The islands of The Bahamas are a tropical hot spot and rank among the best vacation destinations in the world. Their beauty, amazing weather, and the fact that there are so many islands (700 in total) are part of what makes this tropical archipelago special.
Picture: Couple lounging over the Bahamian ocean at Sandals Royal Bahamian.
Even with their popularity, there are some things you wouldn’t know about The Bahamas without having gone there yourself; like the fact that you can swim with pigs at Big Major Cay, or that the island has an intriguing pirate history. If you’re planning a trip to The Bahamas, know that you’re in for a relaxing holiday.
In this article on the Sandals Blog:
20 amazing things The Bahamas are known for
Eight authentic Bahamian souvenirs to bring home with you
Bonus: Five interesting facts about The Bahamas
NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly famously called The Bahamas "the most beautiful place from space", and it’s easy to see why. With beautiful white sand beaches, surrounded by an incredible palette of deep blue and turquoise waters, this tropical paradise sure stands out. Home to some of the world’s most beautiful white sand beaches in the world, you’re likely to experience beach hopping like never before. It’s the ultimate place for a beach vacation!
Insider tip: There are so many great beaches in The Bahamas, that it can be hard to choose just one. Luckily, we’ve combined a list of the best beaches in The Bahamas. Feel free to beach hop to your heart’s content!
The Bahamas has the most famous swimming with pigs' experience in the Caribbean, and it is definitely something you won’t want to miss out on, during your vacation in the islands. You’ll need to take a boat out to Big Major Cay, also known as Pig Island for this tour, and once you get close enough to the island, you’ll actually see some of the pigs swimming out to your boat to greet you. This is a family friendly tour, but couples also enjoy the experience, and getting to know the swimming pigs of The Bahamas. Big Major Cay is located about 82 miles southeast of Nassau. Apart from the pigs and their caretakers during some parts of the day, the island is uninhabited.
There are a handful of islands in the Caribbean which are known to attract the rich and famous, and The Bahamas are high up on that list. Super wealthy travelers from the world over vacation in The Bahamas. The island nation even offers the uber rich opportunities to purchase their own private islands. In The Bahamas, you'll be able to have a peek at the oceanfront villas of Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and many other celebrities.
The ‘Golden Era’ or the ‘Golden Age’ is said to have been a time during the 1600s – 1700s, when pirates had a booming economy in the Caribbean, particularly in The Bahamas. They targeted merchant ships travelling through the harbor and robbed them. Their bounty included gold, salt and many other goods. Their gains attracted even more pirates, and among the famous pirates in the region at that time was Blackbeard. This chaotic state of affairs continued until 1718, when British captain Woodes Rogers was appointed Captain General, and Governor in Chief of Nassau, marking the end of the Pirate Republic.
The Bahamas is a top choice for travelers with diving inspirations, desirous of witnessing underwater life at its most spectacular. There are many diving spots for both snorkelers and scuba divers, including the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the Andros blue holes, The Conception Island Wall in Long Island, The Henry Ford Wreck in the Biminis, and the many reefs that can be found in The Abacos.
Picture: First Landing of Christopher Columbus, by Frederick Kemmelmeyer, c. 1800-05.
A lot of information is available about Christopher Columbus’ journey through the Caribbean region, and The Bahamas is said to have been one of the first places where his crew made landfall. As the story goes, Columbus “discovered” the new world, beginning in either San Salvador, The Bahamas, or Samana Cay in The Bahamas. It is also said that when he got there, the native Lucayan Taino people were already present. Over the course of several years, the Taino people disappeared from the islands.
This tropical cocktail, with rum, coconut rum, grenadine, orange juice and pineapple juice as its main ingredients, is well-known all over the world and a must-try when visiting The Bahamas. Get yourself a good spot on the beach or swimming pool and relax, while cooling yourself down with this beverage. You won’t be disappointed. While on the islands, give some of the other local classics a try and order some Sky Juice or a Goombay Smash!
Looking for a place that offers unlimited cocktails? Guests of the Sandals resorts in The Bahamas can order unlimited cocktails (and other beverages) at the bars, on the beach and in the swimming pools - without paying a cent. It’s all included in your stay. All cocktails are mixed by the best bartenders of the island and made of premium liquors.
It can be hard to decide where to start first with over 700 islands just waiting to be explored. Fortunately, there’s a method to the madness. Many of the islands are uninhabited, which narrows things down significantly. The best islands in The Bahamas to visit include New Providence island, Paradise Island, The Exumas, The Abacos, Andros, Bimini, The Berry Islands, the Southern Bahamian Islands, Eleuthera and Harbour Island. The population of The Bahamas is just under 400,000 people, and 70% of that number reside on New Providence island, home of capital Nassau.
