Pampered Adventures in the Bahamas

If you spent your entire Bahamas vacation on its beaches, enjoying a good drink and a book, we wouldn’t blame you one bit. But the destination has plenty to offer, yes, on its beaches but out on (and under) the water and in its town, as well. We spoke with a destination management company about what’s to do on the 3,000-plus islands that make up the archipelago nation and also pulled together some impressive experiences offered at one of the top hotels in the destination.

One popular excursion is a visit to Big Major Cay and experience the famous swimming pigs. Located in Exuma, Big Major Cay is where you will find “Pig Beach,” home to a colony of feral pigs that travelers are allowed to feed and swim with. The cay is two hours by speed boat from Nassau but is also reachable from Great Exuma, Staniel Cay and other nearby cays. 

Jamaica-based Island Routes offers an “Exuma Cays Island Hopping and Animal Interaction” excursion, which totals nine hours. Guests will have the chance to island-hop aboard a powerboat, visiting Alley Cay and its rock iguanas (these endangered animals are found nowhere else in the world) and Compass Cay, where you can swim among the island’s nurse sharks. In addition to a visit at Pig Beach, guests will have the opportunity to snorkel alongside Pablo Escobar’s sunken drug plan, relax or go swimming off a sandbar and enjoy a Bahamian lunch at a local restaurant. Snacks and drinks onboard are included, as are all the stops above. 

Pig Beach
The “Pig Beach” in Exuma, Big Major Cay, is home to a colony of feral pigs that travelers are allowed to feed and swim with.  (Island Routes)

Good to know: Island Routes also offers private and chartered experiences, so you can enjoy the entire above experience with just your significant other, family, friends or travel group. The captain and first mate will entertain you with destination insight and first-class service as you cruise around for the day. Should you want to alter any portion of the trip, Island Routes can help customize the itinerary from beginning to end. 

Another such chartered experience is available for one to 10 guests aboard a 31- to 55-foot deep-sea fishing vessel. Travelers can take on the waters of Nassau on a half-day experience, or they can take in all the scenes on a full-day charter. All equipment will be provided, and guests will have their pick of where they would like to explore. Good to know: Inshore fishing, as well as stopping at secluded beaches, and snorkeling (with green sea turtles) are also options — it’s your charter, after all. 

For thrill-seekers, Island Routes offers a “Two Tank Professional Shark Diving” experience in Nassau. On this tour, you will take part in two dives, where as many as 40 five- to six-foot Caribbean Reef Sharks will swim within feet of you. Note: You must be scuba certified to participate in this excursion; the cost of the dive tank, weights and shuttle for diving are all included in the price.

Tip: For any of these experiences, be sure to bring a waterproof camera (for bragging rights and/or proof — especially for the last one). 

If land excursions are more your speed, enjoy the destination’s spirits with a “Nassau Rum-Tasting Walking Tour.” Over three hours in Downtown Nassau, guests will visit up to five local hotspots, getting the chance not only to sample various libations, but learn the art of a proper rum-tasting. Sweet and savory bites will be provided. Other experiences include a mixology class where you will learn how to pour spirits and make drinks.

To book any of the above or additional excursions, reach out to Monique Forrester ([email protected]), trade marketing manager.

Nassau Rum Tasting Walking Tour
The Nassau Rum-Tasting Walking Tour not only gives travelers a chance to sample various libations, but also learn the art of a proper rum-tasting.  (Island Routes)

From a hotel standpoint, the Sandals Royal Bahamian earlier this year debuted the results of a $55 million renovation, which covered a new accommodation “village,” updated suites, the addition of a beachfront lounge and more.

The highlight of the renovation is the new Island Village, comprising standalone villas named after remote Bahamian cays. The pastel Butler Villa Suites each house private pools and outdoor soaking tubs; they also offer master bedrooms, large living areas, bathrooms with walk-in rain showers, personal butler service (as the name implies), private luxury airport transfers, a fully stocked bar with premium liquors, and more. Elsewhere, the East and West Bay accommodations received a refresh and offer an array of room and suite categories, including beachfront Butler Suites in the East Bay, where a new infinity swim-up pool ends right where the beach begins. An entirely new zero-entry swim-up pool has been added to the West Bay tower’s ground-level suites, while the Penthouse Love Nest Butler Suites offers ocean views from a private balcony. 

