Visiting the Bahamas for the first time exceeded my expectations, even in the middle of a pandemic. Between the rich culture, flavorful foods, rhythmic music and beautiful beaches, this Caribbean paradise has so much to offer for all types of travelers. I stayed in Nassau, which is the capital of the Bahamas and one of the most popular island ports for cruises. Tourism accounts for more than 50 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GPD) and employs almost half of the Bahamian workforce, so spending my money directly on the island was important to me.
I felt a warm welcome from every single Bahamian I came across for the entirety of my trip, which made me feel more at home than on vacation. So let’s get to where to stay, what to eat, and all the fun things to do in and around Nassau so you can start planning your trip now!
Things To Know About The Bahamas Before You Travel
Traveling during a global pandemic means an added layer of research and additional steps to take in making sure you are prepared to travel to your destination. This destination requires you to apply on their website for a Bahamas Health Travel Visa, and the application takes about 5 minutes to complete. There’s also a $40 fee.
According to the most recent regulations, all travelers to the Bahamas must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 5 days before arrival. I was approved within 24 hours of completing my application and uploading my documents, so it’s a super-quick process, but you’ll want to get your approval ahead of your trip. (And be sure to check the travel visa website closer to the date of your trip, as regulations are subject to change.)
Once approved, you receive a QR code to present at the airport before passing through security. Try to arrive early to ensure you have enough time to get your documents checked because you don’t want to get left behind because you don’t have all your ducks in a row.
Where To Stay In The Bahamas
Airbnb: Thirty Six
For some destinations, I prefer to skip the resorts and go for a more local accommodation like an Airbnb. After doing lots of research, I decided to stay at Thirty|Six Condominiums, a luxury condo on Paradise Island.
When I say that it’s a newer, luxury condo, I mean it. In the taxi ride from the airport, our driver joked that we must be celebrities because only famous people stay there.
The one-bedroom condo had one full bathroom and one half bathroom, a walk-in closet, a washer and dryer, a large wrap-around balcony, and a completely renovated kitchen. I truly felt like I was living a fabulous life in such a beautiful space.
The property had a 24-hour security booth, parking, a gym, and a beautiful infinity pool where we could lounge all day long. The security guards were great for helping us get a taxi or giving restaurant recommendations. I would for sure stay there again next time.
Hotel: Atlantis Paradise Island
Chances are if you start to research anything related to the Bahamas, you’ve heard of Atlantis<a href="
" target="_blank">Atlantis has shown up. Located on Paradise Island, it is one of the top rated hotels in all of the Bahamas. Now just know, if you want to stay at Atlantis, you are going to be paying a pretty penny, but it's full of delicious restaurants, a beautiful beach, a water park, a rooftop bar, a casino, and so much more. If luxury is your thing—or just having everything right there—you definitely want to consider paying the extra money for the convenience of Atlantis.
Where To Eat
The Bahamas was filled with so many delicious restaurants, it was truly hard to narrow it down to just a few. As with most islands, the seafood was super-fresh and the hospitality was pleasant.
Conch is a true Bahamian specialty, so be sure to try conch fritters and conch salad everywhere. I honestly had conch fritters every day.
And of course, rum is the true star of any island vacation so I recommend a Bahama Mama or rum punch for lunch and dinner. Everywhere that I ate was spectacular, but here are some of my favorite must-try places for good eats.
Viola's Bar and Grill
Multiple people suggested eating at Viola's, and it did not disappoint. Located in walking distance to most hotels on Paradise Island, Viola's is the perfect spot to grab lunch or dinner. Outside of the delicious Bahamian food, Viola's also has great entertainment like karaoke nights. Don't miss trying the conch fritters (duh!) and the shrimp mac-and-cheese which can be made spicy. Also, ask about the super-sized drink upgrades, because why not?
This spot is located right on the harbor, so it serves up delicious eats with fantastic views. The service was great and the drinks had me whining in my chair to the reggae music.
