When to Go
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.
New Year's Day Junkanoo Parade. Junkanoo is the National Festival of the Bahamas, named after an African tribal chief named "John Canoe," who demanded the right to celebrate with his people after being brought to the West Indies in slavery. Starting in the evening on January 1, and into the early morning hours, the downtown streets of Freeport come alive with larger-than-life costumed dancers jumping to the sounds of drums, whistles, and cowbells. At the end of January, watch local primary and secondary students take to the streets in the same colorful, cultural garb for Junior Junkanoo.
Pelican Point Coconut Festival. Experience coconut in more ways than you can count! This homecoming celebration on the East End of the island includes live music, coconut food sampling, coconut crafts, coconut bowling, and other contests and activities held annually on Easter Monday.
Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament. Called "an open ocean tournament with no boundaries," these competing anglers rely on sheer man-powered paddling instead of motorized boats, in an effort to protect fragile coral reefs. The "extreme" part is reeling in a catch half the size of your kayak or SUP board! The two-day "Battle in the Bahamas" tournament has quickly gained popularity and is open to international anglers. www.extremekayakfishingtournament.org.
BASRA's Bernie Butler Swim Race and Beach Party. Every summer a party crowd gathers for the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association's annual swim race and daylong beach bash. Grand Bahama residents of all ages swim the sea in honor and support of BASRA's volunteer force, who in conjunction with the Bahamas Defense Force and the U.S. Coast Guard help people in distress. Live music, food and drink tents, and a bikini-clad, end-of-summer party atmosphere make this a memorable event. Coral Beach, behind the Coral Beach Bar, just off Royal Palm Way and Coral Rd., Grand Bahama Island. basragrandbahama.com.
Grand Bahama Regatta and Heritage Festival. Sailing sloops from throughout the country meet in July for various sailing races and crowd-pleasing favorite, the sculling competition. Onshore festivities take place at Taino Beach and include Junkanoo parades, dancing, live music, and food and drinks. Taino Beach,
Conchman Triathlon. The annual Conchman Triathlon at Taino Beach in November is a swimming-running-bicycling competition for amateurs of all ages that raises funds for local charities. International applicants welcome. www.conchman.com.
McLean's Town Conch Cracking Festival. McLean's Town's annual homecoming event on the East End began in 1972 and includes conch-cracking competitions, games, live music, crafts, and various conch dishes for sample. The best conch-cracker goes home with an authentically Bahamian designed conch trophy. East End, McClean's Town, Grand Bahama Island. 242/350--8600.