Frommer's Bahamas

Frommer's Bahamas

by Darwin Porter, Danforth Prince


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780764537349
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 08/15/2003
Series: Frommer's Complete Series , #566
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Darwin Porter, while still a teenager, began writing about The Bahamas for the Miami Herald and has been a frequent visitor ever since.

His writing partner is Ohio-born Danforth Prince, formerly of the Paris bureau of the New York Times, who has co-authored numerous Frommer’s bestsellers with Darwin, including the Caribbean, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Virgin Islands. Together, they share their secrets, discoveries, and opinions about The Bahamas with you.

Read an Excerpt

Frommer's Bahamas 2004

By Darwin Porter Danforth Prince

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2003

Darwin Porter, Danforth Prince
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7645-3734-2

Chapter One

The Best of The Bahamas

The Bahamas (that's with a capital "T") is one of the most geographically complicated
nations of the Atlantic. A coral-based archipelago, it is composed of
more than 700 islands, 2,000 cays (pronounced "keys," from the Spanish word
for small islands), and hundreds of rocky outcroppings that have damaged the
hulls of countless ships since colonial days.

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas came into being in 1973 after centuries
of colonial rule. After Great Britain granted The Bahamas internal self-rule in
1964, the fledgling nation adopted its own constitution but chose not to sever
its ties with its motherland. It has remained in the Commonwealth, with the
British monarch as its head of state. In the British tradition, The Bahamas has a
two-house Parliament, a ministerial cabinet headed by a prime minister, and an
independent judiciary. The queen appoints a Bahamian-general to represent the

Today the government and various investors are pumping money into the
tourism infrastructure, especially on Paradise Island, across from Nassau, as well
as Freeport/Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island. Cruiseship tourism continues to
increase, and a more upscale crowd is coming back after abandoning The
Bahamas for many years in favor of other Caribbean islands such as St. Barts and

When Hubert Ingraham became prime minister in 1992, he launched the
country down the long road toward regaining its market share of tourism, which
under Prime Minister Lynden Pindling had seen a rapid decline. Exit polls
revealed some first-time visitors vowing never to return to The Bahamas under
the administration of the notorious Pindling, whose government had taken over
a number of hotels and failed to maintain them properly.

Ingraham recognized that the government wasn't supposed to be in the hospitality
business and turned many properties back over to the professionals.
After a painful slump, tourism in the post-Pindling era is booming again in The
Bahamas, and more than 1.6 million visitors from all over the world now flock
here annually. In the capital of Nassau, it's easy to see where money is being
spent: on new air terminals, widened roads, repaved sidewalks, underground
phone cables, massive landscaping, sweeping esplanades, a cleanup campaign,
and additional police officers walking the beat to cut down on crime.

Unlike Haiti and Jamaica, The Bahamas has remained politically stable and
made the transition from minority white rule to black majority rule with relatively
little tension.

And economic conditions have slowly improved here. You do not see the
wretched poverty in Nassau that you see in, say, Kingston, Jamaica, though
many poor residents do still live on New Providence Island's "Over-the-Hill"
section, an area where few tourists venture to visit (although the neighborhood
is gritty and fascinating).

Nassau really is the true The Bahamas. You'd think a city so close to the U.S.
mainland would have been long since overpowered by American culture. Yet,
except for some fast-food chain outlets, American pop music, and Hollywood
films, Nassau retains a surprising amount of its traditionally British feel. (By
contrast, Freeport/Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island has become almost completely
Americanized, with little British aura or Bahamian tradition left.)

The biggest changes have occurred in the hotel sector. Sun International has
vastly expanded its Atlantis property on Paradise Island, turning it into a virtual
waterworld. Several new restaurants have opened, replacing older establishments
that had grown tired over the years. The Hilton interests have developed the
decaying old British Colonial in Nassau, restoring it to life.

And Grand Bahama Island is in an interesting state of flux. Hotels along the
entire Lucayan strip are being either built from scratch or upgraded; the fabled
Royal Oasis Golf Resort and Casino in Freeport is experiencing a renaissance
under new owners.

