The Bahamas is truly an archipelago whose beauty knows no bounds. Even from a macro-perspective, like the perspective of, say, an astronaut from space, it retains its beauty … just ask NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. You could argue that that statement is at least a penultimate promotion to this amazing archipelago.
The Bahamas is so wondrous to the point that the rich and famous are gobbling up the islands. That in itself should ring the alarm bells that there’s something to these islands that’s worth experiencing. Whether it be about epicurean enjoyments, fabulous festivities, natural wonders, or cultural curiosities, take comfort in the idea that your trip will be star-studded.
What Makes the Bahamas Unique?
Beacons of Light
The Bahamas has a ton of lighthouses, but most have them have fallen from favor owing to modern satellite tech. Nevertheless, only a handful of old-fashioned lighthouses remain whose flickering lights are tended by the most dedicated of keepers — keepers of the light, as they are lovingly called.
The views from their galleries vary from idyllic panoramas to a flat “meh.” Be that as it may, you are bound to find a spectacular outlook if you do your research. Take for example the following:
Elbow Reef Lighthouse
The lighthouse is eye candy, has magnificent 360-degree views, and still works like a charm. This spot is conveniently located in Hope Town, flashing its lights over Hope Town harbor, mainland Abaco, and the awesome Atlantic.
Snap a photo around this imposing figure surrounded by Bahamian-style constructions; it is quite a structure with its symbolic suggestion [winks with a wry smile]. The views on the lighthouse galley are divine; perceive the dynamic of bustling boardwalks and sailing ships that make for a beautiful contrast to the static yet picturesque properties along the fringes of the island.
North Palmetto Point
A lighthouse, a secluded beach, and an Airbnb — sound familiar, doesn’t it? Remember Steve Job’s epic presentation of the iPhone v1.00?
It’s a fully functional lighthouse with commanding views of the Atlantic, a staircase to an isolated beach for the ultimate in privacy, and a three-bedroom residential space with living, dining, and kitchen setup, plus an oceanfront patio along the length of the house.
A perfect combination, no? It’s a magical place with practical vehicle access, replete with all the modern comforts, and great Airbnb reviews; what more could you ask for in an Airb-n—err, lighthouse?
Swim Pig, Swim!
Pigs can swim, you heard that right! And they have become legends on the island of Big Major Cay, Exumas, complete with their own obscure origin stories. In fact, they have become quite the celebrities that the other islands in the Bahamas seem to have emulated the formula for success of this Exumas attraction.
If you want to see something truly confounding, like floating porky pigs, visit the Exumas where it all started. If that is out of your way, the other islands where pigs have popped up are Abacos, Eleuthera, Spanish Wells, Rose and Grand Bahamas.
It is apparent that the pigs have not evolved to meet the challenges of island life, hence the need for human intervention. Always remember that they are feral animals of the sort, so watch your fingers if you do decide to feed them, and treat them with the utmost respect — none of the riding, manhandling, or forcing them to swim just to get your perfect photo op.
Fish Fry, Fish Fry, Fish Fry Everywhere!
Fish fry is not all about just fish that is fried, it has evolved to become the Bahamian cultural hub — a national attraction, if you will — from which authentic cuisine can be savored together with friends and family, almost like a hawker center in some countries.
The ambiance is open and inviting with its vibrantly colored picnic tables for sampling dishes every Bahamian local would swear by. Feast your senses on conch salads, conch fritters, fresh fruit drinks, barbecues, and many other Bahamian specialties … and of course, not to forget, the eponym of the place: fish fry.
Deep Blue … Holes
Strangely enough, The Bahamas has a multitude of blue holes both offshore and inland, many of which are readily accessible to adventurous regular folk and nonexpert divers. These spots are limestone sinkholes developed over the course of millennia that have flooded with whatever was around at the time, be it ocean water or Ice Age runoff.
Here are some of the places you can dip your toes in:
Dean’s Blue Hole
The world’s second deepest known blue hole (at the time of this writing), is right around the coast of Long Island in the Bahamas.
At around 200 meters (~656 ft) at its deepest, it can be quite a fright if you imagine falling into the abyss. It’s nothing to worry about, though; it has a relatively small mouth, roughly 30 m (~100 ft), and the perimeter of the drop is shallow water — waist deep, actually. So a short swim across is not going to be dreadful, maybe.
Its deepest point has not been explored yet, but what’s more important is for you to enjoy the scenery while swimming in the calm clear water, topside. Enclosed by limestone bluffs hugging semicircularly on one side, and with a white-sand shoal on the other, the natural configuration of the entrance is a sight to behold.
Captain Bill’s Blue Hole
This here captain has got himself an inland blue hole smack-dab in the middle of a pine-tree forest. How that came to doesn’t matter as much as how fun it will be for you to run the creaky wooden deck, full throttle, and jump as far as you can into the mouth of the void [eerie synth music playing].
