With powder-soft sand, turquoise and sapphire blue water, and the unique sights of swimming pigs and marching flamingos, the Bahamas makes a terrific choice for any traveler seeking seclusion, relaxation, romance, or an adventure-filled trip. With so many options across more than two dozen islands, it can be tough to decide where to stay in the Bahamas if you’re planning a family vacation, honeymoon, destination wedding, or girls’ getaway.
Made up of secluded coves and more than 700 islands (only about 30 are inhabited), the islands of the Bahamas are located northeast of Cuba and east of Miami, Florida, in the Atlantic Ocean (on the northwestern edge of the West Indies). The Bahamas are a bucket list destination for any island-minded traveler.
Most travelers are familiar with the main Bahama islands of Grand Bahama Island and New Providence Island (Nassau). The rest of the islands spread outward from these two and are considered the Out Islands. The Out Islands of the Bahamas include Andros Island, Abacos Islands, Acklins, Bimini, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Inagua, Long Island, San Salvador, Exuma Islands, Harbour Island, Crooked Island, and the Berry Islands.
The islands lie along the third largest barrier reef in the world (the Great Barrier Reef and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef off the coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico are the first and second). It’s an incredible destination for divers, snorkelers, anglers, boaters, and other water-loving enthusiasts.
Can you say sea turtles, parrot fish, manta rays, and starfish? Additionally, you’ll find numerous national parks and marine parks spread throughout the Bahamas.
The islands of the Bahamas have a rich European, African, and English heritage that can be experienced in their culture, cuisine, and friendly ambiance. Between the numerous islands and the various activities, attractions, and resorts, it can be hard to choose the best island and the best hotels in the Bahamas for your group’s interests. However, we’re here to help navigate the way by sharing our choices for the best areas, the best activities, and the best hotels in the Bahamas.
Show Table of Contents
- Best Areas to Stay in the Bahamas
- Where to Stay in the Bahamas
- 1. New Providence Island: Best Area for First-Timers/Tourists
- Fun things to do on New Providence and Paradise Island
- Where to stay on New Providence and Paradise Island
- 2. Bimini: Best Area for Budget Travelers
- Fun things to do on Bimini
- Where to stay on Bimini
- 3. Harbour Island: Best Area for Luxury Travelers
- Fun things to do on Harbour Island
- Where to stay on Harbour Island
- 4. The Abacos: Best Area for Safety
- Fun things to do in the Abaco Islands
- Where to stay in the Abaco Islands
- 5. Andros Island: Best Area for Families
- Fun things to do on Andros Island
- Where to Stay on Andros Island
- 6. Cat Island: Best Area for Culture/History
- Fun things to do on Cat Island
- Where to stay on Cat Island
- 7. Long Island: Best Area for Adventures
- Fun things to do on Long Island
- Where to stay on Long Island
- 8. Grand Bahama Island: Best Area for Shopping
- Fun things to do on Grand Bahama
- Where to stay on Grand Bahama
- 9. The Exumas: Best Area for Unique Experiences
- Fun things to do on the Exuma Islands
- Where to stay on the Exuma Islands
- 10. Eleuthera: Best Area for Nature Enthusiasts
- Fun things to do on Eleuthera Island
- Where to stay on Eleuthera Island
- 11. San Salvador Island: Best Area for Romance
- Fun things to do on San Salvador Island
- Where to stay on San Salvador Island
- Best Luxury Hotel in the Bahamas – The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, Bahamas
- Best Mid-Range Hotel in the Bahamas – Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort
- Best Budget Hotel in the Bahamas – Hideaways Exuma
- Best Vacation Rental in the Bahamas – Luxury Villa on the Beach
- Best Family-Friendly Hotel in the Bahamas – The Royal at Atlantis
- Best Resort in the Bahamas – Grand Isle Resort and Residences
Best Areas to Stay in the Bahamas
- Best area for first-timers/tourists – New Providence Island
- Best area for budget travelers – Bimini
- Best area for luxury travelers – Harbour Island
- Best area for safety – The Abacos
- Best area for families – Andros Island
- Best area for culture/history – Cat Island
- Best area for adventures – Long Island
- Best area for shopping – Freeport, Grand Bahama Island
- Best area for unique experiences – The Exumas
- Best area for nature enthusiasts – Eleuthera
- Best area for romance – San Salvador Island
Where to Stay in the Bahamas
1. New Providence Island: Best Area for First-Timers/Tourists
If it’s your first time going to the Bahamas and you’re wondering where to stay, give New Providence Island a look. The most populated island in the Bahamas, it’s home to Paradise Island and Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas.