If there's a downside to this boom, it's the emphasis on megahotels and
casinos-and the corresponding lack of focus on the Out Islands. Large resort
chains, with the exception of Four Seasons, have ignored these islands; most
continue to slumber away in relative seclusion and poverty. Four Seasons opened
a huge new megaresort with an 18-hole golf course in 2003, but other development
has been minor, so the Out Islands remain drowsy. Their very lack
of progress will continue to attract a certain breed of adventurous explorer, the
one who shuns the resorts and casinos of Paradise Island, Cable Beach, and
Freeport/Lucaya. Little change in this Out Islands-versus-the-rest situation is
anticipated until well into the new millennium.

There's another interesting trend to note here. After a long slumber, the government
and many concerned citizens of The Bahamas have awakened to ecotourism.
More than any government in the Caribbean, except perhaps Bonaire,
this nation is trying to protect its natural heritage. If nothing else, its residents
realize doing this will be good for tourism, because many visitors come to The
Bahamas precisely for a close encounter with nature.

Government, private companies, and environmental groups have drawn up
a national framework of priorities to protect the islands. One of their first
goals was to save the nearly extinct West Indian flamingo. Today, nearly 80,000
flamingos inhabit the Island of Great Inagua. Equally important programs aim
to prevent the extinction of the green turtle, the white-crowned pigeon, the
Bahamian parrot, and the New Providence iguana.

Although tourism and the environment are bouncing back, many problems
still remain for this archipelago nation. While some Bahamians seem among the
friendliest and most hospitable people in the world, others-particularly those
in the tourist industry-can be downright hostile. To counter this, the government
is working to train its citizens to be more helpful, courteous, and efficient.
Sometimes this training has been taken to heart; at other times, however, it still
clearly has not. Service with a smile is still not assured in The Bahamas.

Drug smuggling remains a serious problem, and regrettably there seems to be
no immediate solution. Because the country is so close to U.S. shores, it is often
used as a temporary depot for drugs shipped from South America to Florida.
The Bahamas previously developed a tradition of catering to the illicit habits of
U.S. citizens, as well; during the heyday of Prohibition, long before cocaine,
marijuana, and heroin were outlawed, many Bahamians grew rich smuggling
rum into the United States. Things have improved, but you'll still see stories in
the newspapers about floating bales of marijuana turning up in the sea just off
The Bahamas's coastline and such.

Though this illicit trade rarely affects the casual tourist, it's important to
know that it is a factor here-and so, armed with this knowledge, don't agree to
carry any packages to or from the U.S. for a stranger while you're visiting. You
could end up taking a much longer vacation on these islands than you had ever

1 The Best Beaches

Old Fort Beach (New Providence
Island): With pristine white sands
and turquoise water, this is the
least developed major beach on
New Providence Island, near the
relatively unpopulated western tip
of The Bahamas's most crowded
island. Many of its biggest fans are
homeowners from nearby Lyford
Cay, whose homes are among the
most expensive in The Bahamas.
The beach is least crowded on
weekdays, and windiest throughout
the winter. There's great
water-skiing in summer, when
waters are the calmest. See
"Beaches, Watersports & Other
Outdoor Pursuits," in chapter 3.

Cable Beach (New Providence
Island): The glittering shoreline of
Cable Beach has easy access to
shops, casinos, restaurants, watersports,
and bars. It's a sandy
6.5km- (4-mile-) long strip, with a
great array of facilities and activities.
See chapter 3.

Cabbage Beach (Paradise Island):
Think Vegas in the tropics. It
seems as if most of the sunbathers
dozing on the sands here are
recovering from the previous
evening's partying, and it's likely
to be crowded near the megahotels,
but you can find a bit more
solitude on the beach's isolated
northwestern extension (Paradise
Beach)-which is accessible only
by boat or on foot. Lined with
palms, sea grapes, and casuarinas,
the sands are broad and stretch
for at least 3km (2 miles). See
"Beaches, Watersports & Other
Outdoor Pursuits," in chapter 4.

Xanadu Beach (Grand Bahama
Island): Grand Bahama has 97km
(60 miles) of sandy shoreline, but
Xanadu Beach is most convenient
to Freeport's resort hotels, several
of which offer shuttle service to
Xanadu. There's more than a kilometer
(1/2-mile) of white sand and
(usually) gentle surf. Don't expect
to have Xanadu to yourself, but if
you want more quiet and privacy,
try any of the beaches that stretch
from Xanadu for many miles in
either direction. See "Beaches,
Watersports & Other Outdoor
Pursuits," in chapter 5.

