Bahamians know there’s much more to their country than the main destinations of Paradise Island and Nassau. The sun-drenched archipelago comprises more than 700 islands and cays that present myriad opportunities for island-hopping, unique shops, idyllic laid-back beach bars, and hidden beaches you can have all to yourself.
Bay Street is Nassau’s retail hub, lined with luxury boutiques that vie for your duty-free dollar with international designer brands. But when you’re searching for a locally made souvenir, it can be challenging to find anything beyond the hackneyed straw baskets sold in the craft market. Savvy shoppers eschew the main drag and drive five minutes east to Craft Cottage, a trove of artisan-made art, crafts, and souvenirs that are as much a pleasure to give as they are to receive. Much of the art made by the owner, artist Nadine Ramphal, this Village Road gem (next door to the must-see Doongalik Art Gallery) sells everything from earrings to sculptures, hand-painted glasses to Caribbean-cool T-shirts. And if you simply must have some Bahamian straw work, check out the super-cool and unique sneakers reimagined with woven straw uppers.
Visitors to Nassau and Paradise Island head straight to Cable Beach and Cabbage Beach, the islands’ rightfully famous white-sand strands. But just three miles and a 20-minute boat ride from Paradise Island lies the tranquil uninhabited oasis of Rose Island, a local weekend hangout where hidden beaches with sandy sweeps and excellent snorkeling are just waiting to be discovered. Sandy Toes Bahamas runs an island-hopping day trip from Paradise Island to the islet, offering all-inclusive packages that cover domestic drinks, buffet lunch, live entertainment, and snorkeling. And when you want to extend your island idyll overnight, you can spend the night on the outpost in an ocean-view two-bedroom villa or a pair of treetop bungalows and have those hidden beaches to yourself.
There’s no dish more Bahamian than conch salad and there are so many places throughout the islands to enjoy it. So why not indulge in some island-hopping over to Grand Bahama, where Billy Joe’s, a rustic beachfront shack next to Grand Lucayan resort, is a local favorite that’s been serving up the traditional, ceviche-style preparation of conch for decades. Regulars order a bowlful of the fresh-caught gastropod—diced snail with chopped green peppers, tomatoes, and onions tossed in tangy lime and sour orange juices and seasoned perfectly with salt and pepper—and then retreat to a seaside bench for a view while they chew. Visitors can do the same, and show off their local savvy by drizzling their dish with Billy Joe’s homemade hot sauce, made from local goat peppers and citrus juices. Be warned: it packs a fiery punch—but it’s nothing that a frosty Kalik beer can’t cure.
Nipper’s Beach Bar & Grill
There are average beach bars and then there’s Nipper’s, a beachfront institution on Great Guana Cay that’s been the hot spot for two decades. When you’re in the mood to indulge in strong drinks and the sounds of Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley in heavy rotation, this is the place to be. On Sundays, they serve their famous pig roast and revelers dance shoulder-to-shoulder under rainbow-colored umbrellas on the oceanfront deck. But locals on this outpost of about 300 people come here during the week, when the crowds are thin and you have the stunning sweep of sugary sand fringing turquoise seas almost to yourself. Order yourself a Nipper Juice—the signature rummy punch—and spread out on the sand and simply relax. Try to decide which is more intoxicating: this sublime experience or the drink in your hand.