Bahamas vs. Bermuda: Which Is Right for You?

See recent posts by Christina Vercelletto

Beach at Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda

Both the Bahamas and Bermuda start with B, have seven letters, and evoke images of relaxed beach vacations. Plus, The Beach Boys forever linked the two destinations in their song “Kokomo,” with the lyrics “Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama.” It’s easy to see how those who have never been to either place might get them confused, but they’re actually quite different. Weighing the Bahamas against the British territory of Bermuda, about 900 miles northeast, for your next getaway? Here are six key points of comparison between the two destinations. We’ve laid out the differences (and similarities), so that you can make the best choice.

Travel to the Bahamas and Bermuda

Downtown Nassau, Bahamas
Downtown Nassau, Bahamas

While flights into L.F. Wade International Airport in Bermuda and Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau (the capital of the Bahamas) are plentiful year-round, both destinations are faster to reach from the east coast in the U.S., rather than the west. In either case, you’ll need a passport if you’re traveling by air.

Bermuda: Taking a quick long weekend jaunt to Bermuda from the east coast is doable. Flights from New York City are only about two hours Exploring Bermuda upon arriving is also fairly easy. That’s partially due to the fact that it’s relatively small, but it’s also thanks to the public buses, which are clean, inexpensive, and run frequently on convenient tourist routes. Renting a moped is a popular option for seeing the island. No special license is required, though driving on the left side of the sometimes narrow, winding roads can take some getting used to. Or, folks can opt to rent an electric mini-car instead. You won’t find any traditional cars to available to rent here.

Bahamas: Flying into Nassau from any major city on the east coast is an equally simple proposition. It takes less than three hours from New York City, and from Miami, you barely get up to cruising altitude before beginning the descent. You can even take a ferry from Fort Lauderdale. It’s not surprising that the Bahamas sees far fewer visitors from the west coast, as Californians are looking at a six-and-a-half-hour journey that includes at least two legs. Just as many visitors arrive via cruise ship as they do by plane. Cruise lines offer many itineraries from east coast cities that make a stop in the Bahamas. Once in the Bahamas, most visitors opt to get around by taxi, which are prevalent. Rental car companies abound. The local jitney bus is also an option, as are ferries and water taxis, depending on where you’re headed.

Beaches in Bermuda and the Bahamas

The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, Bahamas
The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, Bahamas

Beaches are probably a top consideration, if you’ve narrowed your vacation options down to the Bahamas and Bermuda. The primary point of difference is geography. The Bahamas is a coral reef archipelago consisting of around 700 islands, while Bermuda is a much smaller volcanic archipelago, the entirety of which is a mere 21 square miles. With that in mind, the number of beaches in the Bahamas is naturally greater than in Bermuda. Quantity aside, the beaches you’ll find in either place are Instagram-worthy.

Bermuda: Arguably the best swimming beaches in Bermuda can be found in Southampton Parish, though the sandy stretches in Hamilton Parish have gentle waves, making them popular among families with younger kids. Horseshoe Bay Beach on the southeast coast — one of the many pink-sand beaches in Bermuda — is a favorite. It has plenty of amenities, including a bar, beach shop, concession stand, pleasant bathrooms, changing rooms, and showers. Elbow Beach is another clean, uncrowded slice of heaven for those set on finding that famous rosy sand. At Sea Glass Beach, it’s easy to spot the colorful, shiny little gems in the clear, shallow water and at the water line.

Bahamas: The options for beaches with turquoise water and white powdery sand seem nearly endless here. The sandy stretches on Harbour Island are a top pick, offering memorable sunset views. The island is also home to a 20-acre bird sanctuary. Two other contenders are Cape Santa Maria Beach, known for its incredible snorkeling, and Cabbage Beach, located on Paradise Island. The Cabbage Beach crowds (and local vendors) can get thick at the Atlantis’ Coral Towers, though. For a more secluded beach experience, walk east toward the One&Only Ocean Club.

Weather in the Bahamas and Bermuda

Pool at Rosewood Baha Mar
Pool at Rosewood Baha Mar, Bahamas

Bermuda: Thanks to its position in the Gulf Stream, squarely in the Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda has predictable, temperate (read: practically perfect) weather. It typically doesn’t get any cooler than 60 degrees and no hotter than 85 degrees. It tends to be less humid than the Bahamas, and receives less rain. And while Bermuda is certainly not immune to hurricanes, its location keeps it relatively protected. For more information, take a look at our guide on what you can expect each month in Bermuda.

Bahamas: Temperatures run in the high 80s or low 90s in the summer, and mid-70s in the “winter.” Those balmy temperatures come with humidity that won’t win any points with those who hate feeling sticky. The peak hurricane season runs from July through October, bringing a higher chance of rain. They’re not infrequent here, with one sideswiping the region every other year, on average, and making a direct hit every four years. For more information, take a look at our guide on what you can expect each month in the Bahamas.

Food in the Bahamas and Bermuda

Banana Bay Restaurant, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas
Banana Bay Restaurant, Grand Bahama

Bermuda:  You’ll find no chain restaurants to speak of in Bermuda. (“To speak of” is in deference to a lone KFC, operating in a loophole in the regulation blocking international chain restaurants from Bermuda.) This fact can disappoint or thrill, depending on one’s perspective. Instead, you’ll find an array of uniquely Bermudian restaurants, from casual eateries to upscale establishments. You’ll also have no trouble finding cozy British-inspired pubs (and cute spots for tea and crumpets), thanks to Bermuda’s British roots. A favorite includes The Swizzle Inn, which displays visitor logs dating back to the 1970s. It’s the home of Bermuda’s national drink, a heady cocktail of Gosling’s rum and fruit juices.

