With so many Caribbean islands and so little time, it can be difficult to choose which place is the right spot for your vacation. You probably won’t be able to see them all in your lifetime and if you pick the wrong one then you may feel you’ve wasted a week of vacation, your precious time away from work. How do you choose then? How do you decide which island to visit when they can all seem to blend together in your mind as a homogenous group of beach getaways.
Well each island really is distinct, and offers a different experience from the others. I can’t pretend to know about them all; my foray into the Caribbean began only last month. But I have visited now two quite distinct islands, and I’ll offer you here my impressions and advice. After all, the best way to get a feel for the different islands is to get firsthand accounts!
The Bahamas sit just east of Florida, a relatively quick ride for boat owners or a short flight from anywhere on the east coast of the US. The Bahamas is a nation actually comprised of over 700 islands. Many are uninhabited or privately owned, but several others cater well to the casual tourist. Probably the best know, and the one I visited, is Grand Bahama and Paradise Island. This is where Atlantis Resort is located, and the whole island is very tourist-friendly. Being so close to the US and a frequent vacation spot for Americans, these islands cater very well to the American tourist. You won’t see as much of the local island life when you’re here, as the years of catering to vacationers has made it more of a vacation destination than anything else. The Bahamas are also right on the equator, meaning you’ll get a lot of hot, direct sunlight while you’re there.
Barbados is at the southernmost end of the Caribbean, a single island with a small population. This island is much less developed and visited, though still easy to get to and enjoy. The island has a more laid back an relaxed atmosphere, an almost forced vacation mode that entices visitors. More British vacationers than Americans can be found here, though all are welcomed and embraced. The island’s claim to fame is pop artist Rihanna, but for the most part the island is very simple outside the resorts, with few commercial offerings or opportunities for shopping and daytrips. Barbados is further south of the equator so the sun is less direct, making for a more pleasant beach experience by some peoples’ standards.
The beaches at both The Bahamas and Barbados are fantastic. Clean white sand beaches draw you in to the clear blue waters, and you’ll feel entirely at ease in either place. Beaches in both places will also have entrepreneurs trying to sell you jetski rentals or island jewelry, but a simple No thank you will suffice if you want to be left alone.
The scuba diving is excellent at both The Bahamas and Barbados! For clear waters with high visibility, a selection of healthy coral reefs and interesting shipwrecks, and great dive companies, you cannot go wrong at either island.
The resort selection is great at either island, though they have distinct differences. In The Bahamas, The Atlantis is geared towards families and children while the Baha Mar caters to adults. In both cases, the resorts offer you over-the-top luxury and the absolute finest in beach vacations. You’ll feel pampered and spoiled here, like the vacation was designed just for you. In Barbados, the resorts are more dated, less luxurious. The hospitality is certainly warm and inviting, but the resorts leave something to be desired if what you’re looking for is seaside indulgence.
That being said, the Bahamas are more expensive than Barbados, so for those going on a budget trip Barbados may be the better choice. Everything from the price of the hotel to the taxi fare to the inclusion of food and drinks at the resort will leave the budget traveler preferring Barbados.
Both islands are easily accessible, a direct flight away from home for most of us. Barbados will be a longer flight given that it’s further south but the difference is not much. There are also cruise lines that service both islands, so they really are both very easily reachable!
There you have my Caribbean comparison of Barbados and Bahamas. I hope this helps as you plan you next vacation, and I hope you enjoy all the relaxing beauty that each island offers!