Bahamas Feature

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Kids and Families

It might not be an exaggeration to say that the Bahamas is a playground for children—or anyone else who likes building castles in the sand, searching for the perfect seashell, and playing tag with ocean waves.

While water-related activities are the most obvious enticements, these relaxed and friendly islands also offer a variety of land-based options, particularly in Nassau and on adjacent Paradise Island. For tales of the high seas, Pirates of Nassau has artifacts and interactive exhibits of the original pirates of the Caribbean.

The Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Center is home to a variety of animals. Some you'd expect to find in the Bahamas—like the world-famous marching flamingos—and others are endangered creatures from faraway places like the pair of jaguars and Madagascar lemurs.

Let the kids pick out their favorite straw-hat-wearing pony at the Surrey Horse Pavilion on Prince George Wharf and take a leisurely clip-clopping ride through the old city of Nassau. For a few extra dollars, most guides will extend your tour beyond the typical route to include other sites. Keep your guidebook handy to verify facts; guides are trained but often add their own twist on history, which can be entertaining to say the least.

Of course, megaresort Atlantis is always a crowd pleaser, with everything from pottery painting to remote-control car making and racing, to an 8,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art kids camp and the Bahamas' and Caribbean's largest casino and water park.

Both Nassau and Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island, offer the chance to have close encounters of the dolphin kind. Blue Lagoon Island Dolphin Encounter, off Paradise Island, lets you stand waist deep in a protected pool of water and interact with trained dolphins, or put on snorkeling gear and swim with them. In Freeport, UNEXSO (one of whose founders was Jacques Cousteau) has a similar program at Sanctuary Bay, a refuge for dolphins. After a performance of backflips and other tricks, these intelligent creatures literally snuggle up to be petted. Older children and adults also can spend a day learning how these remarkable creatures are trained.

For water-sports enthusiasts, snorkeling, parasailing, and boating opportunities abound. In the Exumas, rent a powerboat and take the kids to Big Major's Cay to see the famous swimming pigs. Don't forget some scraps! Kids will also get a kick out of the hundreds of iguanas on nearby Allan's Cay and the giant starfish near mainland Great Exuma.

Much of the Bahamas' most incredible scenery is underwater, but kids of all ages can enjoy the scenes beneath the sea without even getting wet. At Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas in Nassau, kids 12 and up can go 15 feet under with a SUB (Scenic Underwater Bubble) and zoom around the reefs. Seaworld Tours ' semisubmarine explores Nassau Harbour and Paradise Island for an hour and a half with sightseeing above and below water.

Updated: 2013-12-16

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