What is the best place to stay in the Bahamas? Well, that’s a tough question considering every island of the Bahamas is unique, which means that when planning a trip to this slice of paradise, you’ll want to know exactly what you want to get out of your holiday.
Tough doesn’t mean that it is impossible to answer, however. To figure it out, we’ll first need to learn more about the most popular islands in the Bahamas, a tropical archipelago made up of 700 islands and cays. Note that not all the islands are inhabitable, which does in a way make your decision a little easier.
The main islands where you can stay and play in the Bahamas include New Providence (where the capital Nassau is located), Paradise Island, The Exumas, Bimini, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and The Abaco Islands.
Sandals Emerald Bay brings unprecedented luxury to the easy-going rhythms of the Bahamian Out Islands.
New Providence is the ‘most happening’ place in the Bahamas, where you can mix relaxing beach days with a walk around Nassau’s historic city centre, enjoying its restaurants, bars and clubs later at night. Paradise Island is one of the most touristic areas featuring a water park, perfect for families with kids. For a more low-key beach holiday, venture out to The Exumas, with its powdery soft white sand beaches and incredible blue waters. Surfers will love a laid-back stay on Eleuthera in the months of October through April.
Those are only four of the islands you can explore while in the Bahamas, and for the sake of helping you picking the right destination, we’ve summed up the 14 best islands to go to in the Bahamas underneath.
Picture: Luxury resort Sandals Royal Bahamian on Cable Beach.
Note: While the island is called New Providence, it is often referred to as Nassau - which is the main city located on this island. Generally, both names are used to refer to the same place.
New Providence in a nutshell: New Providence is the most popular island to travel to in the Bahamas, as it is central to all things Bahamian. From restaurants to bars, from shops to casinos, in Nassau everything you need will be at your fingertips, and you can easily access other islands (including the out-islands) if you want to explore.
The ‘Out-Islands’ - A majority of international flights arrive in Nassau/New Providence, which happens to be the business and political centre of the Bahamas. This is the ‘most happening’ island, which is connected by bridge to Paradise Island. The term ‘Out-Islands’ is used to sum up all the other Bahamian islands. These islands are, generally speaking, less crowded and more low-key. Some of the most popular out-islands in the Bahamas include Exuma, Eleuthera, Abaco and Long Island.
Recommended airport: Lynden Pindling International Airport (Nassau).
The islands of the Bahamas have long been associated with being a territory where the rich and famous play, spend their summers, and transact banking business. The central point of these islands is New Providence Island, which is home to Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. Whether you want to spend your time relaxing on the beach, exploring the historic city centre, shopping or taking in vibrant nightlife inclusive of casino stops, Nassau is one of the most popular islands to stay while in the Bahamas. Visitors to New Providence Island are often drawn in by the abundance of resorts available, including adults-only resort Sandals Royal Bahamian (which comes with a private offshore island, only accessible for guests). Nassau is great fun for singles, couples, groups, and families looking for an island getaway that is anything but boring!
Main points of interest on New Providence: Cable Beach and some of the other great beaches in Nassau, Clifton Heritage Park, Rum Cake Factory, Pirate Republic brewery, historic city centre of Nassau, Fort Charlotte, Queen’s Staircase.
Insider tips: Take a daytrip down to Rose Island by boat. You’ll get to see the villas of the rich and famous, visit amazing beaches and participate in some fantastic snorkelling! Love scuba diving? Guests of all-inclusive resort Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau can dive the most amazing underwater spots - for free (max. two tanks a day). This includes top-of-the-line equipment!
Photo credit: John Wollwerth/Shutterstock.com
Paradise Island in a nutshell: Paradise Island is great for families with children. It is the ‘poster child’ of the Bahamas. Paradise Island is connected by 2 bridges to Nassau, though you’ll get pretty much everything you need on the island. Many hotels in the Bahamas are located on Paradise Island, so you won’t have a hard time finding a great place to stay.
Paradise Island is located on a 15-minute drive from Nassau’s historic city centre on New Providence, and a 30-minute drive from the airport.
Recommended airport: Lynden Pindling International Airport (Nassau).
