Shroud Cay in the Exumas
When beach lovers dream of the perfect stretch of powdery sand, lapped by seas in sublime shades of blue, they’re probably dreaming of the Bahamas. Encompassing 700 islands and more than 2,000 small cays sprinkled across the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, this tropical paradise lies only 80 kilometers from Florida at its closest point, and it’s packed with attractions to keep visitors happily entertained.
Once a haven for pirates and Loyalists, the islands are now a playground for the rich and famous, and anyone who enjoys world-class fishing, boating, diving, snorkeling, and sailing. With so many things to do in the Bahamas, no wonder it’s such a popular place to visit.
Nassau, the nation’s capital, on New Providence Island, attracts the most tourists. This bustling cruise port is a mix of mega resorts, shops, restaurants, and entertainment complexes. Grand Bahama follows in second place.
The other Bahamas islands, affectionately called the Out Islands, cluster into groups, and each has its own distinct character and charm. Slung like pearls across the shallow Bahama Banks, the Abacos and Exumas offer some of the world’s best waters for boating and sailing. Sleepy fishing villages and secluded beaches dot these peaceful islands, and flourishing coral reefs rim many of their shores. Be sure to rent snorkeling gear while you’re here.
The other islands offer fun activities for discerning travelers. From the big game fishing of Bimini and the pink-sand beaches of Harbour Island, to bonefishing, regattas, and uncrowded outer cays, it’s hard to beat the Bahamas. For those visiting around the New Year, don’t miss the throbbing drums and kaleidoscopic costumes of Junkanoo, the nation’s most popular festival.
Plan your sightseeing and find out more about the best places to visit in these idyllic islands with our list of the top attractions in the Bahamas.
- Atlantis Paradise Island
Atlantis Paradise Island
Dominating the skyline on Paradise Island, this splashy, salmon-pink resort evocatively recreates the legend of Atlantis in a luxury hotel, entertainment complex, aquarium, and water park. It’s one of the top resorts in the Bahamas.
Guests at the hotel score free entry into the popular 141-acre Aquaventure. Spending a day at this whimsical waterscape is one of the most popular things to do in Paradise Island. Whiz down high-speed slides like the Leap of Faith, splash around in more than 20 swimming areas, or lie back and relax as you cruise along the Lazy River Ride.
In the marine habitat at Atlantis Bahamas, hammerhead sharks and swordfish swim through sparkling open-air pools. You’ll also find plenty of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues here. The fantasy sea theme continues throughout all the Atlantic attractions, capturing the imagination of young and old alike.
Address: 1 Casino Drive, Paradise Island
One of the most popular cruise ship ports in the Caribbean, Nassau, Bahamas still manages to charm visitors, despite the crowds of camera-toting tourists.
When it comes to things to do in Nassau, you’ll find plenty of options. Bask on the white sands of Cable Beach; explore the shops, restaurants, museums, and candy-colored colonial buildings of downtown and Bay Street; and shop for souvenirs at the Nassau Straw Market.
A short catamaran ride away from Nassau, animal lovers can come face to face with dolphins on a day trip to Blue Lagoon Island, and Ardastra Gardens, Zoo, and Conservation Center is a fun place to visit for families, with endangered and threatened species amid four acres of tropical gardens.
Paradise Island, home to the perennially popular Atlantis resort, shimmers on the horizon about five kilometers offshore from Nassau.
- Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
Swimming pigs at Staniel Cay in the Exumas
Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park has some of the most striking seascapes in the Bahamas. Luminous water in shades of electric blue merges with bone-white sand, creating a dazzling backdrop for a range of water sports.
Located in the remote eastern edge of the Bahamas, the park is a no-take-zone and marine protected area, the first of its kind in the Caribbean. The area is popular with divers and boaters, who come here for the quality anchorages, abundant marine life, and crystal-clear waters. On a good day, divers and snorkelers can enjoy 30-meter-plus visibility.
Most people visit this underwater attraction on private boats or live-aboard dive charters. No fishing or shelling is permitted within the park boundaries.
The Exuma Cays are also beautiful. Some are home to movie stars, such as Johnny Depp and David Copperfield, while others are home to exclusive resorts. Great Exuma, the largest of the Exumas, Little Exuma, and Staniel Cay are popular with boaters, who come here to enjoy the convivial restaurants.
Don’t miss Staniel Cay’s famous swimming pigs and Thunderball Cave, featured in the namesake James Bond film.
- Harbour Island
Pretty Harbour Island sits northeast of its big sister, Eleuthera and has long been a hideaway for the rich and famous. Affectionately known by the locals as “Briland,” it’s one of the oldest settlements in the Bahamas, as well as the site of the first Bahamian parliament.
