Bahamas Bound From Toronto In February
We are amongst the large number of Canadians who can’t make it through the full cold Canadian winter without a trip south to warm our bones. This year, Toronto experienced the coldest February we have ever had. We were so lucky to be Bahamas bound for the whole month! When my best friend Rob offered us his Nassau condo, we didn’t realize how truly thankful we would be. A home base on Cable Beach in Nassau on New Providence Island let us explore the local sights. We even managed a Valentine’s week escape to Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma.
We were surprised to realize that it had been 5 years since we had last been Bahamas bound. Arriving at the Lynden Pindling International Airport, we walked through the new terminal. We were whisked along the new airport highway to see the vastly changed Cable Beach skyline!
Right beside Rob’s condo, the Baha Mar Resort was being finished . This new resort spread over several buildings would offer a wide range of new accommodations (from rooms to condos). It would offer a greatly refreshed new casino. But, along with the new buildings, the resort had done major work on the beach. An improved new underwater eco-reef was starting to draw fish. We spent many days wandering along the new Cable Beach strip and beach. We walked from the condo down to the Melia for our Starbucks iced frappuccino treat!
February Festivities in Nassau, Bahamas
During February, there were a number of local events to keep us entertained. There were parades and parties to advertise and start to drum up interest for the Bahamas Carnival (May 2015).
The roads were marked off for one day while bicycle riders did the “Ride for Hope”.
With a small but thriving Greek community, the “Greek Festival” drew crowds for the great Greek food, the music and for a chance to visit the Greek Orthodox Church.
Local Attractions in Nassau, Bahamas
We were pretty lucky during our trip to have had Derrick available to drive us anywhere on the island we wanted to go (Derrick and Bev look after Rob’s condo and pamper the lucky guests that show up!). Derrick was a great source of local knowledge and he seemed to know everyone wherever we went. We explored the parts of Nassau few tourists see and even bought fresh snapper at the Montagu Beach fish market. While we sometimes escaped Derrick’s watchful eye over us – to snorkel, walk the beach or take the #10 Cable Beach bus around – we saw much more of New Providence Island because we could get off the beaten paths. We certainly saw no other tourists when we visited Marathon Mall!
But many visitors to Nassau come on a cruise ship. Nassau has become a major cruise ship harbour.
Many people leave the cruise ships and head for the tacky tourist souvenir shops or to the bars lining the pier. A short walk or taxi ride will get visitors from the pier to the beach and the numerous daiquiri booths along the way.
Great Food In Nassau
If you go a bit further, you will reach Arawak Cay – known for the “fish fry”. There you will find a long strip of restaurants selling local fish and the specialty of the area “conch salad”. On our first trip out that way, we were entertained as the Tropical Conch Salad was made right in front of us, complete with spinning machete knives and food piles,
On another trip we stopped at the famous Goldies for a conch buffet – conch salad, conch fritters and cracked conch. If you looked behind Goldies you could see the wall of conch shells that clearly show that conch is the specialty of the house.
Great food was never hard to find anywhere in Nassau. We ate like locals enjoying the view of the marina at Twisted Lime in Sandyport. This was probably the best customer service (and dessert) that we had in our whole Bahamas trip. For an interesting twist on Bahamian food, we had dinner one night at the Lukka Kiari downtown across from the cruise ships. While conch and vegetables are heavily represented on the menu, the dishes are unique home cooked varieties of old favourites. And of course, we drank local Bahamian beer (Kalik) outside with great views!
See The Art And Culture When Bahamas Bound
A short walk from the downtown pier you will find the National Art Gallery of Bahamas. It is home to a large permanent exhibit that celebrates Bahamian art and culture. On this visit the temporary exhibit featured local artists exploring “What is Bahamian”. This is a great way to spend a few hours when visiting Nassau!
Visit Atlantis On Paradise Island
If you want to try something different from Cable Beach, you can head over to Paradise Island for a visit. We have spent many days on previous visits with the kids lounging at the water park at Atlantis. While we took the easy route around the lazy river, the kids would line up for the big drop water slide under the shark waters. The Atlantis property is great place for a stroll.