As the name suggests, Paradise Island is just that. The island is popular amongst families with kids and has served as the backdrop for several Hollywood blockbusters including The James Bond movie Casino Royale, featuring Daniel Craig. You’ll find quite a few options of places to stay for travellers of all ages, particularly on the western and northern parts of the island. If you’re travelling with kids, the water park on this island are sure to keep them entertained, while adults can try their luck at local casinos, or check out the many local bars and restaurants. As this is one of the most touristic areas in the Bahamas, expect crowds, and higher prices.
Main points of interest on Paradise Island: Cabbage Beach, Aquaventure Water Park, ‘Versailles Gardens’ of Paradise Island.
The Exumas in a nutshell: Home of the swimming pigs of the Bahamas, the Exumas are made up of 350 islands and cays in all. Most of these are uninhabited, except for islands like Great Exuma where you’ll find a few upscale resort brands like Sandals Emerald Bay. Exuma is known for its sparsely-populated soft white-sand beaches and incredible turquoise waters. This is the place to be for a snorkelling adventure and low-key beach holiday!
Recommended airport: Exuma International Airport.
The Exumas are a paradise for lovers of powdery soft white sand beaches and turquoise waters. Travellers who enjoy sailing, snorkelling and water sports should have these islands at the top of their list. The Exumas can be found to the south west of Nassau, on a 40-minute flight. The islands are most popular with the sailing crowd that annually turns up for the Family Island Regatta. The Regatta is one of the oldest in the Bahamas and is usually held around April. During the Regatta and other big events in Great Exuma, the islands take on a party atmosphere (especially in George Town), but aside from the occasional event, you’ll have lots of peace and quiet, and more white-sand beach to yourself. Of course, who can speak about The Exumas and not talk about the great snorkelling and diving opportunities? Try places like the Thunderball Grotto, Duck Cay North, Three Sisters Rock, and Stingray Reef.
Love golf? Find one of the most spectacular Championship golf course of the Caribbean on Exuma. With stunning views over Exuma’s blue waters, designed by golf legend Greg Norman, this is as good as golf gets! Green fees are included for guests of all-inclusive resort Sandals Emerald Bay.
Main points of interest in The Exumas: The swimming pigs of Big Major Cay, Thunderball Grotto, Coco Plum Beach, Moriah Harbor Cay Beach, Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course, Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park.
Photo credit: Gaston Piccinetti/Shutterstock.com
Eleuthera in a nutshell: The fourth most populated island in the Bahamas, Eleuthera with its pink sand beaches and breath-taking beauty wins hearts with every trip. It is best suited for travellers who want to relax and escape from the world. If you’re looking for some surf in the Bahamas, Eleuthera is the place to be from October until April.
Recommended airports: North Eleuthera Airport (North), Governors Harbour Airport (Central), Rock Sound International Airport (South).
With a population of 11,165, it’s safe to say Eleuthera gives small town vibes. At 100 miles long, it is an island packed with history and laid-back pink sand beaches, and where fun awaits if you go to the right places. With the name Eleuthera translating to freedom, that’s exactly what awaits most visitors who choose this island to spend their holiday, or even those who plan on spending just a few days on this island. To the east of Nassau and New Providence, Eleuthera is said to have more natural shipwrecks than any other island. Sail, swim and stroll as you explore the island, and… expect lots of pineapple, or pineapple flavoured goods, as pineapple is the island’s signature crop!
Main points of interest in Eleuthera: French Leave Beach, Lighthouse Beach, Glass Window Bridge, Vic Hums Night Club, Tarpum Bay, Bannerman Town, and Hatchet Bay.
Insider tip: Visit a local bakery while in Eleuthera to source some pineapple tarts that you can give to friends or family as a souvenir.
Photo credit: BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock.com
Harbour Island in a nutshell: The home of Bahamas’ most famous pink sand beach, Harbour Island is a must for travellers who are looking for a (long) weekend getaway in the Bahamas. There’s a certain charm of the beaches found here that you likely would not have experienced anywhere else, and the quaint feel of this island is sure to reel you in. Visitors and inhabitants of Harbour Island alike, use golf carts to get around on this small island, instead of cars.
