The Bahamas, with its long stretches of luxuriously soft sand alongside crystal-clear, multihued waters, offers cruisers some of the best beaches for their bucks. Cruise ship ports in Nassau and Freeport provide access to miles and miles of beach, all of which is open to the public.
Nassau's beaches are steps from port, and a ferry or taxi ride will take you to more remote locations. From Freeport, Grand Bahama Island stretches 96 miles long, lined with beaches that require transportation from port. Both destinations offer everything from swimming and volleyball to snorkeling, beach bars and watersports.
Read on for some of our top choices for grabbing sun and surf.
One of the Nassau area's most well-known and highly touted beaches, Cabbage Beach threads past Atlantis, One&Only Ocean Club and other resorts on Paradise Island. Thickly carpeted with soft white sand, Cabbage Beach gets fairly populated by resort guests around Atlantis. If you are looking for privacy, head east down the beach. The public access is next to the Riu Palace resort, but there is no public parking nearby. Cruise passengers can take a water taxi from the docks and then walk about 10 to 15 minutes to the access point. The plush beach invites long walks that provide a good workout. Resort bars and restaurants provide pit stops, and plenty of recreational concessions operate along the beach. You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas. It has no public restroom or shower facilities, however -- another good reason to stop for food and drink along the way.
Best for: Beach partiers, active types, romantic strollers
Cable Beach progresses in a state of development. Its stretch of sands remains one of the most known and visited in all of the Bahamas. Once considered the sexy resort scene, Cable Beach was upstaged by the opening of the Atlantis resort in the early 1990s. Now, it threatens to return the favor with the Baha Mar mega-resort, scheduled to be open by summer 2015. Bahamas beaches are open to the public, so anyone may stroll the sands of this lively beach. Park next to the straw market and enter near Melia Nassau Beach Hotel. You can catch a taxi or mini-bus from downtown Nassau to Cable Beach.
Best for: Scene-makers, families, couples
Coral Harbour Beach
Don't like crowds and noise at the beach? Check out this quiet little secret in the community of Coral Harbour. You can headquarter your visit at the beachside Sand Bar at Coral Harbour Beach House, located about a 20-minute taxi ride from the cruise ship docks to the south shore of New Providence Island. For the cost of a round of drinks, you can hang out and soak up some rays, swim or snooze in a hammock under a tree. You will feel as though you've left Nassau for one of the Bahamas' remote Out Islands. Another way to reach the beach is by booking a morning horseback riding shore excursion with Happy Trails Stables, which will pick you up at the pier.
Best for: Escapists, quiet-seekers, horseback riders
A fairly easy walk from your pier, Junkanoo Beach is also known as Spring Break Beach, so that gives you an idea of the general demographic. Food, drink and concessions line the street side of the beach, where music plays and there's usually a volleyball game going on. The beach overlooks Nassau Harbour with a view of Paradise Island on the other side. Parking is located nearby. A short walk takes you along the shoreline to Arawak Cay, a.k.a. Fish Fry, where your options for good Bahamian food multiply.
Best for: Beach partiers, action-seekers, beach-and-dine types
Blue Lagoon Beach
Beach day packages and shore excursions transport visitors from the Paradise Island Ferry Terminal on a 40-minute cruise to this private beach, which is accessible only by boat. You can choose to play with the kids, snorkel or chill in a hammock. The package includes lunch and admission to an inflatables park on land and in the water. You can also visit a dolphin attraction. Add-ons include kayak and water bike rentals, cocktails, a snorkeling tour and dolphin and sea lion interactions. The calm lagoon waters are perfect for small children, but those who wish can get away from the family scene. The beach has full, clean restroom and changing facilities.
Best for: Families, snorkelers, animal interactions
Arguably the most beautiful beach on Grand Bahama, if not the entire Bahamas island chain, Taino Beach lies a short taxi ride from the Lucaya resort area. It is a popular beach for shore excursions, and beach bars serve food and drinks when cruise ships arrive in port. Tony Macaroni's Conch Experience specializes in roasted conch and Gully Wash cocktails (green coconut water, sweetened condensed milk and gin). The wide lush sands also accommodate beach volleyball, plus the park has a grassy lawn with a shaded playground at the parking lot access. Walk on the beach eastward to the fishing settlement of Smith's Point, where you will find another beach bar and restaurant.
Best for: Families, bar- and restaurant-hoppers, swimmers
High Rock Beach
Typically deserted except when cruise passengers visit, at High Rock Beach you enter the world of Bahamas Out Islands, about a 30-minute drive from the cruise port. Located in the historic settlement of High Rock, this beach gives visitors a taste of true Bahamian ways. Bishop's Beach Club & Bar welcomes you to its place on the beach and dining room off the beach -- a good spot to get out of the sun. Bishop's serves cold Kalik beers and authentic island fare such as cracked conch and fish. Walk the beach along the small village to the miniature replicated lighthouse.
Best for: Get-out-of-towners, volleyball players, culture seekers
Gold Rock Beach
Part of Lucayan National Park, the beach lies about 15 minutes to the east of the Lucaya resort scene and offers a plunge into "the bush," as Bahamians call their "outback" areas. The park encompasses a variety of geological features and habitat. It features easily accessible limestone caves visitors can climb down into. Across the road, trails lead through an estuary and other biological communities to the beach, named for the offshore upcropping that turns gold at sunset. The beach has no facilities other than picnicking pavilions, but these are reserved for charter and excursion tours. Some tours offer kayaking and beach tours of the park. Restrooms are back at the parking lot. Swimming and walking are favorite pastimes.
Best for: Nature explorers, roughing-it beachers, snorkelers
Grand Bahama's most famous and easy to reach beach, Lucaya, fronts the Grand Lucayan and Memories Grand Bahama resorts and is accessible to the public at the west end. If you are arriving by rental car, you can park across the street at the Port Lucaya Marketplace -- a good place for a lunch break and shopping. Or stop at Billy Joe's conch shack right on the beach near the public access for fresh conch salad, grilled conch and local color. This beach is a popular shore excursion, which gives you access to beach chairs, resort restaurants and bars, a water slide and swimming pools.
Best for: Families, creature comfort-seekers, beach-until-you-shop types
If you are looking for something a little off the radar on Grand Bahama, this beach can be as secluded or creature-comfort as you choose. Fortune Beach gets its name from a lucrative shipwreck discovered there and the million-dollar homes in the neighborhood. Wyndham Viva Fortuna Beach Resort, an all-inclusive that issues day passes, also occupies the beach east of Lucaya (about five miles) and Taino Beach. A segment of Fortune Beach dubbed Blackbeard Beach is home to Banana Bay beach club, a fun-time hangout where beach-goers find food, drink, fine white sands and shallow waters in shifting shades of blue and green.
Best for: Beach partiers, lovers of remote beaches