Why You Should Visit the Bahamas, According to Travel Editors and Writers
And although the category 5 storm destroyed several northern islands, a large swath of islands remain untouched and open, including some of the most popular such as Nassau, Paradise Island, and the Exumas.
The Bahamas, which largely relies on tourism, is made up of 700 individual islands over more than 100,000 square miles of ocean.
The disastrous storm, which made landfall on Great Abaco Island with sustained winds of 185 mph, was the strongest to hit the area since 1935. Photos showed the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama were all but decimated following the slow-moving and historic storm.
But we still hear the call of the islands’ crystal-clear waters, adorable swimming pigs, sugary, white sand beaches, and ridiculously fresh seafood (loved by celebrity chef José Andrés, who mobilized his charity World Central Kitchen to help after the storm). And from an exhilarating corkscrew water slide that then sends you leisurely floating through an underwater tube surrounded by sharks at the Atlantis to getting up close and personal with Sandy Cay iguanas, the Bahamas offers something for everyone.
Want to know what you can do to help? “One of the best ways that people around the world can show their support and solidarity… is to visit our other islands by air or by cruise ship,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told the Associated Press.
That sentiment was echoed by Bahamas Minister of Tourism & Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar, who told Travel + Leisure in a statement that airports, cruise ports, and hotels on the northern, central and southern Bahamas islands were open and operating.
“Maintaining a robust tourism industry will be vital in helping the country to recover and rebuild,” D’Aguilar said. “We are grateful for the outpouring of support and love for our islands, and we would like everyone to know that the best thing they can do for us right now is visit Nassau, Paradise Island and the Out Islands. Our beautiful island nation is ready to welcome you.”
So in honor of the strong people of the Bahamas and the wanderlust-inspiring scenery ready to welcome visitors, T+L's editors and contributors looked back at some of their favorite memories from the islands to inspire you to visit.
“I love the spirit, energy, and warmth of the people. How proud they are to share their culture. At Kamalame Cay, a private island resort and long-time reader favorite, the team treats you like family — bringing you eggs just the way you like them at breakfast, making rum-based hot toddies when there is a nip in the air. You can also take long walks on the secluded beach, uninterrupted, and be present and enjoy the silence.” — Jacqueline Gifford, Editor-in-chief
"My sister and I stopped off at the Atlantis, Paradise Island over Thanksgiving weekend a few years ago, part of a family cruise in the Bahamas, and headed straight for the Aquaventure water park. I made a beeline for the resort's breathtaking Serpent Slide, navigating five stories of twists and turns before being shot out into an underwater aquarium. Gently floating through a narrow tube with sharks swimming all around me, I tried to take it all in. Just months earlier, I had gone cage diving with sharks off the coast of South Africa, but the water had been freezing and you could only spend so much time before the cold got the better of you. I'll never forget that encounter in the Bahamas, coming face-to-face with these majestic and often misunderstood creatures in such an inviting environment." — Alison Fox, Contributing Writer
"My mom and I went to the Bahamas on a pure whim six years ago, and it was honestly the breath of fresh air I think we both needed. There are some destinations that encourage you to fully let go, and to me, the Bahamas will always be one of those places. It was winter in Boston, we were both working frantically and in desperate need of a change of scenery. As soon as we arrived in the Bahamas, the pure joy and hospitality we were met with forced us to actually relax. The water was amazing — I mean, that crystalized blue is truly what the heart eyes emoji was made for — and the property we stayed at was gorgeous. But what I remember most is this group of locals that took us to dinner one night; they were so genuine and appreciative of their home turf. They had the kind of energy we all crave during winter in the Northeast and I have them to thank for curing my winter blues." — Maya Kachroo-Levine, Contributing Writer
"I grew up vacationing at The Atlantis every year with my family, so it holds a special place in my heart. Some of my earliest travel memories are in the Bahamas, from swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Cay to running around the resort's water park and eating fresh coconuts straight from the palm trees. The locals are always friendly and welcoming, and have a way of making making you feel at home. Everything about the Bahamas is paradise: the turquoise water, gorgeous beaches, local cuisine, and of course the people." — Lindsay Paige Stein, Contributing Writer
"My first trip outside the United States was to the Bahamas. My family went on vacation to Atlantis and its arches were like a gateway into the world of travel. The hot sun, the white beaches, and warm waters of the Bahamas were part of the reasons I fell in love with warm destinations. My brother and I spent hours body surfing the waves with the iconic towers in front of us. We zoomed past sharks on the water slides and the friendly Bahamian staff served me ice cream after ice cream with a big smile. To my 12-year-old self, the Bahamas was heaven. After that trip, I kept bothering my parents for another, then another, and 15 years later I'm about to hit my 50th country." — Katie Lockhart, Contributing Writer
"Though everyone talks about the swimming pigs on Big Major Cay, the islands neighboring famous Pig Beach are even better, and Fowl Cay is the perfect home base for exploring them. I've been to Bali, French Polynesia, and many islands throughout the Caribbean, but this slice of paradise in the Exumas had some of the bluest water and most pristine beaches I have seen (not to mention the quick and painless flight from Fort Lauderdale). Fowl Cay is a 50-acre private island with just six villas, which feels as exclusive as it sounds, but its dedication to laid-back island life knocks out any chance of snobbery. Food, drinks, personal golf carts, and water activities are included with your stay, but the best part (other than the always-friendly staff) is that guests get unlimited access to the resort's power boats. After an orientation you're free to head off for a tropical drink at Staniel Cay Yacht Club (a Jimmy Buffett favorite), search for sand dollars at Cocoplum Beach, come face-to-face with iguanas on Bitter Guana Cay, or snorkel at Thunderball Grotto. Years later, I still dream of sitting on a sandbar in the middle of the crystal-clear sea surrounded by nothing but bright pink conch shells." — Nina Ruggiero, Deputy Digital Editor
