Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Visiting The Bahamas
- Covid Travel Restrictions for the Bahamas
- Is It Safe to Take My Family to The Bahamas?
- Getting Around The Bahamas
- Atlantis Resort Paradise Island
- Fun Things to Do in Historic Downtown Nassau
- Pirates of Nassau
- Parliament Square
- Queen’s Staircase
- Historic Forts of Nassau
- Distillery: Yo Ho Ho (And a Bottle of Rum)
- Straw Market
- More Not-to-Miss Downtown Nassau Sights
- Junkanoo Beach Near Downtown Nassau
- National Parks in The Bahamas
- Famous Bahamas Swimming Pigs
- Pink Sands Beaches Bahamas
- Bahamian Food
- Warm and Friendly Bahamas People
- What is the Bahamas Currency?
- What Language is Spoken in The Bahamas?
- Bahamas History
So close but a world away from southeast Florida, The Bahamas offer rich cultural history, tropical weather, excellent seafood, and so many things to do. If the pristine white sand beaches and transparent turquoise blue waters of Nassau and Paradise Island, Bahamas, are calling you, this Bahamas family vacation guide will give you all the details you need for a great family vacation.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or returning traveler, read on to get tips and tricks and learn about all of the fun things to do in The Bahamas.
Visiting The Bahamas
On my first visit to The Bahamas, I fell in love with its postcard-perfect white sand beaches and blue waters — both literally inviting travelers to dip their toes in the sand and sea. Since then, I’ve visited multiple times by air and on cruises with friends, family, and most recently on a skip-generational vacation with my grandson.
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Do you want to lay on its famous beaches or splash around doing water sports such as snorkeling, diving or parasailing? Maybe you’re a nature lover and prefer to take to its trails or visit its marine habitat, wildlife reserves, or national parks. Or perhaps you’d prefer to step back in time with a cultural walking tour, pose for pictures with its famous swimming pigs or indulge in a few days of fun and pampering at Atlantis Resort, The Bahamas’ most famous place to stay.
Yes! You can do all of that and more in The Bahamas. With so many Bahamian islands and so little time, I still have more to discover and share with my family.
Here’s your guide to visiting the Bahamas, whether it’s your first visit or you’re a Bahamas regular.
Covid Travel Restrictions for the Bahamas
Vaccinated travelers do not have to be tested or quarantine to visit the Bahamas. However, unvaccinated international visitors to The Bahamas age 11 and up are required to have a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test taken no more than five days prior to their arrival in The Bahamas.
As of early May, face masks are required in all public places except the beach. Anyone, including visitors, caught not complying with Bahamian rules requiring face masks are subject to a $250 fine.
Which Bahamas Islands Should I Visit?
New Providence Island, home to the capital city Nassau, is the most visited of all the Bahamas islands. It offers endless opportunities for attractions and entertainment for families. More than 70% of the country’s people live in Nassau; it is the liveliest of the Bahamas islands.
Just 179 miles southeast of Florida, Nassau a popular cruise line port as well.
Explore Nassau on your own, or hire local tour operators for a downtown tour of Nassau, walking tours or day trips.
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Paradise Island is across the harbor from Nassau. It’s the home of the famous Atlantis Paradise Island Resort. We recommend spending at least a few nights of your Bahamas vacation at this luxury resort destination.
At Atlantis, you’ll find the thrilling Aquaventure waterpark. Home of The Current, an exhilarating river that is the opposite of lazy, with waves to ride and rapids to run. Or you can take the laid-back route and spend time on the miles of white sand beaches or chill at one of the many resort pools.
Or you can visit one of the many marine exhibits showcasing habitats such as lagoons, caves, coral formations and more.
TravelingMom Tip: Before you go, read our VIP tips for getting the most out of a visit to Atlantis Paradise Island.
The second-largest Bahamian city is Freeport, located on Grand Bahama Island. This is the place to find upscale resorts, cultural and historical sites, 18 of the 28 species of native birds, and a delightful mix of local and international cuisine.
