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Bahamas Culture: A Traveler’s Guide

When life gets crazy, there’s nothing like a vacation in The Bahamas to soothe the soul. With beautiful white-sand beaches, colorful coral reefs and picturesque coastal towns, The Bahamas make the perfect travel destination.

While this island archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean offers stunning scenic beauty, it also serves up a rich history, a vibrant culture and happy locals who make every new visitor feel like a long-lost friend. Read on to discover all the reasons travelers keep coming back to The Bahamas.

a beach day in princess cays

The Bahamian People

The Bahamian people are relaxed, warm and friendly. Their vibrant culture is distinct throughout the island, whether you find it at Bahamian breweries or a live band performing cultural tunes. When you’re in the Bahamas, you’re sure to experience an exciting island culture.

a bahamian woman selling crafts

Bahamas Music and Culture

One thing that sets The Bahamas apart from other vacation destinations is the music. Visitors to The Bahamas enjoy many types of festive music from calypso and reggae to rake and scrape, a musical genre native to the islands featuring guitars, accordions, handsaws and goatskin-covered Goombay drums.

When it comes to celebrations, few are as lively and vibrant as Junkanoo, a local parade and festival made up of residents wearing brightly colored costumes that “rush” to the rhythm of drums, horns, cowbells and whistles. Visitors to The Bahamas can enjoy Junkanoo on New Year’s Day, Boxing Day, Independence Day and during the annual Junkanoo Summer Festival.

a junakoo dancer in the bahamas

Local Crafts

Straw weaving is considered one of the earliest trades in The Bahamas. Originally, locals wove straw to create baskets for carrying produce and fish, and The Bahamas art evolved into a popular tourist industry. With woven products featuring different plaiting styles from all parts of The Bahamas, the Straw Market in downtown Nassau makes a popular shopping attraction for locals and tourists alike.

While you’re there, keep an eye out for jewelry crafted with conch shells. Conch is a traditional Bahamian dish, but the shells can also be crafted into creative bracelets, necklaces and more. Woodcarving is also extremely popular in the Bahamas. You’ll be able to find your favorite sea creatures or serving dishes (and more!) expertly carved and ready to display in your home.

bahamian straw hats laid out

Traditional Cuisine

The Bahamian people have a love of fresh seafood, traditional recipes and spices, and it shows in their delicious cuisine. Some of the tastiest Bahamas foods include conch fritters, stone crab claws, fried grouper burgers and souse, a local stew featuring meat, potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, peppers and lime juice.

Many local dishes are served with a side of pigeon peas and rice and washed down with a local beer called Kalik. Favorite local cocktails include the Yellow Bird, a popular rum concoction and Sky juice, a blend of coconut water, gin, and sweet milk.  If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to try homemade jams and jellies – perfect to take home and enjoy a taste of the islands!

a man cutting up conch in princess cays

Flora and Fauna in The Bahamas

Travelers who love plants and flowers find a true paradise in The Bahamas. The island plays home to fragrant blooms like hibiscus and bougainvillea as well as Caribbean pine trees, mangroves and an array of hardwood trees.

Other types of vegetation found in The Bahamas include various types of palms, flowering shrubs and tropical fruit trees like mango, avocado, banana, tamarind and guava.

Animal lovers won’t be disappointed with a trip to The Bahamas. Cruise goers and other visitors will find the third largest coral reef in the world featuring sea slugs, starfish, shrimp, clams, sea urchins and abundant tropical fish. More land and sea creatures to be found in The Bahamas include wild pigs, parrots, flamingoes, iguanas, spider crab, dolphins, nurse sharks and sea turtles.

a group of people looking through a cave in the bahamas

Popular Historic Attractions

From Cat Island to pirate shipwrecks, The Bahamas offers plenty of unique historical attractions.

Fans of military history will enjoy visiting a number of centuries-old forts in the capital city of Nassau. Built around 1793, Fort Fincastle was constructed on Bennet’s Hill to protect the town and harbor.

This site features a number of historic relics, including the Queen’s Staircase. Carved from solid limestone by slaves and later named in honor of Queen Victoria, the 66 steps are an important historical landmark for The Bahamian people.

Located just west of downtown Nassau, Fort Charlotte is even older than Fort Fincastle with construction completed in 1789. In this area, you can find a waterless moat and drawbridge, dark dungeons for exploring and spectacular harbor views.

port lucaya marketplace

Thirty-Two National Parks

Visitors to The Bahamas can explore 32 national parks that protect vulnerable species and habitats. Favorite stops for locals and tourists include Lucayan National Park on Grand Bahama Island, which features a series of elevated walkways through the mangrove wetlands, beautiful Gold Rock Beach and one of the most extensive underwater cave systems in the world.

On the island of Eleuthera, the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve offers a number of nature trails including the Mangrove Boardwalk, the Medicinal Plant Trail and the orchid-filled Epiphyte Trail.

Located on the Abaco Islands of The Northern Bahamas, the Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park is spread over 2,100 acres. This area features colorful coral reefs, abundant marine life and an array of undersea caves.

a waterfall in freeport bahamas

Opportunities for Cruise Passengers

A Carnival cruise to The Bahamas is an enjoyable way to see the islands. In addition to loads of activities and attractions on board the ship, cruisers can take part in an array of exciting shore excursions for day-long fun in the sun. Just a few of many memory-making opportunities include:

When visiting the beautiful Bahamas, you’ll never have a dull moment. Make a bucket list and start checking it off. When planning a cruise ship voyage, choose the length of your trip, what type of onboard activities you enjoy and the shore excursions you wish to take.

Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.

a chair with license plates