The Bahama Islands are home to places so remote and off the map that you aren't sure you are even there. Still, even old hands relish an experience hundreds of visitors to this island nation off the coast of Florida have every day: the cab ride from the airport into Nassau.
It's long and expensive -- half an hour, $30 each way -- but varied, scenic and historic. East from the airport, West Bay Street takes you past millon-dollar-plus condominiums fronted by poincianas with flame-orange blossoms across from white-sand beaches and pale green water. Farther on, the road narrows, entering the maze of streets lined with crowded shops at the heart of old Nassau. East Bay takes you to the Paradise Island Bridge, across which the Atlantis Resort rises like a surrealistic sand castle against the tropical sky.
That's one kind of Bahamas experience. On the country's 27 populated Out Islands, scattered over nearly 100,000 square miles of ocean, peace and serenity reign. The islands, separated by hundreds of miles of water, share great virtues: a lack of pretension, genuine Bahamian culture and cuisine, and room to spare on spectacular beaches as common as casuarinas.
For this special issue on the Bahamas, we sent three reporters to investigate three very different islands in the Bahamian archipelago: the eco haven of Grand Bahama, the glitzy Paradise Island and the isolated outpost of Cat Island. In some respects, they could be three different countries. But in the ways that matter most, the islands have lots in common. They're warm. They're sunny. And they're a world away from Washington.