Recommended airport: North Eleuthera Airport, take a water taxi to Harbour Island from there.
Harbour Island can be found within the chain of Eleuthera islands but is worth a separate mention. Promotions about Harbour Island tend to zero-in on the island’s pink sand beaches. The small and quaint Harbour Island with all its understated charm is perfect for romantic getaways, as part of a honeymoon or a casual visit. It’s just about three miles long, and is marked by Georgian architecture, a super laid-back atmosphere, and seemingly untouched natural elements. Although Harbour Island is worth a (long) weekend getaway, a majority of its visitors spending the day at Harbour Island, rather than spending their entire holiday. Day trips are available from Nassau and Paradise Island via fast ferry.
Main points of interest on Harbour Island: Dunmore Town, Pink Sands Beach, Bay Street.
Photo credit: Lyndah Wells/Shutterstock.com
Abaco Islands in a nutshell: The living is simple in the Abaco Islands, and lovers of sailing will be at home on these shores. Whether attending or participating in festive regattas is of interest to you, or diving into the deep blue sea, the Abacos are definitely one of the top islands to visit in the Bahamas.
Recommended airport: Marsh Harbour International Airport.
Known as the jewel of the Bahamas, you’ll fall in love with the Abaco Islands, which is made up of 120 cays. The abundance of islands and cays means you can island hop to various ones including Man-O-War Cay, Great Guana Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Spanish Cay, or any deserted island for a picnic lunch, starting in Marsh Harbor, which is the main town in Great Abaco, the largest island. The magic of the undersea can truly be appreciated in The Abacos as the islands boast healthy and highly populated reefs, which make for amazing diving opportunities. Beginner divers will appreciate the shallow diving possible in most of the islands, and the fact that you don’t have to go too far out for remarkable views, or to see fish and other marine life you’ve never encountered before. The Abaco Islands are to the north of New Providence and Paradise island.
Main points of interest in Abaco Islands: Elbow Cay Lighthouse, Treasure Cay, Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar.
Photo credit: Lora B/Shutterstock.com
Long Island in a nutshell: Not to be confused with Long Island in the USA, Long Island, Bahamas is a getaway best suited for lovers of adventure, nature and the outdoors. The island is 80 miles from top to bottom and only 4 miles wide. Long Island is located to the southeast of Nassau and home to one of the world’s deepest blue holes.
Recommended airport: Deadman’s Cay Airport / Stella Maris Airport.
Visit a different beach for every day of the week if you like in Long Island, or spend your day fishing, sailing, or just exploring this pristine island, which is the biggest of the islands in the southern portion of the Bahamas. Long Island is ideal for travellers who want some peace and quiet, or those who want to enjoy some of the best diving the Bahamas has to offer. In fact, one of the world’s deepest blue holes, Dean’s Blue Hole is located just offshore from Long Island, and visitors are free to go snorkelling or scuba diving there. Elsewhere on the island there are opportunities to dive with sharks, which the most daring holiday makers will appreciate. Eco-tours are popular on this island, and you won’t have a hard time finding one. Sport fishing aficionados too can expect good things out of a visit to Long Island, as fishing of all types is popular here.
Main points of interest on Long Island: Lucayan Indian Cave, Dean’s Blue Hole, Max’s Conch Bar.
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Bimini in a nutshell: Bimini is located 50 miles away from Miami, and it was once beloved by novelist Ernest Hemingway, who found plenty of inspiration there.
Recommended airport: North Bimini Airport / South Bimini Airport.
It is somewhere in between when it comes to the more developed and unspoiled islands, which makes it suitable for travellers who want the best of both worlds. Bimini makes it easy to get through winter for travellers from colder places as there as lots of opportunities to lounge beachside on this island or explore local restaurants and bars. The population of Bimini is about 1,988 people, and by the time you’re ready to leave, you’ll probably have encountered a good percentage of them! While you’re there though, you may want to find out if there’s any truth to the olden fable of Bimini being home to the Fountain of Youth (enter Juan Ponce De Leon!) because really and truly, who wouldn’t want a splash of that?
