23/02/2024

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The 9 Best Islands in the Bahamas

8 min read
The 9 Best Islands in the Bahamas

The Bahamas offer a little bit of everything, including remote fishing, world-class diving, gorgeous sailing, fresh seafood, and friendly locals, all in a relaxing island paradise.

But not every island has those crystal-clear waters, vibey beach bars, and incredible snorkeling. I sailed a good bit of the archipelago and put together everything you need to know to plan a trip to the best islands in the Bahamas.

Things to Know Before You Go:

  • You don’t need to get Bahamian currency. They accept US dollars everywhere, and the exchange is 1:1. But on many islands, it is a good idea to use cash rather than a card.
  • The official language of the Bahamas is English.
  • Cars drive on the left side of the road.
  • Public transportation and car and golf cart rentals exist on some of the more touristy islands. For the more remote islands, you will have no problem hitchhiking with friendly locals. Be sure you tip for their time and gas.
  • Tourism is a big part of the Bahamian economy. Feel free to negotiate with vendors.

When to visit

bahamas

Spring: The nor’easters have died down but hurricane season hasn’t yet arrived. Rates are cheaper, the crowds are smaller, and the weather is beautiful. It’s all-around the best time to visit the Bahamas.

Summer: Hurricanes are possible, and it’s the hottest time of year, but the wind and seas are calm. There are very few crowds, and prices are at their lowest. It’s one of the riskier times to vacation, but also one of the most peaceful in terms of clear, calm days and fewer travelers.

Fall: Hurricanes are still in full-swing until the end of November, but the weather will start to cool down. Nor’easters will begin to blow through, and crowds will start to grow. Rates will still be moderate. It’s a decent time to visit.

Winter: One of the busiest times of year to visit. Rates will be high. The nor’easters will be in full swing, which means cooler temperatures and windier days. Despite winter being a popular time, it’s definitely one of the worst seasons in terms of weather.

What to bring

No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll want to bring the following:

  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Reef-friendly sunscreen
  • Swimsuits
  • Water shoes
  • Light clothing
  • Sweater for the cooler evenings
  • Underwater camera

The Best Islands in the Bahamas

best islands in the bahamas

When it comes to picking the best island, it all depends on what kind of vacation you want to have. There’s an island for almost everything, including the party scene, fishing, natural wonders, and off-grid adventures.

The Abacos

I didn’t check out the Abacos because I had been in Florida for a very long time and I didn’t want to see any more mangroves! The Abacos are much like the Florida Keys: there are lots of bars, restaurants, and hotels; quaint colonial towns; world-class golf courses; and also excellent deep-sea fishing. If you’re looking for a romantic experience in the Bahamas, put the Abacos at the top of your list.

How to get there: fly direct from Miami or Fort Lauderdale, or take the Balearia Caribbean fast ferry from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Bahama and then a small ferry to Little Abaco.

Where to stay: Find a place to stay here.

How to get around: Rent a car or golf cart.

Things to do: I’d explore one of the charming towns, like Marsh Harbour and Hope Town, go snorkeling or fishing, and relax at a beach.

The Berries

The Berry Islands were one of my favorite little chains out of the entire archipelago because of the locals, the hiking opportunities, the beaches, the caves, the food, and so much more. There are so many opportunities here to experience the natural and cultural beauty of the Bahamas without the tourist crowds.

How to get there: Fly direct from Fort Lauderdale or Miami, or take a sea plane.

Where to stay: Find a place to stay here.

How to get around: Rent a car or golf cart, or rent a bike at the Great Harbour Cay marina.

Things to do: Some of my favorite things included hiking the ghost town of Cistern Cay, exploring the old Rat Pack Club House, climbing in the caves at Sugar Beach, walking the low-tide flats, and enjoying fresh conch salad from Steve’s Conch Shack.

Nassau

Nassau is a poppin’ island with an enormous cruise-ship terminal, busy straw market, lots of restaurants, sunny beaches, snorkeling and jet ski excursions, and of course the incredible Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island. It’s also the capital of the Bahamas, so you’ll get a taste of “the city” (check out this culinary and rum tasting tour) and active nightlife. At night, you’ll want to stick to the downtown area, especially if you don’t know your way around and are alone.

nassau

How to get there: Take a cruise ship, or fly direct from Miami or Fort Lauderdale, or take the Balearia Caribbean fast ferry from Fort Lauderdale.

Where to stay: Find a place to stay here.

How to get around: Walk, take public transportation, or rent a golf cart.

Things to do: I visited Nassau to check out the underwater statue called Ocean Atlas and climb into the Nassau Caves, walk the Queen’s Staircase at Fort Fincastle, and sit in the giant gold chair at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island.

