My Jamaican husband -- and fellow Island Runaway -- Zickie has seen a lot of beaches. In fact, since we live in southeast Florida, we both enjoy a good bit of sand and sea all year ‘round. Which is not to say that either of us has become jaded.
Just like many of our readers, we long for that special destination, with spectacular stretches of shoreline you simply don’t want to leave. Being near the water is a transformative experience, which I never tire of. It’s soothing, not just mentally, but also physically and dare I say, spiritually, too.
While we love a lot of things about island travel, including the cuisine, history, and of course the people you encounter and sometimes even befriend, “beach” is usually one of our top requirements, and that’s why today we’re focusing on Grand Bahama.
The two of us recently spent a long weekend on this gorgeous isle, and one thing I can say without any hesitation: if you want inviting sand and incredibly seductive sea, with very little hassle, Grand Bahama is hard to beat.
Grand Bahama lies at the top of the Bahamian chain of islands. Only 56 miles from the Florida coast, it’s barely a 45 minute plane ride from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. In terms of its name, the island is actually quite “grand” or large, in the sense that it’s 95 miles long. Freeport is the main city, with a modern airport, a substantial transshipment port, and a free trade zone.
Most travelers seeking a fabulous Caribbean vacation, however, flock to another part of the island, called Lucaya. Here you'll find some large hotels, including the Grand Lucayan, where Zickie and I stayed. Just across from the ocean is the Port Lucaya Marketplace, with lots of bars, restaurants, and shopping.
(Port Lucaya Marketplace, Photo: Christopher Connell, Flickr)
Stop by Da Conch Man and try his fresh conch salad. On Wednesday nights, check out the rustic, outdoor Fish Fry at nearby Smith’s Point. You can also explore the Lucayan National Park, or swim with dolphins at the “Dolphin Experience” at Unexco. You’ll find plenty of watersports and snorkel trips. I was convinced to try a “banana boat ride” for the first time of my life. (The verdict: thrilling, terrifying, and actually pretty fun.)
(Banana boat, Photo: Christopher Connell, Flickr)
But I hope I’m not offending any locals when I say that you don’t come to Grand Bahama for a schedule jam packed from morning ‘til night with activities. For the tourist, Grand Bahama, and more specifically, Lucaya, are places to chill. And I do mean chill OUT.
Yes, if you’re a restless type, you can book your day with spa treatments and boating trips. But the rest of us will be wandering from pool to beach, beach to beach bar, and back to the pool, in a wonderfully indulgent loop. This is because the ocean off Lucaya Beach is simply mesmerizing.
You know those brightly colored photos of tropical beaches you see in advertisements? The ones that look almost fake? No one needs to Photoshop pictures of Lucaya. The colors, the beauty, and wide sand fronting the extremely placid water all really exist.
(View from our hotel, Lucaya Beach, Grand Bahama)
The word “Lucaya,” by the way, refers to the Lucayans, Amerindians who inhabited these islands before Columbus arrived and briefly afterwards. Two Lucayans, a man and a woman, appear on the Bahamian coat of arms. Hundreds of years ago, back when the Indians made places like Grand Bahama their home, the Bahamas were as unspoiled as any isles could ever be. Today, despite the multi-storied hotels and the shops, the actual beach here? Pristine. The ocean? Perfectly clear. Delicious.
(Me grinning because the ocean looks so gorgeous)
I think there’s at least one island waiting out there for every kind of traveler. Is Grand Bahama the one for you? That depends. If you’re genuinely looking for beach, beach, and more undiluted beach, this long, quiet isle off Florida's east coast may just be your own slice of Caribbean paradise.
(All photos except those otherwise credited copyright Zickie Allgrove)