By Cami Sauder
If you’re looking for a tropical international destination reachable on Southwest Airlines, and better yet, using your Southwest Companion Pass, I’d love to introduce you to Nassau, Bahamas. There are so many fun things to do in Nassau!
Since Nassau is so close to the U.S., just a quick one-hour flight from Fort Lauderdale, I’ve returned many times for trips with my spouse as a couple, a girl’s weekend with friends, my parents’ 50th anniversary and even a four-generation trip often on a cruise. Caribbean cruises often disembark their ship at the port there. I enjoy the sunshine, the people and the food and have made so many great memories there!
There’s no need to learn a new language in Nassau, as most everyone speaks English, and they can share with you — if you ask them — all that the island has to offer! The locals are friendly and helpful :).
Here are some of my favorite activities to keep you busy on Nassau from water fun to local attractions to free tours!
16 Unforgettable Things to Do in Nassau, Bahamas
1. Travel Like the Locals… By Jitney
Hop on a Jitney, which is what they call the public bus, and take a “tour” of the island. The Jitneys operate daily, travel to many parts of the island and help you get the lay of the land. With fares ranging from $1.25 to $3.50, this may be the cheapest thing you do on vacation!
Also, if you aren’t staying at a resort that’s on the ocean, take a water taxi to Paradise Island and hit the beach there.
2. Sample Bahamian Cuisine
Fresh-from-the sea tropical conch salad made at a roadside stand? Yes, please, a hundred times over!! There are sugar apples, kanep and hogplum fruits that you can purchase from street vendors aplenty.
Open a coconut and drink the fresh milk and eat the jelly. Also, do not pass go or collect $200 until you’ve eaten their Guava Duff for dessert! You have to taste it to believe it. It’s truly out of this world incredible!
3. Take a Chocolate Tour
Are you a chocaholic, like me? If so, be sure to take a tour of Graycliff Chocolatier. They have three different options: a factory tour, a chocolate-making tour and a chocolate- and spirits-pairing tour. One of those will be sure to hit the spot!
Afterward, walk around the grounds, taking in the beautiful flowers and snap a fun photo with the resident pirate.
4. Stop by the Fish Market
Want another truly local experience? Be sure to make your way over to the fish market at the far east end of the island.
Each day, fisherman haul in their catch, which is super fun to watch. Be sure to take some photos, hold a giant lobster and purchase some deliciousness to cook that evening for dinner.
5. Stroll Versailles Garden and French Cloister
Need a break from the beach and the crowds? Visit Versailles Garden and French Cloister.
The Cloister, remnants of an old French monastery, was purchased and reassembled stone by stone as the centerpiece of Versailles Garden.
6. Shop the Straw Market
If you like haggling on prices, head over to the Straw Market, near the waterfront, to do some shopping. This is a traditional open-air market where you can find handwoven straw crafts and Bahamian souvenirs perfect to purchase as special gifts for all those you left at home.
7. Visit Atlantis Aquarium
If you aren’t staying at Atlantis, never fear, because they sell day passes to visit their amazing aquarium and lagoons where you can see lots of fish, stingray and jellies, as well as walk through their underwater shark tank.
8. Climb the Queen’s Staircase to Fort Fincastle
A short walk from the central square in Nassau, The Queen’s Staircase was hewn from solid limestone in the 1700s. Climb these 66 steps to get to the highest point in Nassau for great views of the harbor.
9. Take a Boat to Blue Lagoon Island
Blue Lagoon Island is a private island getaway, where you can also have a Dolphin Encounter. The best part is that it’s only a 20-minute boat ride from Nassau.
Does swimming in their hidden lagoon with clear blue water sound appealing? How about snorkeling right off the beach? You can also rent water sports equipment like kayaks and paddle boards. There’s something for everyone in this tropical paradise!
10. Get a Free Local Guide
A FREE program that the Bahamas offers to visitors is the People to People Experience. It’s a chance to have a local guide show you their way of life, introducing you to the people, food and destinations on their island.
It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done there…THREE TIMES! 🙂 You can take advantage by signing up on Bahamas.com, and a local guide will contact you via email to set a time and place.
11. Take a Swig at John’s Watling’s Distillery
John Watling was a pirate whose treasure is still buried somewhere in the Bahamas, but this distillery bottles up his “Spirit of the Bahamas” into what locals refer to as “liquid gold,” shiver me timbers! Kill-devil and firewater come together here to make Captain Jack’s beverage of choice: RUM.
While it’s not really up my alley to imbibe, I always love learning new things. There are complimentary production tours here seven days a week that definitely meet that criteria. Learn the art of handcrafting small batches and relieve the store of as much precious cargo as your pocketbook allows. 🙂
12. Investigate the Pirates of Nassau Museum
While on the subject…Ahoy maties!! Did your kids or heck, did you, ever dress up like a pirate when playing pretend? I remember my sweet little 8-year-old daughter putting coffee on her face for whiskers and taping a hook on her hand, dressed like a pirate, and telling the emcee at a costume contest, “I’ll plunge me hook into ye!”:)
Well, if the “pirate’s life for me” ever held any appeal, you’re in luck in Nassau.
You’ll find that the Pirates of Nassau Museum is an interactive high seas adventure for the whole family! With seven different exhibits, your whole crew will learn more than they ever wanted to know about these cutlass-wielding, looting thieves.
And oh, by the way, she won the contest. I knew you were wondering… ;-).
13. Swim With Pigs … Yep!
This sounds like something you might do in the Midwest, not the Bahamas, but ALAS, swimming with pigs on Big Major Cay looks like tons of fun and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be sure! It definitely seems to be a bucket-list experience when visiting Nassau.
To do this, you’ll have to take a one-hour boat ride from Nassau on the crystal clear waters while basking in the sunshine. Yep, sheer torture, which I would gladly endure, since I’m writing this watching the snow melt out my window.
You can swim with dolphins any old time. Why not give this a try?
14. Explore Clifton Heritage National Park
Located at the far end of the island, this park lets you immerse yourself in the history and culture of the Lucayan people amongst its ruins, as well as the natural beauty of its diverse ecosystem.
Hike through trails, which end at some breathtaking beaches, though only half of the beauty lies there. Don your snorkeling gear and discover sunken film wrecks and an underwater sculpture garden. Super cool!
If that’s not enough reason, this National Park was also the setting for pop culture movies like the James Bond series and “Jaws.” Whoops, should have told you that before you dove into the water! 🙂
15. Dive With Sharks at Stuart Cove
Well, since you’ve survived the “Jaws” encounter, you thrill seeker, you!, maybe you’d want to risk your life again to dive with sharks. Sorry, but only certified scuba divers and certifiable adrenaline junkies can have, or would want, this thrill.
At Stuart Cove, you can get up close and personal with Caribbean Reef Sharks. From a pole, the guides feed these magnificent creatures that have been trained by the “dinner bell.” Since they’ll be focused on that instead of you for dinner, hopefully you’ll return home safely to tell of your adventures in Nassau.
16. Join a Food and Cultural Walking Tour
Whichever tour you pick for this outing, you’ll visit three to six different tasting locations and learn from artisans and chefs about their authentic Bahamian dishes who will also WOW your taste buds at every stop with their delicious delights.
While strolling from one location to another on their historic downtown streets, you’ll see and hear about the history, architecture, flora and more of Nassau, sure to give you a “taste” of their country.
Have I convinced you to take a trip to the Bahamas?! They’re closer than you think and so easy to access on Southwest Airlines. See you on the beach!
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