need tons of input on Bahamas for travelers
February 14, 2012 7:08 PM   Subscribe

Traveling to the Bahamas. Help me plan things that arent not just snorkleing and beach. I know it is a great island and I am so excited to go but I want to get some suggestions on what to do by people here. We are going to stay in Nassau but we could be coerced to another island with suggestion. It is just myself and my bf and we are 35.

I just wanted to shake out a few more ideas that might be lesser known. I would love to island hop maybe with other people, one day. Im looking around but I'm not seeing anything easy.
Please keep in mind that we both are middle class and this trip is a big treat for the end of April! I'm more a beach bum and he likes the activities( hiking, kayaking, biking) but Ill do (some)adventure. He also loves food... Thank you so much!
posted by femmme to Travel & Transportation around The Bahamas (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I also already know about Atlantis:)
posted by femmme at 7:12 PM on February 14, 2012

I wish I knew more about the Nassau area specifically, because while I've spent plenty of time out in those waters, all of my sailing/Bahama experiences are around the Abaco's, namely Green Turtle Cay, which is a bit north of Nassau. If you feel adventurous, I personally recommend the Bluff House on Green Turtle Cay. It's not a day trip from Nassau, but I would be remiss if I didn't throw them a shout-out.

If you want to get a boat and island hop, you could head east, and explore spanish wells/dunmore and more if you stick to the south eastern curve of the island. This would be more of a 'day-trip' but only if you got started early. If you decide to put more than a day into island hopping, then instead go north (and just a little east) from Nassau towards Abaco (the first part of this trip is pretty much out in the wide open) which will first land you at the Abaco National Park, which provides a lot of bird watching if you're into that. Basically from there you could go north (with the Abaco Island to your left) and island hop your way up the Abaco's as far as you wish to go- You'll hit Elbow Cay and Tahiti Beach, then eventually Green Turtle Cay if you decide to go that far. Depending on the boat you choose (sailboat vs motor) you'll need to know your charts, or at least how to read them, because you can run a sailboat a'ground in no time flat if the tide is against you and you've gone in too far. So consider hiring a captain if you want to sail it. No idea how much time you have or spending cash, but that's my caveat on sailboats in that area. Motorboats are MUCH easier, just don't forget extra gas, and gas $$.

Locals are friendly, Alcoholic drinks are made differently depending on which island you reach, but they are all equally delicious and potent- Bahemians do not skimp on the booze, be warned. Try to get your fill of fresh caught Conch, in any form they offer to cook it, because once you've had it and return home you'll never taste it as good again. Please have conch fritters for me. Don't be afraid of the tiny shack restaurant(s) on random islands in the middle of nowhere- they catch the fish right there, season it and, again, you'll never taste it that good once home. Please don't hate me for loving conch. Most islands are small and deserted, so once you drop anchor it's your island until you leave it- bring extra food, water and maybe a portable hammock or mat for sleeping because, once you're on 'your' island, something inside triggers and you decide that you must stay the night. It's the funniest little satisfying feeling to have stayed the night on your own island.

I know I'm forgetting so much, but be safe and enjoy the hell out of it : )
posted by MansRiot at 10:26 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a condo on Paradise Island that me and my kids go to pretty often. Bahamians are very friendly and laid back, the beaches are gorgeous and a cold Kalik with a conch salad is heaven.

Where will you be in Nassau? Cable Beach? Paradise Island? People roam the beach offering parasailing and jetskiing (they're all licensed).

On the island of Nassau itself there's not a whole besides the beaches and downtown (which is a quaint strip of tourist-trap stores that fills up when cruise ship passengers disembark). If you feel like hitting downtown, be sure to grab a cab or bus to Arawak Cay which about 10 minutes towards Cable Beach from downtown. Great local seafood shacks and I think they filmed part of the Top Chef finale there last season.

If you want to do the deserted island thing, Powerboat Adventures is pricey as hell but fun. You get zipped out to a deserted cay, hand-feed stingrays, snorkel with sharks and get this amazing little island all to yourself. The people who run it are totally chill.

If you to dive or snorkel, Stuart Cove is well-respected and it's a fun day.

