The Best Things to Do in the Bahamas

This archipelago of more than 700 islands, most ringed with pink sand beaches and crystal-clear shallow water, offers diversions above and below the water: diving into shipwrecks, touring rum distilleries, exploring the architectural relics of British colonial rule, dancing at a fish fry, and shopping the boutiques of Harbour Island, among them. Find luxury—and simplicity—in your Bahamas vacation.

P.O. Box N-4882, Nassau, The Bahamas
The only zoo in the Bahamas started as a tropical garden and nature preserve in the 1950s. Over the years, Ardastra evolved, adding a conservation center for Caribbean flamingos and a small zoo containing birds, reptiles, and mammals. The four-acre zoo is filled with the colors and fragrances of its tropical gardens, which feature paths through the tamarind, West Indies mahogany, and Indian tulip trees, amid the abundant blooms of yellow elder, the national flower of the Bahamas, and frangipani. Visitors can see flamingos, iguanas, and lemurs, while enjoying interactive experiences like feeding the rainbow lorikeets and playing with the rabbits in the petting zoo.
Fresh Creek, The Bahamas
Experience the thrill of scuba diving and snorkeling around the Andros Barrier Reef, the third-largest living organism on earth. The 190-mile-long reef starts out along the east coast of Andros, so it’s easily accessed. Swim out—the reef is only eight feet below the water’s surface on the island side, but on its far side, it drops off into a deep ocean trench called the Tongue of the Ocean. Along the reef, you’ll see a range of impressive big fish like sailfish and manta rays, as well as dozens of other types of colorful fish, plants, and coral.
Market St, Nassau, The Bahamas
The oldest wooden home still standing in Nassau, Balcony House is named for the long, second-floor balcony that stretched across the front of the home. Historical maps suggest that the house could date as far back as the late 18th century, during an era called the Loyalist period, and in the mid-1800s, this house was the residence of Stephen Dillet, the Bahamas’ first-ever black member of the House of Assembly, as well as a justice of the peace and inspector of the Nassau Police. Today, Balcony House has been restored into a museum where guests can climb the beautiful mahogany staircase and explore the rooms decorated with period furnishings. Admission is free, and donations are accepted.
Nassau, The Bahamas
The waters of the Bahamas offer thrilling sportfishing, with many of the ocean’s biggest and most challenging game fish just offshore. Whether you’re looking to fight a mighty blue marlin, land a yellowfin tuna, or hook a mahi-mahi for dinner, Nassau’s Born Free Fishing Charters has the boats, equipment, and expertise to make it happen. With a fleet of five vessels of varying sizes, it offers private excursions that are customized for each individual group, including half- and full-day charters for everything from deep-sea fishing to snorkeling and sightseeing. All the fishing gear for deep-sea or light-tackle fishing is provided on board.
Treasure Cay Road, Treasure Cay, AB-22134, Great Abaco Island, The Bahamas
Carleton Point is the historic site of the first settlement on Treasure Cay Beach, where 600 Americans loyal to the British migrated in 1783, at the end of the American Revolutionary War, preferring to live in the British-controlled Bahamas rather than the newly independent United States of America. The settlement they built was named Carleton Point after Sir Guy Carleton, a British military commander in New York who oversaw the evacuation of the Loyalists. The settlement was short-lived, however, as the Loyalists abandoned it in 1785 after a hurricane hit, but artifacts have been uncovered at the site, and a plaque now marks its location.
3MG4+X7Q, George St, Nassau, Bahamas
Nassau’s Christ Church Cathedral sits near the site of the first church built in the Bahamas. The original church, built in 1670, was called the Parish of Christ Church, and it was destroyed by the Spanish just 14 years later. After a few iterations, the stone church that stands there today went up in 1841, and it still holds services more than 170 years later. Visitors can explore this historical landmark, located on George Street in downtown Nassau, or even join one of the daily services, prayer sessions, or Holy Communions.
Long Island, The Bahamas
Nestled inside a protected cove on the coast of Long Island, Dean’s Blue Hole is an unusual natural wonder. From the shore, it looks like a round patch of blue water surrounded by turquoise green. That’s the result of a massive sinkhole that collapsed near the shore, creating a natural tunnel that drops to more than 660 feet deep, making it the deepest blue hole in the world. The site is commonly visited by scuba divers and free-divers who explore the vertical cavern walls. It’s also a great place for swimmers, and because it’s protected within the cove there are no currents or waves to worry about.
