When Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World, he did so in the Bahamas, although the exact island where he landed is still a matter of debate. (San Salvador is the popular favorite, and a white cross marks the spot where he supposedly landed.) He didn’t stay long, however, being intent on finding riches that this group of islands didn’t seem to hold.
Perhaps he was looking for the wrong things. These days, travelers are quite satisfied with the treasures they find in the Bahamas: brilliant turquoise water, gorgeous sandy beaches, excellent fishing and diving, and surroundings that range from quaint colonial villages to lovely secluded coves.
Those making landfall in the islands can choose from several distinct experiences. Visitors looking for the standard resort amenities should head to Nassau on New Providence Island or Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island. Splashy Nassau, the biggest city and main port, is awash in pink colonial buildings, bustling street markets, upscale chain resorts (with more to come as Cable Beach redevelops) and great restaurants. Sister island Paradise Island is home to megaresort Atlantis and its opulent casino and fabulous water features.
In Freeport and Lucaya, the Bahamas’ second-largest port, options range from frolicking with dolphins to perusing duty-free goods. Downtown Freeport, however, has been in a slump since the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005; the Royal Oasis resort complex remains closed and International Bazaar is almost empty but for a few businesses, leaving Lucaya as the most viable option for vacationers at present.
Those more interested in deserted beaches, sailing, diving, fishing and a generally slower pace will want to visit some of the many Out Islands (also known as the Family Islands), most of which are thinly populated or uninhabited, yet which offer all manner of activities plus a chance to experience charming vignettes of Bahamian life.
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