More than 1.7 million visitors flock to the Islands of the Bahamas each year to experience the trademark hospitality, sundrenched shores and balmy year-round temperatures. The islands' close proximity just off the coast of Florida makes this sprawling archipelago one of the easiest foreign destinations to get to from the United States. Visitors can board a plane in Miami and arrive in Nassau, the largest city and capital of the commonwealth, in fewer than 40 minutes. Two major international airports and a slew of smaller airports are scattered about the islands, and once in the Bahamas, visitors can traverse attractions by way of taxi, rental car, scooter or bus. Ferries and water taxis are also readily available to quickly transport guests from one delightful island to the next.
Drawn not just by the proximity of this international destination, meeting planners in the United States are also pleased to take advantage of the Bahamas' tax exemption status. Since 2006, U.S. taxpayers who attend business meetings, conventions or seminars in the Bahamas can write off the expense just as if it were held in the United States. Plus, U.S. visitors need not worry about currency exchange, as U.S. dollars are accepted interchangeably with the official Bahamian currency.
Whether hailing from the United States or elsewhere, meeting and convention groups find impressive accommodations and state-of-the-art facilities at the many stunning mega resorts that sprawl across the islands. On the aptly named Paradise Island, the widely-recognized Atlantis Resort stands as an iconic symbol of the majestic beauty of the Bahamas. Always ahead of the curve, Atlantis has expanded its world-class conference center to include the 50,000-square-foot Imperial Ballroom, the largest ballroom in the Caribbean. With a total meeting and event space of 300,000 square feet, the center is equipped with 20 scenic outdoor spaces, 30,000 square feet of pre-function space, 26 breakout rooms, a large staging area and two new high-tech executive boardrooms.
On Grand Bahama Island, just six miles from the Grand Bahama International Airport, the Westin Grand Bahama Island Our Lucaya Resort offers 90,000 square feet of event space including 20 indoor meeting rooms and nine outdoor meeting spaces. Whether hosting a gala in the 15,000-square-foot ballroom or an outdoor gathering on the scenic 43,954-square-foot Sugar Mill Beach, the Lucaya provides modern, well-appointed facilities for events of all types. After a day of meetings, attendees can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the rambling white sands, hit the links at the resort's championship golf courses, try their luck at the casino, or cool off in one of four luxurious pools. With so much to offer, it's not surprising that Forbes magazine named the resort one of its Top 400 Hotels, and Corporate & Incentive Travel awarded it the 2006 Award of Excellence.
Beyond such impressive facilities, the Bahamas offers a number of alternative spaces that provide an unforgettable backdrop for meetings and events. Host an outdoor reception among the bronze visages and historic stone abbey of the breathtaking Versailles Gardens and French Cloister on Paradise Island. Invite up to 300 guests to feast on sumptuous Italian cuisine from the group menus offered at Nassau's popular Ristorante Villaggio Cocktail & Wine Bar. Or, for a more artistic atmosphere, groups can gather on the grounds of an 1860s villa at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas.
Several high profile corporations are headquartered on the islands including Bahamasair, Global Environmental Energy Corporation, Kerzner International Holdings, Ltd., Steiner Leisure, Ltd., Teekay Corporation and Ultrapetrol, Ltd. In addition, the islands are home to Nova Southeastern University, the Eugene Dupuch Law School and the College of the Bahamas, which has campuses in both Nassau and Freeport.
Situated just 40 miles off the coast of Florida, the welcoming Islands of the Bahamas are speckled across more than 500 miles of brilliant, sapphire waters. Collectively forming a sweeping 100,000-square-mile archipelago, the Bahamas consists of 14 main islands that serve as hub for the remaining 686 islands and uninhabited cays (pronounced "keys"). Out of its more than 330,000 residents, approximately 70 percent of the population resides on New Providence Island and its capital city of Nassau.
With a prime location within busy shipping channels, the Bahamas became a popular spot for traders, explorers and settlers since Christopher Columbus set foot on the islands in 1942. During the 17th and 18th centuries, smugglers and marauding pirates frequented the shielded islets and hidden channels of the islands, which became a haven for infamous rogues such as Blackbeard and Calico Jack. The legends of this sea-faring age, combined with the slave trade and British rule that dominated the Bahamas until 1973, remains evident at every turn, from the replica pirate ship at the Pirates of Nassau Museum to the cannons and ramparts at 1788 Fort Charlotte.
