Favoured by honeymooners and Hollywood celebrities, the Bahamas archipelago consists of more than 700 islands and cays (low reefs) in the Atlantic Ocean. With aquamarine sea, miles of white sand and screensaver-perfect views of beaches and palms, this is the perfect place for a dream vacation. The Bahamas is diving heaven; not only is it well known for its marine flora and fauna, but invasions, wrecks and pirate raids have also added a touch of mystery to the waters here. The islands have a rich and varied cultural heritage thanks to their history of different rulers and colonisers. There’s a great deal to see, from picture-perfect Hope Town, founded in 1785 and well-preserved today, to the underwater wilderness of Thunderball Grotto, which has featured twice in James Bond films.
The majority of the population lives in Nassau, a busy seaport and the islands’ capital. The main language is English, with some locals also speaking the native Bahamian dialect. The state has one of the highest per capita GDPs in the Americas, largely thanks to the volume of visitors and the tourism industry, which is the main source of income. The Bahamas’ popularity is hardly surprising; one of the islands is even called Paradise. The islands’ natural beauty – especially those miles of white-sand beaches ‒ attracted more than six million visitors last year. Tourism here dates back to 1919 when the first seaplane services started between Florida and the Bahamas. It has developed well over the years, with half of the current population employed in the hospitality sector.
The Bahamas isn’t a typical tropical resort since the islands offer such a wealth of choice. The busy executive who wants to get away from it all need not bump into the social activist here; visitors can easily find the right place for what they want to do. The islands offer a vast range of activities, from sea kayaking and diving to swimming and simply sunbathing.
The main island, Grand Providence, is famous for its street carnivals, which are known as junkanoos in the Bahamas. The most colourful take place on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. From Grand Providence a bridge takes you to Paradise Island, which is home to the amazing Atlantis hotel, featuring aqua parks, spas, underwater adventures and championship golf.
If you’re in search of peace head to the Out Islands, so called because few of them are inhabited; they are also called the Family Islands by Bahamians. The Berry archipelago here is a cluster of beautiful cays and has a population of about 700; the Exumas archipelago offers some resorts and fishing lodges; Andros is a wonderful island for kayaking and snorkelling. Adventurers should explore Bimini Island, which inspired Hemingway’s story The Old Man and the Sea, and according to legend is the home to the lost civilisation of Atlantis.
While you can visit at any time of year, high season is between December and April, when the weather is driest. It’s worth noting, however, that hurricane season starts in June and can last until October, with storms most frequent from August to October. You can get particularly good deals at this time, especially given that many hotels have a hurricane policy which offers full refunds if you have to cancel because of severe weather.
There are around 400 hotels on the islands, ranging from sea lodges to five-star luxury resorts, so there’s plenty of choice for an unforgettable Bahamian holiday.