Everybody, listen up: 2020 is the year we all go on a Bahamas vacation!
I spent several years of my PR agency career representing the Ministry of Tourism, so while I was rarely on a desirable, relaxing Bahamas vacation, I learned just about everything there is to know about the 700 islands! The best places to bonefish, best islands for families, best hotel for a romantic weekend, best conch salad, best beach, best daylong snorkel adventure, where Tiger Woods parks his yacht, where Johnny Depp frolics on the beach, the best club to hang out after hours with Flo Rida…
Can you see why I loved my PR job so much?!
I visited The Bahamas a few dozen times over the years, seeing more of the expansive island nation than even most residents ever get to. I love meeting Bahamians when I visit and rattling off all the islands I’ve been to – their jaws hit the floor when I get to Inagua and San Salvador!
Over many years and many visits, I met the best people, swam in the clearest water, learned to scuba dive, drank Kalik, swam with pigs, tasted every iteration of conch, and worked my tail off, so really no one was surprised when I just continued loving The Bahamas long after my time as their publicist ended. Years later, we started planning our own Bahamas vacations, and even got married in Abaco and honeymooned in Exuma. If you’ve been following a while you know the wedding didn’t go quite according to plan, but I’m still so glad we got to introduce our friends and families to the islands.
Once folks find out how much I love The Bahamas, there’s always a follow up question, “Which island is your favorite?”
That’s like choosing a favorite child, y’all. Each one is special and each one has it’s own quirks and often a totally different vibe than the island next door.
Why is Now the Best Time to Plan a Bahamas Vacation?
You might think I’m crazy, but the truth is there’s never been a better time to visit The Islands of The Bahamas.
Yes, Grand Bahama and Abaco, two of the most populous and popular islands, experience the worst hurricane in memory with Hurricane Dorian and are in the recovery process, but that’s only part of the story. Many reports in the media portrayed the entire country as destroyed. In reality, there are hundreds of islands and cays that had 0% impact from Dorian. And those islands really need our help in 2020.
What the Bahamians are dealing with right now is unprecedented. From Bimini to San Salvador to Inagua, it’s business as usual… almost. Tourism has slowed because many potential travelers believe the whole country was destroyed.
What The Bahamas need now is a wave of tourism like they’ve never seen before!
As you plan out your vacation days and time off in 2020, would you consider planning a Bahamas vacation? Tourism is the No. 1 economic driver in the country, so even a minor dip in visitors makes a big impact to everyone who works at a hotel, or at a tour operator, a fishing or diving outfitter, restaurants, the airport, etc. And to all their families. With more than 50 percent of residents employed by tourism, this is a BIG deal.
Where are The Bahamas?
Not only do the Bahamians desperately need visitors to return after Hurricane Dorian, but the bonus is that it’s actually one of the most beautiful places on earth and it only takes 45 minutes to get there by air from Miami. Really!
What most people don’t realize is how much ground The Bahamas really cover. To give you an idea, the northernmost point of The Bahamas starts up near West Palm Beach and the southernmost point is parallel to Cuba and almost to Haiti. That’s a HUGE area sprawling over more than 500 miles. And just think, if a hurricane hits Cuba, does that mean you cancel travel to South Florida? Of course not.
So there’s no reason to avoid planning a Bahamas vacation now!
How to Get to The Bahamas
The Bahamas are so easy to get to from the U.S., particularly the eastern seaboard. Nassau is the largest airport and has the most flights, but there are also plenty of smaller flights throughout the day from major Florida airports into the Out Islands. The vast majority of the country’s international airports are open with no issues following Hurricane Dorian. Search for Bahamas flights.
Select Bahamas Airports with International Air Service
- Nassau/Paradise Island – Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA)
- Bimini – South Bimini Airport (BIM)
- Eleuthera – North Eleuthera Airport (ELH)
- Long Island – Stella Maris Airport (SML) and Deadman’s Cay Airport (LGI)
- Exuma – Exuma International Airport (GGT)
What to Know About Hurricane Season in The Bahamas
As a native Floridian, I suspect I have a more lackadaisical approach to traveling during hurricane season than most. I wouldn’t hesitate to plan say, a wedding, during hurricane season — but I wouldn’t dare do that without travel insurance. The weather is gorgeous 95% of the time throughout Atlantic hurricane season, but it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the radar from May to November. August through October tend to be the peak of the season (and many properties close up during this time for annual maintenance), but with the weather as crazy as it’s been, there are just no guarantees. Statistically speaking though, chances are slim you’ll encounter a hurricane, and if you do, there are systems in place to get you out safely.