Make time to visit the island’s waterfront hub, Port Lucaya Marketplace. You’ll find lovely boutiques selling local Bohemian handmade goods, fine dining, and open-air entertainment in the colorful Count Basie Square.
This island is also home to a national treasure, Lucayan National Park, the second most visited park in The Bahamas. Known for its underwater cave system, it is also home to preserved remains of the Lucayan Indians, and a prime combination of natural environments including pine forests, mangroves creeks, and coral reefs. This national park is the place to discover the world-famous Gold Rock Beach.
Worth noting is that Grand Bahama Island was one of the hardest-hit islands when Hurricane Dorian made landfall in 2019. The bulk of the damage happened on the eastern and northern parts of Grand Bahama. Freeport was spared the worst of the damage.
Bahamas Out Islands
While Nassau and Freeport are amazing, island hopping is also popular and affordable. These islands offer nature lovers seeking a quieter and more authentic Bahamian experience a peek at the 29 lesser populated islands and hundreds of cays.
The Bahamas Out Islands consist of (to name a few) Bimini, Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Thunderball Grotto, Exumas, Dean’s Blue Hole, Long Island, Lighthouse Beach, Eleuthera, The Hermitage, and Cat Island. This travel guide is an excellent overview of these islands, their amenities, and things to do.
Cruise Lines’ Private Islands
Many of the cruise lines own or lease private islands in The Bahamas. These private islands offer a wide range of activities including snorkeling, fishing, swimming, sunbathing, waterslides and water parks, restaurants, and more, all reserved for the exclusive use of that cruise line’s passengers.
Coco Cay (pronounced co-co-key) is where you’ll find Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay private island. After a $250 million upgrade in 2019, the island has the Thrill Waterpark (home to the 135-foot-tall Daredevil’s Peak, which Royal Caribbean says is North America’s tallest water slide), an air balloon ride, a huge pool and a gorgeous upscale section. The private island is also used by Celebrity cruise ships.
Located on more than 40 acres, Carnival Cruise Line owns Princess Cays at the southern end of the island of Eleuthera and the nearby Half Moon Cay on Little San Salvador Island in The Bahamas.
Disney’s Private Island
Located near Great Abaco Island, the private island of Castaway Cay is an exclusive port for Disney Cruise ships. It’s always a fun stop for families. This 1,000-acre island was originally named Gorda Cay and is the scene for several popular movies including Splash and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
When I sailed the Disney Dream several years ago with my daughter and teen and toddler granddaughters, Castaway Cay was our favorite excursion because there’s so much to do for all ages. While my teen granddaughter chilled on a beach chair, my daughter and I walked to the beach for my toddler granddaughter’s first ocean experience. She was hesitant at first but loved the cool turquoise ocean waters.
What is The Bahamas Weather Like?
Due to its tropical weather, The Bahamas is a year-round destination, with average temperatures between 75°F and 84°F (24°C-29°C) in both winter and summer. Early morning and night temps might warrant a light jacket. Summer is typically humid with hot sun. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Rain is more common in the summer and fall seasons. During the summer, consider indoor activities or shaded day trips to avoid the hot mid-afternoon sun.
When is the Best Time to Visit The Bahamas?
High season with higher rates is typically from mid-December to mid-April, when travelers book to escape the winter snows. If that’s your plan, book at least 3 months in advance for the best rates; Christmas and February might need more lead time.
The best deals in The Bahamas are available from mid-April to mid-December when the trade winds offer cool breezes.
When is The Bahamas Hurricane Season?
Hurricane season officially starts in June and lasts through November. But hurricanes rarely land in The Bahamas.
If you are traveling during hurricane season, travel insurance is highly recommended, although many Bahamian hotels also offer a Hurricane Cancellation Policy. (Please confirm with your desired hotel prior to booking.)
Is It Safe to Take My Family to The Bahamas?
As I said, I have visited The Bahamas multiple times with and without my family. I’ve never felt unsafe, and in fact, the locals have been nothing but kind and friendly.
However, as with any visits to foreign countries, travelers should always remain cautious and aware of their surroundings. Straying too far from tourist areas alone is rarely safe, especially late at night, no matter where you are.