Paradise Island has some lovely deserted beaches and fish shacks under the bridge but it also has the monstrosity of Atlantis (our place is next to Atlantis). Atlantis is like Disneyworld; it's beautifully manicured and clean, their beaches are gorgeous, and there are quite a few good places to eat there (Nobu and a Bobby Flay restaurant). Their casino is also considerably nicer than the ones on Cable Beach. You can grab a coffee, ice cream or smoothie, sit at the Marina and gawk at the massive yachts.

Hiking, biking, kayaking...really no opportunities for those on Nassau, unfortunately. There's just the completely overdeveloped hotel areas and the areas where the natives live. Not much else going on.

If you can, take the Number 10 bus from Cable Beach to downtown, it's $1.50. The driving there is crazy.
posted by kinetic at 2:58 AM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I remembered some other stuff:

Downtown is cute and quaint but it is a little dangerous. Just use big-city common sense. DON'T buy weed from anyone downtown (if you're so inclined); they're usually cops.

If you do decide to spend a day at Atlantis, there's a trick around having to spend the $70 (or something equally insane) to get a wristband.

Bahamian beaches are all public access, but sometimes there are security guards who won't let you on to the specially-built Atlantis beaches like The Cove (where there are comfy chairs and lovely people who bring you cocktails and pay with a credit card and feel like a celebrity).

All you need to pass those guards is to grab a blue and white striped towel and drape it over your arm and saunter casually past them while saying hello; then they don't ask to see your wristband. If you do get stopped, walk a little further to another beach entrance and try your luck there.

Next to all the beach entrances are towel dropoffs; just grab two from there. We haven't used wristbands for years and the worst that's ever happened is we've had to walk a little further.

You don't need the wristband to walk through Atlantis proper or the Atlantis Marina, but you won't be able to sit at the pool or use the Mayan Water Slide (no big loss there).

Another thing: food is crazy expensive there (our big treat night is at Johnny Rocket's where it's $9.00 for a Veggieburger) at the hotels.

And speaking of hotel food: never eat at any of the buffets. Even at breakfast, have eggs or whatever cooked to order.

Which reminds me: while Bahamian water is clean, safe and filtered, it's salty and really really disgusting-tasting. A liter of Evian or other bottled water can run you $9.00. We always bring Brita-filtered refillable bottles.

If you can catch a cricket game, that's fun. Check the local paper.

Lastly, plan for a good 3 hours at the airport. The security is very slow, and you pass through three checkpoints and US Immigration there.
posted by kinetic at 3:37 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I took that Powerboat Adventures tour that Kinetic mentions and let me tell you, it is crazy scary and amazing to swim with sharks that close. The trip there is stunningly beautiful also. I've done a ton of boat and snorkel trips and that one was the most amazing and memorable.
posted by gt2 at 3:56 AM on February 15, 2012

Yes, if you have any shark fears the snorkeling is scary as hell.
posted by kinetic at 4:04 AM on February 15, 2012

I recommend one of the Unexso Dolphin Encounters. It's really a great experience to interact with the dolphins, and they seem very well cared for by their keepers.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:18 AM on February 15, 2012

I just returned from Paradise Island and wanted to give you some updates: unless you want to pay over $130 for a day pass to Atlantis, you won't get on their beaches. Their security now is very tight and their security guards were not at all pleasant; we saw a LOT of people getting turned away without passes.

We also spoke to a bunch of people who mentioned that downtown Nassau is increasingly dangerous even during the day. There are the typical hustlers and swindlers but they seem to be infiltrating hotels and trying to get access to tourists within them. We met people who were told upon check in to NEVER open their Hilton room door until they confirmed with the front desk who was really there.

Also, there are now a lot of kids and teens who will follow you and try to persuade you to take a "free" necklace. Then they follow and harass you for money.

The police are nowhere to be seen.

While I had recommended Arawak Cay, we met a couple who said they took the #10 bus from Cable Beach, but they were surrounded by hustlers once they got there and they tried to get a cab back immediately but the cabbies tried to negotiate a $50 ride (it should be no more than $15) to drive them.
posted by kinetic at 6:11 AM on February 26, 2012

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