Like a scattered string of pearls, the islands of the Bahamas stretch from their most northerly point (less than an hour's flight from Miami) south across 500 miles of the Caribbean Sea. The still-relatively-young commonwealth, which achieved independence in 1973 after 325 years of British rule, encompasses 700 different islands-each with its own character. But whether they're havens of unspoiled wilderness, decadent celebrity-studded oases, or glitzy gambling and entertainment meccas, all are suffused with the same laid-back, carefree, distinctly Bahamian attitude.
Taking part in (or at least watching) the wild parades of Junkanoo, the islands' most exuberant local celebration.
Sampling fabulous Bahamian dishes like conch fritters, fried grouper burgers, and stone crab claws—along with bottles of the great local beer, Kalik.