The 4.5 million annual visitors to the Bahamas make the island cluster the most popular tourist destination in the entire Caribbean.
This eastern Caribbean cruise destination ranks first in total tourism, an overwhelming first among all cruise destinations and sixth among stopover vacations after Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Cancun and Puerto Rico.
Visitors find the shorter and sometimes direct flights to the islands, which lie conveniently close to Florida, make it attractive as a short-term stopover and much quicker than flying an extra 1,000 miles more south to an island such as Aruba.
Visitors mainly flock to two main islands -- Nassau/Paradise Island and Grand Bahama Island -- followed by numerous outer islands. Treasure Cay Beach and Harbour Island Beach are two of the most popular and well-publicized beaches in the islands.
Duty-free shopping includes Port Lucaya Marketplace on Grand Bahama Island and the Welcome Center at Festival Place on Nassau. Special events such as Junkanoo make the islands more festival oriented than most.
Unique attractions include Exuma Caves Land & Sea Park, Lucayan National Park and Hamilton's Settlement. Noteworthy regular attractions include six golf courses and an exceptionally large number of watersports activities including an unusually high number of dive operators.
Port Lucaya Marketplace © Big Stock Photo
Port Lucaya Marketplace is a 12-acre shopping and dining complex on the waterfront of Grand Bahama Island. Visitors also can charter fishing boats, dive boats and reef tours.
Tourism / When to Go
U.S. citizens require a valid, government issued photo ID along with the proof of passport application for entry into the destination. Canadian citizens need a passport, official birth certificate OR original naturalization /citizenship certificate. Cruise visitors simply need to have their ship IDs available when leaving the ship and returning.
Like most Caribbean destinations in the hurricane path, the peak time to go is March followed by April and then July as a close third. The least popular time to go is September followed by October.
The average temperature from September to May is 70-75 degrees, while the average from June to August is 80-85 dgrees. Tropical marine; moderated by warm waters of Gulf Stream. Hurricanes and other tropical storms cause extensive flood and wind damage.
Currency / Tipping / Taxes
The local currency is the Bahamian Dollar, which is roughly equal in value to the U.S. dollar. The U.S. dollar is widely accepted throughout the islands. Most hotels add a service charge. Prepare to offer 15 percent at restaurants and to taxi drivers. There is a 12 percent hotel tax. Bellboys and porters usually receive $1 per bag.
Passports / Entry Requirements
U.S. citizens do not need to obtain visas to visit the Bahamas, but a passport is required to re-enter the U.S. Canadian citizens require either a passport, official birth certificate or original naturalization / citizenship certificate along with a return ticket and proof of funds to support the visit.
Stays for Canadian visitors cannot exceed 21 days.
Cruise visitors must show a shipboard ID to exit and re-enter the ship.
Prior to departure from the U.S., sea travelers must have a valid U.S. passport or other original proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a certified U.S. birth certificate with a government-issued photo ID.
Culture / Geography
English is the official language with Creole spoken among Haitian immigrants. The Bahamas is a stable, developing nation with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and offshore banking. The geography consists of long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills.
Bateman, Scott "Bahamas Weather - Best and Worst Months to Go." Bahamas Weather - Best and Worst Months to Go. 24 Jun. 2009 EzineArticles.com. 28 Aug. 2012 http://ezinearticles.com/?Bahamas-Weather---Best-and-Worst-Months-to-Go&id=2520746.
Sources / More information