"There's so much to love about the Bahamas' largest and most populated island. This is the gateway, after all. Nassau has cool restaurants, high-design hotels, the best seafood shacks around — and a fair share of resorts not too far outside town. One of my favorite Bahamas memories is sitting outside one of the food trucks at Baha Mar, sipping a Kalik, and feeling like I was in my own little world just 10 minutes from the international airport." — Hannah Walhout, Associate Editor
Perfect Day at CoCoCay
"Though the Bahamas has so much to offer, my most recent trip with Royal Caribbean is a really special memory because it was the first time I traveled outside of the states with my boyfriend. There, we were able to experience the crystal-clear, blue waters of the Bahamas and ride the tallest waterslide in North America. Every time I go to the islands I'm overwhelmed by the kindness of the people and the joy and pride they have for their home." — Tanner Saunders, Associate Digital Editor
"Harbour island made me feel like a kid in a candy store. From the brightly colored buildings to the pink sands, delicious food, and golf cart-filled streets, this beautiful little island holds onto so much history while also embracing the new and whimsical. From dinning at the bustling Sip Sip — a local, family-owned restaurant that has stood the test of time thanks to its local delicacies with modern flair — to staying at Coral Sands, which had recently been revamped by famed designer Eddie Lee, I was able to see how this island has earned a spot in so many hearts, as evidenced by the generations of families that gather at its shores." — Casey Stickles, Contributing Writer
"It’s no coincidence the name Eleuthera is derived from the Greek word for "free," because that’s exactly how you’ll feel here. Few tourists venture to this small strip of paradise that neighbors the more frequented Harbor Island. The mostly pink sand beaches are completely isolated, and my favorite is Double Bay Beach. You also can’t leave without visiting Island Farm to shop for the freshest food grown organically at their farm." — Monica Mendal, Contributing Writer
The Abaco Islands
"The Bahamas is like a second home to many Floridians. Growing up, trips to the Bahamas were a summertime ritual; some of my most visceral childhood memories are set against a backdrop of Caribbean breezes and technicolor tropics, reggae beats and fresh-caught conch. Now that I live in West Palm Beach, the tradition lives on as weekend jaunts to the Bahamas with my husband — in Palm Beach County, the islands are our extended backyard. You can take a two-night getaway on Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line for a little over $100 or hop on a last-minute puddle jumper out of PBI and touch down to a warm Bahamian welcome in less than an hour. My family’s longtime favorite destinations, Elbow Cay and Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos, remain my top two picks— you haven’t visited the real Bahamas until you’ve gone diving with Brendal, finished off a loaf of sweet Bahama bread from Vernon in Hope Town, or sipped a secret-recipe Goombay Smash at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar." — Skye Sherman, Contributing Writer
"I was lucky enough to have my first Bahamas experience at the exquisite Abaco Club on Abaco Island, which was severely damaged in the hurricane. The club and the people who worked there were some of the most warm and welcoming humans I had ever met. Sitting on a swing in the ocean at the club was truly one of the most peaceful moments in my life. The food, the entertainment, and the golf made the trip memorable, but it was the people of Abaco who made it unforgettable. You can contribute to the Abaco-Winding Bay Relief Fund, with all contributions going to the people of Abaco 'in the form of food, shelter, medical aid, supplies and assistance in the island's clean-up and rebuilding efforts' here." — Meredith Lepore, Contributing Writer
"Disney Cruise Line hits plenty of stops on its four ships, but none are as quintessential as Castaway Cay. It's paradise on its own, with crystal blue waters and lengthy beaches counterbalancing a lush forested landscape, but it's not just the dance parties with Mickey Mouse and endless soft-serve that keep guests coming back year after year. It's the Bahamian escape's way — once you're there, toes tucked into those soft, sandy shores — of making you feel like you can, at long last, finally relax." — Carlye Wisel, Contributing Writer
"Sitting on a secluded sandbar in the Bahamian out islands of the Exuma Cays, all I could think about was the selection of blues in a box of 64 Crayolas — cerulean, cornflower, robin’s egg, turquoise, aquamarine. Still, pinpointing one shade to label those gorgeous waters was impossible. In contrast, the sand was the brightest white. The Exumas are made up of 365 islets, a 120-mile archipelago and marine park that might be the Caribbean’s most pristine hideaway. A couple of years ago I arrived on tiny Staniel Cay via nine-seat Cessna and spent three blissful days hopping from cay to cay, snorkeling in spots with names like Thunderball Grotto and Sea Aquarium, examining endless conch shells on castaway beaches, and wandering among native Bahamian Rock Iguanas on picture-perfect Guana Cay. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen such crystal-clear water anywhere else." — Gina DeCaprio Vercesi, Contributing Writer
"As someone who can't swim, I was never much of a beach person, but the Bahamas changed everything. I went there a few years ago for the first time and immediately realized I've just been going to the wrong beaches. Nothing beats the island's clear, sapphire-blue waters, warm white sand, and swimming with the pigs in Exuma. Now, no matter where I go, I compare every seaside experience to the Bahamas' picture-perfect coastline." — Isis Briones, Contributing Writer
"My many adventures through Bimini have always opened my eyes to a Caribbean escape that goes way beyond rum punch and sandy beaches. The culture that lives on the island is artistic, historic, and inspiring. Though it's just a quick jump from Miami by seaplane, Bimini is one of the Caribbean's best kept secrets. I can't stay away!" — Salvatore DiBenedetto, Contributing Writer