Travel writer Eileen Ogintz tells us the best reasons to visit the Caribbean’s best kept secret – Nassau Paradise Island. Nassau has it all – great hotels, fantastic food, local culture and plenty of family activities.
The best dance partner I’ve ever had was a 14 year old, eight foot long, 492 pound dolphin named Icaro. I met him at Dolphin Cay at Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas and he left an unforgettable impression. Resident dolphins like Icaro enable visitors to participate in one of the largest dolphin interactive programs in the world—as many as 800 people a day, Atlantis officials say. There are also interactions with sea lions if you want to brave it.
They live in a seven interconnected pools containing nearly seven million gallons of seawater. A staff of more than 80 including an on-site vet cares for them.
Sign up to be a trainer for a day or swim with the dolphins, as long as you are 10. Even babies have done the shallow water interaction. Check the Nassau Paradise Island for all of the options and costs.
You shouldn’t feel guilty about splurging for the experience either as some of the proceeds support the Kerzner Marine Foundation that works to preserve and protect marine ecosystems around the world.
Nassau Island Top Things to Do
I love that in Nassau, the Bahamas’ capitol city on New Providence Island, and its neighbor Paradise Island you can do everything from kiss a dolphin to snorkel in beautiful clear water (visibility is over 200 feet in some places) deep sea fish (50 world records were set in these waters), sail, jet ski, canoe (on Lake Nancy) horseback ride on the beach, golf or take a yoga class along the ocean, gamble or learn a little history. (Check out the historic government buildings Rawson Square, Fort Fincastle, the highest point on the island, and the Queen’s Staircase—65 steps carved by slaves in a limestone cliff at the top of Elizabeth Avenue Hill to honor Queen Victoria’s 65-year reign.)
Like pirates? The Bahamas had so many of them in the 18th century there even is a Pirates of Nassau Museum.
You can even make cigars.
That’s right. You can make cigars at the small cigar factory at Graycliff, a historic mansion dating back to the 18th century that now is a small hotel, restaurant and cigar factory. Sixteen master rollers from Cuba turn out a million cigars a year. I’m in awe. They roll out a perfect cigar in four minutes!
Mine aren’t so perfect. I learn it is all in the feel—bunching the leaves in my hand and then wrapping them in a binder leaf that I ”glue” with a touch of sap. Fun!
Swimming with Sharks in Stuart Cove, Nassau
I’ve had lots of adventures in Nassau—even scuba diving with sharks with Stuart Cove Dive Bahamas which also offers the option of exploring reefs, wrecks and coral walls. The company has four sites where you can dive with sharks. They swam in front of me, behind me, so close I could see their teeth as I kneeled 37 feet under the water.
We weren’t in a shark cage, neither was the dive master. As long as we stayed motionless and keep our arms to ourselves, they ignored us. “You aren’t in their food chain,” the dive master explained. Thank goodness!
Marching Flamingos at Ardastra Gardens
Like birds? Nassau/Paradise Island are home to some of the most exotic birds in the world, including marching Flamingos.
I’ve had lots of adventures on outer Bahamian islands too—kayaking through the mangroves in Great Exuma, where the path is so narrow we must go single file, scuba diving off of Green Turtle Cay. In fact, I learned to scuba dive at Brendal’s Dive Center on Green Turtle Cay in Abaco, Bahamas.
Once we’d finished our certifying dives, we went to a tiny uninhabited beach where we met wild dolphins, and feasted on Bahamian lobster tail and fresh conch salad that our guide had gotten from the sea as we watched. Amazing!
Keep in mind that there are 700 Bahamian islands starting just 50 miles off the coast of Florida that offer every variety of experience, including meeting the locals in Nassau and beyond. Join the complimentary People-to-People program and you will be paired with a Bahamian ambassador who welcomes the opportunity to introduce you to their culture through a meal, a visit to a school, a tea party, even a local church service.
Ask the locals where they go at night on Nassau. You have your pick of clubs and casinos, from the gargantuan Atlantis Paradise Island Casino to the newly renovated Crystal Palace Casino at the Wyndham Nassau Resort.
About Eileen Ogintz
Eileen Ogintz is a leading national travel expert, syndicated columnist of the weekly column Taking the Kids and the creator of TakingTheKids.com whose special sections including the latest 50-Plus Places to Light Up the Holidays and Fun in the Snow have become a go-to resource for families planning getaways.
She is regularly quoted and featured as a family travel expert in newspapers, magazines and websites across the country. Eileen is the author of nine travel books, including the most recent The Kid’s Guide to New York City, and The Kid’s Guide to Orlando.