The name alone conjures fantasies of crystal clear water, secluded white sand beaches and a glorious slowing of the pulse.
In Miami, they’re so close (most islands are accessible in under an hour by air). Yet, when was the last time you visited? Whether it’s a brand-spanking new mega-resort in Nassau, a salty weekend in Bimini accessed by the budget-friendly fast ferry or a farther flung getaway on a secluded Out Island, chances are a trip to the Bahamas will offer a much-needed refuge and soothe the soul.
Here’s everything you need to know to plan your next escape to paradise. It’s easier and closer than you might think.
What’s New in Nassau & Paradise Island?
- Introducing Baha Mar—three resorts rolled into one
The long-awaited Baha Mar megaresort in Nassau officially opened last spring. The $4.2 billion, 1,000-acre compound is actually three hotels rolled into one: SLS, Grand Hyatt and the forthcoming Rosewood (slated for a June opening). The sprawling oceanfront property is flush with amenities including the Caribbean’s largest casino at 100,000 square-feet, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, 40 restaurants, 11 swimming pools and a freestanding ESPA Spa. Fans of Miami’s SLS properties will also enjoy the Bahamian interpretation of mainstays like Katsuya, Cleo and Michael Schwart’z Fi’lia, as well as the newly opened Bond nightclub with interiors by Lenny Kravitz’s design studio.
2. The historic Ocean Club is now a Four Seasons
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Previously a One&Only resort, the historic Ocean Club on Paradise Island changed hands to Four Seasons at the end of 2017. Famous for its intimate cottages set amidst formal gardens inspired by Versailles, the property offers an air of European opulence intermingled with laidback Bahamian luxury. There are also three oceanfront swimming pools, a tranquil spa and five restaurants including Dune, helmed by acclaimed French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The resort features tennis courts and a golf course to ensure every ounce of paradise is at your fingertips.
3. All-Inclusive at Warwick Paradise Island
For an adults-only, all-inclusive resort on Paradise Island, consider the Warwick Paradise Island, which opened at the end of 2016. With seven food and beverage outlets ranging from fresh seafood to a pizzeria and casual rum bar in the lobby, there are plenty of options. The resort also boasts a private beach, lagoon-style swimming pool, tennis courts, beach volleyball and a spa.
4. Get a taste of Harbour Island at Atlantis
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Inspired by the lost city of Atlantis with novel amenities like a massive waterpark, immersive aquarium, casino and comedy club, Atlantis is the original Bahamas mega-resort. For an upscale experience, consider booking a room at The Cove, a high-end, high-design enclave with a private pool that caters to adults. They’ve recently activated a pop-up of Chef Julie Lightbourn’s iconic Harbour Island restaurant SipSip with both a poolside and beachfront dining room, bringing a taste of the Out Islands laidback charm to hotel guests.
Arrive By Ferry
The tiny 10-square-mile island chain of Bimini, located just 50 miles due east of South Florida, has experienced a tourism boom since 2013 with the development of Resorts World Bimini and their convenient and affordable ferry service from Miami. Anchored by a luxurious, newly built Hilton, the resort features a marina, multiple restaurants and swimming pools, a beachfront restaurant/nightclub Luna Beach and a casino. All of these modern comforts are great, but it’s the island’s undeveloped, rustic charm just beyond the property line that’s the real draw. Be sure to tool around classic Alice Town haunts like Edith’s Pizza, Stuart’s Conch Shack, A Taste of Heaven Bakery, Sand Bar and Browns Marina where Hemingway once docked his boat Pilar.
Getting Here: The two-hour FRS Caribbean fast ferry departing from Port Miami is the most affordable option with ferry and hotel packages starting at $199. You can also fly from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Silver Airways or charter an eight passenger seaplane.
6. Grand Bahama
Slightly north of Bimini, Grand Bahama is another island accessible by fast ferry. It’s famous for incredible diving, as well as Lucayan National Park with over six miles of underwater caves to explore. Consider a stay at all-inclusive Lighthouse Pointe at Grand Lucayan, which boasts a 7.5 acre beach, 18-hole golf course, three swimming pools, a collection of restaurants and a spa.
Getting there: Balearia Caribbean offers service from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays arriving in Freeport at 11 a.m. Round-trip ferry and hotel packages start at $202. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line offers a variety of packages with overnights either on the ship or at a resort on Grand Bahama. Daily flights also depart from Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Get off the beaten path in the Out Islands
7. Swim with pigs in the Exumas
We’ve all seen the famous pictures of Bahamian pigs swimming through crystal clear waters, right? Well, if you want to experience this phenomenon with your own two eyes, make a trip to the Exumas and charter a boat to Major’s Spot Cay where these little piggies live and swim. Consider a stay at Grand Isle Resort with 78 private villas designed in a classical-tropical Victorian style.
8. Island Hop the Abacos
To experience true Bahamas bliss, jet off to Marsh Harbour on Grand Abaco Island and check into Abaco Beach Resort, the perfect embarkation point for days spent island hopping to secluded sandbar beaches and bars balancing on stilts in the trees through this 100 island archipelago surrounded by unbelievably crystal clear water.
9. Disappear in Eleuthera
For a tranquil and stylish getaway, check into one of the boho-chic resorts nestled in Eleuthera. The Cove’s tropical modern design is bathed in white linen and natural wood finishes where a crochet-fringed hammock by the sea is all you really need. Or hope over to Harbour Island, a short ferry ride from the northern edge of Eleuthera and check into the charmingly retro Dunmore, styled after beach clubs of bygone days.
Discover a private island oasis in Andros
10. Kamalame Cay
A large island just west of Nassau where most of the land is designated as a national park, Andros is a natural refuge for adventurous travelers. Escape to the private island of Kamalame Cay, a 96-acre family-owned resort composed of secluded beach houses. It’s the kind of place where you’ll want to simply melt into the scenery and never leave