Most travelers fly into New Providence (Nassau), which makes it the most ‘happening’ place in The Bahamas. Paradise Island is great for families with kids and connected to New Providence by 2 bridges. All other islands are known as the ‘Out Islands’, where you can find a bit more peace and quiet. Exuma is known to be home to some of the most beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters The Bahamas has on offer.
Looking for an all-inclusive resort in The Bahamas? Sandals Royal Bahamian is a lively resort in Nassau that comes with a private offshore island, it is an amazing place for scuba divers (scuba diving is included in our stay). Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma is known to be located on a beautiful long stretch of white sand beach and comes with an 18-hole Championship golf course with stunning views over Exuma’s waters.
Give your taste buds a new experience in The Bahamas, with fresh seafood that is as varied as it is delicious. Europe, Africa, and South American inspiration permeate the food across the islands in a way that is sure to leave you wanting more. While on any Bahamian island, try everything at least once, from conch salad (conch ceviche), johnny cakes, baked crab, rock lobster, fried fish, and more. After your vacation, you’re bound to return home with a new favorite dish, and hopefully a recipe to recreate at home!
If you haven’t been sport fishing or bonefishing before, The Bahamas is a good place to start. If you’re a seasoned diver however, you’ll enjoy this experience even more, knowing before you go, that the waters of The Bahamas are filled with marine life, which is sure to make your fishing expedition that much more exciting. For sport fishing, try The Biminis, which has a reputation for having the best sport fishing in the world. In fact, Ernest Hemingway’s love for The Biminis is said to have put the two islands on the map; both for fishing, and for their stunning beauty. The Biminis are located just 50 miles from the Florida coast. Andros Island is known for having the third largest reef in the world. Where bonefishing is concerned, you can try your luck at the heart of the many unspoiled mangroves and shallow trenches that can be found along the island. Long Island and New Providence (Nassau) are also great fishing spots.
The Bahamas is one of the only places in the world where you can find pink sand beaches, and Harbour Island, located to the northeast of Eleuthera, is one of the best places to find them. You’ll commonly hear the island being referred to as “Briland” by locals, and it’ll probably be love at first sight once you glance upon the quaint Dunmore Town, which is littered with pastel-colored cottages. While on the island indulge in a bit of sand bathing, or go diving, or on a fishing expedition. A visit to Harbour Island makes a pretty cool day trip, and you can get there via The Bahamas Fast Ferries Catamaran or by plane from Nassau. Some resorts, like Sandals Royal Bahamian, offer day trips.
Junkanoo is a real Caribbean party if there ever was one. Held on Christmas and New Year’s Day annually, Junkanoo is a big event in The Bahamas. The celebration can be described as the Bahamian version of carnival. If you’ve never experienced a Caribbean carnival, expect lots of music, costumes, live bands, traditional instruments, parties, parades, floats, and lots of excitement.
Insider tip: If you’re planning to travel to The Bahamas for Junkanoo, you’ll have to book your flight at least six months in advance, as many hotels and resorts tend to be fully booked around this time.
There are many famous movies which were filmed in The Bahamas, a fact that isn’t so surprising considering how beautiful the islands are. Among these are ‘Thunderball’ and ‘Never Say Never Again’, both James Bond flicks. Thunderball Grotto in the Exuma Cays is a great diving and snorkeling spot, and its name comes from the fact that it was a standout feature in the movie Thunderball, particularly during an underwater fight scene. Divers love exploring this underwater cave, which some describe as intimidating at first, but super exciting once you get into it. Excursions are available from Sandals Emerald Bay.
Every destination has its unique accent or dialect, and Bahamians have a very distinct way of speaking, particularly when talkin’ Bahamian. Islanders speak a creole dialect that can be hard for foreigners to understand, but there are ways to learn more about their local creole, which has African influences. While on the islands, shop around for local books which can help you translate what you hear, and even help you throw out a phrase or two. English is widely spoken in The Bahamas, so you’re unlikely to have issues with communication whether or not you’re familiar with the local dialect. Here are a few of the common words and phrases you might hear during your visit:
This can be anyone, regardless of gender. For instance, someone may ask ‘where mah’bey go again?’, which translates to ‘where did this person go to?’ This is something you’ll hear frequently.
This is an expression of surprise, or excitement akin to the English variations of “you’re joking!’, or “Oh my goodness!”.