Best Bahamas Resorts for Families
As a top tourist beach vacation destination, Freeport, Nassau, and Paradise Island offer every hotel chain imaginable.
Look for hotels that provide amenities for families such as free breakfast, suites, pools with a lifeguard, onsite restaurant, onsite activities for children (kids’ programs or crafts), or at the least, easy access to the surrounding area.
Disclosure: The following section was sponsored by Atlantis.
Atlantis Resort Paradise Island
Located on Paradise Island is the oceanside Atlantis Resort. If your family is into adventures, get ready to explore all the outdoor and indoor fun within the Atlantis’ acres and acres…and acres of property.
We have a whole post on all the fun things to do at Atlantis Paradise Island and tips for getting the most out of a visit. Here, I’ll just highlight some of my family favorites: Aquaventure water park, pools, beaches, extensive marine habitats, golf course and Atlantis Casino.
Staying at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort is a luxury resort and it comes at a luxury price. But my family has always thought it was worth every penny.
Comfort Suites Paradise Island
I stayed at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island on my most recent visit with my grandson, and I was pleasantly surprised. Although it’s not “fancy,” it checks all the boxes for family-friendly and affordable. My grandson loved chilling at the pool, and since the resort is tiny compared to the Atlantis, I felt safe allowing him to venture to the pool alone for a short time.
Breakfast is included, and the pool-side restaurant serves delicious food.
TravelingMom Tip: The best reason to stay at the Comfort Suites? It’s a 20-minute walk to the Atlantis Resort and day passes to the Atlantis facilities are included in a Comfort Suites room price!
Grand Hyatt Baha Mar Nassau
My grandson and I also stayed at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, part of a 1,000-acre resort complex. The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar offers impressive luxury, but for my grandson, the pools, the flamingos, and the pool featuring Dean’s Blue Hole were the highlights. He and another teen boy discovered this pool with its 8-foot and 15-foot waterfalls, stone gardens and a secluded grotto with a view of sea turtles and sharks.
This luxury resort is located on Nassau’s stunning Cable Beach. From the rooms to the dining, the service was impeccable at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. Just wow!
Freeport Family Friendly Hotels
Bahamas All-Inclusive Resorts
In Nassau, just across the bridge from Paradise Island and Atlantis, is the all-inclusive Melia Nassau Beach overlooking Cable Beach. This property, currently under renovation, offers a prime beachfront location just a few minutes from the city center, shops, restaurants, nightspots, museums and Lynden Pindling International Airport.
An all-inclusive option in Freeport is the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach, located on the southern shore of Grand Bahama Island. It includes a kids’ club among other all-inclusive amenities.
For an intimate, totally all-inclusive island getaway with a laid-back vibe, there’s Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros Island. One of our favorite all-inclusive resorts, Small Hope Bay features 17 oceanfront cabins and down-home hospitality. Think of it as your personal resort with a fresh hot breakfast, and homemade lunch and dinner buffets.
Getting to The Bahamas
Where is The Bahamas?
Spread across more than 500 miles and 700 islands, Commonwealth of the Bahamas, as the islands are officially named, is often referred to as a Caribbean Island. But the islands actually are located in the North Atlantic Ocean, just over 110 miles from southeast Florida.
With more than 40 non-stop flights from South Florida and less than a three-hour ferry ride from Fort Lauderdale, getting to The Bahamas for a family beach vacation is super easy and very quick.
Read More: What to pack for a day at the beach.
Do I Need a Passport to Go to The Bahamas?
U.S. citizens are required to present a valid U.S. passport when traveling to The Bahamas. You will also be asked your anticipated date of departure from The Bahamas. Don’t make these mistakes when applying for a passport for kids.
Those cruising to The Bahamas may use a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document.
Click here for more details on traveling to The Bahamas from the United States.
Most travelers arrive in The Bahamas through Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau. A newer terminal services only U.S. flights. There is another terminal for domestic flights to the Out Islands and international flights from Canada, England, and other parts of the Caribbean.
Grand Bahama International Airport offers direct flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, and Nassau.
