The Bahamas, 200 sun-drenched islands and coral cays sprinkled across the far-west Atlantic, are a superb holiday destination for all types of travelers: couples, thrill-seekers, stressed business people, idle beach bums. But they’re particularly good for families, easily accessible and with a highly efficient tourist infrastructure fixed firmly in place. There are heaps of attractions suited to a broad range of childhood obsessions – animals, pirates, theme parks – and if you ever run out of ideas or energy, there are hundreds of beautiful beaches where kids can construct sandcastles and play about in the shallows to their young hearts’ content.
UNEXSO – the Underwater Water Explorers Society, based in the Bahamas – runs a nine-acre lagoon on Grand Bahama Island that’s home to 14 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. It's a great place for kids not only to swim and interact with these exceptionally intelligent ocean creatures, but also to learn about how they live in their natural home out in the open ocean. The organization offers a choice of four encounters, which start with one of the organization's dedicated trainers imparting some facts and answering any questions, before visitors clamber into the water to swim with these gentle mammals. One slightly more expensive option allows you to take a boat out beyond the island's south shore and swim with dolphins in their natural environment.
With an imitation Mayan temple and an imposing gothic palace towering over the surrounding seawater, Aquaventure is a truly decadent water park that will have thrill-seeking kids gasping with excitement. It’s got 20 swimming areas, 11 pools including three kids pools, a lazy river meandering through swaying tropical scenery, an alternative mile-long river-rapids journey, and a variety of inventive water slides. Plunge 60 feet from the summit of the Mayan Temple into a shark-infested lagoon, which you whoosh through encased in a transparent tunnel. Or take the Jungle Slide, zig-zagging through a wild environment of rainforests and caves.
Today Nassau is the capital city of the Bahamas, home to 70% of the country's population and a thriving business district. But it was once at the heart of the region's infamous piratical past. In the early eighteenth century, the sparsely settled Bahamas became a refuge and sanctuary for pirates plying the Caribbean trade route and pursuing merchant ships that crossed their path. In 1713, two pirate chieftains declared Nassau a pirate republic and themselves its governors. If this sounds like the kind of story that would capture the youthful imaginations in your care, then you won't want to miss the Pirates of Nassau Museum, which charts this history through a series of entertaining and interactive exhibits. Board a replica pirate ship and come face-to-face with swashbuckling buccaneers, check out real artifacts like dubloons and cutlasses, then grab some booty from the well-stocked gift shop.
Photo by Danielle Walquist Lynch/Flickr.
The islands of the Bahamas, suspended in clear turquoise water and ringed by kaleidoscopic coral reefs, make a fantastic base for thrilling and beautiful snorkeling trips out into the Atlantic Ocean. There are heaps of incredible sites, with something to suit all ages and abilities and give kids that sense of being out in the natural world and not just contained in some artificial playpen. From New Providence and Paradise Islands you can head out to see the Rose Island Reefs, Goulding Reef Cays and several shallow-water wrecks that make evocative viewing after a visit to the pirate museum. The waters around Grand Bahama Island are rich with colorful marine life, and it’s a short boat trip to the eerily beautiful caverns of Lucayan National Park. And on Stocking Island among the exotic Exumas you can snorkel out from exquisite white-sand beaches, reaching vibrant coral gardens and shadowy submarine caves.
Ardastra’s four gorgeous acres of colorful tropical gardens will enchant any youngster with even the slightest interest in nature and wildlife. Originally created as a nature preserve by a Jamaican horticulturalist, it retains this passion for conversation today and there are plenty of knowledgeable staff on hand to answer any questions. The site combines lush botanical gardens, showcasing a striking array of Caribbean plants including orchids and hibiscus, with a wide-ranging zoo containing over 135 animals. Whichever tend to take you children’s fancy – whether it’s slithery reptiles like snakes and iguanas, cuddly mammals like rabbits and lemurs, or pretty birds like flamingos and macaws – Ardastra will have the creatures they’re looking for. And the zoo also runs a roster of engaging events, including educational talks, hand-feeding sessions and choreographed flamingo marches.