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The Bahamas: A pocket guide

The Bahamas, with over 700 islands and cays, start due east of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and wind down to just above the Turks and Caicos Islands. The islands are remarkable for their diversity, starting with their amazing variety of water colors, from pale turquoise, to gin clear, to the most delicious shades of pale green. The tiny sand bars that are only visible during low tide are perfect for a picnic lunch before they slip beneath the water when the tide comes back in.

The Bahamas are renowned for a (generally) laid-back barefoot lifestyle, diving, snorkeling, deep sea and bone fishing, and absolutely gorgeous beaches—and there are lots of them. Throughout one can find every type of property available for rent from fabulous, fully staffed beach houses to classic Bahamian cottages to private islands like Little Whale Cay, Nandana and Musha Cay, which is owned by David Copperfield. Other celebrity island owners have included Johhny Depp, Eddie Murphy, Nicolas Cage, Tyler Perry, and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Another private island is Windermere Island, which is just off Eleuthera—no commercial hotels here, just houses and a residents club.

The capital of the Bahamas is Nassau on New Providence Island, which has lots of hotels and golf courses. Just across a bridge is Paradise Island, a mecca for shopping, cruise ships, the expensive One & Only Ocean Club, and the pink behemoth Atlantis. In 1987 everyone loved watching the filming of the scene in Jaws 4 where Michael Caine lands his plane in the water just off Lyford Cay, the island’s very exclusive club.

One of the largest islands is Andros, which has miles of lovely deserted beaches, great diving, and lots of blue holes. Deep Water Cay, off Grand Bahama, is a private island known for its excellent bonefishing. The Exumas which are also known for their beaches, beautiful snorkeling waters, and the swimming pigs that live on Major Spot’s Cay. People love peaceful Staniel Cay, which has a yacht club where one can stay. Just west of it is the famous Thunderball Grotto where the James Bond movies Never Say Never Again and Thunderball were filmed. One of the smaller Bahamian islands and still most popular is Harbour Island off the coast of North Eleuthera. Only accessible by boat, this idyllic spot is home to quite a few well-known people including Elle Macpherson, India Hicks, Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, the daughters of duty-free mogul Robert Miller and Ronald Perelman.

The weather is generally great year-round with temperatures rarely dropping below 60 degrees in winter. Peak season is November through April, when the temperatures range from the high 70s to low 80s. If you want fewer people, go in the summer even though the rainy season is between May and November. Bear in mind hurricane season starts in June and continues till the end of November so consider getting trip insurance if you plan to visit toward the end of summer. Also, if it’s rainy and chilly in Florida in the winter, good chance it will be the same in the Bahamas. When not to go? September and October, when many hotels and private houses are closed for staff vacations and repairs or renovations.

lighthouse and resort on nassau, bahamas at dawn

Meet the Experts for The Bahamas