Main points of interest in Bimini: Limestone Well (Fountain of Youth), Great Isaac Cay Lighthouse, Honeymoon Harbor Beach, Bimini Sands Beach, Radio Beach, Bimini War Memorial & Heroes Park, Bimini Craft Center, Alive Town Beach, Bimini Museum.
Photo credit: Ramunas Bruzas/Shutterstock.com
Grand Bahama in a nutshell: Grand Bahama appeals to the nature lover with its captivating natural beauty and simple lifestyle. It is located 53 miles from the US coast and the perfect place to tan, swim with dolphins and do some shopping.
Recommended airport: Grand Bahama International Airport.
Go snorkelling, scuba dive, swim with dolphins, feed the sharks and even party at the Fish Friday event in Grand Bahama; the sky is the limit when it comes to finding things to do on this island. Grand Bahama is home to towns like Freeport and Lucaya, which are both interesting and convenient spaces where you can relax, shop, explore, and find good entertainment. You’ll also be able to go golfing, try watersports, and jam at beach parties, with plenty of time leftover to enjoy secluded beaches and relatively untouched parts of the island. Be sure to set up a tour once you get to Grand Bahama, which will allow you to take in more of the island, in less time.
Fun fact: Grand Bahama has the highest number of native bird species in all 700 islands of this region.
Main points of interest in Grand Bahama: Lucayan National Park, Port Lucaya Marketplace, Taino Beach, Lucaya Beach, William’s Town Beach, Xanadu Beach.
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Andros in a nutshell: Andros is worlds away from it all, and it is a place where you can disconnect from the seemingly pressing things of life, and tune into what really matters. This is the perfect place to go scuba diving and bone-fishing. The island is rumoured to be the location of the Lost City of Atlantis!
Recommended airport: Andros Town International Airport.
Your mind might drift to Greece when you hear the word Andros, but Andros in the Bahamas is hundreds of thousands of miles away from that part of the world. There are similarities in the two places though, that extend beyond their name. For example, Andros (Greece) is fertile, green and peaceful, much like it’s Caribbean far distant relative. They are both places people go when they want to get away from it all, and what visitors appreciate most about both is their calm and relaxed atmosphere. In the Bahamas, Andros is a land known for its excellent bone-fishing and diving. Here you can find the world’s oldest dive shop, and the second largest coral reef in the Western hemisphere. There are also expansive wetland zones, which are ideal for bone-fishing, so it’s a great place to try this pastime. While in Andros, you can spend some time figuring out if there is any truth to speculations about the Lost City of Atlantis!
Main points of interest in Andros: Andros Barrier Reef, Tongue of the Ocean, Blue Holes National Park, Andros Lighthouse, Henry Morgan’s Cave, Mariners Well, Native Colony Ruins.
Photo credit: Wallace Weeks/Shutterstock.com
Cat Island in a nutshell: With a population of 1,500, Cat Island is one of the quieter islands of the Bahamas, which means getting away from it all is truly possible on this island. Cat Island is ideal for honeymooners looking for secluded getaway, or groups who want to sink into the endless adventures this island has to offer.
Recommended airport: Arthur’s Town Airport / New Bight Airport.
Remember that recurring dream you had about lounging on Caribbean shores, sipping on cocktails, and getting evenly bronzed while being cooled off by refreshing tropical breeze? Well, that dream can very well come to life on Cat Island, which is the answer to most questions about the perfect island getaway. Cat Island is anything but bustling and is considered the most picturesque of all the out-islands of the Bahamas. Diving off the south shore of Cat Island is an experience not to be missed while you explore this almost untouched island filled with things to marvel at. Cat Island is made even more special because of its pink sand beach, which is an 8 mile stretch of perfection. Don’t expect lavish hotels, resorts or villas here, you’ll have to settle for bed and breakfast type accommodation. There also aren’t scores of restaurants and bars to choose from, but you’ll find a couple, and lots to do. All in all, be prepared for an unplugged holiday on Cat Island, so pack a few books.
