Given a choice, I’d rather travel by boat. So the two-hour ride from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Bahama was made for me.
Stay for $125 a night
Grand Lucayan: When traveling, the first thing I do when entering my room is sprawl out on the bed. But at Grand Lucayan, it’s the property itself, with 50,000 square feet of outdoor space, that I want to sprawl out over. Gatsby-style lawns lead to the mile-long cottony beach (the east end is the quietest spot); serpentine pools weave through the grounds; plantation-style dining rooms give way to swim-up bars and takeout joints. And my oceanfront suite with a double balcony (at only $126 a night in low season) is bigger than my first apartment. Low-season standard rooms for $125 a night.
Eat for $12-$20 a day
Outriggers on the Beach: If it’s Wednesday night on Grand Bahama, the locals are here at this Smith’s Cove beachfront shack for the best fish fry in town. There’s soca music, a family-friendly party atmosphere, and plates loaded with whole fish, mac ‘n’ cheese and Bahamian spicy rice for $12; a giant gully wash — made with coconut water, sweetened condensed milk and gin — sends it all down. After finishing, a local guy at the next table turned to us and said, “You’re diving conch,” which apparently means “you look tired.” And he was right. Irie’s: On-site at Grand Lucayan, this first stop upon arriving at the resort meant a welcome lunch of conch fritters (with just the right amount of breading), lobster salad (only $12) drizzled in homemade ginger dressing and a Bahama Mama.
Play for $5-$85 a day
Dolphin Encounters: The $85 to play with dolphins seemed a bit pricey, and the entire idea hit me as, well, touristy. But the facility at Unexso is more playground than pen, its 9-acre lagoon divided up into pools for the 14 bottlenose dolphins that call it home. Petting Gumbay while learning that dolphins eat one-third of their body weight per day in fish made me glad I wasn’t a fish. Learning that they do ocean free-swims four times a week made me forget the entry fee and my earlier trepidations. Bahamian Brewery: Marketed as the “Truly Bahamian Beer,” Sands was born on Grand Bahama in 2008 after a “name those beers” competition among the locals. Touring the 60,000-square-foot site for just $5 ends in a tasting of six brews in the upstairs bar (Strong Back Stout, please). Did You Know? During U.S. prohibition, the Bahamas served as home base for the smuggling of alcohol.