Most Bahamas visitors see only Nassau, which is unfortunate because you should really take an island day trip. One may be able to glean a small taste of culture in Old Nassau, but you have to work to look between the commercialism and homogenization. One good solution: Balance your visit to Nassau with a follow-up trip to at least one Out Island for a couple of nights with these Nassau Bahamas Sidetrips, starting with an ease into the culture and ending with, as they say in the Out Islands, true true true experiences.
San Salvador is for those more comfortable test-driving a new destination from behind the dashboard of an all-inclusive experience. For that, San Sal, as it’s known (also Columbus Isle, Guanahani, and Watlings’ Island), is my top recommendation. The island is known principally for its diving and as home to Club Med Columbus Isle. Outside of resort confines, however, its reputation for old Bahamian ways blossoms. No-frills dive resorts and a B&B also provide accommodations.
One of the Bahamas most-visited destinations, Abaco comprises the main island of Great Abaco Island plus a number of small cays full of beaches and history that are easily accessible by public ferry. Sailors and yachties frequent the island chain, but it appeals to water-sports enthusiasts of all varieties. Its history pages are populated by Loyalists who escaped America after the Revolution, and their culture is most apparent on Green Turtle Cay and in Elbow Cay’s Hope Town.
Long Island bears no resemblance to that other Long Island. This is one of the Bahamas’ most secret treasures — a storehouse of old island culture. Here, such traditions as hand-plaited basketry, goat farming, storytelling, rake ‘n’ scrape music, bush medicine and bone-fishing survive. Resorts at the north end in Stella Maris take advantage of gorgeous beaches and the 80-mile-long island’s bone-fishing reputation. Rent a car to explore caves, the village of ONeil’s and the churches of Clarence Town.
Small and sparsely populated, Cat Island appeals to nature- and history-lovers. It boasts the islands’ highest elevation — Mt. Alvernia at 206 feet, atop which sits the island’s biggest attraction. The Hermitage was built by a Catholic priest-architect who, after erecting several churches in the Bahamas, retired to his sequestered religious meditation. Fernandez Bay Village is a good resort to stay for a taste of local food and culture, including the voodoo-like obeah religion.
The largest of Bahamas Islands, Andros actually embraces three islands. North Andros is most well-known, especially to divers and bone-fishermen. A mystical land, it holds on to traditions such as the mythical chickcharnie creature, conch salad and land crab-hunting. Cottage industries such as Androsia Batik and the basket weavers of Red Bays demonstrate another side to local culture. Stunning blue holes add to the allure of its legendary reef diving.