- The big blue
- Coast life
- Cousteau, cocktails and cricket
Brightly coloured reefs and clear turquoise waters surround the 700 small islands that make up the laid-back tropical paradise of the Bahamas.
From the lush mangrove forests of Andros Island to the pink sands of Harbour Island, each of these spits of land has its own unique character and attractions. Though many islands are private resorts or celebrity hideaways, the rest are ideal for exploration. Settle into a Friday night fish fry on Nassau, drink rum cocktails watching the sunset on a seemingly abandoned stretch of coast or bonefish in the shallow waters. Give a doff of the cap to the area’s few lingering British customs, including left-hand driving and the odd cricket match (the Bahamas’ national sport).
Quite a lot happens just below the surface in the Bahamas. The islands are home to some of the deepest blue holes – or vertical sea caves – in the world. The waters in the caves can be highly sulphuric, so are only suitable for experienced divers. Those who take the plunge will be rewarded with fossils and stalactites. Andros Island has the most extensive array of nearby holes, but Dean’s Blue Hole, off Long Island, is the deepest on record: it plunges more than 200 metres below sea level.
- The best way to book a taxi on most islands is through your hotel, though a small fleet usually awaits arriving visitors at various harbours each day. Nassau and Grand Bahama Island have a large fleet of taxis, though the rides can be expensive.
- Tipping culture
- Around 10 to 15 per cent is expected.
- Siesta and fiesta
- This is island life. The shop owners are relaxed about hours and can close unexpectedly, but there are no set mid-day breaks.
- Packing tips
- No need to dress up on the islands. Bring sarongs, sunhats and longer linens for more formal dinners. Bring dive certifications, though you can feel free leave behind the snorkelling gear: most hotels will have whatever you need.
- Recommended reads
- The ideal beach read, Bahamarama by Bob Morris is a gripping murder mystery that includes plenty of vignettes from Harbour Island. Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway was partially written about Bimini in the Bahamas. Jacques Cousteau’s Silent World is the ultimate look at life in the deep, dark depths of the ocean. To recreate beach style at home, pick up Island Life, a guide to easy island decor by stylesetter India Hicks.
- The omnipresent shore vistas should be your first cue to seek out fresh seafood. It is the only major food that doesn’t need to be imported from the mainland.
- Regional specialities
- Fried conch, which tastes like calamari, is widely popular. Curries and pepper-packed jerk chicken are also mainstays. Rum cocktails appear on nearly every menu. For the most local flavour, opt for the Ron Ricardo brand.
- Bahamian dollar (BSD), equal to and sometimes interchangeable with the US Dollar ($).
- Time zone
- Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
- Dialling codes
- +1 242 (when dialling from outside the US, add 00 before the 1).
- Do go/don't go
- During rainy season, from mid-August to October, the towns and hotel properties slow and often shutter.
Don't go home without...
Sticking your toes into the soft pink sand that is entirely unique to the Bahamas. Seen only at Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Cat Island, the sand gets its colour from the red shells of tiny invertebrates that live in the coral reefs.