Welcome to The Bahamas
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Welcome to The Bahamas
Although not geographically a part of the Caribbean (the country's 700 islands lie in the Atlantic Ocean, not in the Caribbean Sea), The Bahamas exude a distinctly Caribbean charm. In fact, its colorful buildings, lush vegetation, long white beaches and eclectic culture make The Bahamas just as popular as any of its truly Caribbean neighbors.
In Nassau, the country's capital on New Providence Island, the Tropical meets the Continental: colorful old buildings and lush vegetation remain intact amidst modern high-rises; historical sites recall the development of these islands from slave trading post to British colony to vacation paradise. Travelers come here to shop duty-free, to taste some of the finest Bahamian cuisine, or to stay at some of the best hotels in the Bahamas. Horse-drawn surreys in Rawson Square give riders a taste of colonial majesty while the beat of Goombay performed live on the street reminds listeners that this definitely is not London.
Just west of downtown Nassau is Cable Beach, where luxury vacationers find a place to relax in a quieter atmosphere. Here are the same white sands and the same crystal-clear water, but a different kind of vacation. Only ten minutes away from downtown (so guests can still enjoy the Nassau nightlife), Cable Beach also caters to an active lifestyle: with enough luxury resorts to go around, there is a wide selection of excellent locations for watersports, golf and tennis. Rest-ready parents take note: this also means more distractions for otherwise-idle children.
Paradise Island, only a short walk across the bridge from Nassau, has the most posh hotels and the hottest casinos in The Bahamas. While not for those who want a genuinely Bahamian experience, what Paradise Island lacks in culture it makes up for in opulence. Vacationers take their pick of gambling at the casino, sun-bathing on the beautiful Paradise Beach, or catching a Vegas-style revue. More than anything, this is a place to see and be seen.
Beaches in The Bahamas
Public beaches in the Bahamas are mingled closely with private ones so that local beachgoers get the access they deserve and to avoid any monopolizing of these natural resources. Guests at beachfront hotels can walk along the shore to many of the other beaches but, on relatively small islands such as these, it shouldn't cost too much to take a cab.
Cabbage Beach - Cabbage Beach is widely considered Paradise Island's most beautiful. Its 2 miles of sand are bordered by lush vegetation. There are several bars and restaurants that make it a great place to spend a day. There are no public facilities, though, so beachgoers who have to go will also have to buy something, since these establishments only welcome paying customers to use theirs. The beach is often crowded during the winter, especially near the larger resort hotels, but there's usually a vacant plot to be found with a little walking. In the worst case, one could just walk west toward Paradise Beach, which is always less crowded.
Paradise Beach - Paradise Beach sits at the western end of the same stretch of sand. With a good number of huts offering escape from the sun, it's also one of the island's best beaches. On top of that, it's significantly less crowded than Cabbage Beach because it is only accessible by foot or ferry.
Cable Beach - The most popular beach on New Providence Island is actually a series of beaches lined by some of the island's most luxurious hotels. With 4 miles of powdery white sand and a variety of vendors offering all kinds of food and drink, it's also the island's most popular beach spot. As a result, it's the most crowded, too. There are no public facilities, so non-guests should buy something or be friendly with the staff before using an establishment's restroom. Lounge chairs are hard to come by and are reserved for guests of the hotels. Outsiders caught using them will be expected to get up or cough up some dough. Despite these possible difficulties, this is a great beach with a lively atmosphere, and people-watching doesn't get any better in the Bahamas.
Western Esplanade (a.k.a. Junkanoo Beach, Lighthouse Beach or Long Wharf) - For guests staying in Nassau, this is beach is too convenient to overlook. With easy access from Bay Street, public facilities and a snack bar, it's a great place to spend any free time. It's also very popular with local children and families on holidays or after school.
Dining in The Bahamas
Restaurants in The Bahamas have followed the recent trend towards providing some of everything, but there are still excellent options for authentic Bahamian dishes. These typically include fresh seafood and local produce, and they seldom disappoint. If Bahamian cuisine doesn't do it, more finicky eaters will have plenty to choose from, including international styles of all kinds. Because meat must be imported, diners who order it will not be disappointed by the quality but may be surprised by the prices.
Most of Nassau's restaurants are independent establishments, while those on Cable Beach and Paradise Island are mostly associated with and located within the major resorts. In the end, proximity may be the most salient factor in choosing a restaurant, as superb opportunities for gastronomic indulgence are close always at hand.
Nightlife in The Bahamas
The Bahamas make music that makes people dance, and the casinos on New Providence and Paradise Islands make money that makes people want to play. The interaction between all five--the islands, the people, the casinos, the music, and the money--is both competitive and mutually beneficial. Gambling is a luxury reserved for visitors to the islands and prohibited to locals, meaning that the casinos can only bring money to the country, without any reliance on the fickle Lady Luck. Music, on the other hand, is largely a product of local artists who perform at casinos and clubs regularly. The people, visitors and locals alike, indulge themselves in the music with all due enthusiasm.
As a result of this relationship, most of The Bahamas' nightlife is within the casinos themselves or within the confines of the resorts that run them. Still, there is a good selection of clubs on the islands not operated by the resorts, some of which are the best-loved in The Bahamas.
The Bahamas' casinos are casual, and do not require gala dress. Players must be 21 years old, but some casino events welcome guests of all ages.
Shopping in The Bahamas
As with any destination where duty-free shopping is possible, many people visiting The Bahamas are as thrilled by the discounted prices as by the beaches. The best deals (again, similar to those found at other duty-free ports) are for imported luxury items such as jewelry, linens, crystal and perfumes. Cigars (yes, Cuban cigars) and liquors are also available, some at great prices.
Most shops are along Bay Street in Nassau, and on the side streets that connect to it. Between Bay Street and the waterfront, vendors sell a large selection of goods at Straw Market. Shoppers who want to haggle can try it here, but shouldn't bother at the shops, where the prices are not negotiable. Many hotels have their own shopping arcades with high-end shops and top-shelf boutiques, but these are better for high fashion than for low prices.
Attractions in The Bahamas
Most of New Providence's tourist draws lie in Nassau and on the island's northeastern side. Among these are the historic sites of Downtown, the shops and cafés on Prince George Wharf, and the city's collection of museums and tours, all of which add cultural depth to the island's natural beauty. The rest of the area, including Paradise Island, is peppered with opportunities for rest, recreation and exploration. From wine tasting to horseback riding, the island's attractions come in enough shapes, sizes and flavors to please even the pickiest travelers.