FODOR'S GO LIST 2015
The top 25 places we think should be on every traveler's radar this year.More
As one of the northernmost Bahama Islands, Grand Bahama experiences temperatures dipping into the 60s with highs in the mid-70s in January and February, so you may need a jacket and wet suit. On the upside, the migrant bird population swells and diversifies during that time of year. The other timing considerations are seasonal crowds and the subsequent increase in room rates. High tourist season runs from Christmas to Easter, peaking during spring break (late February to mid-April), when the weather is the most agreeable, but October through mid-December is also a good time to visit for weather.
Summers can get oppressively hot (into the mid and high 90s) and muggy, however; unless you're planning on doing a lot of snorkeling, diving, and other water sports, you may want to schedule your trip for cooler months. Afternoon thunderstorms and occasional tropical storms and hurricanes also make summer less attractive weather-wise. The island averages around 20 days of rain per month from June to September, but it usually falls briefly in the afternoon. The good news is that hotel rates plummet and diving and fishing conditions are great.
Festival Noel, an annual holiday fest featuring music, crafts, wine tastings, and food at the Rand Nature Centre, takes place in early December.
Grand Bahama International Airport (FPO) is about 6 minutes from downtown Freeport and about 10 minutes from Port Lucaya. No bus service is available between the airport and hotels. Metered taxis meet all incoming flights. Rides cost about $17 for two to Freeport, $22 to Lucaya. The price drops to $4 per person with larger groups.
Balearia Bahamas Express sails from Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades (Terminal 1) and provides fast-ferry service, making a day-trip possible, while Celebrations Cruise Line sails from Riviera Beach and is more like a small cruise ship, though hotel packages can include transportation to Grand Bahamas. Taxis meet all cruise ships. Passengers (two) are charged $16 for trips to Freeport and $24 to Lucaya. The price drops to $4–$5 per person with larger groups.
Buses (usually minivans) are an inexpensive way to travel the 4 miles between downtown Freeport and Port Lucaya Marketplace daily until 8 pm. The fare is $1. Buses from Freeport to the West End cost $5 each way; to the East End, $15. Exact change is required.
If you plan to drive around the island, it's cheaper and easier to rent a car than to hire a taxi. You can rent vehicles from the major agencies at the airport. Cars start at $75 for one day.
Cartwright's Rent-A-Car (242/351–3002.)
Island Jeep and Car Rentals (242/373–4001 or 242/727–2207. www.islandjeepcarrental.com.)
KSR Car Rental (242/351–5737 or 954/703-5819. email@example.com. www.ksrrentacar.com.)
Cruise-ship passengers arrive at Lucayan Harbour, which has a clever Bahamian-style look, extensive cruise-passenger terminal facilities, and an entertainment-shopping village. The harbor lies about 10 minutes west of Freeport. Taxis and limos meet all cruise ships. Two passengers are charged $20 and $27 for trips to Freeport and Lucaya, respectively. Fare to Xanadu Beach is $21; it's $30 to Taïno Beach. The price per person drops $5 for larger groups. It's customary to tip taxi drivers 15%. A three-hour sightseeing tour of the Freeport-Lucaya area costs $25 to $35. Four-hour East or West End trips cost about $40. At this writing, an additional two-berth cruise-ship port in William's Town is undergoing the approval process, but no opening date is set yet.
Grand Bahama's flat terrain and straight, well-paved roads make for good scooter riding. Rentals run $35 a day (about $15 an hour). Helmets are required and provided. Look for small rental stands in parking lots and along the road in Freeport and Lucaya and at the larger resorts. It's usually cheaper to rent a car than to hire a taxi. Automobiles, jeeps, and vans can be rented at the Grand Bahama International Airport. Some agencies provide free pickup and delivery service to the cruise-ship port and Freeport and Lucaya, but prices are still not cheap; cars begin at $65 per day.
Taxi fares are fixed (but generally you're charged a flat fee for routine trips) at $3 for the first ¼ mile and 40¢ for each additional ¼ mile. Additional passengers over two are $3 each. There's a taxi waiting area outside the Grand Lucayan Resort or you can call the Grand Bahama Taxi Union for pickup.
Grand Bahama Taxi Union (242/352–7101.)
Banks are generally open Monday–Thursday 9:30–3 and Friday 9:30–4:30.
Bahamas Air Sea Rescue (242/727–4888 or 242/359–4888. www.basragrandbahama.com.)
Fire Department (242/352–8888 or 911.)
Police (911, 242/352–8280, or 242/373–4112. www.royalbahamaspolice.org.)
Police (911, 242/352–8280, or 242/373–4112. www.royalbahamaspolice.org.)
Rand Memorial Hospital (E. Atlantic Dr., Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. 242/352–2689 or 242/350–6700. gbhs.phabahamas.org/.)
Grand Bahama accommodations remain some of the Bahamas' most affordable, especially those away from the beach. The majority of these provide free shuttle service to the nearest stretch of sand. The island's more expensive hotels are beachfront, with the exception of Pelican Bay. These include the sprawling Grand Lucayan Resort; Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach, an all-inclusive east of Port Lucaya; and the West End's elegant Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbour. Small apartment complexes and time-share rentals are economical alternatives, especially if you're planning to stay for more than a few days.
Rates post-Easter through December 14 tend to be 25%–30% lower than those charged during the rest of the year.
The Grand Bahama dining scene stretches well beyond traditional Bahamian cuisine. The resorts and shopping centers have eateries that serve up everything from Italian to fine Continental and creative Pacific Rim specialties. For a true Bahamian dining experience, look for restaurants named after the owner or cook—such as Billy Joe's.
A native fish fry takes place every Wednesday evening at Smith's Point, east of Port Lucaya (taxi drivers know the way). Here you can sample fresh fish, sweet-potato bread, conch salad, and all the fixings cooked outdoors at the beach. It's a great opportunity to meet local residents and taste real Bahamian cuisine—and there's no better place than seaside under the pines and palms.
Note: A gratuity (15%) is often added to the bill automatically; be sure to check your total before adding an additional tip.
Restaurant prices are based on the median main course price at dinner, excluding gratuity, typically 15%, which is often automatically added to the bill. Hotel prices are for two people in a standard double room in high season, excluding service and 6%–12% tax.
Tourist information centers are open Monday–Friday at the Grand Bahama International Airport (9–5), Lucayan Harbour (according to cruise ship arrivals), and Port Lucaya Marketplace (10–6). The People-to-People Program matches your family with hospitable locals who share like interests.
Ministry of Tourism Grand Bahama Office (242/352–8044 or 800/224–2627. www.grandbahama.bahamas.com.)
People-to-People Program (242/352–8045. www.bahamas.com/people-to-people.)