Not sure which Bahamian island to visit? Here's a primer on the most populated islands, with special attention to the Out Islands -- along with my admittedly biased recommendations of what type of traveler each is best for.
New Providence CLAIM TO FAME:
Home to Nassau, the capital city (population 181,000) and the Bahamas' center of commerce, government and tourism. Port of call for major cruise lines. Large hotels and resorts at Cable Beach and Paradise Island.
PROS: Casinos, shops, restaurants, golf courses, all types of water sports.
CONS: Casinos, shops, restaurants, golf courses and crowds of day-trippers from cruise ships. Did I mention traffic and noise?
BEST FOR: Gamblers, golfers, old-timers and young families, honeymooners and anyone who wants a convenient, insulated, all-inclusive experience.
NOT FOR: Travelers interested in authentic Bahamian culture, deserted beaches and eco-tourism.
Grand Bahama CLAIM TO FAME:
Freeport (population 49,000) is the second-largest city in the Bahamas. Major hotels and resorts line south-facing beach, some stretches of which are among the most beautiful in the country. Home to Lucayan National Park (site of the world's longest known underwater cave and cavern system) and the Rand Nature Center.
PROS: Casinos, shops, restaurants, golf courses, fishing and excellent nature preserves. Acres of pine forests home to interesting bird life.
CONS: Casinos, shops, restaurants, golf courses and crowds of tourists on packaged, inclusive vacations.
BEST FOR: Gamblers, singles looking for singles, honeymooners, families interested in all-inclusive deals.
NOT FOR: People in search of an unsanitized Bahamian experience who don't want manufactured amusement.
Great Abaco CLAIM TO FAME:
Abaco and its cays were settled in the 1780s by Loyalist planters fleeing the newly formed United States in the wake of the American Revolution. Abaco has a very Anglo-American feel to it.