A cruise to the Bahamas conjures images of sugar-sand beaches and crystal-clear water, but the islands have much more to offer than a chance to bask in the sun. The port cities of Nassau and Freeport are stepping stones to a wide variety of experiences, from world-renowned snorkeling and scuba diving to foodie and cultural tours that take you off the beaten path. (And of course, you can still have that picture-perfect beach day.) Check out the top Bahamas shore excursions in each of these popular ports -- all of which can be booked either through your cruise line or independently.
For those who don't mind getting a little dirty, ATV rides are a popular activity in Nassau. The outskirts of Nassau are replete with four-wheeling adventure opportunities such as "The Caves," a network of large limestone caverns, and Clifton Heritage National Park, where dirt trails lead riders to a beach -- perfect for a refreshing swim. Note: Age requirements vary by tour, but are usually 21 to drive (with a valid driver's license) and at least 12 to ride.
Beyond its staple dish, conch, the Bahamas serves up sumptuous delicacies ranging from spiny lobster and fish stew to guava pastries and Johnnycakes. For those who want an authentic taste of the islands, consider a food and cultural tour. These local guide-led Bahamas shore excursions take passengers outside Nassau's touristy cruise terminal hub, usually to the city's historic district, for a series of tastings at family-owned restaurants. Along the way, many tours make visits to national landmarks so visitors can learn more about Bahamian history and culture.
Looking for a place to kick back and indulge in frozen umbrella drinks, or play with some water sport toys? While Nassau's Atlantis resort has long stolen the spotlight, there's another day trip option that's quickly growing in popularity -- and we can see why. Balmoral Island, just a short boat ride from the port, offers an exclusive beach experience with everything from island jams and grub, to snorkeling and a stingray encounter; there are also kayaks available for rent.
The waters of Grand Bahama Island teem with coral reefs and other marine life (including sharks!), and they're also home to several shipwrecks. Many of these iconic snorkel and dive sites are easily accessible via a short, guided boat ride. The best part: You can enjoy views from the surface. Thanks to a shallow bank bordered by a barrier reef that runs along the island's shoreline, clear water from the depths where the banks drop off provide excellent visibility. Bring your own gear, or rent onsite.
For the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation, look no further than the pristine Lucayan National Park. Bahamas shore excursions to this park generally include activities like kayaking through mangroves and walking on boardwalk-style nature trails, with some time to relax on the beach. The most sought-after feature, though, is its majestic caves; Lucayan National Park is home to one of the largest underwater cave systems in the world. Two caves are open to the public, and even though swimming in them is prohibited, they are well worth the visit.
Anglers from all over the world are drawn to the Bahamas for its fishing scene, and Freeport is one of the many places you can rent a boat to try your luck at hooking a marlin, tuna or wahoo. Your boat captain will take you to the island's top fishing spots and provide all the equipment. Be sure to choose a half-day tour, so you don't have to worry about rushing to get back to your ship. A handful of charter companies also factor in additional time for swimming and other activities.
Updated October 10, 2019