Whether you are a kid or an adult, it is always worth a walk through the aquarium at Atlantis.
Gambling enthusiasts can spend hours in the casino. It will be interesting to see if the new Baha Mar casino will bring back gamblers that had shied away from the old tired looking Crystal Palace Casino being renovated as part of the Baha Mar project. One of our favourite treats when visiting Paradise Island is to have dinner at Nobu.
Snorkelling the Waters of Nassau, Bahamas
There are those that think that David and I may have fish blood in us. Give us water and we are searching for snorkelling or scuba gear.
We have always snorkelled in the waters of Cable Beach right in front of the condo, even if historically there has been little to see. When we have travelled with the kids, finding any sea life right off our beach was a big treat. One visit David scuba certified the whole group and used the condo pool and the sea for his scuba lessons. Other than hauling tanks and gear from the 5th floor condo, it couldn’t have been a more ideal training base.
We were excited to find that the Baha Mar had put a lot of thought into re-building the marine life along Cable Beach. While we worried that the new pier would draw mostly more boats and water sports activity, we were delighted when we snorkelled down the water line and found the new eco-reef underwater habitat that is being grown. If you build it, the fish will come back!
While we did most of our Nassau snorkelling close to the condo, in researching things to do, David found the new underwater reef being grown in the Clifton Park area. The “Ocean Atlas” sculpture and other man made reef starters have been sunk beside an existing reef. This was an interesting snorkel experience for us one afternoon!
Valentine’s Week Escape to Exuma
While we were already in paradise staying at Rob’s staffed 6,000 square foot condo on the beach, we decided we should see another of The Bahamas islands. We have visited the outer Exuma islands by boat on an earlier trip, but after seeing Rob’s swimming pigs video, we decided our Valentine’s treat would be at the all inclusive Sandals Emerald Bay Resort. It was a great week, with days spent relaxing by the quiet pool, mixed with days where we set the alarm clock to wake early to go scuba diving or on the awesome Ocean Safari trip to see swimming pigs, iguana island and to snorkel the great waters of Exuma.
Bahamas Bound – Things To Do In Nassau and Exuma
I could say that the best part of being Bahamas bound in February was escaping the frigid Toronto winter. But that would not be fair to all the great things that we did this trip to Bahamas. We enjoyed a great mix of just sitting in the sun and exploring. At one point I texted my friend Rob … “if I were any more relaxed, I would be dead”. We would leave the Bahamas totally refreshed.
Of course, it was easier to leave knowing we had already booked our Caribbean and South American cruise for April!
What is your favourite thing to do when you are Bahamas bound? On other islands? Where should we visit next time we come to The Bahamas?
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I totally understand why Canadians go south in winter. We lived there fir years before moving south too. Toronto is amazing in spring and fall while Bahamas is great for winter. Enjoy.
Yjoti, We love to escape the cold Toronto winters. So sad that this year we will likely miss that escape. Linda
I’ve never been to the Bahamas, but my sister has via a cruise ship. It’s nice to hear that you had a fantastic driver that took you to the less touristy areas, which are usually hard to find without a local guide. Those fresh Tropical Conch Salads look so yummy!
Candy, We are lucky to have friends with a place so Nassau has been a frequent trip for us. And a great way to see the less touristy places. Linda
That conch salad looks so good! How many days would you suggest for the Bahamas? I’ve always wanted to go but I’ve heard it’s rather expensive.
Julie, We found lots of great fresh seafood on our visits. We used to go to the Bahamas for long weekends. It was less than a 4 hour flights. Since we have a friend on the island, we can now go for longer stays. How Long you stay depends on whether you just want beach, want one island or want to explore more. Linda
Nothing wrong with a Snow Bird adventure in the Bahamas in February! I love that they seem to celebrate that month like much of the Caribbean does for Carnival type festivals. Though the Greek Fest seems a bit early but awesome. We have been to the bahamas once and love our Submersible Underwater Bubble adventure (S.U.B.) but I would love to go back to go snorkeling and perhaps see the wild pigs at Exuma too!
