Bahamas Neighborhoods & Towns
The most populous islands in the Bahamas — New Providence Island, Paradise Island and Grand Bahama Island — are also the most common tourist destinations. Nassau, Bahamas' capital city and home to 80 percent of the nation's population, sprawls out along New Providence Island's eastern side.
New Providence Island
Bay Street in Nassau runs parallel to New Providence Island's northern shore and contains the area's main shopping district. To the east is the gritty Old Town, which contains many Bahamian government buildings, including the pink Parliament Square buildings.
New Providence also offers a variety of popular outdoor activities, including snorkeling, swimming and hiking. Wide sunbathing areas, great surfing conditions and jet-skiing opportunities can be found on Cable Beach.
Just north of New Providence is Paradise Island, a small but major resort destination. Accessible from Nassau by two bridges, the island is home to some of the Bahamas' most celebrated — and expensive — beaches. To some, the grandest sight on the island is the world-famous Atlantis Paradise Island Resort and Water Park. Many of the sights and beaches on the island are limited to Atlantis guests, but some beaches are publicly accessible on foot. The popular Cabbage Beach occupies more than two miles of shoreline. To get away from the crowds, try the sands on the beach's northwest end.
Grand Bahama Island
The Grand Bahama Island is the closest to the United States and home to Freeport, the island's main city. The city has experienced resurgence in the aftermath of a pair of destructive hurricanes in 2004 and 2005. Grand Bahama is also one of the best for eco-travelers. Its treasure is Lucayan National Park on the northern side of the island, the only place in the country that features all six Bahamian ecosystems, according to the island's website.
Grand Bahama Island also features more than 60 miles of beaches for swimming and water sports. Xanadu Beach is most convenient to Freeport's resorts, but you should consider the less-crowded Gold Rock Beach and Taino Beach.
To avoid the crowds that inevitably plague most of the beaches on New Providence and Grand Bahama, consider staying on the Out Islands, the smaller and sometimes cheaper islands scattered throughout the archipelago. These include Acklins Island, the Abaco Islands, Bimini Island, Cat Island, Eleuthera and Harbour Island and Exumas Island.
Acklins Island is a relatively undeveloped island that is home to several Lucayan Indian sites, especially along Pompey Bay Beach. Fishing, kayaking and snorkeling are especially popular in Acklins because of the island's shallow waters. The Plana Cays reserve and the Castle Island Lighthouse are also popular attractions.
The Abaco Islands
The Abaco Islands consists of several islands and cays (very small islands) that are great for exploring and snorkeling. Andros Island is the Bahamas' largest island but it's also the least developed. Like other Out Islands, Andros Island is ideal for eco-travelers. Along its shores lies the Big Yard, the world's third-largest barrier reef, filled with various marine wildlife.
Along with Andros and the Berry Islands, Bimini Island lies along the northwestern edge of the Bahamas. Bimini Island was a popular hideout for rum-runners during prohibition, and the great American author, Ernest Hemingway, spent several years writing on the island. Because of its reputation as the big-game fishing capital of the world, Bimini is often crowded with anglers and boaters. However, other watersports abound here, including yachting and scuba diving. Experts say that those interested in history should head to the northern part of the island, where several rock formations strewn off the coast are said to be remnants of the lost continent of Atlantis.
Cat Island is about 130 miles southeast of Nassau and Paradise Island and, like most Out Islands, is a popular locale for snorkeling and swimming. The island is relatively unpopulated and home to several small, rustic villages.
Eleuthera Island & Harbour Island
Eleuthera Island was the Bahamas' first permanent settlement, and its Queen's Highway — which runs north to south — weaves throughout the entire island and makes navigation easy. Eleuthera's satellite island, Harbour Island, is home to Dunmore Town, which contains an abundance of New England-style architecture. Both Eleuthera and Harbour Island contain many upscale hotels and resorts. Harbour Island's Pink Sands Beach is one of the best, with three miles of pink sand and calm, shallow waters.
Exumas has an abundance of hotels and resorts that writers say are both exclusive and very, very expensive. The island is also home to the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, with public and private cays (very small islands) that you can explore by tour boat.
The crime rate is high on many Bahamian islands, but particularly the lively New Providence, Paradise and Grand Bahama islands. The U.S. State Department says the U.S. Embassy has several filed reports of sexual assaults "in diverse areas such as in casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships. In several incidents the victim had reportedly been drugged." In addition, travel sites warn of pickpockets on the casino floors along the Paradise Beach and Cable Beach strips.
Most criminal activity occurs outside of the tourist areas, however. You should especially avoid the "over-the-hill" section of Nassau (just south of the downtown area). It's also better to leave your valuables secured in the room safe, and to keep your rental car locked at all times.