Those seeking a quick, affordable tropical getaway often look straight to the Bahamas — and with good reason. With some good planning, you can bounce to the Bahamas without breaking the bank. Here’s how… Get There: Typical round-trip airfare from Miami to Nassau costs about $250 in May, July, September and October. But travelers – even daytrippers – can take the Bahamas Shuttle Boat, which departs from Ft. Lauderdale sails to Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island, for $99 per person, round-trip. Once on the island, travelers can shop, stroll, and enjoying the lay of the land before returning home.
Staying longer? The Bahamas Express transports passengers from Port Everglades to Freeport. Fares for the two-and-a-half hour ride begin at $36 each-way, and the journey is made comfortable with a bar, movies, and duty-free shopping.
Stay There: Before you blow your budget on a major resort, consider boutique hotels, small inns, and low-key lodges. The Bahamas offers an endless number of these, and they’ll give you a more intimate feel for island life.
Minutes from the Nassau International Airport, Coral Harbour Beach Villas (from $120 per night) offer basic but comfortable villas outfitted with fridges, stoves, extra sofa bed, and either a private balcony or a sitting room. The Sand Bar Beach Restaurant is on-site, and there are beach hammocks for R&R.
Staniel Cay Yacht Club (From $185 per night; or $245 per person, per night all-inclusive) is a mere thirty-minute flight from Nassau on the tiny island of Exuma. The multi-colored cottages are simply styled, in keeping with the laid-back vibe. When you’re not out sailing, kayaking, or snorkeling, a stretch of beach is there for sunbathing.
Play There: Dining can be expensive and unimpressive at touristy restaurants. Local, Caribbean-style cuisine is a tastier, and often cheaper option. Underneath the Paradise Island Bridge near Atlantis, a row of seafood shacks mark the spot where local Bahamians spend their lunch breaks. Feast on freshly cracked conch salad ($10) at Tony’s, where unofficial street cred goes to tourists who order it extra spicy.
At the Educulture Museum, learn about the annual, Mardi Gras-like Junkanoo parade, which takes place on December 26. If you can’t make it then, here’s a year-round chance to learn the history of the event and even try on elaborate costumes and masks. Plan ahead and someone will show you the shacks where floats are built. Admission $10.
Meanwhile, fitness buffs can salute the sun by the sea at Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, a 5-acre beachfront ashram across the Nassau Bay. Meditation and yoga classes are held on outdoor platforms facing the turquoise sea. A daylong visitor pass costs $45 and includes two meals, yoga classes, workshops, and other programs. Stay the night starting at just $69 per person.