Eric, We have certainly been to Bahamas at all times of the year so got to celebrate many festivals. We do love our underwater adventures in the warm blue Caribbean waters. Linda
Its winter here at the moment in the UK and I want to leave this island and go south. I am getting fed up with the rain but can understand Canadians with your harsh temperatures and 20 million tonnes of snow dumped on your doorstep. 😀 Bahamas is a place I always wanted to go to, more so for Pig Island but Nassau looks like a charming town to explore and the marine life there looks amazing. I am not much of a snorkeller mind you, but I always give it a try.
Danik, We are definitely going to miss heading south this year. I can’t remember the last time we actually spent the full winter at home in Toronto. Lots of things to do. A little for everyone in Bahamas. Linda
Ok, this is definitely making me want to escape the cold, dark, northern European winter! If only I could jet off to the Bahamas! This is a great post with helpful insights and wonderful pictures! I’ll be sitting by the radiator with my eyes closed pretending I’m in the Bahamas!
Zoe, I am with you pretending I am warming my bones in Bahamas rather than cold Toronto! Linda
It was nice to read about your Bahamas experience in 2015. We were supposed to travel too early next year but our trip is cancelled due to the pandemic.
Thank you for sharing this post. Made me excited to travel once again. Looking forward to sitting in that Atlantis throne and ofcourse, see the marine life up close.
Clarice, These days we are looking back at Caribbean travel and wishing it could happen this winter. This is the first year we are missing an escape south in a long time. I guess it is great that we have some good memories to keep us warm. Linda
I’ve never seen such a pile of conch shells! In fact, I didn’t even know people ate them! Are they just locally abundant or did they figure out how to farm them?
Teja, I had never seen a pile of conch shells that big either. I think in Nassau they are both locally available and farmed. Conch is certainly a favourite food in the Bahamas. Linda
Yes, a popular place for many Canadians to go down south during our winter and Bahamas is a popular choice. I’ve seen a lot of the Caribbean but have to admit it Bahamas has never been on my radar as an island to visit. I love seeing all of the cultural events. Usually you go to a resort, lay on a beach and don’t see much of the island itself. I love that you were out and about and engaging in so many activities. The Greek fest sounds yummy. Carnival looks like you had a blast.
Renee, Sometimes we want to just lie on a Caribbean beach and warm up. But often we like to head out and just wander to discover local gems. We were lucky to have some local friends who showed us some great things. Linda
Like you, we also have to get away to some warm spot each winter. I’m a bit concerned about what this winter might bring! It looks like you had a great experience in the Bahamas. I visited years ago as a cruise ship passenger, so I appreciate learning a bit more about the island through your post!
Jan, We have visited Nassau many times so we love to find something new to do when we head down to warm up. Even when we visited by cruise ship we headed far away from the tourist areas. We are certainly missing heading south this year! Linda
Very useful information here. I was due to head here and go on a cruise for my honeymoon this august. We’ve changed it for now but thinking of just staying in the Bahamas and explore, will need to save this article. Thank you.
Nicole, I hope you do get to the Bahamas. We would love to go back. Even to escape the cold. Glad this post had some suggestions. Linda
You don’t know how jealous I am that you got to spend a whole month in Nassau and Exuma! I have been to Nassau and Eleuthera but only for long weekends, and a longer, more relaxed return trip to the Bahamas is an absolute must for me post-pandemic. I also hopped on over to your post about the changing skyline of Cable Beach and I found it fascinating. Commercial and tourist development is always bittersweet because it means that business is booming, but it can also take away some of the character of those narrower roads and smaller hotels. It would be very interesting to see what’s changed and what’s stayed the same from my first trip to Nassau in 2017.
