Special Guest Contributor: M.L. Cissy Petty
The Bahamas islands consist of 2,000 cays (pronounced “key” which translates to a small, low island made mostly of sand or coral) and 700 islands. These are divided into thirty-one districts and lay between Florida and Cuba. The Bahamas islands house mainly English-speaking residents and are independently governed. Because there are so many islands and each one is a bit different, the country really does have something for everyone. Whether you are looking to escape onto a tiny island with little tourism or you are looking for an all-inclusive spa vacation, you can find it in The Bahamas. Additionally, many multi-island vacation packages exist (also referred to as “island hopping”) for those Bahamas travelers who want to experience the culture and beaches of more than just one island.
Bahamas travelers used to be able to move freely into the country with only a birth certificate; however, now both the U.S. and the Bahamas require travelers to use a passport. To ensure that you receive your passport in ample time without paying an expensive rush fee, look into the procedure at least three months before your departure date. There are over 57 airports throughout the Bahamas’ islands and many marinas. Traveling to some of the smallest cays and islands can be slightly tricky to schedule, but with careful planning, flights and ferries have a way of eventually lining up.
Bahamas travelers also have the option of sailing or motoring to the islands by boat. Boat owners and renters alike often begin in Florida or other nearby ports and end in one of the many harbors available. This option allows visitors to venture to many of the other islands while vacationing. Staying on a small to medium-sized boat is a fun alternative to a hotel or resort, but recent and frequent Jamaican traveler Cissy Petty of New Orleans, Louisiana warns visitors “to know beforehand whether you get seasick or not – it’s not as calm as advertised out on the open Caribbean Sea.”
Many major Caribbean Bahamas cruises make a stop in the Grand Bahamas and Nassau. Choosing a cruise allows you to see more of the West Indies and enjoy the sensation of boating. Most people do not experience seasickness on large cruise ships because the amount of rocking is minimal. This is a great option if you want to see many islands and would like to socialize with other travelers with less cost than a small chartered boat.
Bahamas Hot Spots
Thinking about where to stay in the Bahamas can become overwhelming with thousands of destinations to choose from, but some of the most popular spots include the Abacos, Bimini, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, Paradise Island, and New Providence Island. Bimini is often referred to as the gateway to the Bahamas as it is closest to Florida. The sheer proximity to the U.S. makes the Bahamas a prime and convenient travel hot spot. Grand Bahama Island is a cruise line favorite, and the Abacos islands are known for being less touristy and very hospitable.
Nassau, Bahamas is the country’s capital and is located on New Providence Island. Prized for its calm, sheltered harbor and its preserved history, this city is a great place to see colonial mansions, cathedrals, and even an 18th-century fortress. Try a variety of tours by foot, car, air, boat, or even a horse-drawn carriage. Or practice your bartering skills with local outdoor vendors as you walk between unique boutiques. M.L. Cissy Petty tell us, “If you visit Nassau Bahamas, you have to check out Bay Street – it has great bars, cafes, and restaurants in historical buildings. Getting out of the sun and mixing it up with locals and international travelers adds a healthy dimension to your experience.” If you decide to vacation in Nassau, you may end up staying in either Nassau or Paradise Island because the islands are connected by two 600-foot bridges.
Paradise Island Bahamas
Paradise Island, Bahamas is the close neighbor of New Providence Island; however, they differ in the fact that Paradise Island has been developed almost exclusively for tourists. It is filled with hotels, resorts, spas, restaurants, a golf course, an aquarium, and a casino. Very few full-time residents live on the island. If you are visiting these two islands, be sure to “check out the weekly fish fry and you might want to schedule your trip during a semiannual Junkanoo festival,” advises Cissy Petty of New Orleans, Louisiana. The Junkanoo festival includes a huge parade with full costumes, music, and dancing. Even if you miss the festival, you can check out the exhibits at the Junkanoo Expo located at the Prince George Dock in the heart of Nassau
Some of the handmade Bahamas arts and crafts include pieces made out of shells and pinecones. Additionally, some Bahamians have honed the skill of weaving straw into bags, hats, and dolls. Another interesting Bahamas art find, which was recommended by Cissy Petty and is a favorite of her family, is the stained glass found on Bimini – an art center on the island gives instruction and also sells completed pieces. If you are looking for more traditional mediums, the Bahamas is home to many painters, photographers, and sculptors.
Trying to find Bahamas furniture stores to furnish your new property? There are several located on the island of New Providence. Most Bahamian furniture stores import pieces from other parts of the world. However, like our friends in Jamaica, Bahamians tend to stick to hard woods that fair well in the salty, tropical environment.