New Providence is approximately 21 miles long and offers a destination filled with colonial history and architecture, family-friendly attractions, casinos, and a vibrant nightlight scene. You certainly can’t beat the direct beach access of soft pink sand and sparkling blue water of Cable Beach, either. The island is small enough to be charming and laid-back yet offers enough activities and attractions to provide plenty of recreation and entertainment for your whole crew.
Island and maritime history are strong on New Providence. Built in 1793 to protect the island from pirates, Fort Fincastle was constructed out of cut limestone and sits atop Bennet’s Hill.
It’s accessible by the Queen’s Staircase, a stairway of 66 steps that were carved out of solid limestone around 1793. It was intended to serve as an escape route from the fort in case of attack.
If there’s one iconic scene in the area that most travelers and readers of glossy magazines identify with, it’s the architecturally striking Atlantis resort. Located on Paradise Island off the shore of New Providence Island, the stunning pink structure offers dining, golf, tennis courts, a spa, a waterpark, a Lost City of Atlantis-themed aquarium, a marina, a kids’ club, several pools and beaches, dolphin experiences, a comedy club, and other world-class entertainment.
The Bridge Suite, a 5,000-square-foot luxury room between the resort’s two towers, is also known as the Michael Jackson suite (the singer frequented the resort). This section of the resort, known as The Royal, is just one part of the property’s six hotels.
Even if you’re not a Jackson fan, the grand piano, 22-karat gold chandelier, and seven butlers just might make it worth it. And it’s only $25,000 a night. Talk about a luxury VIP Paradise Island experience! Don’t worry, though, there are plenty of budget-friendly and affordable options at the property and elsewhere on the island.
Fun things to do on New Providence and Paradise Island
- Spend the day swimming and snorkeling on the small secluded island of Rose Island. Tours leave out of the local marina.
- Ardastra Gardens & Wildlife Conservation Centre, in Nassau, offers tropical gardens and more than 135 animals, including trained (and formerly endangered) Caribbean flamingos. The garden was designed in 1937 by Jamaican horticulturist Hedley Edwards.
- For a culture fix, stroll through the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas for a look at Bahamian art and culture.
- Peruse the history of pillage and plunder at Pirates of Nassau interactive pirate-themed museum with a replica ship.
- Visit the famous Atlantis Bahamas resort for its casino, nightlife, restaurants, and attractions.
- Book a fun and interactive dolphin experience with Dolphin Encounters on Blue Lagoon Island.
- Lounge on the sand at Cable Beach.
Where to stay on New Providence and Paradise Island
- Best Budget Hotel: Colony Club Inn and Suites
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: The Royal at Atlantis
- Best Luxury Hotel: The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, Bahamas
See Related: Best Tropical Vacation Spots in the World
2. Bimini: Best Area for Budget Travelers
While you can stay on a budget at many of the Bahama islands, we chose Bimini for its proximity to mainland Florida. It’s the closest Bahama island to the Florida coast (about 50 miles).
You can get there via private boat or the Balearia Caribbean fast ferry from Fort Lauderdale, making it an ideal answer for where to stay in the Bahamas on a budget. So, if you happen to live in Florida, it makes an excellent weekend getaway and a popular destination to stay in the Bahamas.
The small island consists of North and South Bimini, and there’s a daily ferry that runs between the two islands. The main airport, South Bimini Airport, is, you guessed it, on South Bimini island. Considered the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, anglers head to Bimini to reel in bonefish, blue marlin, and tuna. The island is popular with boaters who arrive in their private boats for a week of fishing.
One of the best ways to enjoy island life is by booking a snorkeling or diving excursion to the SS Sapona shipwreck. It’s home to tropical fish, rays, and sea turtles. Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center offers glass-bottom boat tours and snorkeling, diving, and off-shore fishing expeditions.
