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Grand Bahama Island Offers A Grand Old Time

It’s impossible not to relax on Grand Bahama Island.

Neither as populous as Nassau nor as isolated as the smaller islands of the Bahamas, Grand Bahama, just a 35-minute flight from Miami, is easygoing and unpretentious.

Since tourism is the number one industry in the Bahamas (global banking is number two), it’s not surprising that many of the activities on the island are coordinated with cruise ship schedules. But it doesn’t necessarily feel touristy. Everything you’ll do there is infused with a Bahamian spirit.

For example, there’s a party several nights a week at a rustic beach club restaurant on Taino Beach, and you are invited.

The bash begins with a bar serving unlimited Bahama Mamas, the signature cocktail of the island, made with a mixture of coconut rum and fruit juices. Then, a deejay takes control of the room to ensure not only that you have a good time, but that you mingle and make new friends.

First comes a drinking game, followed by a round of musical chairs — without chairs. (You grab the nearest person when the music stops. The person left alone is out.)

Then there’s a break for a buffet dinner, featuring local favorites like peas and rice, coleslaw, corn on the cob, barbecue chicken and ribs, and slightly sweet and fluffy jonnycake bread. After dinner, it’s time for a bonfire on the beach, so relaxing in the cool evening breeze that even flip-flops seem like too much shoe. But the activities aren’t over yet. Plan on more dancing, a limbo contest and a scantily clad dancer who plays with fire.

The shore is dotted with beach clubs, casual bars offering beer, cocktails, light snacks (such as conch salad, mixed to order with fresh-squeezed citrus juices and hot peppers), as well as showers.

The local beer is made on the island at Bahamian Brewery & Beverage in Freeport. The brewery is open to the public with tours and tastings of the various beers, including Sands, Sands Light, Strong Back Stout, High Rock (comparable in taste and label design to Heineken) and the recession-budget beer, Bush Crack (insert joke here).

One of the newest attractions on the island is the Alexander von Humboldt, a green-masted tall ship with a rich past. Built in 1906, the ship was once used to train German sailors, served as a lightvessel to guide other ships and was later sponsored by Beck’s beer. The latter is both the source of the suds on tap in the captain’s quarters and the inspiration for the green sails.

Though renovated several times, the ship was slated for destruction. But a German captain, who worked on the ship for 30 winters, was determined to save it. So earlier this year the ship was transferred to Freeport. It set sail from Germany in March for a three-month journey.

When the captain and his crew arrived on the island, they recruited and trained a new crew, none of whom had previous sailing experience. The captain and company did a great job, not only in training the newcomers, but in choosing a team who, in the Bahamian fashion, are as entertaining as the deejay at Taino Beach.

There are still other sights to see. Like the Garden of the Groves, a nature preserve. Named for Wallace Groves, the founder of the city of Freeport, this garden is where you can see both local and migratory birds, as well as exotic plants and flowers.

On Friday evenings, the cafe hosts live music and dinner by a waterfall, an event drawing both local and migratory visitors. The gardens feature a range of gift shops selling souvenirs, such as straw baskets and jewelry made from stones found in the area.

The Grand Bahama is relaxing, even when you are diving with sharks. At the Underwater Explorers Society (, you can learn to scuba dive at noon and be in the ocean swimming with dolphins later the same afternoon. There’s a program that allows beginners to dive after taking a short course, with no scuba certification required.

The training begins with some basic instruction on land, explaining how water pressure affects your body. There’s also a brief course on hand signals. Thumb and forefinger in a circle indicates that you are okay, not to be confused with thumbs-up, which indicates that you want go up to the surface.

But the real lessons start in the pool, once divers are outfitted with a mask, regulator (to make the air breathable), oxygen tank, a jacket that helps control buoyancy by inflating or deflating, pouches to add weights, and a gauge to show oxygen levels.

After some practice in the pool, getting used to handling the equipment and breathing underwater, it’s off in a boat to the sea. The height of the experience is actually at the greatest depths. Divers rest on the ocean floor and watch a parade of sea creatures go by. Among the coral reef, you can see rainbow parrotfish, angelfish, black grouper and yellowtail snapper. Relaxing underwater is not only pleasurable, but also safer.

The best advice for the beginning scuba diver is also great advice for life: Don’t forget to breathe.


There are two major resorts on Grand Bahama Island.

The wonderfully relaxed Pelican Bay Hotel Lucaya (, on the Marina side, has several swimming pools and ferries to Taino Beach. Sabor, an outdoor restaurant near one of the pools, serves casual fare and specializes in local fish.

Across the street, the more formal Radisson Grand Lucayan Resort ( is on the beach. The resort has beautiful views and Churchill’s restaurant, featuring lobsters, steaks, pastas and salads.

By Nancy Davidson
New York Daily News

Posted in Travel

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