If there is just one thing you follow through with after reading this guide, let it be a visit to Sonia's Jerk Hut on the beach. Located right on the beach, this cute little spot serves all of your Caribbean favorites, and the owner Sonia is super sweet. The restaurant prides itself as the "best jerk on the island," and I did not see the lie. The jerk chicken was thebomb.com. Oh, and don't sleep on her spicy sauce because it packs a punch! Another great thing is that the food comes in to-go containers so if her tables are full, just grab your food and eat it right there on the beach.
Latitudes is where you go when you want to dress up and spend a little more for dinner. Their menu is a fusion of different cuisines that includes sushi, pizza, steak, and noodle bowls. Dinner can fill up quickly so be sure to make a reservation.
Arawak Cay Fish Fry
Fish Fry is not a specific restaurant but a designated strip of different restaurants serving up fresh and delicious seafood. There isn't one specific place I can recommend because I tried so many that were good, so I suggest you treat it like a bar-hop. Stop at one place for the conch fritters, then go a few doors down for some fried snapper, and then try the rum punch and shrimp at another spot.
Later in the evening, this area is vibrant, with music playing and lots of locals and tourists wandering around looking for their next spot to eat. I visited twice and had some of the best conch fritters and rum punch at one of the smaller spots.
What To Do In The Bahamas
Located just minutes away from downtown Nassau, Junkanoo Beach was the best beach for hanging out and enjoying the crystal blue water. I found the water to be calmer and more shallow, which is perfect for those who just want to enjoy the water without going out too deep or worrying about large waves. There's also a strip of bars and restaurants right along the beach (including Sonia's Jerk Hut), so you can easily spend a day here just relaxing and catching vibes. Take a walk a little further down and you'll end up right at the start of the Fish Fry. Win-Win!
Snorkeling Boat Cruise
What is vacation if you don't find yourself on a boat at least once? The water surrounding the Bahamas is just too beautiful not to see up-close and personal. There are a number of boat cruises that will take you to different islands and some trips include stops for snorkeling and lunch. The cruise I took included snorkeling near green turtles, bottomless rum punch, and a stop at a restaurant on Rose island, complete with a DJ and time for ordering food. Need I say more?
John Watling Distillery
When in Rome, or in this case the Bahamas, do a rum tasting! This historic distillery has been pushing out hand-crafted Bahamian rum since 1789 and is worth the visit. Stop by for rum tastings or a free daily tour, and grab a bottle (or two) to bring back to the states.
Hideaway Floating Bar
A floating bar in the middle of the ocean with good drinks and vibes? Sign me up! Hideaway is literally a floating bar and grill located in the water near Athol Island, which is just off of Paradise Island. Open on weekends only, catch an hourly speedboat out to the bar and spend the day hanging out by the bar or lounging with your feet in the water as you take in the views. Be sure to go early, because once it fills up, you have to wait until people leave to go over.
I know everyone has seen the photos of folks visiting the Bahamas and being on an island full of large pigs called Exuma. There you can visit the pigs, swim with sharks, and just enjoy the beautiful views. It's a separate island from the one Nassua is located on, so if you want to swim with the pigs you will have to book a flight which takes about 40 mins or book a boat tour which can be around 3 to 4 hours via speedboat. It's a long journey, but worth the Instagrammable photos with a piglet and his family.
Cacique Bar and Lounge
If you're like me, then you enjoy venturing out to experience nightlife when visiting new places. The Bahamas did not let me down when it came to having fun, and Cacique was one of those places that I wanted to go back to every night if I could. Located not too far from Junkanoo Beach, it's an outdoor spot that has all the vibes. I'm talking about good food, strong and cheap drinks (hello $10 top shelf), hookah, and a DJ playing everything from soca to hip-hop. Do yourself a favor and plan at least one fun night out to dance and have fun at Cacique, and depending on the day you might find yourself enjoying karaoke, paint and sip, or Ladies Night.
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Featured image by Getty Images