The Bahamas is often synonymous with Nassau's bustling casinos and the sprawling Atlantis resort – a great vacation for those looking for a mix of partying, gambling, and sun. However, if you're opting for a crowd-free beach retreat and outdoor activities, look 55 miles east of Florida to Grand Bahama Island. I discovered this tranquil paradise first-hand on a recent trip courtesy of the Grand Lucayan Resort. Here are seven ways for you to do the same.
Lounge on Gold Rock Beach. Situated on the shores of Lucayan National Park, you'll find calm waters and long stretches of white sand on Gold Rock Beach. Named after an offshore rock formation where some lucky divers found gold, you'll be hard-pressed to find crowds in this postcard-perfect spot. Your rental car can get you there, or try a scenic, open-top jeep ride guided by Grand Bahama Nature Tours.
Go fishing. Grand Bahama is a world-renowned destination for game fishing. Cruise off the island for some deep sea fishing, or venture to the southern inlet of the Grand Lucayan Waterway, and you may hook bonefish, wahoo, barracuda, marlin, or yellowfin tuna.
Kayak through the mangrove forest. Glide across the shallow waters of Lucayan National Park's 2-mile kayaking circuit, which snakes through a mangrove forest. Look up to see the tunnel-like canopy overhead; look down and you may spot grouper and other tropical fish swimming alongside your kayak.
Hang with a dolphin. The Underwater Explorer's Society, a tour and excursion company known as UNEXSO, is the only one in the world that allows you to swim with dolphins in the open ocean. (For those who prefer to keep their feet (mostly) on land, they also offer a dolphin encounter program.) Enjoy a laid-back cruise to a pristine lagoon where your instructor will introduce you to the dolphins from a partially submerged platform. On your way out, say hello to a small flock of macaws and cockatoos.
Hike to (or Scuba dive through) the caves. One of the world's longest systems of underwater caves can be found on Grand Bahama Island. Take a short hike at Grand Lucayan National Park to view two blue hole entryways. For the more adventurous, arrange a cave diving experience with Grand Bahama Scuba.
Dine and stroll at the Garden of the Groves. Take a break from the midday sun with a relaxing stroll through the lush vegetation at the Garden of the Groves. Get up-close to turtles, muscovy ducks, and other wildlife. Then, unwind with a savory lunch and a cold Sands (a favorite locally brewed beer) at the Garden Cafe – the perfect way to kick back after a morning in the great outdoors.
Book a lanai suite at the Grand Lucayan. The resort may be Freeport's largest, but adjacent to the cruise-ship-styled main building you'll find a row of oceanfront lanai suites. Admire the blue water from your private porch. Then, venture a few steps away to the beach and infinity pool. You'll likely see more birds than people. Nightly rates start at $349.