They say it's better in the Bahamas. We tend to agree. Whether you have three days, five days or a whole week to explore, our itinerary highlights the best things to do in three Bahamas hot spots — the Abacos, Paradise Island and the Exumas.
If you only have 3 days, visit The Abacos
Day 1: See the Light
Fly direct into Marsh Harbour from Miami; then it's a 20-minute ferry ride to Elbow Cay, where the candy-striped Elbow Reef Lighthouse is one of only two manual beacons in the world. Climb the 101 steps to the top, and you'll be rewarded with a camera-worthy panorama of the harbor and the cay's pastel cottages.
Be a Beach Bum
After the busy morning, you've earned some R and R on Tahiti Beach. This shell-sprinkled arc of white sand on the southern tip of Elbow Cay is fairly secluded with no infrastructure, so BYO beach gear. At dinnertime, refuel with conch fritters and Kalik beers at Harbour's Edge Restaurant.
Day 2: Bar-Hop by Boat
Get to know more of Abacos' 120 miles of islands and cays with a beach bar crawl. Captain Plug's Adventures offers full-day Bar Hoppers Delight outings with stops at five watering holes. On Great Guana Cay, try rum-fueled Nipper Juice at Nipper's, followed by Guana Grabber cocktails at Grabbers. Cap the cruise on Lubbers Quarters Cay with smoked fish dip and dangerously sweet Goombay Smashes at Cracker P's.
Mahimahi, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, blue marlin and other major pelagics lurk in the waters surrounding Elbow Cay. Sportfishing charters like A Salt Weapon and Local Boy Deep Sea Fishing cater to anglers spoiling for a fight. Or fly-fish the flats with Maitland "Bonefish Dundee" Lowe of Wild Pigeon Charters, whose past clients include college football coach Urban Meyer.
If you have 5 days, head to Nassau, Paradise Island
Day 4: Discover Atlantis
The puddle-jump from Marsh Harbour to the capital of the Bahamas takes just 35 minutes. Famous, giant and unapologetically pink, Atlantis resort dominates 5-square-mile Paradise Island and is truly a sight to behold. The Discover Atlantis Tour ($45 per person) gets day visitors behind the velvet rope of the Caribbean's largest aquarium — home to 250-plus marine species like lionfish, piranhas, jellyfish, eels, rays, dolphins and sharks.
Salute the Sun
After the crowds at Atlantis, you may need a moment of peace and reflection. The sunset is particularly spellbinding viewed from Paradise Island's 12th-century Augustinian cloister, which crowns a lovely Versailles-inspired garden. Though located on the grounds of pricey One&Only Ocean Club, admission to this public park is free.
In operation for almost 40 years, Stuart Cove's has the snorkeling excursion down to a science. The tour operator's custom-built snorkeling boats carry up to 35 merrymakers to a shallow reef, then a shipwreck, for snorkeling with eels, stingrays and colorful tropical fish. The grand finale: a spine-tingling swim over reef sharks that have been lured by a bait box.
If you have 7 days, go to the Exumas next
Day 6: Hit the Links
Ocean views and golf combine at the Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course, the longest course in the Caribbean — and one of the prettiest. The 18 championship holes weave through seaside dunes, mangroves and a rocky peninsula. Both resort guests and non-guests are welcome (guests get a reduced green fee).
Swim with the Pigs
After a little siesta, it's time to visit the Exumas' most famous residents: the swimming pigs. Exuma Water Sports hosts the "official" tour — a half-day powerboat ride past blue holes, sandbars and celebrity homes. An afternoon of snorkeling and swimming culminates with the chance to feed and interact with the wild pigs that call uninhabited Big Major Cay home.
You haven't experienced Exuma until you've taken the five-minute water taxi to Stocking Island for hours of idleness at Chat 'n' Chill beach bar. Friendly stingrays beg for handouts in the gin-clear water, and volleyball matches commence every day at 2:30. Walk a nature trail to see 90-foot sand dunes, or just work on your suntan.