Kevin, We have travelled to Nassau regularly over the years so we have definitely seen the changes. Certainly far more crowds especially when cruise ships are in. We are lucky to have a friend with a condo so we can visit regularly. Hope you get back for a longer visit. Linda
Bahamas seems to be a fun place with cheerful-looking locals! I love the concept of conch salad – looks interesting but I wonder how to eat them without the food spilling out! LOL! That image of Atlantis – is architecture and color – reminds me of Atlantis in Dubai. As usual, your pictures are stunning! Great post! 🙂
Jan, We do enjoy all the variety we find when we travel to the Bahamas. When we went to Dubai, we too smiled at how similar it looked to Nassau. Linda
This brought back memories! I have visited Nassau a few times. When I was trying to have a few weeks island hopping, I realised that every time I changed islands it meant I had to stay overnight there! What I wouldn’t give for a conch salad & chance to snorkel right now. Sounds like you had a fab time & it is the perfect place to escape the Canadian winter.
Sue, We too are pining to return to Nassau for another visit. We have been many times and each is a new discovery. One day we would love to visit and just move island to island. Linda
Even being in Britain where it’s not that cold, I can image why you’d wanted to get a bit of a break from the long winters. I’ve never been to the Bahamas but it sounds pretty idyllic, I didn’t realise there was so much to do. All the food looks great too.
Paul, We certainly do need to escape when the winter sets in. This will be the first winter in a long time we have not escaped for even a little while. Will definitely head back to Nassau when we can. Linda
I would certainly love to visit the Bahamas sometime. It’s been in my heart for quite sometime now. The street celebrations, the music, the biking for hope all look so nice. Would love to visit the Paradise Island too.
Roy, I hope you get to visit Bahamas one day. Each island is so different. But lots to do everywhere. Especially for water babies like us! Linda
Bahamas Festival looks so great and joyful. I love Greek food and music. And also, Tropical Conch Salad looks delicious, and I would like to eat it. Snorkeling the Waters of Nassau must be an amazing experience. You had a great trip. I hope in 2021 will be possible to enjoy life this way again. I wish you amazing adventures in 2021!
Agnes, We are definitely pining for a return to the Bahamas. But it might still be awhile. Best wishes to you as well for 2021. Linda
I have never been to the Bahamas but it looks like paradise with the pristine beaches and all the bright colors. I didn’t know there’s a thriving Greek community there. The Bahamas Carnival looks like a load of fun.
Ummi, we were delighted with the variety of fun we found for a month in Nassau. Definitely wishing we were heading back again this year. Linda
Bahmas even look great in February too. Though Canadians do not prefer cold places, but I love cold countries and winter travels as I live in hot country. Here also I see the Atlantis same like Dubai one and both have famous aquariums. I guess they both are under same chain. Lovely captures of marine life.
Yukti, I must admit we do like to escape from the cold. But this year we will have to learn how to embrace it. So much great water life in the Bahamas. Linda
Wooo, the Bahamas look so cool! I love the Caribbean, anyway, and your post has all that joy and fun and good time in it. Your pictures want me go snorkelling right this moment – and the local food looks just so fresh and delicious. Must have been such a great stay!
Renata, This post did bring back some great memories for us. We love to mix up the kind of things we do and loved the chance to stay for so long on this trip. Linda
I got to know a lot about Nassau here. Loving the vibes of the place. The festival, the Greek culture, also the food like conch shell salad and buffet sounds interesting. And of course, then there is Atlantis. It seems to have everything to entertain me. Would surely plan a trip to Bahamas one day.
Shreya, I am glad this post showed you some different sides of Nassau. Many people never leave the beaches or water parks. We loved the chance to find more. Linda
Hey Linda, is Bahamas open now? I need to do a visa run (Mexico) and I am actually looking for a place that’s not super cold. I think it’s really hard to find a place to go with good weather in February but if I don’t have any other choice, I am really keen to visiting the Bahamas.
Trisha, Bahamas is open with some constraints. The big resorts (Atlantis and Bahamas) are open. It would be a good choice. But would suggest booking on short notice so you know the current entry and stay requirements. Linda