With island after island offering vibrant coral reefs, powdery white sands and lapis blue lagoons, it's no surprise that historic sightseeing often takes backstage to the Bahamas' unparalleled recreational opportunities. With a visibility of over 200 feet below, the waters surrounding the Bahamas are among the clearest in the world, an ideal setting for swimmers, boaters, divers and snorkelers looking to be a part of the underwater action. Explore coral reefs and the famous "Lost Blue Hole," a 200-foot-wide natural opening in the ocean floor, with the Bahamas Divers' professional guides in Nassau. Snorkel, parasail, or cruise the waters on a glass-bottom boat hosted by Paradise Watersports. Get up-close and personal with aquatic life at the Dolphin Encounters experience on Blue Lagoon Island.
The Bahamas' tropical oasis is a delight for land lovers as well. Beyond the sand and surf, the islands are home to several championship fairways. Golf enthusiasts from around the world come to the Bahamas to stare down a sea of green at the Tom Weiskopf-designed Ocean Club Golf Course, home to the world's largest sand trap. Visitors can also immerse themselves in the game at the 6,824-yard Lucayan Golf Course, whose pine tree stands and dense tropical underbrush create a setting so intimate that players rarely run into each other during a round.
After a long day under the tropical sun, there's no better way to kick back and relax like a local than by enjoying a frosty cocktail at one of the islands' numerous clubs and lounges. Cool off with one of the popular coconut-flavored drinks at Rum Runner's Bar in Port Lucaya, or hit the dance floor at hotspot Club Waterloo, one of the longest running nightclubs on the islands. Nothing shines brighter on the Bahamas nightlife scene than its dazzling casinos. The Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino entices guests with its Vegas-style gaming room and 800-seat theater, while the casino at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort raises the stakes with high-tech gaming facilities that are the largest in the Caribbean. Though the casinos may test their luck, visitors to the Bahamas can rest assured that the islands are always a sure bet for entertainment, recreation and relaxation.
All average costs based on U.S. Government Per Diem rates as published by the U.S. General Services Administration.
It should come as no surprise that on a visit during the 18th century, George Washington referred to the Bahamas as the "Isles of Perpetual June." With year-round sunshine and temperatures ranging between 80.6°F and 89.6°F, the Islands of the Bahamas are blessed with near-perfect weather.
The Bahamas benefits from a tropical maritime climate, which results in little variability throughout the year. Free from extremes, the average temperature during the summer is 84.2°F, while the average temperature in winter is 75.2°F. Evening temperatures are usually only five to seven degrees cooler. The rainy season in the Bahamas lasts from May to October and is characterized by heavy squalls or thundershowers that clear as quickly as they arrive. Hurricane season spans from the end of June to the end of November.
Although the Bahamas is continually blessed with weather befitting an island paradise, the absolute best time to go is between the months of December and March. With little rain and temperatures averaging in the mid-70s, the lovely islands provide an invigorating breath of fresh air.
Atlantis, Paradise Island
Towering over pristine Paradise Island, Atlantis reigns as the Caribbean's grandest resort. Situated just 10 miles from Nassau's Lynden Pindling International Airport, this tropical jewel offers the service and functionality to create a once in a lifetime meeting or convention experience. The resort offers over 300,000 square feet of function space and is able to accommodate groups of up to 4,000 people.
Atlantis offers an in-house audio-visual production team and the latest in cutting edge technology.
The resort's seemingly endless amenities include the world's largest open air aquarium, a high-tech water park, 21 restaurants, 19 bars and lounges, two casinos and a comedy club. Additionally, meeting attendees will find Atlantis equipped with 3,600 guest rooms, on-site shopping, a 30,000-square-foot spa, world-class golf, water sport and fitness facilities and much more. For those attendees who would like to go island hopping, two Excursion Centers at Atlantis can provide arrangements for island adventures. With so many offerings, the Atlantis allows delegates to combine business and pleasure with ease.
British Colonial Hilton Nassau Hotel
Number One Bay Street
Nassau, New Providence
Total Meeting Space - 1,657 Sq. Mtr.
Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino
West Bay Street
Nassau, New Providence
Total Meeting Space - 2,787 Sq. Mtr.
