Updated: Jul 25, 2019
Growing up in the Bahamas meant spending lots of time on Nassau’s beautiful beaches, enjoying fresh seafood and home-cooked local food, on warm but breezy days chatting with other friendly folks, and of course, giving lots of directions to tourists.
Nassau is 7 miles x 21 miles and the island is flocked weekly with tens of thousands of new visitors.
After high school I moved abroad, first to Toronto and I now reside in sunny Florida.
As I traveled, people would ask me about the Bahamas and very often, some had visited or were planning to visit.
From my discussions with people, I very quickly realized that many cruisers go there and miss out on authentic experiences.
I’ve traveled all around the Caribbean and there are consistencies among most – crowded craft markets that sell t-shirts and souvenirs, local restaurants that serve “watered down” versions of food and local drinks, and other tourist traps.
I’ve found that the key to enjoying the islands is to have real experiences, like a local.
It often takes looking beyond the surface to try real food and local spirits, engage with a knowledgeable local guide, find unique handcrafted-keepsakes and souvenirs, or even plan a great beach day.
In planning my vacations, I often experience information overload from the cruise lines, TripAdvisor, and other online reviews.
So, I decided to make a contribution to the cruise-iverse and write about the best things to do and see in Nassau based on activity.
My top choice is a driving tour of Nassau.
The weather in Nassau is hotter than it is in FL and while I love tropical climates, it can get uncomfortable quickly.
Additionally, it’s virtually impossible to walk to Nassau’s best attractions, get a great local lunch, and walk back to the ship in a reasonable amount of time.
Often times, we travel with friends and first time visitors to the Bahamas and hands down, everyone enjoys a scenic driving tour.
There are many capable drivers in Nassau, but we negotiated a great three hour tour with Mario Bethel (firstname.lastname@example.org) on our last trip.
He has a large comfortable van, knows the island well, and included conch fritters in the price of the tour.
There are others listed on TripAdvisor including Jermaine’s Taxi Tours which is very well regarded.
Here are some tips:
Have your driver stop at a local liquor store and get some cold local beers. It’s not illegal and much more inexpensive than buying beer at a restaurant. Kaliks and Sands beers are sold 3 for $5 or $6 typically. Yes, you have to buy 3.
Montague Beach is about a 10 minute drive east of the cruise port. It features an historic fort and a beautiful little turquoise beach. It’s rarely crowded. It’s a great place to take pictures and get your feet wet. Depending on the length of your tour, you may want to swim or sunbathe for a bit. You can also get conch fritters and local food from vendors there on the weekends.
Have your driver stop for conch fritters or cracked conch at his/her favorite local spot. Tourists flock the Fish Fry, it’s often crowded and service can be slow. I guarantee that even if your driver likes a certain restaurant at the Fish Fry, it’s going to be faster, and the food will be authentic and yummy.
Check out the Craft Cottage for authentic handmade souvenirs. It’s about a 7- minute drive east of the cruise port. They have beautiful items for all price ranges made by local artisans (https://www.facebook.com/craftcottage).
2. Beach Day
Cable Beach is my choice of all time for Nassau beaches. The beach is beautiful and close to port (we take the jitney) and it has resorts which offer day passes.
Lots of passengers are frequent in Junkanoo Beach. It's small, cute, and busy. It is a public beach after all; and being near the port, millions of people visit Junkanoo Beach annually.
There’s volleyball, vendors, and a bar that plays music – right up the alley of "I were still 21." For me, I prefer spacious and lively, but some quiet, with restrooms, and a few activities available.
The great thing about Cable Beach is that its easily accessible by bus.
The stop for the #10 is just a few minutes walk from the port.
It's quick and easy to get there and the price is about $1.50 each.
It’s approximately a 15 minute ride to the Melia Nassau and the Breezes Nassau resorts.
The Melia is family friendly and newly renovated. The grounds are always well kept and has ample lounges and shady space on the beach with everything being a short walk away.
I can walk to the beach bar, restrooms, ping pong tables, towel stands, and still be able to keep an eye on my children.
Lunch is $12-$18 at the beach bar, and usually I travel with bottled water and snacks for my group.
Fruits, chips, and other items are available at a small grocery store just a few minutes away from the ship. Towels and snorkel gear are provided at no charge from the towel stand.
There is a gift store in the lobby in case of an event that I’ve forgotten a necessity, and bonus, there is a smaller straw market just across the street where I usually go to grab small souvenirs.
In addition, there is air hockey and beach volleyball available plus a water sports booth that rents jet skis and other equipment. WIFI is included and works well throughout the beach.
Overall, the Melia is a great beach day for families or large groups because there’s quite a bit to do without spending extra money.
My other go to is SuperClubs Breezes. This pass is all inclusive.
Food, drinks, and activities are all included.
The beach is long and beautiful with several large pools and live entertainment.
Breezes has three tennis courts and customers with a day pass have access to the tennis pros at no charge.
There is a rock climbing wall, beach volleyball, basketball, table tennis, a jogging trail, bouncy boxing, a flying trapeze, billiards, and kayaks.
You can get Piña Coladas or Bahama Mamas at the beach bar, local beers or wine, all drinks are included.
The quality of the food and drinks are great. There is everything from local rice with beans, jerk chicken, and curries, with lots of American favorites like quesadillas, burgers, pizza, salads, pastas, and desserts.
It's worth the 100 bucks. The beach is private so it is lively but not overcrowded and the service is excellent.
Guests must be 14 or over.
Put this on your list of things to do in Nassau.
3. Rum Rum Rum
In the Caribbean, rum is synonymous with stories of pirates, slave plantations and sweet sugar cane.
Most Caribbean countries make their own, and the Bahamas is no exception.
John Watlings is fairly new to the Bahamas but is owned and operated by descendants of the Bacardi family in Nassau.
After leaving Cuba in the early 1900s, many members of the Bacardi family moved to the Bahamas, settled there and not until recently, there was a massive Bacardi distillery in Nassau.
John Watlings was opened by a younger generation of the rum dynasty and is a fresh take on the old Bacardi brand.
My favorite way to experience rum in the Bahamas is through the Rum Runners Passage tour. It’s designed to be easy accessible for cruise passengers.
The times are convenient and everything is within walking distance of the port. Plus, you get a good bang for your buck.
Guides are friendly and informative.
Group sizes are small – this isn’t some large company peddling cookie cutter tours to cruisers.
If you're looking to stay close to port and just leave the ship for a few hours (2.5 – 3 hours) this tour is ideal. It is tons of fun!!
The content and sights would be interesting to children ages 10 and over. Children are allowed under their parent’s supervision.
This tour includes:
6 Rum Tastings: Learn the proper way to taste rum!
Bahamian Conch & Lobster Fritters
2 Chocolate Treats
Bahamian Guava Duff
**Drinking Age in the Bahamas is 18