The SS Sapona and reef shark safari are one of the best and most memorable day trips you can take. If swimming with sharks is on your Caribbean island bucket list, this is an excellent way to dip your feet into the experience.
On the other hand, you could just as easily spend the week lounging on the beach, relaxing by the pool, or exploring the island by golf cart (on the left-hand side of the road and with regular vehicle traffic, by the way – hold on to your hats here!)
Insider Tip: Enjoy a slice of pizza at Edith’s Pizza. It’s made with Bimini bread dough and you’ll probably go back a second or even a third time (I’m not telling how many times my group returned to this casual island eatery). Afterward, wash it all down with an ice-cold Kalik, the beer of the Bahamas.
Fun things to do on Bimini
- Check out local art and creativity at the Dolphin House, established in 1993. Author, artist, and historian Ashley Saunders created this eclectic whole-house art project out of found and recycled rum bottles, sea glass, and coral rock.
- Visit the Fountain of Youth. Ponce de Leon may not have found it, but the locals consider this to be a good enough site. The limestone well, on South Bimini, was carved out by water thousands of years ago.
- Spend the day lounging in soft sand and warm waves at Radio Beach. The remains of a shipwreck, the Galliant Lady, are at the southern end of the beach. You can’t snorkel or swim around it (it’s right at the shoreline), but it makes for a cool photo.
- Bimini Road, or the Bimini Wall, is an underwater rock and coral trail about a half-mile long on North Bimini.
Where to stay on Bimini
- Best Budget Rental: Luna Beach Studio Villa
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina
- Best Luxury Hotel: Hilton at Resorts World Bimini
3. Harbour Island: Best Area for Luxury Travelers
Located about 1.75 miles off the eastern coast of Eleuthera, Harbour Island is one of the best areas to stay in the Bahamas for luxury travelers.
It’s a favorite among the celebrity set. Heavy hitters like Clooney, Cruise, Hanks, and Bassett all own homes on the island.
Exclusive and secluded, Harbour Island is approximately 3.25 miles long and ½ mile wide at the widest point. Spend your days lounging along a 2.5-mile stretch of pink sand beach or taking part in diving and chartered fishing trips.
You can’t fly directly to the island, so most travelers enter via Eleuthera, where you’ll take a ferry to Harbour Island. It takes about five minutes to cross the clearest and bluest water you’ll ever see (until you go to the next Bahamas island, of course).
Harbour Island has an array of luxury hotels, romantic inns, and the best hotels in the Bahamas with amenities such as a beach bar, multiple pools, a private beach, and an island restaurant. There’s also a full-service marina with dining and accommodations for those traveling by luxury yacht.
Fun things to do on Harbour Island
- Snorkel, swim, and dive among waters filled with stingrays, turtles, and other tropical creatures at Devil’s Backbone coral reef.
- Rent a golf cart and explore the quaint streets, pastel homes, and New England-style architecture in Harbour Island’s Dunmore Town.
- Indulge in delicious seafood and local fare at The Landing, Queen Conch, Valentine’s Marina, or Runaway Hill.
- Go horseback riding on the beach.
- Explore the underwater cave at Briland’s Blue Hole
- Shop for driftwood and canvas paintings, fish mobiles, wood carvings, and other local art at Briland Art.
- Head to Pink Sands Beach or Spanish Wells Beach for a day of relaxation.
Where to stay on Harbour Island
- Best Budget Hotel: Royal Palm Hotel
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Tingum Village Hotel
- Best Luxury Hotel: Valentines Residences, Resort & Marina
See Related: Best Black Sand Beaches in the World
4. The Abacos: Best Area for Safety
Long and slim with a “fishtail” of sorts at the south end, the Abacos is a 120-mile-long barrier island chain made up of Great Abaco, Little Abaco, and several small islands such as Green Turtle Cay, Elbow Cay, and Walker’s Cay. The island is located east of Grand Bahama. Disney’s private island and beach, Castaway Cay, sits off the southwestern side of the island for those familiar with the cruising world.
We chose the Abacos for safety as the Sea of Abaco offers shallow and easily-navigated waters. It’s even known as the Boating Capital of the Bahamas.