This is a common Caribbean phrase which means to break or destroy something. For example, ‘you just mash up my book’, which translates to “you just destroyed or damaged my book’. This phrase is also used in scenarios where a person is tired and would use ‘mash up’ to describe just how sick, out of it or exhausted they really feel.
This term usually refers to a stray dog, and you may spot quite a few ‘potcakes’ during your vacation in The Bahamas. Potcakes are considered mixed breeds, and their nickname comes from the idea that old Bahamians used to cook everything in one pot, and the ‘potcake’ being the mix of everything stuck together at the bottom of the pot, after cooking.
You… me, ‘dem’, or them. This is a popular Caribbean term and more often refers to a group of people. For example, you may hear someone say, ‘you can catch a ride with Derek dem’, which means ‘you can get a lift with Derek and the others’.
Picture: Pompey Square is site where slaves were unloaded from ships in 19th century. Named after slave who, in 1830, led a revolt which lead to Emancipation Proclamation.
Caribbean history is filled with colonial conflict, and The Bahamas is not an exception in this regard. Find out more about the history of The Bahamas while on the island by visiting places like the Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation in downtown Nassau, Bimini Museum, Man-O-War Heritage Museum in Abaco, The Dolphin House in Alice Town, Albert Lowe Museum in Abaco, The Bahamas Historical Society Museum in Nassau, Long Island Library and Museum, Heritage Museum of The Bahamas in Nassau, and others.
There are several forts you can explore while in The Bahamas, including Fort Charlotte, the largest fort on the island of New Providence, located in Nassau. Fort Charlotte was built by Lord Dunmore in 1788-1789. It was named after Queen Saharia Charlotte, the wife of King George the III. The fort features a drawbridge, dungeons, underground passages, 42 cannons, and amazing views.
Fort Fincastle built in 1793 is another popular attraction, that gets its name from British captain Lord Dunmore. His second title was Viscount Fincastle. As history tells it, Fincastle built the fort to help keep the Nassau Harbor safe. It was also a useful look out point for pirates. Fort Fincastle is made of cut limestone.
Another well-known fort in The Bahamas is Fort Montague, also made of local limestone. It is the oldest fort in existence on New Providence island and is on the east end of the Nassau Harbor. Fort Montague’s history goes as far back as 1725, but its present form has been in place since 1741-1742, when it was used by the British to keep Spanish invaders away. The site also has a history of being used by the United States military in 1776.
Blackbeard’s Tower is a bit harder to find, but it is believed to have been used by Blackbeard himself, as a lookout point in the 1700s. Since the ‘Pirates Golden Era’, the tower has deteriorated, but is still a historical landmark in The Bahamas.
Many years ago, thousands in fact, the waters around The Bahamas were more than 100 feet lower than they are today. With rising sea levels, some caves on the island which are largely made of limestone were submerged. This has led to The Bahamas being recognized as one of the best places in the world to cave dive, something you should consider trying on your holiday in the islands!
The Bahamas has 14 Olympic medals to show for itself, much thanks to the efforts of athletes including sprinters Pauline Davis-Thompson, Tonique Williams-Darling and Shaunae Miller. All the island’s Olympic medals were secured in athletics and sailing. Notably, the 14-medal figure equates to a rate of 33.9 per million residents (impressive considering the Bahamian population is only about 385,340). Finland, Sweden and Hungary are the only countries which top Bahamas’ per capita strike rate.
You can find some great shopping opportunities in The Bahamas, which is not something many islands in the region can boast. Whether you’re looking for souvenirs or high-end items, you’re likely to find a shop or local market offering something to suit your budget. Nassau and Paradise Island are both great options for jewelry shopping, as well as finding brand name fashion including Louis Vuitton and Gucci. If you want art or other unique pieces, try heading to a craft center downtown (Nassau) and bargain for a good price.
Lighthouses have a certain intrigue about them, and there are a few notable lighthouses that you can check out while in the Caribbean. Elbow Reef Lighthouse, also known as the Hope Town Lighthouse in Elbow Cay Bahamas, is among the most visited. Hope Town is already quite charming, and this 89-foot lighthouse adds to its appeal. The Elbow Reef Lighthouse was built in the 1860s, an era when lighthouses would be used to warn or guide ships at sea and it has survived to bring a bit of the past into the future. Amazing views are available from the top, which makes climbing the 101 steps worth it. The Hog Island Lighthouse on the western tip of Paradise Island is the oldest and best-known lighthouse in The Bahamas and was built in 1817.