If you want to visit during hurricane season, I say go for it – just be prepared with insurance and a backup plan in case a storm is brewing. Usually if you have to cancel a trip due to a storm, you’ll get a refund. Take a note though! Insurance usually has to be purchased before a storm is named.
Things To Do In The Bahamas
I’ve always wanted to include my favorite things to do in The Bahamas in one big guide, and the tragedy and struggle caused by Dorian has encouraged me to to finally get it done. You’ll notice I’m leaving my friends in Abaco and Grand Bahama out of this list for now and that’s deliberate. When they’re ready to welcome visitors again, I’ll be the first to let you know!
1. Roll Your Own Cigars in a Historic Pirate Mansion in Nassau
Nassau is the capital of The Bahamas and the majority of its 300,000 residents live here. When most people say they’ve “been to The Bahamas,” they usually mean they stopped in Nassau’s bustling cruise port for a day. But there’s much more than cruise excursions here!
When I’m in Nassau, I love staying at Graycliff. It’s one of my favorite hotels in the world! It’s the kind of place with character embedded down to the studs. There’s an incredible 5-star restaurant onsite that you absolutely must check out, a cigar-rolling factory where you can roll up your own for later and 20 gorgeous rooms, all tucked away in the historic heart of the island. Check availability and pricing at Graycliff Hotel.
2. Party All Night on Paradise Island
If you’ve seen any reality TV show filmed in The Bahamas, you’ll probably recognize aerial shots of Atlantis, the gargantuan mega resort with a massive aquarium, enormous lagoon, mega water park, sprawling casino — are you understanding that this place is BIG?!
It’s such a fun property with so much to do, technically you never need to leave. Of course I recommend you do, as the rest of The Bahamas are even better, but there’s nothing wrong with some resort-style fun, too. Explore hotels on Paradise Island.
Nassau/Paradise Island Tours You Might Like:
3. Dive into the Abyss on Long Island
You absolutely can’t go wrong on Long Island, especially if you want relaxation with a side of adventure. That’s just my speed especially when Rick and I are traveling together.
On our last trip to Long Island, Bahamas, we divided our time between trekking around the island, swimming in Dean’s Blue Hole (only 600 ft., no big deal) and searching for the elusive Gray Ghost on the flats. Explore hotels on Long Island.
4. Honeymoon on Romantic Great Exuma
We did! Having visited Exuma many times before, we chose Sandals Emerald Bay as our honeymoon hotel. We wanted easy, simple and a butler to bring us Kalik at the pool – and we got all that! We decided for our next visit to Exuma though, we’ll stay in an oceanfront Airbnb or perhaps another hotel overlooking Emerald Bay. You really can’t go wrong in Exuma!
5. Feed Friendly Stingrays with your Toes on Stocking Island
Just across Elizabeth Harbour from mainland is Exuma is one of the most laidback, fun places to grab a Bahama Mama and chill for the day, aptly named Chat ‘N’ Chill. It’s a quick ferry ride from Great Exuma to Stocking Island to paradise, with white sand, clear water, sand volleyball, friendly dolphins and stingrays who swim right up to say hello. If you’re brave enough, you can feed them with conch or pieces of fish, either from your flat open hand or between your toes. (It’s not scary – just go for it!)
And let me tell you about the food. They have a famous pig roast which is great if you’re there on a Sunday, but if not you can’t go wrong with KB’s conch burger. It’s heaven on earth! Explore hotels throughout the Exumas.
6. Swim with Piggies in Staniel Cay
Speaking of pigs, swimming with the pigs in Exuma may be the most popular activity in all of The Bahamas right now! While floating piggy experiences have popped up all over the country, these ones near Staniel cay are the OGs. They’re not super easy to get to, so if you’re interested in ticking them off your travel bucket list, check out my tips for Swimming with the Pigs in Exuma.