Studio I Site, W Bay St, Nassau, The Bahamas
Junkanoo is one of the Bahamas’ most colorful traditions, a more than 200-year-old street celebration and parade, like Carnival with a Bahamian twist. It takes place during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. But visitors can learn about Junkanoo any time of year with a stop at the Educulture Junkanoo Museum on West Street in downtown Nassau. The museum’s exhibits highlight the history of the celebration, along with examples of the elaborate costumes, music, and dances that take place during the events. There’s also an interactive element, with visitors invited to make masks and learn how to dance to Bahamian music. The Educulture Junkanoo Museum is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Bahamas
The Exumas are a stunning archipelago of remote islands and cays strung between Nassau and Long Island, and around a dozen of these tiny islands are protected within the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park. Established in 1958 as a preserve where no fishing is allowed, it was the first marine protected area in the Caribbean. It has been highly successful at maintaining the fragile beaches and marine life found in the area. Visitors can take boat tours to the park to go diving and snorkeling on the many healthy reefs and to explore the secluded tropical islands, where endangered Bahamian iguanas roam the beaches. On Big Major Cay, you can go swimming with the pigs at Pig Beach and give them fresh water, as their water supply is limited.
W Bay St, Nassau, The Bahamas
Fort Charlotte sits a mile west of downtown Nassau, on West Bay Street, where its perch atop a hill offers a strategic vantage point overlooking the harbor. Today, this defensive position affords visitors excellent views of both Nassau and Paradise Island. Completed in 1819, the large stone fort is well preserved, and visitors can cross the dry moat and explore underground passageways to the dungeons. There are 42 cannons placed around the fort, though they were never used in battle. Starting at 11:30 a.m. every Wednesday and Friday, historical reenactors in period dress demonstrate aspects of colonial life, and at noon they fire one of the cannons.
Paradise Beach Drive
A trip to the Bahamas is all about being on the water, and a sailing catamaran is a great way to explore the islands and savor the ocean breeze. Charter the spacious 57-foot Flying Cloud catamaran and take a sailing excursion to secluded beaches and snorkeling sites. Charter options include half- and full-day cruises that include snorkeling gear and drinks. The full-day excursions also offer a lunch of BBQ ribs and chicken. There’s also a dinner cruise option that features a romantic dinner and drinks as you sail around Nassau Harbour and Paradise Island. All of the cruises leave from Paradise Island Ferry Terminal and include transportation to and from your hotel.
Elisabeth Ave, Nassau, The Bahamas
One of the smaller forts in the Bahamas sits right at the heart of downtown Nassau. Fort Fincastle was built from cut limestone atop Bennett’s Hill to defend Nassau from pirates. One of the most notable features near the fort and historic complex is the Queen’s Staircase, a 66-step stairway hewn from solid rock by slaves to connect the fort to the city. You can walk the stairs as you make your way to the fort, then enjoy a great view of the city and the coastline. If you’re counting steps, you’ll notice that there are only 65; that’s because the final step is buried under the modern asphalt paving at the bottom.
Just south of Bimini, tiny Gun Cay is the site of Honeymoon Harbour Beach, a remote and beautiful stretch of shore that’s accessible only by boat. Bimini Undersea offers trips to the beach, where you can lounge on the sand and snorkel in the calm, clear water. However, the highlight is the opportunity for face-to-face encounters with the local stingrays. These bottom-dwelling creatures have grown accustomed to people feeding and touching them, so there’s very little risk of a sting, as long as you’re gentle and take small steps to avoid trodding on them.
Nassau, Bahamas
For many scuba divers, one of the most iconic spots in the Bahamas is the underwater area where a cargo ship and a prop airplane were used in underwater scuba scenes for Sean Connery–era James Bond movies. Located off the coast of New Providence, the dive site is simply called the Bond Wrecks because both can be explored in a single dive. The first is a mock-up of an airplane that was used as the Vulcan bomber in the movie Thunderball, while the other is a 90-foot Tears of Allah tugboat used in Never Say Never Again, which sits upright and intact in about 40 feet of crystal-clear water.
West & West Hill Sts. West Hill Street
The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas occupies the historic Villa Doyle, a colonial-era home from 1860, at the corner of Hill and West Hill streets, across from the U.S. Embassy. The gallery offers a unique look at Bahamian history and culture through the art of its people. The ground floor hosts the museum’s permanent exhibits, while the upstairs has a pair of temporary exhibit spaces that change regularly. The museum is open every day except Mondays and holidays; admission is $10 for international visitors, while kids under 12 are free.
Retirement Road
Explore the history and impact of slavery in the Bahamas with a visit to the Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation. Located in downtown Nassau, the museum is in the historic Vendue House, which dates from the mid-1700s and was used as a market for various goods, including slaves, in the 18th and 19th centuries. The name of the museum honors a slave named Pompey, who led a revolt at the Rolle Plantation on Exuma. The one-room museum has a small collection of artifacts, photos, and other objects that help document this era of Bahamian history, from the slave trade and daily life of slaves on the island, to emancipation in 1834 and beyond.
The Bahamas
The longest beach on Little Exuma is a stunning stretch of powder-white sand that is officially called Pelican Beach but more commonly called Tropic of Cancer Beach because it sits directly on the Tropic of Cancer latitude line—the dividing line between the subtropics and the tropics. This navigational line is marked on the pavement atop the stairs leading to the beach. Even without it, the beach would be well worth a visit—it’s often empty of visitors, and the calm turquoise waters and gently sloping, white-sand seafloor make it a great place to swim and sunbathe.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks