I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
July 29, 2019
There’s a reason the Caribbean islands are so popular — Their transparent turquoise waters and sugary beaches inspire visions of a dream vacation filled with tropical sunshine, snorkeling, frozen drinks, and blissful relaxation… not to mention a killer Instagram feed. But choosing which Caribbean resort or island to visit can be overwhelming. Thanks to various travel writing gigs, we’ve now visited nearly a dozen Caribbean islands over the last couple of years and gotten a feel for the kinds of travelers who would enjoy them. With that said, I can tell you without hesitation that Nassau Paradise Island is now my top pick for families or first-time Caribbean travelers. There are so many fun things to do with kids in Nassau, making it a great option for a Caribbean family vacation.
I spent several days exploring Nassau Paradise Island so that I could share a foolproof and potentially budget-friendly trip your entire family will never forget. Here’s an overview of how to prepare and what to do, eat, and see once you get there.
If you’ve never been to the Bahamas, you probably have plenty of travel questions. Here’s all you need to know before you go.
Many major cities offer non-stop service to Nassau. Nassau has a brand new, easy-to-navigate airport with several restaurants and a food court, as well as better-than-average souvenir shops. You and your children will all need passports. You’ll also fill out a customs form for each member of your family before you arrive. Your airline will provide these forms so you’ll have ample time to fill them out before your arrival.
The easiest way to get to your hotel from the airport is by taxi — There’s a taxi stand right outside the airport. Be sure your taxi displays a license in the window so that you know your rate will be the standard one set by the Bahamian government. A taxi to Atlantis from the airport costs $32 for the first two passengers, plus a $1 bridge toll. Each additional passenger costs $3. A taxi to Baha Mar costs $27.
You can also hire a driver ahead of time to pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel – This is a great option for larger groups and there are many car services (and reviews of them) to choose from online. We used Steven O. Symmonett and he was absolutely amazing. I really can’t recommend him enough. He gave us so much fantastic information about the Bahamas and the local scene and I’d use him again in a heartbeat. He has a fleet of luxury sedans, limousines, and tour buses and if you meet him, I think you’ll agree with me that he’s the epitome of professionalism. You can contact him via his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also rent a car, but since they drive on the left side of the road in the Bahamas, I don’t recommend it! It seems like more trouble than it’s worth.
An American dollar is the equivalent of a Bahamian dollar and you don’t need to worry about exchanging your money — American dollars are widely accepted on the island. You can exchange currency at your hotel’s front desk if you really want some Bahamian dollars and coins — We brought home a few for friends and family members.
Most hotels allow check-in starting between 3 and 4pm. If you’re going to arrive earlier, consider packing a bathing suit in your carry-on luggage — Most of the resort hotels have a changing room and luggage storage room so that you can enjoy the pools while you wait for your room to be ready. Check out time is 11am.
The tap water in Nassau Paradise Island is safe to drink! No need to worry. Bottled water is also widely available.
Pay special attention to this one: Restaurants and hotels automatically add 15% gratuity to all food and beverage checks. You can tip extra for exceptional service, but that will be on top of the 15% you’re already tipping for your meals and drinks. Bellboys, doormen and porters usually receive $3 per bag. Taxi drivers should be tipped about 15% of the fare.
If you’re traveling to Nassau Paradise Island in the summer months get ready for seriously hot, humid weather– Temperatures can get up to about 95 degrees each day, so you’ll want to keep that in mind if you’re traveling with kids and perhaps schedule mostly water activities as opposed to, say, a downtown walking tour. Hurricane season runs July through October. High season is December to mid-April when temperatures range from the 70s to low 80s — This is considered to be the best time to visit the area. (Hello, Spring Break!)
Honestly, I felt safer in Nassau than I have in any other Caribbean destination I’ve visited (excluding Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay). Nassau is packed with tourists and the locals I met all were very enthusiastic, friendly, and seemed happy we were there. That said, crime exists here and anywhere else you’re likely to travel. It’s a good rule of thumb to stay in well-populated areas, limit your after dark activities, and not to wander off into secluded areas you’re unfamiliar with. Only hire taxis with a license visible in the window. Watch your belongings closely. There are pickpockets here and in every other tourist town in the world. You can see the US government’s travel advisory on the Bahamas here for more specific information about the island — It has some very helpful advice.
Atlantis is certainly the best-known resort in Nassau Paradise Island and its grounds, marine sanctuaries, public spaces, and waterpark are admittedly spectacular. Now that I’ve been there, I think of Atlantis as a sort of Walt Disney World experience. The resort contains several hotels at varying price points. The most affordable hotels contain very basic rooms and are located on the outskirts of the resort. The more expensive hotels are closer to the action. Although every room is fairly pricy (some would say overpriced for what you get), I definitely recommend spending a night or two here for the Aquaventure waterpark alone. After that, I’d personally move to a more private resort like Grand Hyatt Baha Mar — The reason for this is that Atlantis sells day passes to cruise line passengers and tourists, so it is constantly bustling with TONS of people. Grand Hyatt Baha Mar does not sell day passes, so you’ll have a more private luxury resort vacation experience, with private beaches, pools and restaurants and fancier rooms.