Tahiti Beach (Hope Town, the
Abacos): Since the beach is so isolated
at the far end of Elbow Cay
Island, you can be sure that only a
handful of people will ever visit
these cool waters and white sands.
The crowds stay away because you
can't drive to Tahiti Beach: To get
there, you'll have to walk or ride a
rented bike along sand and gravel
paths from Hope Town. You can
also charter a boat to get there,
which isn't too hard, since the
Abacos are the sailing capital of
The Bahamas. See "Elbow Cay
(Hope Town)," in chapter 7.

Pink Sands Beach (Harbour
Island): Running the entire length
of the island's eastern side, these
pale pink sands stretch for 5km
(3 miles) past a handful of low-rise
hotels and private villas. A coral
reef protects the shore from
breakers, making for some of the
safest swimming in The Bahamas.
See chapter 8.

Ten Bay Beach (Eleuthera): Ten
Bay Beach lies a short drive south
of Palmetto Point, just north of
Savannah Sound. Once upon a
time, the exclusive Cotton Bay
Club chose to build a hotel here
because of the fabulous scenery.
There may not be facilities here,
but now that the hotel has closed,
the white sands and turquoise
waters here are more idyllic and
private than ever. See "Palmetto
Point," in chapter 8.

Saddle Cay (the Exumas): Most
of the Exumas are oval-shaped
islands strung end to end like links
in a 209km (130-mile) chain.
One notable exception is Saddle
Cay, with its horseshoe-shaped
curve near the Exumas' northern
tip. It can be reached only by boat,
but once achieved offers an
unspoiled setting without a trace
of the modern world-and plenty
of other cays and islets where you
can play Robinson Crusoe for a
few hours if you like. See chapter

Stocking Island (the Exumas):
One of the finest white sandy
beaches in The Bahamas lies off
Elizabeth Harbour, the main harbor
of the archipelago, close to the
little capital of George Town. You
can reach Stocking Island easily by
boat from Elizabeth Harbour, and
the sands of this offshore island
are rarely crowded; snorkelers and
divers love to explore its gin-clear
waters. In addition to its beach of
powdery white sand, the island is
also known for its "blue holes,"
coral gardens, and undersea caves.
See "Beaches, Watersports &
Other Outdoor Pursuits," in
chapter 9.

Cat Island's Beaches: The white
sandy beaches ringing this island
are pristine, opening onto crystal-clear
waters and lined with
coconut palms, palmettos, and
casuarina trees-and best of all,
you'll practically have the place to
yourself. One of our favorite
beaches here, near Old Bight, has
a beautiful, lazy curve of white
sand. Another fabulous beach lies
5km (3 miles) north of New
Bight, site of the Fernandez Bay
Village resort. This curvy white
sandy beach is set against another
backdrop of casuarinas, and is
idyllic and unusually tranquil.
Another good beach here is the
long, sandy stretch that opens
onto Hawk's Nest Resort and
Marina on the southwestern side.
None of the Cat Island beaches
has any facilities (bring anything
you need from your hotel), but
they do offer peace, quiet, and
seclusion. See "Cat Island," in
chapter 10.

2 The Best Diving

New Providence Island: Many
ships have sunk near Nassau in the
past 300 years, and all the dive
outfitters here know the most scenic
wreck sites. Other attractions
are underwater gardens of elkhorn
coral and dozens of reefs brimming
with underwater life. The
most spectacular dive site is the
Shark Wall, 16km (10 miles) off
the southwest coast of New Providence;
it's blessed with incredible,
colorful sea life and the healthiest
coral offshore. You'll even get to
swim with sharks (not as bait, of
course). See "Beaches, Watersports
& Other Outdoor Pursuits,"
in chapter 3.

Grand Bahama Island: The
island is ringed with reefs, and
dive sites are plentiful, including
the Wall, the Caves (the deliberate
and well-engineered sinking
known as Theo's Wreck), and
Treasure Reef. Other popular dive
sites include Spit City (yes, that's
right), Ben Blue Hole, and the
Rose Garden (no one knows how
this one got its name). What
makes Grand Bahama Island a cut
above the others is the presence
of a world-class dive operator,
UNEXSO (the Underwater
Explorer's Society; 888/365-3483
or 242/373-1250). See
"Beaches, Watersports & Other
Outdoor Pursuits," in chapter 5.

