Tips for visiting Nassau:
- Did you know that the Bahamas is an archipelagic state within the Lucayan Archipelago and is not actually part of the Caribbean! It consists of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean! (thanks wiki!)
- Downtown Nassau is quite cute and easy to walk around. It gets pretty busy when the cruise ships are docked, and then quiets-down around 6 pm (to a point where most places close down).
- You have to go snorkeling or scuba diving. The weather is beautiful and most often very clear. You may need to ask for a short wetsuit (or even a long suit if you’re diving), depending on the time of the year. Bahama divers do both snorkeling and diving and rent out everything you need. They also offer a pickup service.
- Sadly the visibility wasn’t great when I went to Cannonball Reef and the Blue Hole but was better at Barracuda Shoulder. I still got to see 5 sharks, lionfish, angelfish, groupers, shrimp, coral and much more.
- Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is the place to stay on the island. Don’t let the Casino fool you, this hotel is fabulous: the rooms are stunning, big and clean, the gym is awesome, the restaurants are also amazing. The Grand Hyatt is actually attached to the SLS and Rosewood hotels, which offers an even wider variety of pool and restaurant options. There is a cigar lounge, a rooftop bar, a library room where you can get tea, a scrumptious steak house, etc! It is a little bit out of town so you will need a car or taxi to go into town…although why would you need to go there when you have the service, beach and pools.
- Atlantis: I didn’t make it there but my colleagues did and they said it was quite fun, even for adults! The lines can get pretty long so be patient!
- Island House: Very nice boutique hotel located outside Nassau. The property features 30 rooms and suites, exclusive private beach access, six rental apartments, two restaurants, a cafe, wine market, art house cinema, lap pool, movement studio, squash courts, a flexible workspace and a Bamford Spa.
- Easy town to walk around! You can cross over the bridges to Paradise Island and get different views.
- We stayed at the British Colonial Hilton Nassau and I’m not sure I’d recommend it. The location is great to explore the town, the breakfast buffet generous and the private beach was enjoyable (although I did sometimes get gas fumes from the cruise ships) but the rooms were small and awkward and there’s construction happening next door, which started quite early.
- Local food to try: Conch (which kind of tastes like calamari). I’ve enjoyed the Conch Fritters (like a crab cake but with Conch) and the Conch salad, which is like a ceviche.
- Restaurants worth trying:
- At Baha Mar: Cleo, Carna, Fi’lia and Café Boulud (and next time Costa) – make reservations.
- The Blue Sail: Awesome view but can get quite windy. Service is very slow.
- The Fish Fry: an area with a lot of little local restaurants where you can listen to live music, grab a drink and have amazing local food. It gets very lively!
- Louis & Steen coffee shop for the best cappuccino and beignets with a view!
- the Poop Deck: The view of the marina is beautiful and the (sea)food is fantastic! For a local taste, try Paula’s Conch Fritters and the local catch of the day (fried).
- Shima (located at Island House Hotel): delicious food inspired by Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. Live Jazz band on Thursday.
- Lukka Karri: With a view of the cruise ships, and a live band the evening I was there, my experience here was quite laid back and fun. I strongly recommend the conch salad, which is like a ceviche. It’s a pretty good-sized plate and super tasty!
- I was also recommended Twin Brothers, Bon Vivants & a few other restaurants but I ran out of time.
- Jaws Beach: We drove in that direction to explore new parts of the island. Originally we were going to Clifton Heritage National Park, but once we got there we felt like it was a tourist trap (or for young kids)… so we turned around and went to Jaws Beach. We walked along the beach, played in the tide pools, sat down and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.
- Rent a boat for the day: We got a nice private boat for the full day and it was so memorable. We went to a first island to see turtles (we only saw one), then we went to Rose Island to play volleyball and eat conch fritters at Footprints Bar & Grill. We explore a few more areas, swam and danced on the boat. It was a great day!
- Expect your driver, bus and/or tour to be (over an hour) late. I heard this so may times: ‘Just sit back, relax, they haven’t forgotten about you.’
Impressions of Nassau:
(First time in 2018) It was my first time here in the Bahamas and wow did I enjoy it! It went by too fast and I wish I could have stayed longer (than 2 and a half days!). The weather was perfect for me: it was hot but not too humid with a light breeze. The water was also very refreshing and a stunning shade of light blue and turquoise.
I really enjoyed walking around the town of Nassau: the beautiful bright-colored buildings, the music, the turquoise colored water, all of it! I went for an evening run over the bridge to paradise island and back and the view of the Marina was fantastic. I also noticed a bunch of local restaurants and bars under the Paradise Island Bridge southbound road that I wish I could have checked out. The little food shacks at the western esplanade beach also looked fun.
The diving was also very fun and colder than when I did my Open water cert in Gili Trawangan (although the water was a smilier shade of turquoise). It took between 35 minutes and 1 hour and 20 minutes to get to different dive sites. Sadly as I mentioned above, the visibility wasn’t great but I still got very excited by the fish, sharks and corals I saw!
I think next time I travel to Nassau, I’d like to rent a car and drive around the island to see more of it and the local vibe. I had a great chat with the captain of the dive boat about the Bahamian lifestyle and he made me laugh when he said (about vacation time): ‘Don’t talk to us about going on a beach vacation, we have the best ones here and we’re not interested in that when we travel!’
(Second time, 2021) My conclusion, after talking to a lot of locals, is that there isn’t that much to do on the island itself. We drove from one end to the other, and saw a lot of the local life, houses and busy areas, but nothing super exciting. The key is to rent a boat and go explore. It was very windy and fresh the firs 2 days and due to COVID19, a lot of diving centers were still closed so I didn’t get to dive this time around. The hotel was INCREDIBLE, and I would have stayed there much longer, which is not something I say often in the Caribbean. One thing that did surprise me this time around is how expensive things were. The Bahamas dollar is equal to the USD, and the prices are actually similar to Los Angeles pricing!
(Third time, 2021) It was a short one and I stayed mostly at the Baha Mar. The weather was great and warm and the beach and ocean felt awesome. We went kayaking and paddle boarding around the property and lounged by the pool. I also ventured out to Shima for a fantastic dinner on The Island House property.
I hope to see you again Nassau!
Scuba diving in Nassau:
Exploring Downtown Nassau:
Grand Hyatt Baha Mar:
Others spots on the island worth mentioning :
Related post: Visiting Elbow Cay, Bahamas and Visiting Marsh Harbor, Bahamas.