Bahamas: Hungry vacationers can take their pick of, well, just about anything in the Bahamas, from white-glove service at the Bahamian Club in Nassau to casual beachside cafes to McDonald’s, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, and Wendy’s. Seafood rules menus here, with conch, grouper, rock lobster, and fish-based stews making frequent appearances. Rice and sometimes grits are the go-to side dish.

Things to Do in the Bahamas and Bermuda

Golf Club at Rosewood Bermuda

Bermuda:  Must-visit spots include the historic town of St. George’s, the bustling city of Hamilton, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, Crystal and Fantasy Caves, the Bermuda Rum Cake Company, and the Bermuda Perfumery. The Bermuda Triangle Twilight Cruise is fun for those intrigued by the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle. Golf aficionados can swing a day away at one of seven world-class courses. Tucker’s Point is an 18-hole championship course, putting green, driving range, and pro shop. Folks who like to shop will also be busy snatching up duty-free jewelry, perfume, liquor, and more, especially at the Clocktower Mall.

Bahamas: One of the most well-known attractions in the Bahamas is the Straw Market in Nassau, a traditional open-air craft and flea market featuring locally made wares and souvenirs. Straw hats, mats, and bags dominant the stalls, hence the name. Another huge draw is Paradise Island, home to the gargantuan Atlantis resort. Even if you’re not staying there, you can buy a day pass to enjoy its theme-park-like amenities, including an aquarium and water park. Day passes are pricey, though, and limited to those who are guests of partner hotels and cruise lines. Worthy excursions include Thunderball Grotto in Exuma, an underwater system of caves for diving, snorkeling, and wading, and Freeport’s gorgeous Lucayan National Park. While families tend to like the high energy of New Providence, Nassau, and Paradise Island, couples tend to prefer the romantic beachfront properties in the Out Islands. Whatever you do, don’t miss the swimming pigs on Big Major Cay.

Nightlife in the Bahamas and Bermuda

Casino at The Royal at Atlantis, Autograph Collection, Bahamas
Casino at The Royal at Atlantis, Autograph Collection, Bahamas

Bermuda: More Martha’s Vineyard than Montego Bay, Bermuda is home to plenty of spots to grab a nightcap, though it doesn’t have much of a late-night party scene. In Hamilton, Cafe Cairo is one of two bars open until 3 a.m. (the other is Docksider). Calico Jack’s Floating Bar, which hosts nightly DJs and is permanently docked in the Royal Naval Dockyard, is worth a look. Despite a recent push toward introducing gaming in Bermuda, efforts stalled and there are still no casinos.

Bahamas: Nightclubs presided over by DJs and a young, partying crowd are abundant here, as are myriad casual bars. You’ll also find casinos, which draw occasional and serious gamblers alike. Many head to the casino at The Royal at Atlantis and stay well into the night.

Safety in the Bahamas and Bermuda

Nassau, Bahamas
Nassau, Bahamas

Bermuda: According to the U.S. Department of State, Bermuda presents a low threat, with the most recent statistics showing overall crime having decreased.

Bahamas: The U.S. Department of State recently issued a Level 2 travel warning for the Bahamas, advising travelers to exercise increased caution. The warning cited armed robberies, sexual assault, fraud, and watercraft safety violations as major concerns. While those sorts of alerts can’t be ignored, it’s also true that the vast majority of tourists return home from the Bahamas safely and without incident. Common sense should prevail here, as it should anywhere you travel. For instance, if you are leaving a restaurant after dark, take a cab back to your hotel rather than walking.

Travel Costs in the Bahamas and Bermuda

Beach at Grotto Bay Beach Resort, Hamilton Parish, Bermuda
Beach at Grotto Bay Beach Resort, Hamilton Parish, Bermuda

Bermuda: There’s no getting around it: Bermuda isn’t the best bet for those with a tight vacation budget. Everything, from gas for the mopeds to your Dark n’ Stormy at the bar, is likely to be costly. Like Hawaii, nearly everything has to be imported.

Bahamas: Vacationing at a popular tourist destination like the Bahamas is not going to be flat-out cheap. However, those wanting a fun beach vacation that’s still somewhat of a bargain have a far better shot of succeeding in the Bahamas than Bermuda. That’s not to say you won’t find $8 water bottles at hotels in the Bahamas (did someone say Atlantis?), but there is a wider range of options here. Plus, the region’s proximity to the mainland mean you can avoid overpriced items.

Where to Stay

Bermuda: Cambridge Beaches

This 96-room, 30-acre resort trumps almost every other resort in Bermuda as far as style and sophistication are concerned. Of course, you’ll pay some of the island’s highest rates to enjoy it. But with its two stunning pools, expansive spa, four private beaches, three restaurants, and some of the most beautifully landscaped grounds around, you might just consider it a worthwhile investment.

Bahamas: Melia Nassau Beach

An upscale, sprawling resort, Melia Nassau Beach is located on beautiful and serene Cable Beach. It’s a 15-minute drive from the airport, but it’s not in walking distance to other attractions. The 694 rooms and 32 suites are tastefully decorated, if a little generic, but they have wonderful views from private furnished balconies. A stylish lobby, three pools, daily activities, and entertainment add to the Melia’s appeal.

What to Pack: Reef Safe Sunscreen

Keep your skin and the earth safe at the same time on your next Caribbean adventure.

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