Considering The Bahamas has a rich pirate history, it’s only natural that you might gravitate to jewelry inspired by this facet of the islands’ past. At Coin of the Realm in downtown Nassau, you’ll find Bahamian gold and silver, ancient Greek and Roman coins, and other treasures. Collectors can pick up proof sets of the Bahamian gold and silver coins, while shoppers just hoping to pick up something interesting may find earrings, pendants, and rings available here worth their while.
Interesting items made of the beautiful conch shell are an easy find in The Bahamas, especially when it comes to jewelry, or even cutlery and bowls. You can find these and more at local craft markets, and they’ll make the perfect gift for friends or family.
You can’t go wrong with local art and craft when selecting souvenirs to bring back home. Try Bahama Art & Handicrafts which is located just outside downtown Nassau, where you can find a variety of one-of-a-kind pieces. Items range from sea glass and watercolor paintings, to wood carvings, jams, hot sauces, and more.
Bring home some Pirate Republic craft beer for the beer lover back home. You can find the brewery and pub downtown Nassau near the cruise port and have a tasting of the different beers on offer. You won’t be disappointed trying out The Bahamas’ only craft beer!
Missed out on Junkanoo? You can still take a piece of this cultural carnival home with you by picking up junkanoo inspired jewelry, paintings, ornaments and more. In a way, this makes up for missing out on the parade, and is an opportunity to bring parts of the festival home with you!
The Nassau Straw Market and the Port Lucaya Market Place are great choices if you’re looking for custom made straw products. Items available for purchase include hats, baskets, purses, and other trinkets. Some sellers can be quite persistent, but if you know what you want, and how much you’re willing to pay for it, you should have smooth and fun shopping experience.
As far as jams and jellies are concerned, it’s worth trying guava jelly, pineapple jam, or any of the other fruity varieties available during your visit to The Bahamas. You can even pick up a couple to take the sweet taste of The Bahamas home with you.
Coconuts anyone? Well, if not the real kind, then a sculpture. Take one of these items made of coconut husk home with you to set in stone your amazing Bahamian vacation. You can get a variety of sculptures from most craft places on the island, in the form of animals, sea creatures, and more.
Not many Caribbean islands can claim this feat, but The Bahamas had a wintery experience one cold January day, on the 17th of the month, in 1977 to be precise. Cold weather from southern Florida swept right down to the islands, and for the first time ever, it snowed in The Bahamas. Though there was no actual snow pile up leading to beaches and other areas being covered in slush, there were flurries aplenty in the city of Freeport, Grand Bahama.
As far as blue holes go, you’ll find one of the deepest in the world in The Bahamas. With a drop off of 660 ft, Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island in The Bahamas is the stuff world records are made of. In fact, loads of divers choose this spot precisely for the likelihood of they themselves setting world records there. There are other more well-known underwater attractions of a similar nature, like The Great Blue Hole in Belize’s Great Barrier Reef, but Dean’s Blue Hole is a lot deeper, and the drop off is close to shore!
With the highest point in the islands being just over 200ft, The Bahamas is not known to be a land of towering mountains. In fact, it ranks as number 5 for countries with the lowest “highest point” in the world. The Gambia, The Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, and the Maldives are the countries which fall in a similar category with The Bahamas as it relates to “high points”. The low-lying state of The Bahamas has to do with the fact that almost all land in the islands is made of sandbars or raised coral reefs.
Geographically speaking, The Bahamas which are located to the north of the Caribbean, are not considered in all spheres to be part of that region. A notable point frequently made is that the islands unlike many of the Caribbean islands were not formed through a volcanic process, and their positioning takes them even further away from the Caribbean grouping. Nevertheless, The Bahamas owns the Caribbean identity, much due to similarities in climate, history, and other aspects as compared to the other islands of the region. Additionally, the nation of The Bahamas is closely tied to many Caribbean associations and nations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The Taino Indians, indigenous people who settled in islands including Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Hispaniola, and the Northern Lesser Antilles were the first known people to inhabit the islands of The Bahamas. More specifically, the Lucayan people of Taino descent had a solid presence in the islands long before voyages and other famed discoveries, including those of Christopher Columbus. The Lucayans were taken into captivity the years after Columbus’ arrival, changing the face of the island forever. By 1520, there were no Taino Indians left in The Bahamas.
Like any other destination, there’s much to learn about The Bahamas as a visitor. Whether you choose to spend as much time as possible relaxing on a white sand beach or you want to explore the pirate history of The Bahamas firsthand, you’ll find many things to do in the islands, as you get better acquainted with all the things The Bahamas is known for.