The quickest way to travel to and within the Islands of the Bahamas is by air. The Bahamas has 57 airports, most being small airstrips providing easy inter-island service. International visitors traveling by air will likely arrive at one of the country's two major international airports: Lynden Pindling International Airport and Grand Bahama International Airport. From these island hubs, travelers can venture throughout the islands with ease and speed.
Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS)
Approximate taxi fare: $22.75 BSD
Conveniently located 10 miles from downtown Nassau, Lynden Pindling International, the Bahamas largest airport, offers visitors easy access to the island chain's capital city. The airport offers service from 27 airlines to destinations across North America and Europe. Nestled within the airport's two terminals are a host of restaurants and shops that provide the first - or last - chance to absorb the local culture. Stores such as Uniquely Bahamian, Bahamas Sol and Tortuga Rum Cakes allow visitors to take a piece of the Bahamas home with them. The Marshall's Famous Daiquiri Bar is also a lively spot to pass the time.
Airline carriers serving Lynden Pindling International Airport
Grand Bahama International Airport (FPO)
Approximate taxi fare: $19 BSD
Just three miles from Freeport, Grand Bahama International Airport offers travelers a convenient alternative to Lynden Pindling International Airport. The largest privately-owned airport in the world, Grand Bahama International is home to a 100,000-square-foot terminal and an 11,000-foot-long runway. The airport services 41 destinations and 17 different countries. Amenities include a number of shops and restaurants, a post office, as well as rental car services and U.S. Border Pre-clearance facilities.
Airline carriers serving Grand Bahama International Airport
On the islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama, visitors can travel on buses, referred to as jitneys, easily and inexpensively. The jitneys are actually vans that travel on established routes throughout these islands from early morning to dusk. While jitney routes have set stops, riders are usually able to flag one down on the streets. Once aboard, the friendly driver can help passengers with locating their stop. There is no bus service on most of the Out Islands.
Fares begin at US$1 for rides within town and increase depending on the distance of travel. Exact change is required.
For travel between the islands, nothing tops the experience of skimming across the pristine blue ocean waters aboard a ferry or water taxi. Bahamas Ferries offers a number of options for travel between the islands and cays including regularly scheduled daily service from Nassau to points of interest, chartered trips, day trips and tours. Among the vessels in Bahamas Ferries' fleet is the M/V BoHengy, a 115-foot-long catamaran that offers high-speed service from Nassau to Harbour Island and North Eleuthera.
Most of the Out Islands have local ferry or water taxi service to shuttle passengers to neighboring islands and harbors. These vessels and captains offer visitors an interesting and unique view of the lesser visited islands of the Bahamas.
Shuttle service from the airports to hotels and resorts can be arranged through Majestic Tours. Operating a number of vehicles, including 30-passenger air conditioned coaches, 11-passenger minivans, town cars and private stretch limousines, Majestic has a service desk in Lynden Pindling International Airport and operates stations at most hotels around Nassau.
Travelers wishing to tour the main islands of the Bahamas can rent a car to visit some unique and out-of-the-way sites near Nassau and Freeport. Visitors arriving at Lynden Pindling International Airport will find counters for Avis, Budget, Dollar/Thrifty, Hertz and National/Alamo Car Rental. Grand Bahama International Airport hosts representatives from Avis, Discovery, Hertz, Bahama Buggies, Dollar, KSR, Econo and Thrifty Car Rental. Some of the smaller airports offer rental car service; however, rates are likely to be higher and the cars may be less well maintained.
For an alternative to cars, many of the tourist centers offer scooter rental. Perfect for whisking away to a secluded beach, scooters are a fun and economical way to travel around the islands. Scooter rental companies include Bowcar, Knowles and J&S.
Taxi service is plentiful in the populous islands of the Bahamas. In the lesser traveled areas, visitors must arrange for taxi service. Taxi stands are located at Lynden Pindling International and Grand Bahama International and at many of the large hotels and resorts. The government has set fares at US$3 for the first quarter-mile and US$0.40 each additional mile; a charge of US$3 for each additional passenger applies. However, visitors should be aware that these rates can vary, especially by island. Taxis in New Providence and Grand Bahama may operate on a zone system. Passengers should check with the driver before beginning the trip.
The fare for travel between Lynden Pindling International Airport and downtown Nassau is US$22 for two passengers, while the fare from the airport to Paradise Island is US$28. Fees apply for additional passengers and for pieces of luggage. For unmetered taxis on other islands, visitors should negotiate a fare before entering the taxi.
Photo Credit : The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism
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