Pink sand beaches, coral reefs, 2,500 cays, and more than 700 islands comprise the Bahamas. The Bahamas sits close to Florida and Cuba but after 325 years of British rule and the Queen as head of state, the country still retains a distinct British feel. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the capital, Nassau. Once the playground of pirates, today Nassau’s colonial homes and British forts draw visitors from all over the world. There’s even a “royal climb” up the Queen’s staircase to Fort Fincastle. And while most travelers choose to stay in Nassau when booking their flight to The Bahamas, the less developed Grand Bahama Island is also a great choice and has gone through a revival with new hotels being built along the Lucayan strip.
Eco-travelers who shun the casinos and mega-hotels that line Bahamas’ beaches will be happy to know that recently eco-tourism has been growing in the country. Travelers booking flights to The Bahamas can expect to visit the preserved coral reef of the Andros Barrier Reef and Great Inagua Island, home to the world’s largest flock of pink West Indian flamingos, which were nearly extinct a few years ago.
The Bahamas truly is an island paradise. Visitors can do everything from parasailing to gaming, and snorkeling to sunbathing. When going to the Bahamas, tourists should keep one thing in mind: hurricane season. Sure, there are plenty of cheap flights to the Bahamas, but unless you want to be boarded up inside your resort accommodations, it’s best to book flights during peak travel times or towards the end of the off-season.
Whether you’re looking for bright blue skies, clear blue waters, white sandy beaches, fun attractions, luxury resorts or just a few lazy days in the sun, flights to the Bahamas are your ticket to typical island living.
Contrary to popular belief, when you book a flight to Bahamas, you won’t arrive in the Caribbean. It is actually a chain-like archipelago of around 700 islands (about 30 of which are inhabited) and a couple of thousand little cays that stretch out into the Atlantic Ocean for about 75 miles east of Palm Beach, on the USA mainland. Direct flights to the Bahamas are usually found from major ports including Miami, New York, and Boston. Travelers who fly from more remote cities should plan on transferring planes in one of the larger airports such as Miami, Houston or Memphis, before arriving in the Bahamas.
One reason people book flights to the Bahamas is the natural underwater cave system in the Lucayan National Park. Visitors to the Bahamas can take in just about any water sport available, so grab your goggles and head to the Bahamas for a great getaway in the sun.
No matter what time of year you visit the Bahamas, expect the weather to be warm and humid. During the spring, summer and fall, most days hover around 80 to 90 degrees. In the winter, it can drop as low as 70 on some days. Rain is fairly frequent all year, but it peaks during May and June. Most storms are fairly short and mild, so they typically don’t interfere with vacation plans. Hurricanes sometimes hit the Bahamas between June and November, so pay close attention to weather reports if you’re visiting during these months.
September through May is the cool season and the time when most people visit. The temperature is an average of 75 degrees.
Travelers should book hotel accommodations and flights to the Bahamas well in advance during peak travel season. The Bahamas is a top destination resort for many travelers in the Northeast and budget and economy flights and hotels will book up fast.
May to October is the off season, with the most rainfall occurring in these months. However, it is not extreme and temperatures are at their highest, so low-fares tempt many vacationers out during this time. It’s worth noting that hurricane season is June to November. Prices fall in this time and travelers can find cheap flights to the Bahamas, though the chances of becoming caught up in a hurricane are slight.
The best day of the week to book a flight is usually Sunday, when many airlines discount their fares by up to 16 percent. Buying tickets early in the week is also generally cheaper than buying on Thursday or Friday. Booking fairly early is usually cheaper than waiting until the last minute, but don’t overdo it. Airlines rarely discount fares more than 60 days in advance. Three to four weeks before your trip is generally a good time to buy your tickets.
If you’re flying out of Orlando, Florida, you’re in luck because the flight to Nassau only takes about 75 minutes. From elsewhere in the country, expect longer travel times. Flying from Los Angeles takes between seven and nine hours depending on how many stops the plane makes, while it takes four to five hours from Chicago. New York has flights to the Bahamas that take as little as three hours.
Most major airlines fly to Nassau, including American, Delta, United and Southwest. Air Canada, British Airways and JetBlue are other popular options. From Nassau, smaller regional airlines can carry you to other islands. These include Bahamas Air, Caribbean Airlines and interCaribbean Airways.
It’s a good idea to pack light if you’re heading to the Bahamas. Bring along plenty of casual wear, including shorts, t-shirts and tank tops. It’s a good idea to pack two swimsuits, because the high humidity prevents suits from drying quickly. Some nicer clothing is also essential, as many restaurants have dress codes. Sundresses or long skirts and blouses are usually fine for women, while men may need a sports jacket. Bring along a light jacket or sweater as well in case you get caught in a storm or it cools down at night.
Comfortable shoes are a good idea. While most people spend most of their vacation in sandals, a good pair of sneakers is also handy to have. If you plan on hiking, bring along some proper boots as some trails can be difficult.
Getting between islands is relatively easy, with a choice of flights from charter airlines. You will normally have to travel to or from Nassau, however, so if you’re planning on island-hopping, you may end up visiting the city often. Bahamas Air provides the most routes.
There are some ferries that transport travelers between islands. The Fast Ferry service covers several routes originating at Nassau, though round trips are available, taking in three or four destinations. Local ferries, or water taxis are also available.
If you’ve got a lot of time to spare, take a mailboat. This is the cheapest way of traveling around, though certainly the slowest and you have no control over the destination.
Once on an island, hiring a car is the easiest and often only practical way of getting around. Driving is on the left and you have to be over 21 to hire a car.
A vacation in the Bahamas is usually all about the beaches. Cabbage Beach and Cable Beach are two of the most popular due to their convenient locations and easy access to dining, shopping and hotels. For a quieter experience, check out the colorful shoreline at Pink Sands Beach, or venture further outside the cities for even more remote locations. Scuba diving and snorkeling are also popular activities, and there are plenty of equipment rental places available if you don’t want to bring your own gear. Thunderball Grotto is a particularly popular snorkeling spot thanks to its intricate, maze-like tunnels.
Head over to Blue Lagoon Island, also known as Salt Cay, to get up close and personal with marine life. This is where the world-famous Dolphin Encounters program is located, which lets tourists swim with and touch real dolphins. There are also numerous other wildlife viewing opportunities at the gorgeous inland lagoon. If you love wildlife, the Marine Habitat at Atlantis is also a great, family-friendly experience. The massive aquarium features numerous caves, tanks and lagoons where you can interact with stingrays and sea turtles, watch sharks get fed and check out countless tropical fish.
If you love to shop, be sure to stop at the Port Lucaya Marketplace in Freeport. This fun, island-style shopping center features more than 80 stores selling everything from jewelry to traditional crafts and folk art. There are also about 30 restaurants so you can grab a bite between stores. If you’re still there in the evening, Port Lucaya also offers live entertainment.
From Key West, you can book flights to make short hops to Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Charlotte and Tampa, with direct flights to Chicago and Newark available during the high season.
Several taxi and limo services are available to get you to the airport, or check out buses and shuttles that run throughout the Lower Keys and even all the way to Miami. Most of the major hotels also run courtesy shuttles to the airport, as do several scooter rental shops, if you plan to use a scooter for your island explorations.
(prices quoted are from London)