BAHAMAS: NEW PROVIDENCE & GRAND BAHAMA

WHY WE LOVE IT

  • Pink and white sand; warm, clear water; green pines and mangroves; "blue holes" (underwater caves); wreck diving; yachting and fishing.
  • The powdery sands of Cable Beach.
  • The historic architecture of Nassau.
  • All that glitters: the gaming and glitz of Nassau and Paradise Island.
  • The shopping in Port Lucaya Marketplace.

WHEN TO GO

Mid-December through mid-April is high season, which means you can find bargains May through November. Granted, those months coincide with the rainy—and hurricane—season; fortunately, big storms are few and far between.

WHAT TO PACK

Bathing suits, polarized sunglasses, sunblock, camera, U.S. passport, U.S. dollars in small denominations (accepted along with Bahamian dollars), binoculars (if you’re a birder). For evenings, "smart casual" clothing; a small number of the fancier restaurants request that men wear jackets at dinner.

WHAT TO BUY

Mats, hats, bags and more from the Nassau and Freeport Straw Markets; hot-pepper sauce; Junkanoo and Bahama Mama dolls; natural sponges; artistic quilts.

TOURIST INFO

Start out with the Ministry of Tourism’s toll-free number (800-224-2627) or Web site (bahamas.com). Tourist offices in the United States are in Chicago (8600 Bryn Mawr Ave., Suite 1300; 773-867-8377), Los Angeles (11400 West Olympic Blvd., Suite 200; 310-312-9544, 800-439-6993), New York (60 East 42nd St., Suite 1850; 212-758-2777) and Plantation, Florida (1200 South Pine Island Road, Suite 750; 954-236-9292). In Canada, the toll-free number is 800-667-3777 and the office is near Toronto in Mississaug, Ontario (6725 Airport Road, Suite 202; 905-672-9017). There are also a Grand Bahama Web site (grandbahamavacations.com), a toll-free Ministry of Tourism number (800-327-9019), and a Web site (nassauparadiseisland.com) devoted to New Providence.

GETTING MARRIED IN THE BAHAMAS

You can apply for a license at Nassau’s Registrar General (242-323-0594) the day after you arrive; you should receive it the next day. The fee is $100. You’ll need your passport, birth certificate and proof of date of entry into the Bahamas (a passport stamp, airline ticket or immigration card will suffice). If you’re divorced or widowed, you’ll also need copies of the divorce decree or death certificate. If you’ve never been married, the authorities will want an affidavit to that effect from a notary back home.

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