Main points of interest on Cat Island: Boiling Hole, Griffin Bat Cave, Rollezz Beach, New Bight Beach, The Hermitage on Mt. Alvernia, Old Bight Beach, Deveaux Plantation Ruins.
Photo credit: CanonDLee/Shutterstock.com
San Salvador in a nutshell: San Salvador Island is another great island destination for diving while in the Bahamas. It is one of the smaller islands, and not very populated, which is great for travellers who want to experience life on a private island, if only for the day!
Recommended airport: San Salvador Airport.
Just about 930 people live on San Salvador Island, and that number doesn’t increase significantly with the few tourists who visit here and there. It is remote, and most appreciated for its beautiful beaches and great scuba diving. In fact, divers have as many as 50 dive sites to experience while on San Salvador Island, some of which promise sightings of stingrays and sharks, or opportunities to get up close to tropical fish, various types of coral, and more. San Salvador Island is said to have been the first place that Christopher Columbus set foot on when he arrived at the Bahamas in 1492.
Main points of interest on San Salvador Island: French Bay, Devil’s Claw, Vicky’s Reef, The Great Lake Preserve, Cockburn Town.
Photo credit: Knumina Studios/Shutterstock.com
Berry Islands in a nutshell: The Berry Islands are as delicious as they sound, but you may need to charter a boat if you want to experience the full allure of these islands.
Recommended airport: Great Harbour Cay Airport.
The Berry Islands are a great choice for travellers who’re into sportfishing, or spearfishing, or who just want to enjoy the sea in every way possible. The Berry Islands are made up of 30 islands in all, and they’re a haven for yachties and fishermen. Made up of islets and cays, there isn’t much in terms of tourist facilities in the islands, and only about 700 people live on Great Harbor Cay, the main island. Great Harbor Cay is the largest island, and here you can find a marina, a golf course, waterfront town homes, and more. Some say The Berry Islands are the backyard of the rich and famous, but even regular folk can enjoy a holiday here, with lots of beaches to explore, and adventures to be had.
Main points of interest on The Berry Islands: Joe Lee Championship Golf Course, Great Harbor Cay, Stingray City, Chub Cay, Great Stirrup Cay Lighthouse, Coco Cay, Great Harbor Cay Art Shack, Hoffman Cay Blue Hole, Sugar Beach.
Photo credit: Trazos sobre Papel/Shutterstock.com
Crooked Island and Acklin Island in a nutshell: You never know what something is going to be like until you do it yourself, and a visit to Crooked Island and Acklin Island will prove just that… they’re both great for adventure, and for travellers who want privacy, and to get a real feel of the out-islands.
Recommended airport: Spring Point Airport / Crooked Island Airport.
Get off the beaten path with a visit to Crooked Island and Acklin Island. Stunningly beautiful and just what you’d expect from an untouched island in the middle of the ocean, these islands will simply astound you. Don’t expect luxury living here, just natural beauty at its finest, as you explore these two southern islands, which are part of an atoll consisting of four islands in all. There are lots of iguanas, flamingos, and other animals roaming around this island that you’re bound to encounter while there. History buffs will appreciate the ruins of slave and cotton plantations, old churches and other structures still standing strong on the island, while animal lovers will not want to leave.
Main points of interest in Crooked Island and Acklin Island: North Side Beach, Relief Bay Eco Park, Castle Island Lighthouse, Marine Farm National Park, Bird’s Rock Lighthouse, Caves of Crooked Island, Hope Great House National Park.
You decide! If you’re looking for a party, Nassau is your best bet. If you’re looking for adventures on the water and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Exuma is the place to be! Families with kids love Paradise Island. Looking for peace and quiet? The Bahamas offers plenty of places that are completely off the radar. Wherever you go, tune into ‘island time’ and relax on the most beautiful beaches this slice of paradise has on offer. The Bahamas is the perfect destination to wind down and recharge the batteries.
Want to drink unlimited signature cocktails on the beach, for free? Check out some of the most spectacular all-inclusive resorts in the Bahamas. These resorts are adults-only, offering couples the ultimate romantic holiday.