English Loyalists settled here in the 1700s, and their cute pastel-hued cottages evoke a bygone era in Dunmore Town, the island’s only settlement, where golf carts rule the narrow streets.
But Harbour Island offers more than cute cottages and a rich history. Its picturesque pink-sand beaches are among the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, and its chic resorts lure discerning travelers from around the world. Popular things to do include diving, snorkeling, fishing, and sunbathing along the rosy-hued shores.
Harbour Island is a fun day trip out of Nassau on the Bahamas Fast Ferries Catamaran.
- Grand Bahama Island
The northernmost of the Bahamian islands, Grand Bahama Island is a popular destination for package tourists and cruise ships. The capital, Freeport, is the second biggest city in the Bahamas, though Port Lucaya has now replaced it as the tourist hub for attractions like shopping, dining, and entertainment.
Port Lucaya Marketplace sells jewelry and straw goods, as well as other souvenirs, and the marina is a social hot spot for tourists and boaters.
Despite the island’s large all-inclusive resorts and hotels, it’s still possible to escape the crowds. Grand Bahama is home to one of the world’s longest underwater cave systems.
You can also wander the lush plantings of Garden of the Groves, and nature lovers can spot many native bird species in the three national parks or book a dolphin close encounter.
In 2019, Hurricane Dorian slammed Grand Bahama as a category 5 storm, but most of the island’s top tourist attractions are now back up and running.
- Diving and Fishing on Andros Island
Coral and fish on Andros Island
The Bahamas’ largest landmass, Andros is a haven for anglers and divers. The island is home to the third largest barrier reef in the world, as well as many freshwater blue holes and underwater caves, creating an underwater wonderland for those who love to explore under the sea. Be sure to bring or rent snorkel equipment, so you can view this attraction up close.
Fly fishing is also big here – Andros is often called the bonefishing capital of the world, thanks to its ideal habitats for this prized catch. The island’s vast wetlands create channels that are prime fishing and boating areas.
Andros also has the largest protected area in the Bahamas, with five national parks. Nature lovers will appreciate the rich bird life in the mud flats, mangrove swamps, and forests, as well as the island’s eco-resorts.
Is shopping more your style? Stop by Androsia Hand Made Batik Factory, where you can buy brightly colored fabrics featuring bold Bahamian motifs.
- Treasure Cay Beach, Great Abaco Island
Aerial view of Treasure Cay and its stunning beach
Skirting the eastern shore of Great Abaco, Treasure Cay Beach is often voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This spectacular stretch of flour-soft sand and aqua water wows visitors who come here to bask on its creamy, crescent-shaped shore.
The beach lies in the upscale resort community of Treasure Cay, which hosts one of the most popular fishing tournaments in the Bahamas.
In 2019, Category 5 Hurricane Dorian devastated Great Abaco Island, including Treasure Cay. Check for the status of tourist amenities here before you visit, as they’ve had trouble recovering from the hit.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Treasure Cay
- Lucayan National Park on Grand Bahama Island
Wooden walkway in Lucayan National Park
There’s nothing quite like Lucayan National Park on Grand Bahama Island. One of three national parks on the island, its luscious 40 acres are best known for hosting the “world’s longest charted underwater cave systems.” Over six miles of tunnels can be found here.
While one is closed to the public, both Ben’s Cave and Burial Mound Cave are accessible via wooden platforms and walkways. Swimming isn’t permitted here, but diving is sometimes allowed with a permit. As is suggested by its name, remains of the Lucayans, the island’s first settlers, were found in Burial Mound Cave. Both caves are home to various cave dwellers, such as bats.
All six of the Bahamian vegetative zones exist within the park’s boundaries. From mangroves to palm and pine forests to coral reefs, you’re in for an eco-friendly treat. The pristine and secluded Gold Rock Beach is a must if you’re a fan of quiet beaches.
- Cable Beach in Nassau
Cable Beach in Nassau
It’s easy to see why Cable Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the Bahamas. Located on New Providence Island, nearly six miles west of Nassau’s downtown, this vast expanse of silky soft sand calls to weary travelers looking to unwind.
If your idea of a quiet day by the ocean includes parking yourself in a beach chair and not moving, you’re in luck. You can rent one on-site, as well as an umbrella, and spend the entire day watching others play in the surf.
If you’re a more adventurous type, there are plenty of ways to join in the fun. Over two miles of white sand are at your disposal for pickup games of volleyball or sandcastle building competitions. The calm waves at this locale make it an ideal beach for families, and water sports rentals are easy to find, which means you can be snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, or kayaking in no time.
