Though Category 5 Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of the Bahamas in September, canceling your plans to visit the archipelago would be a mistake.
Officials with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism are trying to reinforce this message and sharing that most of the country’s islands are open to visitors, and those tourists are badly needed.
I reached out to a few of my travel blogging friends who have been to the Bahamas and asked them to share what they love most. The goal of this article is to share why the Bahamas should be in your future travel plans and how you can help after Hurricane Dorian.
12 Reasons to Love the Bahamas
It’s An Easy tropical Vacay from the US
The Bahamas are the perfect tropical vacation destination from the U.S. if you love the Caribbean, but hate long travel days. The capital of the Bahamas and main island, Nassau, is just an hour flight from Miami and delivers the clear turquoise waters and warm weather that you crave.
It is for this reason that my husband and I chose the Bahamas for our honeymoon five years ago. After months of wedding planning, we wanted a destination that would be gorgeous but requires little thinking. We opted for an all-inclusive resort on the island of Great Exuma, and it delivered everything we were hoping for.
Great Exuma had a tiny airport that was a breeze to get in and out of, and this sleepy island was not one bit crowded. We were able to enjoy the warm Caribbean weather and long white sand beaches in the beautiful and very relaxing atmosphere. We did miss seeing the little swimming pigs that Exuma is known for. However, I hope to return when I need an easy beach getaway and catch them the next time.
How to Help After Dorian: Unfortunately, since our visit five years ago, the Bahamas have been hit very hard by Hurricane Dorian. If you would like to aid in the recovery efforts, All Hands and Hearts is a charity that assists in the clean up and rebuilding of infrastructure on the islands. They were a huge help to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands after the devastation from Irma two years ago. So good, in fact, that local website News of St. John just held a “Pay It Forward Raffle”, which raised $200k for the relief efforts. All Hands and Hearts will undoubtedly be instrumental in helping the residents of the Bahamas find normalcy again.
Scuba Diving with Dolphins
I spent 4 years cooking on a live aboard dive boat in the Bahamas, and as much as I love SCUBA diving, the highlight of every year was our summer season on the Little Bahama Bank snorkeling with wild dolphins in 15’ of crystal clear water. The Atlantic Spotted Dolphins we’d find there are much smaller than Bottlenose Dolphins, and in our encounters were much more playful.
The most magical thing about swimming with these dolphins is that they chose to hang out with us. We never enticed them with anything except our joyful energy, and a ride on our bow or in our wake. When we’d encounter a pod, we’d drive the boat around in circles making a big wake for them to play in while our passengers got into their snorkel gear. We’d cut the engines and drift while everyone jumped in.
As crew it was our job to keep the dolphins engaged by diving to the bottom, screaming through our snorkels, spinning, and splashing. Sometimes the dolphins would play with us for hours, and we’d haul ourselves onto the dive platform half-drowned and exhausted, but smiling ear to ear.
Swimming with Pigs on Long Island
The Bahamas are not only known for its beautiful beaches, but also for the swimming pigs who seem to enjoy the sun and the clear waters as much as every other visitor. While most people who want to get close with the animals head to “Pig Island” which is part of the Exumas, only few tourists know that there’s also the chance to visit a pig family on Long Island – away from the crowds!
Docky, who’s wife is managing the Stella Maris Resort on the northern tip of Long Island, personally takes care of the pigs which are based on a small island off the coast and he’ll be more than happy to take you to his pink friends.
The good thing about it? I was the only person there; and while the Exumas already suffer over-tourism leading to pigs getting mishandled by careless tourists, you won’t find those issue here. Further, I’d also like to emphasize that the devastating hurricane did not hit this part of the Bahamas and the locals will be more than happy to welcome you on Long Island!
The Bahamas is a great place to visit for a relaxing beach staycation with cultural and entertainment activities spread over 30 of the 700 inhabited islands.