Bimini

Bimini is an up-and-coming tourist destination. There’s a new cruise ship terminal, and North Island is getting developed into a resort. South Island is where the locals live and also where you can find the Fountain of Youth. The islands are right off the Gulf Stream and only 60 miles from Miami, making it an easy destination for weekend fishing trips.

things to do bimini bahamas

How to get there: Take a cruise ship, fly direct from Fort Lauderdale or Miami, or take the Balearia Caribbean fast ferry from Fort Lauderdale

Where to stay: Find a place to stay here.

How to get around: Rent a golf cart.

Things to do: My favorite parts of Bimini were the Dolphin House and snorkeling the Road to Atlantis (book these two excursions here); snorkeling the Arch at the Three Sisters, and the Sapona Wreck; and getting a tour of South Island by a local, which included drinking from the Fountain of Youth (a small well filled by a natural freshwater spring).

Eleuthera

Eleuthera is a northern island, and one that I regretfully missed on my journey south because it was a little out of my way. That said, it’s one of the best islands to visit in the Bahamas because of its pink beaches, incredible views, great shopping opportunities, relaxing resorts, and fun tours.

How to get there: Fly into Nassau and take a connecting flight, or take the ferry from Nassau.

Where to stay: Find a place to stay here.

How to get around: Rent a car.

Things to do: I’d check out the Glass Window Bridge, the Queen’s Bath, Sapphire Blue Hole, and Preacher’s Cave. You can do all this and more on this tour.

Cat Island

If you’re looking for untouched paradise but with quality amenities, consider Cat Island, another place I wish I’d visited. It’s off the beaten path but still offers gorgeous hiking trails, pristine beaches, gin-clear waters, and thriving reefs for snorkeling. Cat Island is also home to the Bahamas’ highest point, Mount Alvernia.

How to get there: Fly into Nassau and take a connecting flight.

Where to stay: Find a place to stay here.

How to get around: Hire a taxi or rent a car.

Things to do: I’d hike Mount Alvernia and check out the Hermitage monastery at the top, explore uninhabited nearby islands, go hiking and snorkeling, relax on the beaches, and eat at one of the several restaurants.

The Exumas

If, when you think of the Bahamas, you imagine crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches, and beautiful snorkeling, you are probably thinking of the Exumas. They are a hundred-mile island chain that many sailors will island-hop, stopping at popular places along the way, like the Exumas Land and Sea Park, Staniel Cay, Blackpoint, and Georgetown. It’s the ultimate winter island paradise.

bahamas

How to get there: Fly direct from Miami or Fort Lauderdale, or take a connecting flight from Nassau, or take a ferry from Nassau.

Where to stay: Find a place to stay here.

How to get around: Rent a golf cart or car, take a taxi, walk, or take a small boat from island to island.

Things to do: Must-sees while here include the plane wreck at Norman’s Cay, Boo Boo Hill at Warderick Wells, Rachel’s Bubble Bath and the Rocky Dundas Caves at Compass Cay, Thunderball Grotto at Staniel Cay, Lorraine’s Cafe at Blackpoint, and Chat n Chill at Georgetown. Also: swimming with the OG pigs at Big Majors Cay.

Long Island

Long Island is one of the most underrated islands in the Bahamas when it comes to tourism, but ironically it’s one of the richest in terms of experiences. First, there is Dean’s Blue Hole, which is one of the deepest blue holes in the world, at over 600 feet. Then there’s also the Shrimp Pond and the Christopher Columbus Monument. Plus, the locals are the friendliest people you will ever meet, and the spearfishing is some of the best on the archipelago, aside from the Jumentos and Ragged Islands (see below).

deans blue hole

How to get there: Fly into Nassau or Exumas and take a connecting flight.

Where to stay: Find a place to stay here.

How to get around: Hitchhike or walk.

Things to do: I would go back just to swim in Dean’s Blue Hole, check out the Shrimp Hole, hike around the Columbus Monument, relax at Calabash Beach, enjoy happy hour at Sou’Side Bar & Grill, snorkel the islands in Thompson Bay, and hitchhike the island just to chat with the locals.

The Jumentos and Ragged Islands

These islands are remote — and when I say remote, I mean remote. The only town is Duncan Town on the very southern tip of the Ragged Islands, and the only people who populate it are the 30 workers who are rebuilding the infrastructure after Hurricane Irma hit in 2017. If you want footprint-free beaches and incredible spearfishing, then gear up for an off-grid adventure to an island chain so small that it hardly shows up on the map.

bahamas

How to get there: Private boat or charter boat

Where to stay: On the charter boat that brings you here

How to get around: Walk, or take a small boat from island to island.

Things to do: The only reason to go to the Jumentos and Ragged Islands, aside from getting away from it all, is to spearfish (I did so at Flamingo and Johnson Cays), walk through Duncan Town, check out the cruiser’s Hog Cay Yacht Club, and have a bonfire and barbecue on a beach.

***

It’s easy to see how each island and chain in the Bahamas has its own attraction, but I’m sure there’s an island calling your name!

Why do you want to visit the Bahamas, and which island do you think would satisfy your hunger?

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