While you won’t find facilities on-site, there are plenty of nearby hotels and restaurants. In fact, the beach is lined with high-end resorts.
- Elbow Cay
Elbow Cay in the Abacos exudes all the charm of a New England-style fishing village. It sits just across the sheltered Sea of Abaco from the boating hub of Marsh Harbour,
Colorful cottages line the main streets of Hope Town, the island’s principal settlement, and the center of town is off-limits to vehicles, lending a relaxed, village feel.
Famous for its candy-striped lighthouse, Hope Town is home to a thriving expatriate community who appreciate the island’s pretty palm-lined beaches; proximity to Marsh Harbour, the nation’s third largest town; and the excellent boating opportunities.
Wyannie Malone Historical Museum is a must, and nearby Guana Cay and the Tilloo Cay Reserve, an 11-acre bird habitat, are popular day trips. Hope Town also boasts a well-developed marina.
Elbow Cay was also hit by Hurricane Dorian in September, 2019. Check for the status of attractions and accommodations before your visit.
A ferry runs regularly to Elbow Cay from Marsh Harbour.
- Green Turtle Cay
Strolling the streets of Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos feels like stepping back in time to the old Bahamas. East of Great Abaco, this peaceful, five-kilometer-long island is a much-loved hideaway for serenity seekers.
Golf carts are the main mode of transport in the tiny settlement of New Plymouth, a sleepy village of picket-fenced pastel cottages, sprinkled with a few small shops and museums.
Fishing boats bob in the harbor, and visitors can watch the locals haul in their catch of crawfish and conch. Bonefishing is also one of the popular things to do here.
The island’s beautiful reef-fringed beaches and crystal-clear waters offer excellent swimming, diving, snorkeling, and boating opportunities.
In 2019, category 5 Hurricane Dorian devastated this island. Locals are still working hard, years later, to reopen attractions. But the real charm of this island are the people and the stunning reefs and beaches – and they are ready and waiting for visitors.
One of the island’s top resorts, the Green Turtle Club Resort & Marina, has been revamped. It is a relaxing spot to rest your head, and lies a mere 10-minute walk from some of the island’s best beaches.
Green Turtle Cay is a 10-minute ferry ride from Treasure Cay on Great Abaco Island.
- Big-Game Fishing in the Biminis
Bimini is known as the “Big Game Fishing Capital of The Bahamas,” and for good reason. The island hosts popular deep-sea fishing tournaments from March to September, and its proximity to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream lure a dazzling diversity of marine life, including everything from marlin to mahi-mahi and manta rays.
Bimini also once lured the likes of Ernest Hemingway with the promise of big catches. He spent several summers in Bimini, fishing and finding inspiration for his novels The Old Man and the Sea and Islands in the Stream.
The fishhook-shaped cluster of islands includes North Bimini, South Bimini, and numerous cays extending south from Pigeon Cay to South Cat Cay. Bimini Island is the closest of the islands to the United States, lying approximately 88 kilometers east of Miami, Florida.
Bimini’s fish-rich waters also offer excellent opportunities for diving and snorkeling. Besides the popular shark and dolphin dives, highlights include Rainbow Reef, Sapona Wreck, and Victory Reef.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bimini
- Long Island
Cape Santa Maria Beach on Long Island
One of the most beautiful islands in the Bahamas, Long Island lies a little off the beaten path, in the southern half of the archipelago. If you love untouched nature, you’ll love Long Island, and this is an optimal place for a romantic couples’ vacation.
Almost 130 kilometers long and no more than seven kilometers wide, the island is a land of contrasts, with sandy beaches on the west coast and steep, rocky cliffs along the east.
Long Island is a haven for fishing, diving, and boating. Beach lovers can also bask on its many beautiful, unspoiled pink- and white-sand beaches. The island is also home to Dean’s Blue Hole, the deepest known saltwater blue hole in the world.
The Long Island Regatta takes place at Salt Pond in the summer.
Access to the island is mainly by air or ferry service from Nassau.
Accommodation: Where to Stay on Long Island
- Blue Lagoon Island
Blue Lagoon Island
Dolphin encounters, sea lions, inflatable fun parks, a beautiful white-sand beach – you’ll find all this and more on Blue Lagoon Island. A visit to this attraction-packed private island, also known as Salt Cay, is one of the most popular things to do in the Bahamas on a cruise. It’s only about five kilometers by boat from Nassau.
This is a great spot to hang out with the entire family. Kids will love swimming in the turquoise water, playing on the inflatable water park, and kayaking in the lagoon.
Parents can relax under swaying palms on a double hammock, and animal lovers will enjoy the sea lion and dolphin encounters. A delicious grilled lunch and tropical drinks top off all the fun.