There’s never been a better time to visit the azure waters and colorful islands of the Bahamas.
May is the beginning of shoulder season, which means cheaper flights to Nassau and better hotel deals. After suffering the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Matthew back in October 2016, the country is rebuilding and going through a hospitality and cultural renaissance.
New hotels are opening, old hotels are upgrading, art installations are popping up and culinary trailblazers are reimagining traditional Bahamian fare. Here are 7 reasons why it’s time to book your flight, grab your bikini, board shorts or dare we say Speedo, and head to this beautiful archipelago.
1. Because flights are a steal and the weather is ideal.
Most travelers tend to book trips to the Caribbean in the late fall and winter which is a great way to trade winter blues for tropical blues but that also means outrageous airfare and crowded streets. If you don’t mind hanging in there and waiting until late April, round trip tickets from major airports to Nassau can be $300 or less.
Plus, the weather is more predictable than winter months. Although it’s considerably warmer than New York, winter in the Bahamas can sometimes mean chilly nights, windy mornings and brisk water temperatures. In May, the water is five degrees warmer and you have longer days to enjoy the wonderful activities offered. The average temperature is in the upper 80’s and the rainy season generally means a few, quick thunderstorms once in a while which in my book calls for a cold Kalik beer at the hotel.
2. Because Baha Mar is finally opening.
After three years of its doors tightly shut, the highly anticipated complex has a new owner and the resort is officially open and accepting reservations. Baha Mar plans to roll out three opening phases until Spring 2018. The first includes one of three hotels to open – The Grand Hyatt – as well as the 100,000 square foot casino, four restaurants and the natural Blue Hole pool. Many aspects of Baha Mar pay homage to the history and culture of the Bahamas and the surrounding Cable Beach neighborhood through the property’s array of eateries, art installations and even Bahamian cooking classes.
3. Because farm to table restaurants are emerging.
The Bahamas has always been known for its classic dishes like peas and rice, grouper fingers and conch salad, but recently chefs have been pushing the boundaries of the cuisine. There’s been a new government-driven initiative to reduce the amount of imported food and focus on supporting local farms and fisherman. So naturally, restaurants are developing innovative menus and using the best of the land and sea.
After its successful monthly luncheon where hotel guests can indulge in a multi-course meal and wine pairing, World’s Best Kamalame Cay will launch its Full Moon Dinner which is set to take place a top the island’s scenic hill overlooking the Atlantic or at the property’s very own organic farm. Flying Fish in Grand Bahama uses fresh products such as conch and mahi mahi but creates new and contemporary dishes like stone crab salad with a lemon mustard dressing. The new Pink Octopus café works with farms in Nassau to provide customers with the freshest ingredients while also bringing Mediterranean and Israeli influence to the menu. The dish to get here is the spicy shrimp with coconut reduction and jalapeño succotash.
4. Because boutique hotels are having a moment.
In the last few years, there’s been a resurgence of independent boutique hotels across the Bahamas. Leading this movement is the laid-back Island House at Lyford Cay, Nassau. The thirty room property was opened in 2015 and is not only awash in great activities and amenities but is also a place where the community can participate in The House’s wide array of concerts, art shows, and superb dining options.
This year, three other resorts have opened across multiple islands and each have their own unique appeal that’s worth the tiny puddle jumper. Luxury hotel group, Eleven Experience, recently purchased the historic Bahamas House Inn on the popular Harbour Island. The interior has been transformed and updated but in keeping with the aesthetic of Bahamian colonial architecture and décor. The eco-friendly private bungalows at Exuma’s Lumina Point is a great spot to retreat to and spend the day bone fishing or sailing around Georgetown. And not far from the sprawling Harbour Island, the owners of Ocean View Club are making “glamping” a whole new type of tropical experience. Overlooking an idyllic and secluded beachfront in Eleuthera, The Other Side features seven sun powered tents — mind you, these “tents” come with refined wooden floors, chic four-poster beds and an outdoor rain shower.
5. Because iconic hotels are getting facelifts.
New hotels and resorts aren’t the only properties that are basking in the new wave of tourism. Classic places like the renowned One & Only Ocean Club and fun-filled Atlantis are getting facelifts. At the end of 2016, the Ocean Club underwent a multi-million dollar renovation that included updates in the elegant Hartford Wing as well as a new infinity pool, bar and grill. The property still retains its traditional and iconic grandeur but with some refreshing enhancements.
This spring, Coral Towers at Atlantis updated all of their guest rooms and added new amenities like an adults-only pool featuring floating cabanas and a modernized lobby. The oldest dive resort in the Bahamas, Small Hope Bay Lodge, is also undergoing some renovations and will be adding modern touches to all of its eighteen rustic, beach side cabins by the end of the year. Scuba anyone?
6. Because the visual culture is thriving.
As the millennial generation is coming of age, there’s been a recent artistic movement from the traditional paintings of sailboats near the sandy shores to provocative and avant-garde work. Established galleries like the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas are introducing young artists to their collections and small studios with renowned painters and sculptures are embarking on incorporating art into daily, Bahamian life. Artist Antonius Roberts’ newest project is called Sacred Space which is a series of abstract sculptures of the human body made from trees at Clifton Pier that were uprooted from Hurricane Matthew.
This year, Baha Mar will unveil its art program called Current, which will be responsible for promoting education about Bahamian art, including a children’s workshop and the property is set to feature around 8,500 pieces of local artwork by creative director, John Cox. The Island House has a yearly film festival that showcases local filmmakers and the hotel will soon debut artwork from up and coming college students. Urban centers like Nassau are quickly becoming not just a beach retreat but also a cultural destination.
7. Because now is the time to explore the coral reefs.
Sure, sitting on the beautiful sandy beaches of the Bahamas are one of the country’s greatest lures but some of the best things that this area offers is a few feet under the crystal blue surface. The Bahamas is home to the third largest barrier reef in the world and many resorts offer PADI certified scuba diving courses.
With the recent studies from NOAA about the desolate future that coral reefs might face because of the impending effects of global warming, now is more important than ever to explore the world that lies below and become informed about how you can help preserve this wonderful ecosystem. Bonus, you get to brag about diving through caves filled with colorful corals and maybe even overcoming your fear of sharks by going on a curated shark dive near shipwrecks.
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