For the tourist, Nassau is a bucket list stopover, a dreamy location to grab a fridge magnet before the cruise ship lifts the gangplank. But for the traveller, the capital city is an inimitable portrait of Bahamian life, a vibrant blend of North American culture and island idiosyncrasy.
Beyond the tourist hordes of Nassau, you'll find hidden conch merchants, the island's only remaining rum distillery, and the swimming pigs of Exuma. Give the Bahamian capital four days of your time and you're apt to leave wanting four more.
Day One: Arrival and beach-time
Landing at Nassau Lynden Pindling International Airport puts you 15-minutes away from Nassau's downtown core. New Providence Island is small, shaped like a football, and takes under an hour to drive from tip-to-tip.
It's peppered with the usual tourist trappings – chain hotels and resorts – but pay no mind to them as you make your way to one of the island's boutique hotels. You can't go wrong with the historic Graycliff estate (a registered Nassau landmark), the low-key plantation style A Stone's Throw Away, or the chic The Island House. If you're on a budget, peruse Airbnb, which is full of safe and stunning local accommodations.
Once you're settled, shake off the jet lag with some beach time at Junkanoo Beach, named for the lively Bahamian music.
Day Two: The “conk" merchants
If you're feeling peckish after a morning swim, make your way to Potter's Cay, a stretch of seafood stands under the bridge to Paradise Island. Try the conch salad, a ceviche-esque Bahamian staple made with a myriad of citrus and vegetables. Be sure to pronounce it “conk" or you'll be charged twice the price (okay, not really, but you'll look like a neophyte).
Afterwards, visit the 1789 Buena Vista Estate in historic downtown Nassau, home to John Watling's Distillery. Sample rum and tour the last remaining distillery on the island, opened four years after Barcardi left in 2009.
Day Three: Swimming pigs
Since you've resisted being touristy the past few days, it's okay to cave into the craze that is the swimming pigs of the Exuma Cays. There's conflicting stories as to how the pigs got to the uninhabited islands, some say they swam off a shipwreck, others say they were left by sailors who had intended to return but never did.
Either way, the pigs are very much real and ready to swim with you. You can make a day of it and throw in a visit with sharks and rock iguanas as well through 4C's Adventures or charter a tour with Exuma Water Sports.
Day Four: Yoga versus vices
It's your last day. Do you search for inner peace or chase your vice? If it's the former, head over to Studio Ohana for a lesson in yogi tranquility.
If it's vice you're after, look no further than a course on cigar rolling and rum pairing at the Graycliff Cigar Company. Too early for rum and cigars? No problem, there's rum and chocolate pairing classes over at Graycliff Chocolatier. Wrap up your trip with a jaunt to nearby Arawak Cay, where locals and tourists alike go to indulge in the infamous Bahamian fish fry.