If sipping rum punch by the water’s edge sounds better than trudging through the snow, you’re in business in The Bahamas. Less than four hours in the air from Montreal, take the plunge with nonstop flights aboard Air Canada and Sunwing to the capital city of Nassau and the popular Out Islands. Whether you’re on the hunt for pampering, privacy or a party on the beach, you’ll find plenty of reasons to swap the snowsuits for swimsuits on the 700 islands and cays that make up The Bahamas. — www.bahamas.com
Relaxation reboot in Nassau
The backdrop for classic films like Pirates of The Caribbean and James Bond’s Casino Royale, Nassau and Paradise Island are a world away from the sweater weather you left at home. It’s a baggage carousel-to-beach vacation at Baha Mar where three resorts — Grand Hyatt, SLS and Rosewood — offer a myriad of to-do’s from playing the 18-hole Royal Blue Golf course, meet and greets with the resident pink flamingos, noshing at umpteen restaurants, tempting Lady Luck at the largest casino in the Caribbean, and toasting a win with a cocktail on Cable Beach. For foodies and those who travel with them, Bahamas Culinary & Arts Festival is on the calendar from April 30 to May 3. — www.bahamar.com
The most checked-into hotel in Nassau is also the largest. With more than 3,000 rooms, Atlantis Paradise Island is so big you might be tempted to hire a Sherpa guide although every staff person is trained to direct befuddled guests to the Water Park, marine sanctuary, casino, restaurants and pools. Packages are offered by Air Canada Vacations and Sunwing Vacations. — www.atlantisbahamas.com/
If a smaller hotel is more your style, The Island House fits the bill with 30 rooms, three restaurants, pool, 42-seat cinema and a spa. Less than 10 minutes from the Lynden Pindling International Airport, the hotel ups the ante with gratis shuttles to Stuart Cove’s where snorkeling is an underwater show worth seeing.
“We’re away from the hustle and bustle of the larger resorts in Nassau,” said Anja Allen, director sales and marketing. “Our Canadian guests are big fans of our Thursday night jazz concerts, Farmers Market on Saturdays and afternoons on nearby Lyford Cay where you might see actor Sean Connery, who lives there.” — www.the-island-house.com/
Go for the grand on Grand Bahama Island
Rebuilding after Hurricane Dorian made landfall last September, Grand Bahama Island is open for business and attracting the winter weary in record numbers. “Canadians appreciate our family-friendly vibe,” said Hon. Kwasi Thompson, Minister of State. “In fact, many have second homes on the island.”
Sunwing flies nonstop every Saturday from Montreal and Toronto to Freeport. “Each week, close to 200 passengers arrive from Montreal via Sunwing,” said Stephen Johnson, general manager, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. “Visitors have an opportunity to go to our fish fry, visit our beaches, take in shopping and experience what our island has to offer.”
A Sunwing favourite, Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach fronts the 1,200 meter long Fortune Beach; one of 43 that rim the island. Family-friendly, 274-room all-inclusive comes with three restaurants, two bars, two pools, Kids Club, tennis courts, trapeze classes, mini-disco for kids who like to busta move and a cocktail class for grown-ups who like to perfect the fine art of shaking (or stirring) fruity martinis.
“Sunwing’s vacation packages offer a touch of home for Quebecers as many of our staff speak French,” said Yessy Luis, guest services manager. “Montrealers rave about our nightly shows and our unlimited snorkeling and kayaking.” — www.sunwing.ca/
An easy island to navigate, there’s plenty to explore in the Lucayan National Park that hosts a scenic underwater cave system and at Port Lucaya Marketplace where locally-made trinkets and tchotchkes beat the fridge magnets sold at the airport. For those in a ditch-the-diet vacation mode, make a beeline for the banana bread at Banana Bay, coconut French toast at Taino by the Sea, fish so fresh it’s still angry at the Fish Fry at Smith’s Point and seafood signatures at Tony Macaroni’s Conch Experience. “Canadians linger here all day taking five on Taino Beach, enjoying my potent Gully Wash cocktails and sampling conch prepared every way imaginable,” said owner smiles Tony Macaroni with a smile. — www.grandbahamavacations.com/
Worth the splurge in Exuma
Although ‘swimming with those famous pigs may be the main attraction in Exuma, the postcard-perfect Out Island is also home to the Emerald Reef Golf Club, Bahamian Rock Iguanas and resorts like the Grand Isle Resort where perfecting the fine art of doing nothing is delightful. “The resort is 15 minutes from the airport making a stay most convenient via Air Canada’s four weekly nonstop flights to Nassau from Montreal, coupled with a fast flight to Exuma on Bahamasair,” said Montrealer Dimitri Fourlas, director business development for the resort.
In 78 spacious villas, the swanky seaside stunner comes with two pools, three restaurants, spa and a long sandy white beach. And if swimming with the pigs is on the bucket list, ask the Concierge to organize a day trip. — www.grandisleresort.com/
For more photos, see the story at TheSuburban.com