Although it isn’t as flashy as its sister island, Nassau, sprawling Grand Bahama has an array of things for visitors to do, but many of these attractions are far from the cruise port and are not within walking distance of Port Lucaya. There are plenty of tourism gems, but you’ll need help finding them. The island is one place where booking a guided tour will grant access to hidden beaches, restaurants, caves, trails, and other wonders that aren’t obvious at first glance.
The island is developing into an eco-tourism hotspot featuring stunning national parks with pristine waters, blue holes, caves, mangroves, and flourishing wildlife. Many tours are geared toward experiencing the beauty of the island, like West End Ecology Tours, which takes you off the beaten path, or Grand Bahama Nature Tours, a company that combines exploring the natural world with thrilling ATV transportation. Divers and snorkelers can explore the vibrant coral reefs teeming with tropical fish, sharks, and other marine life.
There’s also motorized sightseeing tours to give first-timers an introduction to the island, horseback riding excursions through hidden trails and secluded beaches, and a local brewery for an authentic, casual afternoon.
The editors at 10Best.com have rounded up their favorite excursions and tours so visitors can experience the real Grand Bahama Island.
Opened in 2007, the 20-acre brewery is located a stone’s throw from the cruise port and is a locally-owned establishment. The 60,000-square-foot establishment is known for its production of Sands beer (in recycled bottles to boot), and houses a retail store, gift store and beer garden. Tours of the brewery take visitors through the 25-step process from malt to beer and teach them about the filtration, kegging, and bottling process. Perhaps the most important part is the sampling in the tasting room (with a casual, drink what you want policy). Prices are extremely reasonable, and you’ll likely leave with a nice little buzz. (2423524070)
Scuba diving on Grand Bahama Island is phenomenal: the coral reefs are vibrant and colorful, the visibility is exceptional, and the marine life is flourishing. One of the best dive tour operators in Grand Bahama, Caribbean Divers has a personalized service and a convenient location in Port Lucaya at the Bell Channel Inn Hotel. Several different dive packages are offered with three dives each day ranging from shallow reefs of around 20 feet to deeper dives around 50 feet. Grand Bahama is also home to “Shark Junction” a great place to experience Caribbean reef sharks. There’s also several shipwrecks in the area and the unusual the Pygmy Caves – small caves formed by large levels of coral. (242-373-9111)
Exotic Adventures (Boat Tours)
Al Saunders is captain of the Exotic Adventures boat and his motto is: “If you can dream it, we can do it!” The options are limitless. If you want to go out at sunset and enjoy a romantic cruise, you can. Want to go to a deserted island and spend the night under the stars? No problem. You can charter his boat for fishing, snorkeling, shelling and diving – whatever you’re up for. Your lunch will be speared and freshly prepared for you on an open fire with savory Bahamian seasonings while you relax on the beach. This is a very cool way to experience the Bahamas. (242-374-2278, 242-375-7885)
This cruise-passenger favorite, motorized bicycle tour is located in Port Lucaya and will take visitors on an island adventure. Experience Grand Bahama’s coastline, flora and fauna, and a local Bahamian cuisine. Visitors will watch a live conch demonstration and get a peek at some dolphins before relaxation and swim time on the beach. Tours last about five-and-a-half hours (depending on guest pace) and includes bottled water, lunch and use of towels and snorkeling gear. Hotel pick up is complimentary and cruise port transportation is available for a small fee. The maximum number of riders is 12, so reservations are a good idea (but not required). (242-374-8687)
Grum Ma’s House Cultural Center
At Grum Ma’s House, visitors will learn about Bahamian culture and historical facts. They can enjoy a hands-on tour about bush medicine and tea with opportunities to taste Bahamian fruit, tea, and food and learn about the Junkanoo celebration. An array of interesting crafts and items adorn the walls. Other tours include a sampling of homemade Bahamian cuisine, craft demonstration, visits to other local cultural attractions, a settlement tour, wearing of Junkanoo costumes, shaking of cowbells, and beating goatskin drums. Advance booking is required for tours so plan accordingly. Tours range from 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on which option you choose. (1 242-727-1645)
Reef Tours (Fishing & Boat Tours)
In business for over 30 years, Reef Tours offers many different ways to spend your day. The staff is very polite and professional, and the tours are well organized. Their office and docks are conveniently located at the marina of Port Lucaya Marketplace. Tour options include catamaran snorkel cruises, glass-bottom boat jaunts (on a double-deck vessel), parasailing and deep-sea fishing. There are also banana boat rides, wave runner rentals, Segway tours, paddle boarding, snorkeling and booze cruises. They are open seven days a week. Call or drop by the office for reservations, departure times and costs. (242-373-5880, 242-373-5891)
Calabash Eco Adventures
Learn about the red mangroves, double-crescent cormorants, yellow-crown night herons and other wildlife on a kayak adventure one of the largest creek systems in Grand Bahama known as Dover Sound. Calabash Eco Adventures navigates a beautiful maze of sand banks and explores a blue hole and other natural treasures. At the end of the kayaking experience, travelers unwind on a beautiful white powdery beach and restaurant and enjoy lunch, lounge chairs, tropical cocktails and hammocks. Other adventures include a kayaking and snorkeling combination to the island of Peterson Cay, as well as sightseeing tours of Lucayan National Park and the inland blue holes. (1-242-727-1974)
This is one of Grand Bahama’s most popular activities. Pinetree Stables provides vacationers with both trail and beach tours via horseback. Rides depart in the morning daily, but be sure to call ahead to make a reservation. They also offer a shuttle service to the major Freeport hotels included in the price. The two-hour guided ride from the horse stables winds through the endangered pine forest, past the luxurious Coopers Castle and through the hardwoods along the swash, over the sand dunes, onto the beach and into the water along a secluded shoreline. Expect to get wet and bring your waterproof camera! (242-373-3600)
ATV Island Tours (Grand Bahama Nature Tours)
This tour bundles a little of everything with a fun and unique way to get there on ATVs. They also provide basic instruction for first-time riders that includes a safety practice. Then, it’s time to explore off-road trails through native vegetation with many twists and turns as the guide gives information about the environment. Next,the tour heads towards the beach and winds around the Lucayana Waterway to a lookout point of the south shore. The ATV ride ends at the Garden of the Groves, a peaceful botanical garden. Transportation is provided to a beach bar and restaurant for a short beach break before returning to the hotel or cruise ship. (1-866-440-4542)
West End Ecology Tours
Tucked away on the quiet side of Grand Bahama is the West End, where a grassroots, geotourism movement is taking form. The goal of West End Ecology Tours is to educate visitors about the local ecology and how vital it is to protect natural resources. Adventurous travelers can try their signature tour and take a boat ride to the pristine island of Sandy Cay. There, they can hand-feed gentle stingrays in the shallow waters along the shore before taking a nature walk of the island. Other tours include lionfish spearfishing, where guests can help to reduce the number of the invasive species that are destroying the reef system, as well as fishing tours that help to support a local fishing camp. (242-602-0641)
About Amber Nolan
Originally from upstate New York, this restless traveler has a knack for befriending interesting characters. You can usually find her just about anywhere that has a hammock. Amber’s favorite places are Iceland for its remoteness; Panama for its parties; and Peru for its history.
Her work can be found on MSNBC.com, Frommers, and Sherman’s Travel, where she served as the Cruise Editor and Senior Producer. She is currently working on a comic novel about her shoestring travels as she hitchhikes on airplanes across the country in an effort to visit all 50 states. See Jethiking.com.
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