There’s one MAJOR reason to stay at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island — Access to everything at Atlantis, including Aquaventure and Atlantis’s amazing swimming pools, is included in the cost of your stay. Rooms at the Comfort Suites are clean, comfortable, and affordable (as are drinks at the swim-up bar!) and as you’ll read below, the hotel also has a surprisingly good restaurant. Atlantis and Marina Village are right across the street, in easy walking distance from your room. Honestly, unless I planned to spring for luxury hotel rooms at Atlantis, I’d choose the Comfort Suites for the Aquaventure days of my vacation.
I absolutely adore this resort and can’t wait to return. No matter which of the three Baha Mar hotels you choose, the rooms are sleek and sophisticated, the grounds and swimming pools are over-the-top fabulous, the food is fantastic, the beach is absolutely pristine (Baha Mar is on Cable Beach, which many say is Nassau’s most beautiful), and a waterpark currently under construction for guests will be complete by next year! If I were planning a dream vacation, I’d book two nights at Atlantis and then come to Baha Mar for the remainder of my stay. In addition to great food, accommodations, and grounds, Baha Mar also has a marine sanctuary, kids club, casino, 18-hole golf course, spa, and a private island with ferry service every half-hour throughout the day. Your entire family will love it. I’m already planning a return visit!
Excursions are a great way to experience all the Bahamas have to offer and there are lots to choose from. Here are some of my favorites for families.
Powerboat Adventures offers an experience your tweens and teens in particular will love. A thrilling high-speed powerboat ride will take you to a private island where numerous activities await, including swimming with the famous Exuma pigs, feeding wild stingrays with the help of a guide, watching from a safe place as a guide feeds local sharks, enjoying a lunch buffet that features Bahamian specialties, a drift snorkel that takes you over an untouched coral reef, and a lesson in making conch salad — all in one day! I love this excursion because it allows you to participate in a bunch of quintessential Bahamas experiences, all in one day and for one price. Reviewers rave about Powerboat Adventures and give the food and included Bahama Mama drinks high marks — I definitely plan to book a trip for my family the next time I visit Paradise Island.
This private island is tremendously popular with travelers, both for its private beaches and its many activities. A beach day booking at Blue Lagoon Island is fairly inexpensive and includes a boat ride to and from the island, lunch, use of beach chairs, volleyball courts, ping pong tables and water toys. Kayaks, snorkels, paddleboards and more are available for an additional fee. Guests also rave about Blue Lagoon’s sea lion encounter and dolphin swim, and if swimming with dolphins is on your bucket list, this is the place to do it — This program includes a footpush and even more if you opt for a Royal Swim. I can tell you from experience this is an incredibly thrilling activity! If you aren’t staying at a resort with a private, not-too-crowded beach while you’re in Nassau, this is a great way to enjoy a day of private beach time.
Just steps away from the Atlantis resort, Marina Village is an upscale, tourist-filled plaza loaded with shops and restaurants. Although the souvenirs here are pricey, there are a few reasons the village is definitely worth a visit — The main one is the Junkanoo Parade, which was one of my favorite experiences of our Nassau vacation. The Junkanoo is a Caribbean street parade with elaborate costumes, dance, and music. It’s traditionally held just twice a year, but you can see it on certain Saturday nights each month in Marina Village — Check the Atlantis weekly schedule to find out if one is happening during your vacation. If it is, don’t miss it. It is so much fun and your entire family will love it. While you’re in Marina Village, look for the fabulous yachts lined up next to the village walkway — If it’s night time, you can see inside many of them and they are pretty incredible. I also recommend eating at Frankie Gone Bananas in Marina Village, which you can read more about below.
You’ll find the Educulture Junkanoo Museum on West Street, next to the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. Established by Junkanoo expert Arlene Nash Ferguson in her childhood home, the museum contains interactive exhibits detailing the history of The Bahamas and the Junkanoo tradition. Guests enjoy the exhibits, but what they rave about are the enthusiastic and welcoming owners and tour guides. In other words, it’s the people who make this place truly special. Tours last between 30 and 45 minutes and are very kid-friendly since visitors are encouraged to play traditional Bahamian instruments and try on Junkanoo costumes. Get ready for a great photo opp — You’ll definitely find it here!
This interactive museum highlights the Golden Age of Piracy from 1690 to 1720, when Nassau was considered home base for some of the most famous pirates in the world. Visitors love both the wealth of information they learn here and the realistic wax figure exhibits, which can be a little scary for very young children. The self-guided tour takes about an hour. Admission is $13.50 for adults, $6.50 for kids under 18.