But if getting wet is not your thing, the whole pine-tree venue makes for a great hike, some cycling, bird-watching, and a picnic barbecue while letting the kids have a go at the water. Quite frankly, it’s probably going to have the same vibe as a lake getaway but is definitely a more tranquil recourse from a beach brimming with the same old same old.
What Makes Puerto Rico Unique?
Roughly 270 miles of coast, around 300 beaches, and virtually unlimited events for monthly merriment are some of the most endearing features of this Latin American prodigy. It may be an unincorporated territory of the United States but Puerto Rico (PR) still has managed to maintain its proud heritage and traditional identity.
Boricuas, those born and raised in PR, are the bedrock of their society. They create an inextricable link among the different activities and attractions on the land and in the water. Whether it be through skillful cooking, expressive ‘bomba’ dancing, exquisite artistry, contagious music, and vivacious nightlife, there is always a Boricua that makes the experience better.
With all that said, get this party started and experience those recommended below.
Never Miss an Event
Boricuas showcase their culture loudly and proudly. With a year-round stream of festivities, almost every weekend will be a delight to take part in. Even if it is one of the more minor celebrations, there is always something to revel in.
When you start planning for your dream vacay in Puerto Rico, don’t feel any pressure of missing out on the cultural explosion from festivities; for every month of the year, you are guaranteed to come across something uniquely PR … and then some!
A small caveat though, you need to know where in PR the party’s at. Worry not, this article has got you covered with the basics.
Festival La Casita: San Juan has got its fair share of live music, dance, and theater, practically every Sunday. It has front-row seats to Bahía de San Juan, and a short stroll along Paseo La Princesa will open you up to a sunset view that should inspire the romantic in you.
Gallery Nights: Gallery Crawlers rejoice! Every first Tuesday of the month, step inside the dozens of galleries Old San Juan has to offer … for freeee! But some might require appointments, though, since some spots serve wine and cheese over some background music for that complete highbrow ambiance.
It can get a little packed along the thoroughfare to the galleries because of the Puerto Rican nightlife (can’t blame the youngins). So if you are not into a night of tranquility, silence, and sophistication, it’s not gonna happen if you don’t have the patience for a rowdy crowd.
Here are but a few of the heavy hitters that you have to plan for as they are done only once a year.
Festival de la Piña Paradisíaca: La Parguera, Lajas celebrates a fruity festival at the tail end of May. A sweet and juicy fragrance fills the air of this oceanfront town from all the locally grown pineapples. Combine that with some fried fare and local bands, and you’ll get a fantastic evening.
Before you gorge yourself on the fab feast, test yourself in their 5K run that trails along the marina and mangrove coves for the ultimate in physical and visual stimulation. It’ll make you primed and ready to take on your impending food frenzy.
Noche de San Juan: June 23rd is the magical date in San Juan for the religious celebration of the capital city’s eponymous saint, Saint John the Baptist. His birth is celebrated on that momentous day with summer solstice right around the corner, making it a hot shindig.
It has quite a peculiar tradition of crowds on the beaches during Midsummer Eve. How it came about is probably due to the saint’s repute of baptizing by water.
Fall backwards into the ocean several times, arms stretched out, for that dramatic bid to improve your fortune at the stroke of midnight.
Festival Nacional Indígena: The ultimate celebration of Puerto Rico’s indigenous heritage, Festival Nacional Indígena puts the Taino people into the limelight. Jayuya at the end of November is the place to be if you are keen on witnessing 10 days of traditional ceremonies and costumes at a slower and more laid-back pace.
No visit to the ancestral peoples is complete without a visit to Yukayeque village. Here you will get to sample the simulation of the simple life in times gone by. Listen to the backdrop of traditional Taino tunes evoking the more relaxed and simpler side of you. And, most importantly, visit the arts and crafts fair to score yourself some wooden carvings and ceramics as your souvenirs.
Only Tropical Rainforest in the US
You’re probably thinking this is some kind of clickbait headline — of course there is no tropical rainforest in the US! Well, at least not in the Continental US.[gottem!]
The US National Forest Service has the one and only El Yunque tropical rainforest in its lineup of rainforests under its care and protection. Why is it a rainforest, you ask? Put simply, it rains a lot, like, 120 inches of rain a year a lot. Imagine that a square foot of rainforest gets a total amount of water equivalent to 75 gallons.
Okay, putting all the boring factoids out of the way, what can you do here?
There are hiking trails that test your mettle while basking in the glory of the great outdoors. Unique plants and wildlife abound as you explore the beautiful scenery around you.