The island is popular with artists, anglers, divers, and boat builders due to the many marinas, easily accessible underwater wrecks, shallow coral reefs, and excellent fishing opportunities. Enjoy a variety of activities, attractions, and accommodations that include golf courses, colonial towns, boutique hotels, luxury villas, and beachfront resorts.
The 3,800-acre Walker’s Cay National Park is the place to go for a foray into the world of rays, sharks, turtles, and barracudas. Established in 2002, it’s the northernmost spot in the Bahamas and only accessible by boat.
There aren’t any walking trails. Divers and snorkelers enjoy the site for its underwater cathedrals, colorful coral, and tropical fish. The park plays an important contribution to biodiversity by showcasing the marine environment in its natural state.
For the best birdwatching in the Bahamas, be sure to head to the 20,500-acre Abaco National Park. Located on South Abaco, the park offers a Caribbean pine forest that’s home to a variety of birds (including West Indian woodpeckers, the loggerhead kingbird, and the endangered Bahama parrot). There are no developed walking trails within the park, and most visitors stick to the shoreline.
Artsy types will want to visit the secluded and creative artist’s enclave at the Johnston Art Foundry in Little Harbour. Created by Randolph W. Johnston about 70 years ago, it’s the only working bronze foundry in the Bahamas. Three generations of Johnstons, joined by others from around the world, create exquisite works of art using a time-honored wax casting technique.
There’s even a beachside bar (who doesn’t love a good beach bar?), Pete’s Pub, to enjoy frosty beverages and the day’s fresh catch after exploring the foundry and gallery. Sitting atop soft white sand and decorated with driftwood, t-shirts, and what-have-you, it’s your quintessential Caribbean beach bar. Put it at the top of your Abaco bucket list.
If you’re still in a cultural mood, spend the day on Man-O-War Cay, a short ferry ride from Marsh Harbour, to get a look at traditional boat building from two generations of craftsmen. Check out Albury Brothers Boat Building, Joe’s Studio, and Albury’s Sail Shop to see handcrafted boats and purchase wooden boat models and items made from sailcloth.
Abacos Island has the Leonard M. Thompson International Airport, which is nothing less than a blessing if you’re traveling with young children (or older cranky ones).
None of that disembarking only to board a ferry. Even though the island-to-island ferries aren’t necessarily that long of a ride, it’s just another step in getting to your slice of paradise in the Bahamas islands.
Fun things to do in the Abaco Islands
- Explore underwater caves and coral reefs at Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park. Established in 1972, the park protects 2,100 acres of coral reef systems and is home to spiny lobsters, queen conchs, and sea turtles. The area is only accessible via boat.
- Visit the Elbow Reef Lighthouse on Elbow Cay (an 8-mile-long island just off the coast of North Abaco). You can rent golf carts and bicycles to get around. Built in 1862, the lighthouse is one of the last kerosene-fueled beacons in the world that’s still operating.
- Tee off at the Abaco Club on Winding Bay or the Treasure Cay Golf Course (both are on Great Abaco).
Where to stay in the Abaco Islands
- Best Budget Hotel: The Sandpiper Inn & Cottages
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Abaco Beach Resort & Marina
- Best Luxury Hotel: Bahama Beach Club Resort
5. Andros Island: Best Area for Families
At 100 miles long and about 40 miles wide, Andros Island is the largest Bahamas island. Located west of New Providence and Paradise Island, it makes a terrific answer to your question of where to stay in the Bahamas with kids. There are a wide array of outdoor activities, attractions, and soft sand beaches scattered between the three sections of the island, which are North Andros, Mangrove Cay, and South Andros.
Known as the bonefishing capital of the world, Andros is also popular with the diving and snorkeling set. You’ll find mangroves, tidal swamps, interior lakes, blue holes (a large sinkhole-type cave filled with gorgeous blue water), the Tongue of the Ocean (a section of very deep water that separates Andros from New Providence), and creatures such as iguanas, several lizard species, migrating humpback whales, loggerhead turtles, hawksbill turtles, and the native Bahama oriole.
Blue Holes National Park is a fun excursion for the whole family, and there are boardwalks and trails throughout the park. Explore pine forests, dive into a blue hole, and spot a variety of birds. Andros has the largest number of blue holes in the world.
