Which Bahamas Island Is Right for You?

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Beautiful beaches, crystal-clear water, and a laid-back pace of life all make the Bahamas one of the most amazing destinations in the Caribbean. And while the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama were devastated by Hurricane Dorian in 2019, the rest of this island nation is open for business. With around 30 inhabited islands to choose from, though, knowing which Bahamas island is right for you can be tricky. You see, stunning tropical scenery and picture-perfect beaches aside, each has its own special vibe — from Harbour Island's Pink Sand Beach to laid-back Cat Island and the family-friendly Atlantis Resorts on Paradise Island. Luckily, we've spent a lot of time in the Bahamas, and have the perfect island escape for any kind of traveler.

New Providence Island (Nassau) Is Great for Travelers Who Want to Be Near the Action

While downtown Nassau (on New Providence Island) isn’t really the Caribbean escape most travelers have in mind, it is the capital of the Bahamas. From souvenir markets like the Straw Market to Fort Fincastle and the Queens Steps, things to do in Nassau are abundant enough for a day entertainment. It’s also home to local bars and nightclubs. However, if you’re staying on New Providence Island, you’d do well do sample its more luxurious side. That’s best expressed at Baha Mar, an exclusive development along the island’s central north coast. Here, some of the world’s most famous luxury resort brands sit together in a beautiful gated community that overlooks amazing Cable Beach. Baha Mar resorts also include excellent boutiques and shops, plus the chance to gamble like a high-roller at the largest casino in the Caribbean. Visiting New Providence Island is also one of the easiest escapes in the Bahamas, as it’s home to the largest airport in the country.

Your Luxury Hotel Pick on New Providence Island and Nassau: Grand Hyatt Baha Mar

The Elixir Pool at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar

Sitting right on the crystal-clear waters of Cable Beach, the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar isn’t small by any means, but the sheer number of features here give any resort on nearby Paradise Island a run for its money. The Grand Hyatt has six attractive pools, the Caribbean’s largest casino, impressive spa and fitness facilities, and an excellent golf course. Dining options range from haute Chinese cuisine and a seafood restaurant to Mexican food trucks. It’s a great escape for families and couples alike, and rooms are chic and spacious.

Paradise Island is Perfect For Families With Kids

The vast majority of travelers who think of the Bahamas are thinking of Paradise Island. This is the Bahamas at its most resort-heavy and bustling — and it’s also home to the world famous Atlantis Resorts. Knowing exactly where to stay on Paradise Island can be tricky — each of the Atlantis Resorts has their own personality, after all (you can check out our breakdown of them here). There are also non-Atlantis properties found on the island, most of which provide access to at least some of the Atlantis amenities. Those include everything from water parks to nightclubs, and all hotels offer numerous offshore activities. Because the resorts here pack in amenities for guests of all ages, Paradise Island is easily the most family-friendly spot in the Bahamas. Just keep in mind that this is the most popular destination in the Bahamas and can be busy.

Your Upscale Hotel Pick on Paradise Island: The Cove at Atlantis

Exterior at The Cove at Atlantis

While The Cove is home to the only adult pool at The Atlantis properties, it’s still incredibly family-friendly. It’s also worth a stay because it’s the most modern and attractive of the Atlantis resorts, while still offering access to the dizzying number of family-friendly features on offer (like the water park). The Cove shares a separate beach and large family pool with neighboring Reef Tower, making it a great spot for travelers of all kinds. 

The Exumas Are Great for Lovers of Picture-Perfect Beaches

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Exumas. In fact, the islands that make up this part of the Bahamas are some of the most famous and picture-perfect you’re likely to find. Yes, Pig Beach is part of the Exumas (though whether you should visit is subject to some serious ethical concerns). But swimming pigs aside, the Exumas are fringed with stunningly white sand that almost glows, making this a beach-goers delight. The islands of the Exumas also tend to stay less crowded that other Bahamas islands, though you’ll be paying a pretty here. Even casual mid-range properties can be pricey — but that’s to be expected given how close to paradise you’ll feel.

Your All-Inclusive Hotel Pick in The Exumas: Fowl Cay Resort

Pool at the Fowl Cay Resort

Crowded beaches are unheard of on this private island resort, where a maximum of 28 guests at a time have free range of 50 acres and three beaches. Personal boats for daily excursions, on-call service, spacious villas with fully stocked kitchens and wet bars, and a host of all-inclusive activities make Fowl Cay a standout gem in the Exumas.

Eleuthera Is Ideal for Island Vibes and Escaping It All

If you want to avoid the crowds, Eleuthera is ideal — there are less than 15,000 residents on the island, and hotels here tend to be smaller boutique properties like the chic French Leave. While it’s tiny, that doesn’t mean that Eleuthera is lacking for things to do. The historic capital city — Governour’s Harbour — makes for a charming day trip or night visit, with its colorful colonial architecture and vacation vibe. You can dine at 1648 for local fare like grouper, jerk chicken wraps, and conch, or popular spots like Front Porch. You’ll likely want to visit Governor’s Harbour on Friday, when the Anchor Bay Fish Fry becomes the hot spot for locals and visitors to feast on the catch of the day, sip tropical cocktails, and enjoy music and dancing. If you’re after beaches, it’s hard to top those found here — in fact, Eleuthera’s pink sand beaches are almost as famous as those found on nearby Harbour Island.

