When to Go
Few visitors make it to these southern islands, but those who do come at different times. Europeans tend to arrive in summer and stay for a month or longer. Sailors come through on their way to the Caribbean in fall and return to the Bahamas in summer on trips back to the United States. Fishermen arrive all year and divers like the calm seas in summer. Those looking for a winter warm-up visit from December to April, when temperatures are in the 70s. These months have the lowest rainfall of the year, but the ocean is chilly and rough for divers and boaters. Christmas, New Year's, and Easter are usually booked, so reserve rooms months in advance.
Many inns and resorts are closed in September and October for hurricane season, which technically runs from June through November. Mosquito repellent is usually needed year-round, but is imperative in summer and fall, especially after a period of rain when both mosquitoes and no-see-ums come out in full force. Note that they remain in the sand on your feet and towels even after you leave the beach, so make sure to rinse or leave your towel outside your room.
The southern islands are generally warmer than Nassau, but you may need a windbreaker in winter, particularly on a boat. If possible, time your visit for Junkanoo on New Year's morning, sailing regattas in June and July, and special events such as the Cat Island's Rake ’n' Scrape Festival in early June.
Junkanoo. Inagua puts on a spirited Junkanoo parade on Boxing Day, December 26, and New Year's Day. Parades start at 4:30 am; you have to make the decision to stay up all night or get up early. There's food at the Fish Fry at Kiwanis Park in the center of town, where the parades end. Matthew Town, Great Inagua Island.
Long Island Sailing Regatta. The annual Long Island Sailing Regatta, featuring Bahamian-made boats, is a three-day event the first weekend of June. Held in Salt Pond, the regatta is the island's biggest event and the Bahamas' second-largest regatta, attracting contestants from all over the islands. Booths featuring handmade crafts and Bahamian food and drink dot the site and local bands provide lively entertainment beginning at sundown. Salt Pond is 10 miles south of Simms. Salt Pond, Long Island. www.thelongislandrunnernews.com.
Cat Island Rake 'n' Scrape Festival. The Cat Island Rake 'n' Scrape Festival in early June is one of the country's top festivals and celebrates the Bahamas' indigenous Rake 'n' Scrape music. Leading Bahamian musicians, The Spank Band, accompany the country's most popular performers such as K.B., Geno D, D Mack, Ancient Man, the Lassie Doe Boys, and many more. Choirs and dance troupes such as the Folkloric Dancers add variety. Enjoy food, drinks, crafts, and after-parties in nearby restaurants. Between 1,000 and 3,000 people attend, so accommodations are hard to find if you book late. Two mail boats, Bahamasair, SkyBahamas, and private charters serve the festival. Arthur's Town Airport Park, North Cat Island, Cat Island. $15.
Cat Island Regatta. The annual Cat Island Regatta held on the beach in New Bight in late July and early August has parties, live music, games, dancing, and lots of island cooking. New Bight, Cat Island. www.bahamas.com/node/734. Free.
Inagua Heritage & Salty Festival. This heritage festival is held on the Emancipation Monday holiday in early August. Most activities take place in Matthew Town's Marketplace with a Sunday Beach Bash on Farquarson Beach, 8 miles north of the town. Enjoy live music from imported bands, food, drinks, games, arts and crafts, cultural activities such as maypole, the greasy pole, contests, and even a small dinghy race. Matthew Town, Great Inagua Island. www.bahamas.com/islands/inagua. Free.
Discovery Day Festival. San Salvador's annual Discovery Day Festival and Homecoming in October celebrates Christopher Columbus's discovery of the Americas (the island is his reputed landing place). The festival is held on Graham's Harbour at the Discovery Day Park on a beach to the far north of the island. Enjoy meeting the locals from the island and who fly in from afar as they gather for live music, games, food, drinks, and church services. Graham's Harbour on San Salvador's far north beach, San Salvador Island. www.bahamas.com/islands/san-salvador. Free.