Located on 40,000 acres, the park was established to protect them and the surrounding natural beauty. Perfectly round, and at a depth of about 100 feet, Captain Bill’s Blue Hole is the most popular blue hole in the park. You can either jump from above or descend into the water via a staircase.
Channel your inner pirate at Morgan’s Bluff, a former pirate hide-out. It’s named for Sir Henry Morgan, a pirate who used the area’s height to his advantage. He was out to capture Spanish and French ships packed with treasure.
You’ll have stunning views of the Tongue of the Ocean and the Andros Great Barrier Reef. No pillage and plunder needed. The water is fairly calm and shallow here, making it a great spot for families with young children. Pack a picnic and enjoy the view!
Accommodations on Andros Island include dive resorts, small hotels, and family-friendly Bahamas resorts with swimming pools, a beach club, or a private beach. Check out an array of fine dining and casual restaurants where you can try local fare such as Johnny Cakes, peas n’ rice, and chicken souse.
Fun things to do on Andros Island
- Go diving at the Andros Great Barrier Reef to see brain coral, giant tube sponges, staghorn coral, and more.
- Fans of shopping for apparel and island textiles will want to visit the Androsia Batik Works Factory. Beautifully dyed apparel and fabrics are created right here on the island.
- Take the whole crew on a snorkeling adventure at one of the local beaches. There’s just nothing like finding sea turtles, starfish, and even Nemo and Dory in the wild.
- Head to the Andros Lighthouse, built in 1892. Located at the Fresh Creek Channel entrance, there are three cannons in front, which were added in 1952 and came from a schooner that wrecked in the 1800s.
Where to Stay on Andros Island
- Best Budget Hotel: Nathan’s Lodge
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: The Cay House
- Best Luxury Hotel: Small Hope Bay Lodge
See Related: Best Caribbean Islands to Visit
6. Cat Island: Best Area for Culture/History
Small and secluded, Cat Island is 48 miles long and four miles at the widest point. Don’t let its small size fool you. The island offers an 8-mile-long pink sand beach, walking trails, rolling hills, stunning seascapes, and an array of cultural experiences, artistic sites, and historic attractions.
Cat Island has been called the Best Kept Secret in the Bahamas. Maybe it’s the diminutive size or maybe it’s the name. Personally, I would be all over an island filled with cats.
For the record, though, most travelers report not seeing an abundance of cats while on Cat Island. The island was named after Arthur Catt (yes, a pirate, not an actual cat) and doesn’t have cruise ship ports or big-name resorts. You’ll find small hotels and family-owned inns where you can “live like a local” for a unique and immersive stay in the Bahamas.
Experience the tradition and heritage of the Bahamas through music and dance. Rake and scrape – a type of Bahamian music made by saws, wood, and goatskin drums – was born on Cat Island.
The island hosts an Annual Rake and Scrape festival in June. Learn the art and steps of quadrille dancing or try local food like flour cakes and conch burgers on Cat Island.
Cat Island (as well as several other islands in the Bahamas) participates in the cultural People-to-People Experience. Travelers are paired with volunteer locals who open up their homes, shops, and lifestyles to share experiences on topics such as cuisine, culture, history, fishing, music, and more. After all, who would know the best restaurants, photographic sites, nature trails, and secluded beaches better than a local?
Plan your trip so that you’re there for one of the island’s music, food, or cultural festivals. The Cat Island Regatta is in August and offers a family-friendly weekend of sailboat races, live music, great food, and other activities (including a game of kicking coconuts down the beach!)
Fun things to do on Cat Island
- Climb Mount Alvernia (also known as Como Hill), the highest point in the Bahamas, to check out the historic and medieval-inspired Hermitage monastery at the top. At 206 feet above sea level, it’s the highest point on the island and in the Bahamas.
- Look for stingrays and birds at Half Moon Beach on Little San Salvador Island.
- Go big game or fly fishing or take advantage of excellent surfing and kitesurfing conditions.
- Visit the ruins of Armbrister Plantation, the Columbus World Centre Museum, the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, the 18th-century Deveaux House plantation and mansion, or the childhood home of Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier.