If you want to explore the Islands, Island Hopping is the best way to go about it! The Bahamas are known for pristine aqua waters and white sandy beaches, start in Nassau – the most populous of the Bahamian islands, then head to Eleuthera, home to a plethora of gorgeous pink sandy beaches and if you swim with pigs, visit the award-winning Major Cay Beach.
How to Help After Dorian: One of the best ways to help locals is to donate to an NGO like The Bahamas Human Rights Network, who’s already on the ground, helping locals who were affected by the devastation of the storm. Unlike “big” organizations like the Red Cross, donations actually go to the cause and they don’t deduct a huge administration fee.
Alternatively, you can plan a trip to the Bahamas. The nation relies heavily on tourism and this is a great way to help the country to recover and rebuild through tourism. When in the Bahamas stay in small boutique hotels and Airbnb, eat at local restaurants and shop at the small markets.
Junkanoo – The Huge New Year’s Eve celebration in the Bahamas
Our favorite experience we have had in the Bahamas was attending Junkanoo, their rowdy New Year’s Day carnival. The streets of downtown Nassau are packed with locals waiting to cheer on their favorite group as they dance through the streets in elaborate costumes constructed from cardboard, styrofoam, and crepe paper.
But unlike your typical New Year’s Eve celebration that ends at midnight, Junkanoo doesn’t even begin until 2:00am on New Years Day! And in Nassau, the party lasts until well after sunrise.
So grab a cold Kalik beer and some conch salad, and join the lively crowd of Bahamians dancing to the sound of horns, whistles, cowbells, and drums. You won’t find a New Years party like this anywhere else in the world, and we can’t wait to go back and experience it again!
And don’t let Hurricane Dorian keep you from experiencing Junkanoo for yourself – the islands of the Bahamas are still open for business and welcoming visitors. Sixty percent of the nation’s economy is dependant on tourism and one way you can help the Bahamas is by taking a trip there this holiday season.
Atlantis on Paradise Island
Atlantis, the magical resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas, is one of those rare places that offers something tailor-made for every member of the family. Featuring the world’s largest open-air marine habitat, a massive water park, and five miles of the most gorgeous beaches around, Atlantis is a great way to experience the beauty of the Bahamas.
We can’t wait to go back, because for a water-loving family like ours, this place — designed with the legendary Lost City of Atlantis in every detail — is heaven!
One of our favorite features of Atlantis Bahamas is a lesser-known one — the incredible marine habitat. Whether they want to snorkel the ruins among the fish, touch a ray in the Sea Squirts program, or just look through the expanse of glass, opportunities to get up close and personal with sea life abound.
And for adventure in the sun, nothing beats the 11 crystal blue pools, except maybe the water slides! For the older kids, the world-famous Leap of Faith slide is a daring 60-foot body slide from the top of a Mayan Temple into a shark lagoon — definitely one of the most adventurous around. The younger kids love the kids’ pools and Fishy Fun Swim School.
Atlantis Bahamas and their foundation is working with the Red Cross and Chef Jose Andres World Central Kitchen to provide relief following Hurricane Dorian, including food and supplies to the residents of Abaco, Grand Bahama, and others impacted.
How to Help After Dorian: Support the Atlantis Bahamas Hurricane Dorian Relief Fund.
The Beaches in Exuma
Having visited the Bahamas several times over the last couple of years, there is something about those beaches that just keeps drawing me back. I can’t wait to return to the beautiful beaches of the Bahamas that have crystal clear blue waters and powdery, sandy white beaches.
The crystal clear waters make is an ideal place to visit if you love snorkeling as with the waters so clear, you can see everything. One of the top things to do in Exuma is to visit Tropic of Cancer Beach, one of my favorite beaches in the Bahamas. The Tropic of Cancer beach is not like any other beach I have seen. You can see beneath the water as far as the eye can see. Although it is a public beach, you will feel like you are on your own private island.
Another fabulous beach in Exuma, Bahamas is Emerald Bay Beach where you will find only two resorts. There is public access from an unpaved beach access road.