Leonard M. Thompson International Airport (formerly Marsh Harbour) in the Abaco Islands has daily flights from Nassau, perfect for island hopping. Several more Bahamas islands also offer island-hopping flights.
Cruising The Bahamas
The Bahamas are popular ports for cruise ship passengers. Cruise ships passengers comprise the largest percentage of day visitors to the islands each year.
In addition to stops at their private islands, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian, and Disney Cruise Line arrive weekly at Nassau and Freeport.
TravelingMom Tip: You will need a passport and your cruise ID to return to your cruise ship. Here’s what you need to know about getting a passport for kids.
Read More: What You Need to Know About Cruising in 2021
Getting Around The Bahamas
The Bahamas were a British colony and remain part of the Commonwealth. That means cars drive on the left side of the road. Even though the country is pedestrian-friendly, and most drivers yield, be extra cautious and look multiple times so as not to step into traffic.
Transportation options include walking, taxis (only use official taxes marked by yellow license plates), renting a car, and smaller islands offer golf carts.
Things to Do in The Bahamas with Kids
Finding all the things to do in The Bahamas with kids is quite the feat as there truly is so much to do and see, depending on your island of choice. Find below my suggestions, but I haven’t even begun to skim the surface of things to do.
I’d suggest checking out our TravelingMom Facebook page to ask any questions! Our TravelingMoms are happy to help!
Atlantis Resort Paradise Island
Our family favorites are the Aquaventure Water park, any kids’ dream vacation with pools, beaches, slides, adventure everywhere.
Also check out Atlantis’ marine exhibits including an open-air marine habitat and indoor marine adventures with aquariums.
Fun Things to Do in Historic Downtown Nassau
Consider booking an activity from Get Your Guide. The company has a large selection of things to do that are a great choice for a shore excursion, or for first-time visitors. At any given time, Nassau’s calendar is brimming with activities from the arts to history to its culinary and cultural scene.
Take a guided tour to downtown Nassau or go on your own.
These are a few of the kid-friendly things to do in historic Nassau:
Pirates of Nassau
Mixing history with entertainment, begin your pirate adventure on a moonlit dock with sounds of the lapping ocean and pirates singing nearby.
End your pirate adventure with a Blackbeard’s Revenge Pirate Cruise. Pirate cruises are campy fun for the whole family. There’s a kid-friendly daytime cruise and a dinner cruise with surprisingly good food.
Rich in history and dating back to the late 1700s and early 1800s, the pink buildings of Parliament Square are a frequent stop for visitors in old Nassau. This unique Colonial-influenced architecture includes the House of Assembly, the Senate Building, and the Supreme Court of The Bahamas.
There is also a statue of Queen Elizabeth in the square.
Put on your walking shoes and climb the 66 steps of the Queen’s Staircase, named to honor Queen Victoria. Located on top of Elizabeth Avenue, this staircase was hewn out of limestone rock by slaves in 1793-1794.
When the humidity is at its highest, this staircase is a cool reprieve from the heat. The walkway is lined with palm and native trees. Then at the top, enjoy local shopping stalls and souvenirs.
Historic Forts of Nassau
Forts are a natural defense on an island with pirates and potential invasion as a constant threat.
History buffs will enjoy exploring Nassau with several forts including Fort Montagu on the eastern edge of downtown; Fort Fincastle, at the top of the Queen’s Staircase; and Fort Charlotte, farther west as the largest and most impressive fort, overlooking Paradise Island.
Distillery: Yo Ho Ho (And a Bottle of Rum)
Discover the “Spirit of the Bahamas” with a tour in historic downtown Nassau of the John Wattling’s Distillery. When in the Bahamas, of course, you must tour a rum distillery, right?
See how Bahamian Rum is hand-made and bottled and get a free sample of pina colada.
Go shopping at the world-famous Straw Market.
Smack dab in the middle of Nassau’s high-end boutique shops, discover handmade Bahamian crafts, gifts, and souvenirs from straw hats to conch jewelry and hand-carved wood. The prices are reasonable, but haggling is expected. So bring your negotiating skills!