Andros: Marine life abounds in
the barrier reef off the coast of
Andros, which is one of the largest
in the world and a famous destination
for divers. The reef plunges
167km (104 miles) to a narrow
drop-off known as the Tongue of
the Ocean. You can also explore
mysterious blue holes, formed
when subterranean caves fill with
seawater, causing their ceilings to
collapse and exposing clear, deep


Excerpted from Frommer's Bahamas 2004
by Darwin Porter Danforth Prince
Copyright © 2003 by Darwin Porter, Danforth Prince.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

List of Maps.

What's New in The Bahamas.

1. The Best of The Bahamas.

1 The Best Beaches.

2 The Best Diving.

3 The Best Snorkeling.

4 The Best Fishing.

5 The Best Sailing.

6 The Best Golf Courses.

7 The Best Scuba Diving.

Eco-Tourism Highlights of The Bahamas.

8 The Best Honeymoon Resorts.

9 The Best Family Vacations.

10 The Best Places to Get Away from It All.

11 The Best Restaurants.

12 The Best Nightlife.

2. Planning Your Trip to The Bahamas.

1 The Islands in Brief.

Hemingway in Bimini.

2 Visitor Information.

3 Entry Requirements & Customs.

4 Money.

What Things Cost in The Bahamas.

5 When to Go.

The Bahamas Calendar of Events.

6 Travel Insurance.

7 Health & Safety.

8 Specialized Travel Resources.

Women Traveling Alone in The Bahamas.

9 Planning Your Trip Online.

10 The 21st-Century Traveler.

11 Getting There: Flying to The Bahamas.

12 For the Cruise-Ship Traveler.

13 Package Deals.

14 Getting Around.

15 The Active Vacation Planner.

16 Tips on Accommodations.

Fast Facts: The Bahamas.

3. New Providence (Nassau/Cable Beach).

1 Orientation.

Favorite New Providence Experiences.

2 Getting Around.

Fast Facts: New Providence.

3 Where to Stay.

Junkanoo Festivals.

4 Where to Dine.

5 Beaches,Watersports & Other Outdoor Pursuits.

6 Seeing the Sights.

Going Over-the-Hill.

Walking Tour: Historic Nassau.

7 Shopping.

8 New Providence After Dark.

4. Paradise Island.

1 Orientation.

2 Getting Around.

3 Where to Stay.

4 Where to Dine.

5 Beaches,Watersports & Other Outdoor Pursuits.

Favorite Paradise Island Experiences.

6 Seeing the Sights.

7 Shopping.

8 Paradise Island After Dark.

5. Grand Bahama (Freeport/Lucaya).

1 Orientation.

2 Getting Around.

Fast Facts: Grand Bahama.

3 Where to Stay.

4 Where to Dine.

5 Beaches,Watersports & Other Outdoor Pursuits.

6 Seeing the Sights.

7 Shopping.

8 Grand Bahama After Dark.

9 A Side Trip to West End.

6. Bimini, the Berry Islands & Andros.

1 Bimini.

Fast Facts: Bimini.

Island in the Stream.

2 The Berry Islands.

3 Andros.

7. The Abaco Islands.

1 Marsh Harbour (Great Abaco Island).

2 Elbow Cay (Hope Town).

Exploring the Abacos by Boat.

3 Man-O-War Cay.

4 Great Guana Cay.

5 Treasure Cay.

6 Green Turtle Cay (New Plymouth).

7 Spanish Cay.

8 Walker's Cay.

8. Eleuthera.

1 Rock Sound.

2 Tarpum Bay

3 Windermere Island.

4 Palmetto Point.

5 Governor's Harbour.

6 Hatchet Bay.

7 Gregory Town.

8 The Current.

9 Harbour Island.

10 Spanish Wells.

9. The Exuma Islands.

1 George Town.

Life on a Houseboat.

2 Little Exuma.

A Romantic Legend & a Movie Star.

3 Staniel Cay.

4 Sampson Cay.

Norman's Cay.

10. The Southern Bahamas.

1 Cat Island.

2 San Salvador.

The Columbus Question.

3 Long Island.

4 Acklins Island & Crooked Island.

5 Mayaguana Island.

6 Great Inagua.

With Salt, Please.


General Index.

Accommodations Index.

Restaurant Index.

Customer Reviews

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