Where to stay on Cat Island
- Best Budget Rental: Shangri-La on Cat Island
- Best Mid-Range Rental: Sundance Beach House
- Best Luxury Rental: White Ocean Coral – Private Beach Villa
See Related: Where to Stay in the Dominican Republic
7. Long Island: Best Area for Adventures
Of all the islands, Long Island is the best one for thrilling dive trips, offshore fishing, and other exciting experiences. Long and slim in shape, Long Island is a quick 45-minute plane ride from Nassau Island and is approximately 80 miles long from north to south (and approximately four miles at its widest).
The island offers hills, cliffs, caves, broad sandy beaches, and gorgeous coral reefs for the adventurous outdoor enthusiast. Go hiking, fishing, swimming, sailing, snorkeling, and diving among tropical fish, sharks, sea turtles, and other sea life.
The second-largest sailing regatta in the Bahamas is held on Long Island in June (the largest is the National Family Island Regatta that takes place in the Exumas). It takes place in Salt Pond and features food, music, and fun for the whole family while watching colorful sailboats compete for top prizes.
Don’t miss Dean’s Blue Hole. At more than 600 feet deep, it’s the second deepest blue hole in the Bahamas. An annual free-diving competition is held there. If you prefer the safety of less water around you, the area leading up to the hole is about waist deep.
Visitors to Long Island can choose from beach resorts, guest cottages, fishing lodges, luxury villas, and other hotels. Enjoy amenities such as an outdoor pool, beach bar, a private beach, and more to base your Long Island adventures or beachside lounging.
Fun things to do on Long Island
- Cape Santa Maria Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the Bahamas, so be sure to get there.
- View the statue of Columbus at Columbus Point. It’s at the northernmost point on the island and features stunning panoramic views.
- Dating to native Lucayan Indians, Hamilton’s Cave is the largest cave system in the Bahamas and features stalactites as well as bats and lizards.
- Fish the flats or head out on a deep-sea charter excursion to cast for tuna and bonefish.
- Try island eats like conch fritters, conch salad, and jerk chicken.
Where to stay on Long Island
- Best Budget Hotel: Harbor Breeze Villas
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort
- Best Luxury Rental: Beautiful Eco-Beachfront House
See Related: Best All-Inclusive Resorts Without a Passport
8. Grand Bahama Island: Best Area for Shopping
If you like to combine retail therapy with rest, relaxation, and island adventure, Grand Bahama is the island for you. The popular cruise destination is one of the best areas to stay in the Bahamas if you like to take home more than you brought with you (or get a head start on any birthday or holiday shopping). Spend the day searching for souvenirs, local art, jewelry, and apparel at the Bahamas Arts and Straw Market, the Port Lucaya Marketplace, local vendors, and duty-free shops.
Located about 55 miles east of the Florida coast, Grand Bahama is the northernmost island in the chain. Along with excellent shopping and dining, you’ll find everything from golf courses, nightlife, and cultural events to beautiful beaches, mangroves, and coral reefs.
Island accommodations include all-inclusive resorts, boutique hotels, vacation cottages, and more. Grand Bahama International Airport (FPO) makes the island of Grand Bahama very convenient to access.
Fun things to do on Grand Bahama
- The Perfume Factory in Freeport is a fun spot to purchase island fragrances. Tour the mixing and production process and create your own signature scents.
- Lucayan National Park, one of three national parks on the island, has one of the largest underwater cave systems in the world. There are six miles of tunnels, caverns, and caves to explore.
- Garden of the Groves features birds, waterfalls, fountains, a maze, winding trails, beautifully landscaped gardens, and hilltop views.
- Book a charter fishing trip, snorkel excursion, or scuba diving trip to nearby islands.
Where to stay on Grand Bahama
- Best Budget Hotel: Ocean Reef Yacht Club & Resort
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Dolphin Cove
- Best Luxury Rental: Luxury Villa on the Beach
9. The Exumas: Best Area for Unique Experiences
From unique rock formations, a turquoise sea, and deep blue holes to swimming pigs, movie sites, and the Tropic of Cancer, you’ll bring back a boatload of memories, stories, and photos from the Exuma Islands. The Exumas are about 120 miles long and feature more than 360 smaller cays and islets scattered throughout the area. Many of the smaller islands are private.
