Nassau Bahamas is a perfect long weekend getaway and there is plenty to do in four days. It is one of the most favorite destinations for all the Carribean cruises. It’s close to Miami and compact in a way that you can see a lot of the island in one day. If you’re actually staying on the island, you can feel how the town lives in ebbs and flows of the visiting cruise ships.
Although designed to handle crowds of people with large resorts like Atlantis and Baha Mar, Nassau also has plenty of colonial charm, distinctly Bahamian architecture, and unlimited number of gorgeous beaches.
Things to Do
Water activities will be a big part of the itinerary. Plan your long weekend in Nassau ahead of time as water activities will largely depend on the weather. If the weather is too rough, which can happen in the winter months, many of the day trips can get canceled. If that happens, the island has miles of beautiful coastline for you to explore.
Snorkel – waters all around Nassau island are super clear unless you’re on the beach facing open ocean.
Diving – the island is home to most amazing clear diving sites.
Rent a buggy – fun way to cruise the island and visit beaches below.
Crash Versailles Gardens and French Cloister – most gorgeous, immaculate gardens, perfect for pictures and unfortunately owned by One and Only resort and thus a private property. Am I encouraging trespassing? Maybe.
Visit Fish Fry – a colorful and unique place to enjoy local food.
Cliffton Heritage Park – for a piece of local history in a beautiful location.
Day trips to the surrounding islands – because all of them are gorgeous and have something different to offer.
Best beaches on Nassau Island
Paradise island resorts, Atlantis and One and Only, are on a nice, wide Cabbage beach. It is facing the open ocean so expect some waves, unless you’re staying at Atlantis and have access to the Cove Beach.
Moving in on the main island, closest to the downtown will be the Junkanoo Beach. Junkanoo, which extends into a bigger public beach and ends with the famous Fish Fry, has beautiful, calm blue waters as it is actually a bay so you’re protected from the winds and strong waves. Speaking of the calm though – this is not a quiet beach. It is the most popular with the cruise crowd and gets crammed and loud whenever ships are in town. You’ll find chairs for rent, plenty of beach shack bars, but this is not a beach for those wanting to relax with a book.
If you’re here from the cruise and want a quieter place, if you walk a bit further on a Junkanoo, passing the loud bars, you’ll get an emptier and quieter beach but no beach chairs. Another option is to go to the British Colonial by Hilton, which is on the way to Junkanoo, and buy a day pass to their beach which gets you a quiet, beautiful beach, a chair and credit for food and drink which is competitive with Junkanoo pricing.
Other beaches will require a car or a buggy. It’s easy to navigate on your own, as it is one road alongside the ocean.
You’ll pass Saunders beach, which is relatively empty. Next is Cable beach that has hotels and beach shack bars. As you’re driving further from the downtown, there will be less crowds. Sandyport beach is beautiful and a home to Poop Deck restaurant, one of the old time restaurants on the beach. Having lunch on the outside veranda of the Poop Deck is a must on a day trip.
Further along, the road you will veer off the ocean until it brings you to the Jaws Beach. On the map, Jaws beach looks far away from the downtown but in reality it’s only 30 min. And it’s the best. It doesn’t have any accomodations in terms of bathrooms or places to eat, but it’s quiet, the waters are calm and clear, and you feel like you are in a completely different world.
Day Trips from Nassau, Bahamas
If you have time to spare, visit Rose, Pearl and Blue Lagoon islands. They are very close by. We ran out of time, but they are on my list for the next visit.
We went big and took a boat to Exumas, which was originally where I wanted to go, but the flights to George Town on the big Exuma are impossible, so here we were – on the boat from Nassau. The boat ride to Exumas is at least 1 hour long and it’s not pleasant to say it politely. I felt like a martini, being shaken for an hour, collecting my bones and my insides after this ride. It’s a major speed boat and if you make a regrettable decision to sit upfront, cuz you think you’ll be cool like that, that boat ride will mess you up. The best thing you can do is sit in the back and hold on for a dear life.
Having provided this glowing review for the ride itself, I must say the trip is worth it. Once you get to the Exumas, it’s beautiful and peaceful and you forget all the nonsense that took to get there. Exumas consist of 365 islands called cays, one prettier than the last. Here you’ll find the Pigs Beach and the Compus Bay where you can swim with the nurse sharks. It is a trip to remember, including the ride itself.
What to Eat in Bahamas
My idea of food while traveling is something that I don’t get to eat at home. And yes, in Washington, DC you can find all sorts of international delicacies, but one of the things that you won’t find as fresh and wonderful is a fresh conch salad. Conch salad is a Bahamian specialty and has a special place in my heart. It’s like a fresh calamari mixed in within the salad. It’s also one of the few national dishes that won’t be drowning in butter or fried in oil (not that there is anything wrong with either one of those things.)
There are 3 main ways Bahamians make their conch salad:
- Regular conch salad ( green pepper, tomato, lime and orange juices)
- Tropical conch salad (juicy mango, plus everything that goes into the regular
- Scorched conch (thinly sliced onions and conch)
All of them are great and recommended with the regular one being the most popular.
Otherwise, there is a lot of fried fish, conch fritters, jerk chicken and Carribean barbeque. All of that you can find at the Fish Fry which is an institution of Nassau where locals and tourists hang together at the colorful food shacks. It’s not fancy but it is unique and lovely.
Nice Places to Eat in Nassau
Graycliff Hotel and Restaurant
Started by a pirate, this historical hotel and restaurant in the heart of town has hosted a ton of celebrities and has all the charm you won’t find anywhere else. It’s truly unique, old class celebrity of its own.
Nice Italian restaurant with an adorable inside courtyard. It’s in the downtown area, nice to walk around and enjoy the local architecture and colors.
Where to Stay
Paradise Island – if you’re not planning on exploring the island and just want to stay on the beach.
Downtown Nassau – best place if you want to stay central to everything. You can walk to various restaurants, shops, catch a cab or rent a car to further explore the island.
Cable beach – if you want to stay on the low key beach and have access to various beach shacks and more local lifestyle. Basically, the opposite of Paradise Island.
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