More Not-to-Miss Downtown Nassau Sights
For those who enjoy history and museums, if you have time, also visit:
- Heritage Museum of The Bahamas
- Balcony House
- National Art Gallery of the Bahamas
- Pompey Square and Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation
- Christ Church Cathedral
Junkanoo Beach Near Downtown Nassau
Junkanoo Beach is located just west of the Prince George Wharf (where cruise ships dock). Enjoy plenty of white sand to dig your toes into, and, of course, that beautiful turquoise blue water. Stop at any number of local tiki bars and shops.
TravelingMom Tip: This is known as the “spring break beach,” so late afternoon into the evening might not be as family-friendly.
National Parks in The Bahamas
Since 2002, the National Park System of the Bahamas has doubled in size to reach 32 parks covering two million acres spread out across all The Bahamas islands.
The most popular and most visited parks are:
- Abaco National Park
- Blue Holes National Park
- Exuma Land and Sea Park
- Lucayan National Park (on Grand Bahama Island)
- Leon Levy Plant Preserve (the first national park of Eleuthera)
Famous Bahamas Swimming Pigs
Have you heard of The Bahamas’ delightful swimming pigs? A colony of wild pigs live on Big Major Cay Island and happily “pose for pictures.”
Pink Sands Beaches Bahamas
The 3-mile stretch of pink sand on Harbour Island gets its color from crushed shells.
Bahamian cuisine includes seafood such as fish, shellfish, lobster, crab, and conch, as well as tropical fruits, rice, peas, pork and pigeon peas (a sweeter version of green peas). Be sure to order fresh seafood, especially the local favorites: conch (any way you like), fried fish, and a Bahama Mama cocktail (a sweet rum drink with coconut flavoring).
The best place for tasting local Bahamian cuisine is Arawak Cay, a beachfront entertainment area just a short walk from Nassau Harbor, popular with locals and tourists alike.
Known to the locals as the “Fish Fry,” it began as beachfront shacks but has blossomed into a lively waterfront, home to many restaurants, bars, and outdoor eateries. Popular for lunch and dinner, it’s the place to sample local seafood, such as conch fritters and conch salad, grilled lobster tails and spicy grilled shrimp.
Sip local cocktails or the local beer, Kalik, or refreshing non-alcoholic coconut water. This is also home to an authentic Bahamian Fish Fry, made to order by vendors. You’ll also enjoy traditional junkanoo music and street performers.
Warm and Friendly Bahamas People
I say this often to my friends: Bahamians are truly warm, welcoming and friendly.
An excellent example of this is when my grandson and I stayed on Paradise Island and explored Marina Village. We dined at Frankie Gone Bananas and the local Bahamian server took a liking to my grandson. She gave him extra special attention, lots of laughs, and a big hug at the end of the night.
We also enjoyed a junkanoo parade that same evening, and the musicians selected my grandson out of the crowd to play an instrument and walk with them.
These are just two of many examples of friendly locals.
What is the Bahamas Currency?
U.S. dollars and Bahamian dollars are equal in value. US dollars are accepted in The Bahamas. If you want to exchange your money, do it before you get to The Bahamas for the best rate.
I’d definitely recommend traveling with cash and a major credit card. Taxis are cash-only, but some hotel bars and snack spots only accept cards or room charges. If you pay with US dollars, don’t be surprised to get your change in Bahamian dollars.
In tourist areas, if someone helps you out – guides you to your location, takes your picture for you, etc. – tips are expected.
What Language is Spoken in The Bahamas?
British English is the official language of The Bahamas and is spoken on virtually every island.
However, Bahamians also have their own tantalizing creole dialect with accents, words and phrases influenced by their personal culture and heritage.
The Bahamas, a former British colony, gained its independence in 1973. It’s now a member of the Commonwealth and its official name is the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
The Lucayan people were the original inhabitants of the island. Christopher Columbus famously landed in the Americas. He then infamously, tragically, and strategically annihilated those peaceful inhabitants.
Historically, The Bahamas remained a European-dominated settlement, marked by slave trade and piracy.
Today, the country is a blend of European and African heritage, and due to its perfect climate and picturesque beaches, The Bahamas relies heavily on tourism.