination that’s constructed to mimic the look and feel of a shipwrecked community – think lean-to houses and ad hoc bamboo shacks! Travelers can enjoy cycling paths and watersports, basketball courts and snorkelling areas, beaches and restaurants to name just a few of the attractions.
10. Devour the Fish Fry on Arawak Cay
For one of the most authentic culinary experiences in the entire Bahamas, be sure to make a beeline for small little Arawak Cay, set out in the sea just a short walk from the Western Esplanade of Nassau.
Here, a cluster of earthy little barbeque joints and holes-in-the-wall conspire to cook up the legendary Bahamian Fish Fry.
A medley of local conch salads and shrimp is what’s on the menu, typically finished off in smoky Carib rock ovens.
Sunday is the best evening to attend, which is also when the best local bands and poetry readings grace the pavements and stages in and around the establishments.
11. Take in the views from Stocking Island
Rugged and wild Stocking Island is the windswept barrier of rock that protects Great Exuma from the swells of the eastern Caribbean and the blustery trade winds that billow over The Bahamas from the Atlantic.
Noticeably different to many of the other postcard-perfect islets in the Bahamian archipelago, this land of soaring cliffs and scrub-topped boulders is a great place to come for a coastal hike or hilltop walk.
Dramatic views of the ocean abound on the Atlantic side of the island, while small and pristine coves and the relaxed little Chat and Chill eatery all wait on the west coast.
12. Dive the waters around Andros
While there’s certainly no shortage of snorkelling and SCUBA diving sites around the archipelago of the Bahamas, there’s arguably no better place to don the gear and dive than around large Andros.
Fringed by mile upon mile of barrier reef – the third-largest on the planet no less! – the island boasts one seriously kaleidoscopic array of marine life.
This abounds throughout the various dive spots, which range from submerged shipwrecks to underwater blue holes, where parrotfish and trumpetfish, speckled scorpionfish and blue tangs all drift in the currents.
13. Meet the rays on the Stingray Adventure
Make a beeline for the shallow waters of Half Moon Cay, nestled in the swells between Cat Island and South Eleuthera, and rising up in walls of rock from the blue, blue ocean all around.
With this beautifully untouched and far-flung spot some 30 minutes by boat from Nassau as the backdrop, travelers will get to meet the formidable stingray.
Tours start with introductory sessions that deal with proper handling techniques and ray behaviour, and eventually allow participants to get up-close-and-personal with the barbed creatures, feeding and petting them, all in their natural habitat.
14. Spot the monstrous ships on Prince George Wharf
Prince George Wharf juts its way out into the waters between Paradise Island and Nassau on the northern fringes of New Providence.
It hails in as perhaps the single most popular cruise ship destination on the planet, with colossal ocean liners pulling in to harbour here from morning until night.
Row upon row of the hulking ocean goers is a truly impressive sight to behold, and offers a glimpse at the booming tourist industry that keeps these islands ticking over.
Be sure to get a photo with the great ships from the tip of Woodes Rogers Walk, and don’t miss the conch-touting holes-in-the-wall nearby!
15. Sample the delights of John Watling’s Distillery
One of the undisputed jewels in the line-up of heritage homes that form the historic patchwork of downtown Nassau, the Buena Vista Estate is now the host of the island’s much-loved John Watling’s Distillery.
Regular tours of the site take travelers through the manicured garden lawns and palm beds and into the brewing halls, where Bahamian locals have been cooking up the iconic spirit with sugarcane and firewater, using barrels and crackling piles of coconut husks, for centuries.
And don’t worry, because there’s also a tasting room and the adjoining Red Turtle Tavern for all your rum purchasing needs post tour!