Of the now 13 F&B concepts on property, the Pan-Caribbean Kanoo (short for Junkanoo) has a new “Brasserie 30” à la carte lunch menu, which is designed to deliver the lunch experience in 30 minutes or less — perfect for your first meal after arrival. Also new is Coconut Grove, a beachfront lounge shaded by coconut palms. A homebase for the new food trucks — which are open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., the venue has chic seating options, as well as live music and entertainment into the late evening. About those food trucks: Guests can enjoy sweet treats and coffee at Sweets n Tings, locally inspired Bahamian fusion and fresh seafood at Coco Queen, and a “twist” on Italian classics at Bahama Mamma Mia. 

Nassau Rum Tasting Walking Tour
Guests opting for the Rum-Tasting tour will also get to enjoy sweet and savory bites. (Island Routes)

Looking for a pampered luxury experience? Sandals Royal Bahamian has its own secluded private island, Sandals Barefoot Cay, located one mile from the shore. Couples can sail aboard the resort’s new Love Runner boat and spend the day reconnecting on the quiet shores. Good to know: The island is also home to a pool bar with swings, an infinity-edge jacuzzi, outdoor shower and a new restaurant, Aralia House, serving up fresh seafood from boat to table and authentic Caribbean delicacies. You can even sign up for an “Offshore Escape” spa treatment that takes place on the private island’s Zen Garden. 

Travel advisor may contact Kitanya Mirander ([email protected]), sales manager.

In other hotel news, Atlantis Paradise Island recently launched “Sapphire Services,” a concierge platform dedicated to curating bespoke guest experiences. Guided by a concierge team, guests can create customized itineraries within the resort and beyond, such as experiencing Junkanoo, going on art walks with Bahamian artists, boarding private or semi-private chartered flights with Tropic Ocean Airways, and sailing to the nearby Family Islands for day trips with Pieces of 8, a Nassau boat charter company. (Pieces of 8 tours launch from a private dock at Atlantis Marina and additional itineraries include day trips to Exuma and Eleuthera, where guests can walk along the white sand bars, interact with animals in their natural habitats and enjoy a traditional lunch dockside.)

Sandals Royal Bahamian Island Village
The Island Village at Sandals Royal Bahamian comprises standalone villas named after remote Bahamian cays.  (Sandals Royal Bahamian)

Guests can also enjoy, for instance, a culinary adventure on land or sea, or opt for educational tours at Dolphin Cay and Atlantis’ fish hospital, and turtle release excursions to Rose Island. Good to know: Ecotourism opportunities such as mangrove planting and coral reforestation are also available.

The hotel’s concierge team can also reserve a seaplane with Coco Bahama Air to Kamalame Cay on Andros Island. The itinerary includes chauffeured roundtrip car service from Atlantis to Nassau’s Odyssey Airport, a scenic seaplane ride to Kamalame Cay, and a sea-to-table lunch under the resort’s palapa. Access to snorkeling, bonefishing and an overwater spa are also part of the experience. 

Another very cool experience offered through Atlantis is “Marine Life Camping Adventure.” Guests who choose to participate can enjoy an overnight getaway under the stars while connecting with exotic marine life through behind-the-scenes tours of the undersea world of Atlantis, where they will see The Royal Towers Fish Hospital, Rehab Center and Fish Kitchen. They will also be offered the opportunity to meet a baby sea turtle, as well as the resort’s pod of rescued dolphins and family of sea lions after dark. Visitors joining in on the dusk-to-dawn VIP marine life adventures will also be invited to experience an exclusive twilight ruins snorkel and wake up to the sights and sounds of dolphins playing beside the iconic Royal Towers and picturesque landscape. 

nurse shark
At Compass Cay, adventure lovers can swim with the island’s nurse sharks.  (Divepic-GettyImages)

Participants will sleep in climate-controlled canvas beachside tents, along the shores of Atlantis’ Dolphin Cay habitat. The all-weather tents are decorated with Adirondack chairs, plush couches and cushioned cots made up in comfortable resort bedding. Tents include a coffee pot, tea kettle and minifridge stocked with water, and a snack basket. Tip: Guests can add wine, beer and light bites to their package. Note: Campers have access to adjacent bathrooms and shower facilities, plus outdoor showers nearby. 

Note: This experience, for the time being, is only available through October 31. A room reservation is required to book this offer; the minimum age for occupancy is six years old. Good to know: A portion of the proceeds supports the non-profit Atlantis Blue Project Foundation.

Travel advisors can contact Atlantis’ Customer Care Center via [email protected] for bookings.

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