Tip No. 1 – Don’t forget snacks – these little piggies love lettuce, apples and all sorts of produce.
Tours and Activities you might like in the Exumas:
7. Hang Ten at Surfer’s Beach in Eleuthera
The Bahamas are known for shallow, clear water, but if you know where to go, you can find a good surf break or two. Surfer’s Beach on Eleuthera is the best known spot to catch a wave – even my dear old Dad surfed there in the 80s.
The best surf happens from October to April, and Eleuthera has options – point breaks, reef breaks, beach breaks galore. Explore hotels in Eleuthera.
8. Experience a Pink Sunset on a Pink Sand Beach on Harbour Island
There are thousands of amazing spots to snag a sunset in The Bahamas, but one of my top picks is Pink Sands Beach on compact, stylish Harbour Island. There’s nothing more dazzling than the pink sand reflecting a fiery sunset and deep jade water. Explore accommodations in Harbour Island.
9. Dive for Treasures in Andros
Like Exuma, Andros comprises hundreds of smaller islands and cays, but the three main islands are North Andros, Mangrove Cay and South Andros.
Fun fact: Andros is the 6th largest island in the West Indies, and Andros has is a larger land area than all other Bahamian islands combined. It’s big and largely undeveloped and unexplored.
Bonefishing on the flats and sportfishing in the Tongue of the Ocean are two of Andros’ biggest draws, but it’s also a haven for scuba divers. There are wrecks, reefs, caves and dramatic 100 ft. wall dives – a little something for every diver. And it doesn’t hurt that Andros is never crowded.
Don’t forget to scoop up some hand-crafted Androsia batik in Fresh Creek. The colorful prints may as well be the official uniform of The Bahamas, so it’s a great souvenir as a shirt, sarong or even tablecloth. Explore accommodations in Andros
10. Frolic with a Flamingo Flock in Inagua
Inagua is in the southernmost Bahamas, an area I like to call the Bahamas Outback. There’s not much in the way of shiny megaresorts or activities here, but if you are an eco-tourist or a birdwatcher, it’s the place to be. There are 80,000 West Indian Flamingos, 140 types of pelicans, hummingbirds and parrots, some of which are not found anywhere else on earth, and three national parks.
Don’t miss the original hand-cranked, kerosene lighthouse for a dose of old Bahamas. Explore hotels on Inagua.
11. Get off the Grid in Crooked Island & Acklins
If you want to be the only person on the beach or the one one out there on the flats searching for bonefish, Crooked and Acklins are a great choice. Together with Long Cay they form an atoll that’s practically the same as it was when Columbus made landfall. If you’re looking to get off the grid, these sister islands are a perfect place to do it. Explore bonefishing lodges and accommodations on Crooked Island & Acklins
12. Check Off Your Dive Bucket List in Bimini
I’ve only been to Bimini once, but I’m itching to go back. There’s an amazing Great Hammerhead dive just waiting for me at Neil Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center! It’s only available only during the winter months, which reminds me that perhaps I should go book that right now. Explore hotels in Bimini.
13. “Climb” The Bahamas’ Tallest Mountain in Cat Island
Mountain climbing isn’t something you’ll get the chance to do in The Bahamas, but if you want to try, you’ve got to visit The Hermitage atop Mt. Alvernia, the country’s highest point. It’s a popular hike and pretty easy as hikes go, and the view of turquoise seas all around is breathtaking. Explore hotels on Cat Island.
WHEW! I’m almost 3,000 words in and not even close to done, but I am tired, so I am going to save some of my other favorite islands in The Bahamas to update later. Mayaguana, Rum Cay, San Salvador – I’m looking at you!
I’m not asking you to sell all your belongings and do missionary work 10,000 miles away. In fact, this may be the easiest “charity” work you’ve ever done.
Pick an island, book a trip and know that your dollars absolutely will make a big, big difference to a country that really could use a hand right now.
And if you can’t travel this year, our Bahamian friends can still use all the donations you can send. For more info on how to help from afar, click here.
Shot in the dark: would anyone want to do an epic group trip to The Bahamas in 2020? I’d be down to plan it if we get enough interest. Let me know in the comments!