The most famous, and unique, thing about the Exumas would have to be its swimming pigs. Visit Pig Beach on Big Major Cay (which is uninhabited by people and one of the many small islands, cays, and islets within the Exuma Islands) for a unique, and incredibly cute, experience. The pigs swim, you don’t swim with them, just to be clear.
These feral animals, approximately 20 or so pigs and piglets live on the island and enjoy the chance to swim out to tour boats and get a snack or two. You can take boat tours from other islands as well.
In addition to the island’s pig population, the Exumas are home to other interesting Caribbean island wildlife. The iguanas at Allan’s Cay are said to enjoy grapes (let us know if that’s true).
Swim with nurse sharks on Compass Cay or stingrays on Stocking Cay. The brown blind snake is also an inhabitant of the Exumas, but we don’t recommend swimming with them.
Snorkel or go scuba diving among colorful coral and tropical fish at Thunderball Grotto, which was a film site for the 1965 James Bond movie Thunderball and 1983’s Never Say Never Again. They say Sean Connery liked the area so much that he bought a house in the exclusive Lyford Cay, located west of Cable Beach, on New Providence Island.
For a bit of island lore, visit Three Sisters Rock. The series of three rocks can be seen from the beach at Mount Thompson. The story goes that three sisters were in love with the same sailor.
When he left, they all swam out to catch the boat. They all sank before getting there, and the rocks grew where they each drowned. Isn’t local lore grand?
Exuma Islands accommodations range from fishing lodges to luxury resorts, cute inns, and family-friendly Bahamas hotels located on white sand beaches and offering amenities such as outdoor swimming pools, beach clubs, fitness centers, and restaurants serving fresh seafood and tropical drinks.
Fun things to do on the Exuma Islands
- Experience the Tropic of Cancer Beach, or Pelican Beach. It’s a cool bucket list item to check off or a cool selfie to share with your Insta followers.
- Mystery Cave in the Exuma Islands is a 400-foot-deep blue hole that’s popular for diving and snorkeling.
- Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, established as a marine refuge in 1958, is an ecological preserve offering pristine beaches and sparkling clear water for snorkeling and swimming. It was the first land and sea park in the world.
- Visit the tiny island of Staniel Cay for kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, hanging with the yachties at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, or just lounging on the beach. At about two square miles in size, it’s located north of the main island of Exuma and is inhabited.
Where to stay on the Exuma Islands
- Best Budget Hotel: Hideaways Exuma
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Paradise Bay Bahamas
- Best Luxury Hotel: Grand Isle Resort and Residences
See Related: Best Spring Break Destinations for Families
10. Eleuthera: Best Area for Nature Enthusiasts
Eleuthera is the best place to stay in the Bahamas if you’re into nature, outdoor recreation, and sightseeing. From botanical gardens and stunning seascapes to natural pools, tropical trees, and pineapple plantations, nature-loving travelers will enjoy the wide variety of historic attractions, natural settings, and unique activities available on the island of Eleuthera.
The word Eleuthera is Greek for “freedom,” and the island is no doubt a strong proponent of that attitude. Located to the west and trailing south of Harbour Island, Eleuthera is the wild side to its refined Harbour Island neighbor.
“Wild” refers to its natural state, rather than nightlife and casinos. The island is very laid-back and low-key in ambiance.
Eleuthera is about 110 miles long and two miles wide and features a landscape of cliffs, pink and white sand beaches, jagged coral reefs, crashing east coast waves, gentle west coast swells, and New England-style towns. Embark on deep-sea fishing charters, diving expeditions to the Devil’s Backbone, nature viewing tours, or just relax on those long stretches of sand.
Floating east of Nassau and Paradise Island, it’s divided between North and South Eleuthera and offers several small towns. Nearby Harbour Island is a popular spot for locals and travelers, and it’s often called the Nantucket of the Caribbean. You’ll find a quaint fishing village scene complete with palm trees and tropical flowers to go along with the best Bahamas hotels.
If there’s only one thing you do on Eleuthera, make it a visit to the Glass Window Bridge. Located along the Queen’s Highway, this amazing site can’t be missed.
It’s where the deep blue Atlantic waters meet the turquoise tones of the Bight of Eleuthera (sometimes incorrectly called the Caribbean). The waterways are separated by a strip of land about 30 feet wide.