And finally, there are the adrenaline-inducing attractions fit for the fearless characters. Try out Yunque Ziplining adventure tour’s five zip lines with a dash of rappelling and crossing hanging bridges to bring your heartbeat to dangerous levels (kidding)!
There is nothing more epic than the feeling of being above all the forest action, on the ultimate vantage point, and zip-lining through the canopy line while yelling à la Tarzan.
There is also a short educational hike for those who don’t want to deal with the dangers regardless of how perfectly safe the attractions are with all the certified guides and safety equipment.
Piña Colada’s Cradle
Coconut cream, pineapple juice, white rum, ice — sounds simple enough but nowhere else in the world had anyone figured out first this combination of impeccable ingredients to form the iconic drink found in pretty much every menu on any self-respecting bar, or in the minds of any competent mixologist — for that matter.
This drink has reached such fame to the point that three bartenders in Puerto Rico fight over the right to claim the invention. Ramón “Monchito” Marrero, Ricardo García, Ramón Portas Mignot have yet to settle the score on who can truly bag the glory of being the one true king of the Piña Colada. And it being PR’s national drink jacks up the hype even more.
Head on over to the city of San Juan, either Caribe Hilton Hotel or Barrachina. These places have the honor of being the laboratories where the magic mixing supposedly happened. It does not matter who was first, what matters is that you go taste and figure out what they have in common, their contrasts, and what makes them better over the other.
Enjoy the Colada on a Puerto Rico beach in a fresh pineapple with its top cleaved clean off and its innards scooped out. It is a refreshing blend of garden-fresh ingredients with a smoothie-like texture and a cherry on top, plus the occasional cocktail umbrella, perfect to beat the Puerto Rican heat.
Cathedral of Rum
Upon reading this unique quirk of Puerto Rico, liquor connoisseurs shout praises towards the heavens [Gregorian chants rising in the background]. Although, it is not the kind of cathedral for the religious types; it is more of the secular kind, the kind emphasizing the size and importance of the largest rum distillery in the world — all 137 acres (55.4 ha) of ‘spiritual’-solution making.
Bacardí is the bat-brandishing brand that established Casa Bacardí in the humble town of Cataño. The great thing is that it’s not all about making or buying booze here because there are activities you can indulge in Bacardí’s monstrous distillery (adults only though). All three of them are in the sections below.
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a bartender? The mastery it takes to make the perfect Mojito and Shaken Piña Colada? How about some fancy-pants bar moves? Learn all about them in this class, plus catch a few extra perks like a trolley ride, a tour of the Bacardi Family Museum, and the only way the general populace can get their hands on a bottle of the Casa Bacardí Special Reserve.
Rum Tasting Tour
Imagine a rum connoisseur, looking all haughty inspecting the vessel from which the sights and smells are to be experienced, then taking their sweet time to savor the complexities and contrasts of the different blends. Now, stop imagining! Sign up for their tasting tour and be the opposite of a rum-swilling savage — become a refined rum maestro and ‘taste’ like a boss!
This tour involves a welcome cocktail [fist pumps], a trolley ride, a tour of the Bacardi Family Museum, and a sampling of Bacardí’s premium range of spirits plus their touted exclusive reserve — all of which are paired with chocolate [thumbs up].
Some people find history tours boring. Others find the added knowledge entertaining and enriching. But what do you get when you address the overlapping pain points between these two groups? Well, you get some seriously satisfied customers, that’s what!
Join in on the Legacy Tour fun for some cocktails at the Pavilion and a trolley ride to get you hyped up for the movie at the Bacardi Visitor Center, after which you’ll get to the coup de grâce — taste the restricted special reserve at the Havana bar.
Which Is Better – Bahamas or Puerto Rico?
The Bahamas and Puerto Rico are two very different destinations offering a seemingly similar thrill and enjoyment in the unrelenting desire for that proverbial time under the sun. Puerto Rico is the place to be if you’re up for rich culture, top-notch gastronomy, and amazing beaches, not to mention the famous Latino heat. The Bahamas is best for those looking to laze away on the beach, and have a side of adventure in one of the nation’s many interesting islands.
However, one could only sell so much about a destination but at the end of the day, what decided which is better is the eager and curious traveler. Whatever kind of experience they’ve decided on is always the key determining factor.
Is Puerto Rico a Part of the Bahamas?
Despite their several similarities, these stunning tropical destinations aren’t a single body. Puerto Rico is completely separate from the Bahamas and isn’t an independent country or body of its own. The Latin American country is rather a part of the United States of America as an unincorporated territory, but not a state.
The Bahamas is a separate body and an independent sovereignty in the Atlantic Ocean, several miles northwest of Puerto Rico. The commonwealth of the Bahamas, its official name, is composed of 700 islands and cays, which adds a wealth of beauty to its already famous name.