The Insider’s Guide to Islands in the Bahamas


Located east off the coast of Miami, the Bahamas are the perfect holiday location for sun-seekers, sightseers and even nature lovers. With seven ports dotted around the idyllic islands, they’re also the ideal destination for a cruise holiday. But with so much on offer, it can be hard to know where to start, or which of the islands is best for you. Luckily, we’re on hand to guide you through the highlights of the Bahamas.

Nassau and Paradise Island

The capital of the Bahamas, Nassau is understandably one of the most popular of the islands. It’s hard to narrow down the vast attractions on offer. Sandy white beaches are accompanied by luxury hotel complexes, golf courses and a casino, giving this island a unique mixture of tranquillity and excitement. Atlantis, located on Paradise Island in the north of Nassau, is home to the huge Aquaventure water park. With 18 water slides, 11 distinctive pools, and 2 river rides over a mile long, the 141-acre water park is enough to draw anyone to this Caribbean utopia.

It doesn’t end there though. Also part of the Atlantis complex is the famous Dolphin Encounters. Swimming with dolphins is a once in a lifetime experience, and here you can do it in the serene surroundings of the Blue Lagoon Island – a natural habitat for the dolphins. A scenic boat ride, an educational and interactive experience, and finally the chance to pet, kiss and even hug a dolphin – you won’t be disappointed.

Away from Paradise Island is Nassau’s downtown district. Make sure you set aside some time to visit this cultural hotspot. It’s a magnificent place for dining, shopping and sightseeing. Historical landmarks are dotted around the area, such as the Pirates of Nassau Museum, where superb waxworks tell the story of the ‘Golden Age of Piracy’ and Vendue House (Pompey Museum) which details the deep history of slavery in the Bahamas.

nassau bahamas

Freeport in Grand Bahama

Like Nassau, Freeport is a modern, developed area full of attractions. Its location on Grand Bahama – the most north-westerly Bahamian island – makes it the closest destination for American tourists. As a result, Freeport is increasingly popular and constantly buzzing. The Port Lucaya Marketplace is the biggest open air complex in the Bahamas. Dining, entertainment and bountiful shopping are all covered in this incredible attraction.

More than forty specialist shops are available for boutique enthusiasts, along with Craft Centres stocking all the souvenirs and mementos you could need. The Straw Markets are a must-see if you’re visiting Port Lucaya. They are full of beautifully handcrafted straw items, reflecting the famous Caribbean straw industry. Pick up an authentic hand-woven straw bag, or maybe even an artisanal wood carved doll.

Delve a little deeper into Port Lucaya and you’ll come across UNEXSO – the Underwater Explorers Society. Opening up a whole new world of adventures, they offer shipwreck explorations, dolphin encounters and most notably their introductory scuba-diving experiences. Warning – you might become hooked after your first taste of the reef’s amazing views. Want more? Lucayan National Park gives you an equally stunning interaction with nature above sea level. Different species of trees, plants and flowers – some unique and rare – gorgeously adorn this forty-acre park.

Castaway Cay – not just for kids

Owned by Disney Cruises, this small island understandably revolves around childhood joy. Famous Disney characters roam around the family beach, teens’ area, and Scuttle’s Cove, a themed water-play zone. Olaf’s Summer Freeze is a fun, wintry utopia amongst the tropical surroundings, with drinks and decorations inspired by the Disney hit film Frozen. The island also boasts a 2,400-square-foot floating platform for water play, slides and a gigantic bucket of water ready to soak anyone brave enough to stand below.

No kids? Don’t worry. There’s also a dedicated adult-only area. The Castaway Air Bar is a highlight, with speciality frozen drinks. The Air Bar also features a BBQ area to make sure you’re fully satisfied as well as completely relaxed. Complimentary childcare for children aged 3-12 means even parents can try out the delights.

Great Stirrup Cay’s famous zip-line

Norwegian Cruise’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay, has been designed for relaxation and enjoyment. Aside from being spoilt by magnificent beaches, you can enjoy half an acre of pure entertainment in the purpose-built complex. Volleyball and basketball courts, ping-pong tables, shaded picnic areas and even a stage for live music performances. Norwegian’s recent upgrades include a long stretch of boardwalk, allowing you to take in the beautiful surroundings at ease. Food isn’t forgotten on this island. Create your own taco at Abaco Taco or enjoy a sumptuous lunch at LandShark Bar and Grill. There are a variety of options to suit all foodie tastes.