Your Eleuthera Luxury Hotel Pick: The Cove Eleuthera

The Pool at The Cove Eleuthera

This 40-acre boutique resort on Eleuthera has been a hot spot for privacy-seeking celebs since it opened in 2013. One look and you’ll understand why. The Cove features a jaw-dropping infinity pool and cliffside bar, all tucked between two pretty private beaches. Chic, airy rooms have white decor, and enormous villas with private plunge pools and state-of-the-art kitchens are on offer.

Long Island Is Great for Adventurous Travelers

While the Exumas and Eleuthera are great for lazing away the day, the Bahamas isn’t all about low-energy getaways. Not far from the Exumas is Long Island, a great spot for fishing, diving, snorkeling, and eco tours. In fact, shark diving is a big deal here, and a great option for true adventure seekers. The fearless can dive into Dean’s Blue Hole, one of the world’s deepest blue holes, while on land the Lucayan Indian Cave is great for exploring. You can head to a different beach every day and find virtually nobody, making this a great destination for adventurers who like their share of peace and quiet as well. There are also small restaurants up and down the island that will satisfy your craving for great island fare — Max’s Conch Bar and Tiny’s Hurricane Hole are always popular.

Your Long Island Hotel Pick: Stella Maris Resort Club

East Beach at the Stella Maris Resort Club

Stella Maris Resort Club is precisely the kind of property that fits right in on Long Island. The landscape is natural and the vibe is entirely low-key. With a variety of hotel rooms, cottages, and villas with up to four bedrooms, the resort has lodging options to fit most parties and budgets. There are three pools at the hotel, but keep in mind that swimming here isn’t an option as the beach is quite rough. If you’re after a swimmable beach, check out Long Island’s Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort instead.

Cat Island Is the Most Secluded Island in the Bahamas

With only 1,500 residents spread out over 150 square miles, you’d be hard-pressed to find a less densely populated Bahamian island. What’s that mean for travelers? An incredible chance to truly get away from it all. You won’t find any Paradise Island-style resorts here — in fact, most of the properties feel like a bed-and-breakfast across Cat Island. You also won’t find a wide array of places to eat or drink, like you would on Harbour Island. Even so, it’s easy enough to organize diving, snorkeling, and fishing expeditions — as well as daily island-hopping adventures — from Cat Island. However, we’d suggest packing a few books and simply curling up in a hammock for a week to really soak up the unplugged vibe of this special place. If you’re after a full breakdown of Cat Island, check out our guide here.

Cat Island Hotel Pick: Pigeon Cay Beach Club

Beach Bar at the Pigeon Cay Beach Club

Pigeon Cay Beach Club is a barefoot-style property that draws couples, solo travelers, and families alike. The powdery white sand on the nearby beach stays blissfully uncrowded, and the resort’s seven rustic bungalows make you feel like you’ve escaped it all. Just don’t expect TV or internet. Amenities like free bikes, kayaks, and snorkel gear make unwinding a treat.

Harbour Island Is Famous for Pink Sand Beaches

While Eleuthera has its share of pink sand beaches, the real star of the Bahamas’ show is Harbour Island. Here, the stunning coral-infused sands make for a dramatic backdrop that feels otherworldly. Part of the island’s appeal is just how remote it feels — getting here generally requires flying to North Eleuthera Airport, then a cab ride, then a boat ride, and then another cab ride to your hotel. But that has made this one of the more exclusive hideaways of the Bahamas — think of Harbour Island as the glitzed-up counterpoint to laid-back Cat Island. The foodie scene is big here, and you’ll want to make reservations at your favorite spots well in advance. What’s the best way to get around Harbour Island? Rent a golf cart — it’s only three miles long, after all.

Harbour Island Hotel Pick: Coral Sands Hotel

Pool at the Pools at the Coral Sands Hotel

Coral Sands Hotel sits right on one of the Caribbean’s most gorgeous beaches and has a beach-chic vibe that’s hard to beat.  The beachfront Bahamian cottages are easily worth the splurge, though all rooms feature perks like memory foam beds and huge bathrooms. It’s all about relaxing at Coral Sands, from the beautiful infinity pool and beach to cocktails at the laid-back beach bar or even yoga classes.

Bimini Is Great for a Quick Long-Weekend Trip

Think you need to deal with multiple planes, taxis, and boat rides to reach the pretty beaches of The Bahamas? Think again. Bimini — one of the smallest sets of islands in the Bahamas — is only a 30-minute flight from Miami. That makes it perfect for a long-weekend recharge. We like Bimini because it’s developed just-enough. You can find plenty of restaurants and bars to keep yourself happy, and there are numerous beautiful beaches to choose from. It also has all kinds of options for travelers’ tastes. You can opt for frozen cocktails and beach clubs with buzzing vibes (at the Resorts World Bimini) or kick back in your own rental villa and be independent. In any case, if you need a quick dose of sun to get through the winter, Bimini is your spot. For a more detailed breakdown of Bimini, check out guide here.

Your Upscale Hotel Pick in Bimini: Hilton Bimini

The Lazy River Pool at the Hilton At Resorts World Bimini

Opened in 2015, the Bimini Hilton is one of the most popular spots on the island and has loads of on-site amenities. The hotel is part of the Resorts World Bimini condo complex, and many of the amenities are shared. Expect access to multiple pools and eateries, a marina, spa, and casino. The 305 rooms are gorgeous and contemporary — many have sea views or swim-out access to the Lazy River Pool.

What to Bring to the Bahamas: A Packable Sun Hat

As beautiful as the Bahamian sun can be, sometimes she can become super brutal. Protect your head with this stylish, easy to pack fold-down sun hat and make sure that scalp stays safe.

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