You really should see the gorgeous Graycliff Hotel while you’re in Nassau, even if you don’t book a room there. Built in 1740 by the pirate Captain John Howard Graysmith, Graycliff is now an 20-room inn crammed with antiques, many twists and turns, and all the splendor of a bygone era. Guests here have included Winston Churchill, The Beatles, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. With over 250,000 bottles, its wine cellar holds the 3rd largest wine collection in the world and the gardens surrounding the hotel are magnificent. Best of all, you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy the Graycliff Hotel experience. Stop in to walk through the gardens, tour the chocolate and cigar factories, or visit the Heritage Museum and artists’ studios at Graycliff’s Heritage Village, You can even book a day at Graycliff and tour the hotel, enjoy a three-course lunch, and spend your afternoon relaxing at Graycliff’s pool. And if you’re looking for something truly special, make reservations for afternoon tea or dinner at Graycliff Restaurant, which gets wonderful reviews from critics and patrons alike and would definitely qualify as a big night out.
Bahamian food is just the best, you guys — Tropical fruits and fresh seafood abound in dishes that will knock your socks off.
Head to Arawak Cay for a colorful row of Bahamian restaurants and food stands known collectively as The Fish Fry. Here, you’ll find crowds of locals and tourists alike lining up for conch dishes, lobster tails, local snapper and grouper, and more. Order it up with a side of plantains or pigeon peas and spiced rice and wash it all down with an ice-cold bottle of Kalik, known as ‘The Beer of the Bahamas.’ Opt for inside seating at restaurants like Twin Brothers and Drifters or get in line at one of the Cay’s popular food trucks — Critics say you can’t really go wrong here, so don’t stress too much about which restaurant to choose. I do recommend you visit Arawak Cay in the daytime for added safety.
You’ll find Frankie Gone Bananas at The Fish Fry, as well as a second location in Marina Village beside the Atlantis resort. The menu is filled with the usual Bahamian treats, but I suspected our server would have ideas on what I should choose — and boy, did she deliver! Without hesitation, Anastasia told me to get the grilled mahi mahi topped with shrimp in lemon butter sauce, along with a side of peas and rice. When it arrived, she told me to dump the peas and rice on top and mix it all together. I did what she said and the results were outstanding — We had lots of great food on our trip, but everyone at my table agreed this was the best entree of our vacation. The lesson here? Listen to your server! Frankie’s conch fritters were also a group favorite and for dessert, the rum cake with ice cream was a winner.
Foodies will definitely want to sign up for a Tru Bahamian Food Tour — This guided tour through the streets of colonial Nassau takes you off the beaten path and includes six tastings and sips of authentic Bahamian food and drink, including conch fritters and rum cake. Kids are welcome and I know from experience with other great food tours that mine would love this tour, as long as it’s not too hot outside! Reviewers say the guides from this company are amazing and share information about Nassau’s food as well as its history. Many suggest doing this tour first so that you get a better idea of where to eat, shop, and explore while you’re in Nassau.
I never thought the day would come when I’d recommend a Comfort Inn restaurant, but life is full of surprises, isn’t it? At Crusoe’s Garden Restaurant, the chef is incredible, the seafood is fresh, and there are lots of Bahamian treats on the menu that I definitely wanted to try during my stay. I had a deliciously spicy conch salad, wonderful conch fritters, a seafood ‘extravaganza’ with local grouper, conch and shrimp accompanied by a lime cilantro dip, and guava bread pudding for dessert. I heartily recommend all of it. And if you happen to be there on a night when Curried Shrimp is the special, you’ll definitely want to order it — Everyone told me it’s absolutely amazing. The Nassau Guardian calls Crusoe’s a hidden gem and I have to agree — It’s also cheaper than most of the restaurants at Atlantis across the street, so for families at Atlantis looking for a more affordable meal, Crusoe’s is definitely worth the short walk.
If you’re looking for typical souvenirs, downtown Nassau has everything you could possibly want and then some. If you want to haggle for your souvenirs, the famous Straw Market is definitely the place to go. However, if you’re on the hunt for something a little more memorable and a little less touristy, here are two highly regarded shops you won’t want to miss.
This art gallery and gift shop is filled to the brim with beautiful jewelry, art, accessories, and gifts created by over 100 local artisans, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for something special. Located on East Shirley Street just a short drive from downtown, Bahama Art & Handicraft is open Tuesday through Saturday and I suggest you take a cab to get there. This shop gets an astonishing number of 5-star reviews online; visitors say the selection of gifts and art is fantastic, the owners are friendly, and the prices are very reasonable.
Art lovers won’t want to miss Doongalik Studios, a lovely art gallery inside a historic Bahamian building that displays and sells the work of over 70 local artists. The grounds outside are lush and filled with colorful sculptures. Inside, you’ll find rotating exhibits as well as art and handicrafts for sale, and on Saturday mornings from 9-1, a farmer’s market is held on the building’s front porch. Also on the grounds, you’ll find Craft Cottage, a shop filled with curated handicrafts from local artisans. It’s all located at #20 Village Road and you’ll want to take a taxi to get there. Hours are Monday-Wednesday 10am-4pm and Saturday 9am-1pm.
And there you have it — everything you need to know to have an awesome vacation in Nassau Paradise Island. Have fun — and if you have any recommendations of your own, please add them in the comments!
Thanks to Nassau Paradise Island for hosting us during our stay. As always, my opinions and recommendations are my own.