Why I love the Bahamas: The Locals!
My favorite experience in the Bahamas (the 117th country I’ve visited) was the friendly and optimistic locals that we met. On our visit to Grand Bahama, we spent some time at Taino Beach, looking for a refreshing drink. In an empty bar with shelves filled with any alcoholic drink there is on the open market, we asked the barkeeper where all the people are. “At church”, he replied quickly.
They would come in an hour or two. As we returned to the still empty bar two hours later and asked him the same question again, he replied with a smile that it will get busier the next day – a Monday.
I can’t wait to go back to the Bahamas because I absolutely loved that positivity and friendliness that the barkeeper and all other Bahamians showed us – despite the hard times they are facing.
How to Help After Dorian: One of the best ways to help the Bahamas (apart from donating money) is to not be put off by the horrible media reports and still visit. The country heavily relies on tourism and has still got a lot to offer.
Clifton Heritage National Park (where the underwater statues are)
Take a Wine Blending Class
When you think of a Bahamas beverage, you think of rum. While I enjoy a good rum punch, I’m more of a wine girl so was delighted to find a place in Nassau where you can blend your own wine.
Opened in 2018 and housed in a 1937 church, Bahamas Barrels brings grapes from around the world to blend and bottle under the guidance of a California winemaker.
We took the one-hour wine blending class where we mixed, named, bottled and labeled our own bottle of wine, tasting each variety to make our personal blends. I called mine Sip Sip Hooray, after the Bahamian word for gossip.
Bahamas Barrels is part of Graycliff, a hotel housed in a 1740s mansion, which also includes a chocolatier where you can make chocolates and a cigar company where you can roll cigars.
I can’t wait to go back to the Bahamas for a unique experience like this, the free-spiritedness atmosphere and world-class resorts.
Meeting and Mingling with Marching Flamingos
One of my favorite discoveries in the Bahamas is the Adrasta Gardens zoo in Nassau. Getting there takes you up into the hills and back through local housing, allowing you to see more of the real Nassau. The zoo is very small, and almost equally divided between animal exhibits and flowering gardens.
Be sure to time your visit to allow you to experience the March of the Flamingoes, which usually occurs in the afternoon, and also do plan to participate in the lorry parrot feeding–where the colorful birds come to eat their lunch of apple slices right out of your hand.
After viewing some of the other animals, my group moseyed on over to the small stadium to await the arrival of the national bird of the Bahamas, the pink Caribbean flamingo (we did also get to mingle a bit with a group of them before entering the stadium).
Once seated, whistle-blows announced their arrival. They demonstrated their ability to follow orders, and members of the audience were allowed to join them for a bit on the grass. Then they marched out again, and we went for some cold refreshment (a small snack bar dispenses sodas and fruit popsicles).
A Private Getaway on Rose Island, Bahamas
Just a short speedboat ride from Nassau you will find a secret private island paradise. If you feel like you need to get away from it all, Rose Island is the perfect escape. A few years ago I stayed at Sandy Toes, a stunning two bedroom, two bathrooms, a private bungalow, with my husband and another couple.
Nestled in the treetops with spectacular ocean views from every room and balcony this home was our oasis for four days. As there is no commercial development on island you will need to bring all of your food and drink with you from the mainland.
You can cook simple meals in the kitchenette or on the outdoor grill and enjoy them on the deck. A few days a week the owners do run day excursions to the island. On those days there will be others on the beach, however, they serve a buffet lunch and open up their private bar. If you want to mix and mingle with civilization for a few hours you can.
While I have enjoyed visiting Eleuthera, another small out island of the Bahamas, nothing compares to this tranquil retreat. With very few homes scattered throughout the island, your stay at Sandy Toes will make you feel like you have the entire island to yourself!
Where are the Bahamas?
Often you will see the Bahamas grouped in with Caribbean islands
What is your favorite thing to do in the Bahamas? Did you have a favorite experience when you visited the Bahamas? Please share it with us in the comments!
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Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.