The pirates washed up along the Bahamas to find treasures of a different sort: pristine beaches, dazzling coral reefs, mysterious cays and waters in multiple shades of sapphire. Sink your toes into Harbor Island's pink sands and enjoy big-game fishing on Bimini Island. Experience Grand Bahama Island's vibrant shopping, dining and nightlife.
Whether it's your first trip or 16th, a Bahamas vacation is sweet from the start – like a good Bahamian rum. Let Orbitz be your concierge, starting with the best time to go, the top 10 best attractions and insider tips on restaurants, experiences and lodging.
Bahamians' version of winter is a cool 70 degrees. Trade winds keep the mercury between 70 and 90 depending on the time of year. High season runs from December to April, when snow birds flock to the islands for warmth. Low season spans from May to November.
To miss the spring break crowds, target the Out Islands, including Exumas, Bimini and Andros, during March and April.
Like other Caribbean islands, the Bahamas has a Hurricane Season, which officially starts in June and ends in November.
For history buffs, Blackbeard's Tower is worth the journey off a beaten path, but the deteriorating building might underwhelm. The Pirates of Nassau Museum is a great alternative – a living history told through interactive exhibits and portion of an actual ship.
Leave only footprints and bubbles here -- this eco-tourist destination is home to pristine beaches, tropical birds and hutia – the only mammal native to The Bahamas. Sail to the attraction (reserve to dock your boat at a mooring in advance) and keep watch – the park has many shallow coral reefs and sand bars.
For the most memorable swim of your life, plunge into Dean's Blue Hole on Long Island. At 663 feet below sea level, it's the deepest known sinkhole in the world. Enter under water – if you dare.
Everyone wants to spend time at Atlantis, but that doesn't mean you have to sleep there. This budget neighbor offers easy access to all the water slides, private beach, pools and lazy rivers.
Just 200 miles east of Grand Bahama Island, the Abaco Islands celebrate the laid-back Bahamian lifestyle with charming beachfront bars and sparkling marinas. Snorkel in the Great Abaco Barrier Reef, and explore the four national parks, including Pelican Cays Sea & Land Park, Abaco Wild Horse Preserve, Man-O-War Cay and Great Cuana Cay.
Unspoiled beaches. Bonefishing. Snorkeling. Three attractions that never fail visitors swept away by Acklins & Crooked Island, two getaways so remote that you'll understand why pirates used their cays as hideouts. Nature lovers will be relieved that the island is underdeveloped and under populated -- in fact, you're more likely to see more ospreys and bonefish than tourists.
Home of the world's third-largest barrier reef and some 6,000 Bahamians, Andros is a wonder of mangroves, cays, private beaches, quaint fishing villages and lodges For advanced divers, the dip of a lifetime: blue holes swarmed by fish and only accessible via underwater caves.
Though the waters are a source of wonder in the Bahamas, there is life beyond the reefs. Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Park is one such treasure, famous for the flock of flamingos that put on four shows daily. Peacocks, lemurs, iguanas and more keep the tykes enthused, along with the interactive parrot feedings.
Spend hours (OK, days) in the water at this Paradise Island behemoth where some 11 million gallons pump through water slides, pools, lagoons, waterfalls and fountains. And the real jewel: The 34-acre Atlantis Waterscape – the world's largest marine habitat – where you'll be swimming with some 50,000 fish.
With turquoise water teeming with big-game fish, and a rum-runners past, Bimini Island epitomizes the romance and adventure of the Caribbean. Today, the island tempts kayakers, snorkelers and divers, plus history buffs seeking the land that captivated Ernest Hemingway and Jacques Cousteau. Don't leave without exploring Bimini Road, where underwater rock formations take on unusual shapes.
Dine like a Nassau local in fish fry Arawak Cay. Enjoy traditional favorites like conch fritters, shrimp and steamed snapper, or indulge in barracuda and fried grouper fingers and Goldie's Famous Sky Juice.
Beach purists will find lots of extras here: vibrant nightlife, authentic restaurants and great shopping. A day might go like this: beach combing along Xanadu, Lucaya or Fortune beaches, buying duty-free items at the International Bazaar in Freeport, and hand-made trinkets at Lucaya Marketplace. Nights sizzle on Port Lucaya -- a restaurant and bar hub -- especially after a few swigs of that famous rum.
The pink sand isn't just a hit with the locals; stars from around the world – including supermodel Elle Macpherson to Revlon CEO Ron Perlman -- liked it so much that they took up residence there. Divers search for underwater shipwrecks and the spiny coral reef. Above ground, landlubbers hop from upscale boutique to upscale boutique.
A visit to the capital city reveals the stories behind the sand and surf. Here, where the buccaneers reportedly swash buckled, you'll find awe-inspiring fortresses, Blackbeard's Tower, pirate museums, cathedrals, mansions and Georgian-style buildings in every color of the rainbow.
Aquamarine blue waters, hidden coves and cays have drawn sailors and visitors to this archipelago for generations. Itineraries revolve around the water, starting with dives into the Starfish Reserve or swimming alongside pigs at Big Major Cay. George Town, Exumas' capital city crossed by the Tropic of Cancer, and Exuma Cay are the stomping grounds for yachters and Hollywood stars.