Fun things to do on Eleuthera Island
- Check out tropical fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, and pineapple groves at the Eleuthera Pineapple Farm. The island hosts an annual pineapple festival in June.
- Catch a wave at Surfer’s Beach or just relax and snorkel along white sand beaches at Lighthouse Beach, Cape Eleuthera Resort Beach, or Preacher’s Beach.
- Drive or pedal along Queen’s Highway, about 65 miles in length, as it travels from the north end of the island past seascapes and stunning scenery. Along the way, don’t miss the natural pools known as the Queen’s Bath.
- Book a sightseeing cruise around the islands of Eleuthera and Harbour Island, including the many cays, coves, islets, and the secluded town of Spanish Wells on the northwest side of Eleuthera.
- The Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve is a 30-acre national park and research center with native Bahamian plants and flowers.
Where to stay on Eleuthera Island
11. San Salvador Island: Best Area for Romance
One of the best places to stay in the Bahamas for seclusion and privacy, San Salvador is the place to go for a honeymoon, destination wedding, anniversary, or romantic getaway. Sip tropical drinks while sharing spectacular sunset and sunrise views. Don’t make your friends too jealous with all the selfies and hashtags, though.
Located east of Cat Island, San Salvador is approximately 12 miles long and five miles wide. It’s the most easterly of the islands of the Bahamas.
Cockburn Town, the island’s capital, lies along the west coast. The island offers inland lakes, secluded beaches, historic attractions, and world-class diving among coral reefs, tropical fish, and other marine creatures.
Most of the island’s landmass is located below sea level (about 15,000 feet below the surface, give or take), meaning the island itself is the exposed peak of that underwater mountain. Cool, huh?
It’s generally believed that this is the island Columbus landed on in his expedition to the New World. Scholars can’t seem to agree on anything exact (and there are markers in several different places claiming it’s the “exact” spot where Columbus and his crew landed), so we’re just going to go along with this version for now.
The island was originally named Guanahani by the native Lucayan Indians. Upon Columbus’ arrival, he coined it San Salvador, which means “Holy Savior.”
British buccaneer (pirate, perhaps?) George Watling then renamed it Watling’s Island in the 17th century. It went back to San Salvador in 1926.
Hit the beaches for a day of lounging, snorkeling, or strolling (or all of the above). East Beach offers excellent snorkeling beneath shades of turquoise, emerald, and sapphire water.
Grotto Beach at Sandy Point is a secluded strand of sand with a grotto. North Victoria Hill is two miles of incredibly clear water near Club Med.
The Dixon Hill Lighthouse, which was built in 1887 and stands 163 feet above sea level, is the best spot on the island for sightseeing and photo sessions. You can see for approximately 19 miles.
There are 80 steps to the top, and we’re thinking the view is worth the climb. The beacon is one of the only manually operated lighthouses in the world, and its flame is tended to every two hours.
Rum Cay, a sister island to San Salvador, sits approximately 20 miles southwest of the island. It has a rich Lucayan and Arawak Indian heritage. Columbus originally named it Santa Maria de Conception, but it became Rum Cay after a ship filled with rum wrecked off the coast.
Port Nelson is the main village on Rum Cay. Cottages can be rented if you’re seeking a truly secluded location. And, of course, day trips from San Salvador make for romantic excursions. With rum in the name, we’re there!
Fun things to do on San Salvador Island
- The 18th-century Watling’s Castle, in Sandy Point, has ruins of the former three-story plantation as well as kitchens, barns, and other structures. There’s a lookout tower that offers stunning views of French Bay.
- The HMS Conqueror, built in 1855, sits in 30 feet of water and acts as an underwater museum.
- Dive deep to see staghorn coral or a 60-foot coral wall at Summer Point Reef, Pinder’s Point, or Grand Canyon.
Where to stay on San Salvador Island
- Best Budget Rental: The Bohemian Beach House
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: The Sands Hotel
- Best Luxury Rental: Villa Isoela
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- About the Author
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Sandy is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia. Her specialties range from hotels, dining, beaches, and yacht charters to theme parks, urban settings, mountain getaways, and other fun spots. In addition to Via Travelers, her work appears at AFAR, PierShare, Cozymeal, and more.