Now for the two crowning jewels of Great Stirrup Cay. The underwater sculpture garden is a snorkelling adventure like no other. Norwegian have created a trail of underwater features to give your snorkelling experience a fantasy edge. Their underwater garden is truly majestic. Then from underwater to up above – 100 feet up above to be precise. Two parallel zip-lines stretch over 1000-feet across the amazing Great Stirrup landscape. Fly across the island on your own or with a friend. It’s the perfect way to pair incredible views with an unforgettable, breathtaking experience.


CocoCay – the sandy paradise 

Upon acquiring Little Stirrup Cay, Royal Caribbean renamed the island CocoCay and turned it into a beach-lover’s paradise. It has all the beautiful beaches you have come to expect of Bahamian islands, but with a variety of exciting activities to keep you entertained. Want to see the fascinating marine life in the island’s surrounding sea? Snorkelling is a must. Fancy something a bit more active? CocoCay’s guided kayak tours let you explore the island’s beauty above water with the exciting experience of kayaking thrown in.

If you’re a thrill-seeker looking for your next adrenaline rush, CocoCay’s 140 acres of beaches also facilitate parasailing and jet ski adventures. Flying above the majestic island, you’ll be able to take in the incredible panoramic views and capture the most amazing pictures. And on the exhilarating Wave Jet tour you will be treated to an hour of sheer excitement. Blasting through the water on your own watercraft, you’ll visit all the CocoCay landmarks, including picturesque Slaughter Harbour and the mysterious Cistern Cay.

Thirsty? Whether you want a funky cocktail, an ice cold beer or just a refreshing soft drink, the island has bars at almost every corner. Junkanoo Jacks bar, the Island Oasis Cabana Club, there’s even a unique floating bar on the south side beach. Accommodation on the island has recently been expanded with beach bungalows adding to the variety. This really is the island for those who want to get out there and have fun.

Water delights at Princess Cays

Much like CocoCay, Princess Cays has been designed to please those who love all things beach. It’s part of Eleuthera island, which stretches over a hundred miles, but is just over a mile wide. A plethora of exciting beach activities are available at Princess Cays, owned by its namesake Princess Cruises, including a mass of water-sports, glass bottom boats and deep sea fishing. Boat rental is a key feature, with great variety on offer. Sailboats, kayaks, pedal boats and even super-fun aqua bikes are available on the beach. You know you want to try them all.

Half Moon Cay’s natural wonders

While all of the Bahamas have some beautiful nature amongst the tropical surrounds, the real haven for nature lovers is in Half Moon Cay. Only a small percentage of the island has been built upon by owners Carnival – around two percent in fact. Amongst the attractions are a small Bahamian village, straw market, Tropics restaurant and bar, and a two-mile crescent beach – explaining the “half-moon” naming of the island. So what’s the big deal?

Half Moon Cay

Having the vast majority untouched gives it the unique attraction of over 2,000 acres of pristine natural habitats. Half Moon Cay’s bird sanctuary is world renowned for its rich diversity in species. As well as thousands of sooty terns, the island is home to roseate terns, Bahamian pintails, Bahama mockingbirds, bananaquits and thick-billed Vireos to name just a few.

Employees are housed on nearby islands, with less than fifty acres of space utilised. But there is still plenty to see – on top of the fascinating wildlife. Trained horses are available for an almost dream-like experience. Ride along the gorgeous Bahamian beach and take in the stunning island scenery while the sea brushes the feet of your equine companion. Perfection.

Your Bahama experience

These fabulous islands in the Bahamas might sound unreal, but actually they’re only a click away. Cruise1st offer a wide range of Caribbean cruises stopping at a number of exciting islands in the Bahamas. Whether you want to venture around Paradise Island in Nassau or race through the air on Great Stirrup Cay’s zip-line, our packages can provide you with the cruise holiday you want and need. Call our UK cruise specialists on 0808 2746 777 for more information.

The Insider’s Guide to Islands in the Bahamas
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The Insider’s Guide to Islands in the Bahamas
Guide to each and every relevant island in the Bahamas, with interesting information of the best places to visit and things to do in each one.
Cruise1st UK

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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