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Hitting the Beach

Bimini's beaches are all clearly marked and signposted from the highways. The one closest to Alice Town, Radio Beach, is the only one on Bimini with toilets, vendors, and snack bars. It's set adjacent to Alice Town's piers and wharves; consequently, it's the island's most popular and crowded beach.

About 3km (1 3/4 miles) north of Alice Town, facing west, is Spook Hill Beach. Both it and its cousin, Bimini Bay Beach, about 4km (2 1/2 miles) north of Alice Town, offer sparser crowds, worthy snorkeling, and lots of sunshine. Both are sandy-bottomed and comfortable on your feet. Many local residents prefer Bimini Bay Beach, which is wider than any other on the island.

On South Bimini, the two favorites are the west-facing Bimini Sands Beach, a sandy-bottomed stretch that's immediately south of the channel separating North from South Bimini; and Bimini Reef Club Beach, south of the airport, where offshore snorkeling is especially worthwhile, thanks to very clear waters.

Fishing

Ernest Hemingway made fishing here famous, but Zane Grey came this way, too, as did Howard Hughes. Richard Nixon used to fish here aboard the posh cruiser of his entrepreneurial friend Charles "Bebe" Rebozo. In Hemingway's wake, fishermen still flock to cast lines in the Gulf Stream and the Bahama Banks.

Of course, everyone's still after the big one, and a lot of world records have been set in this area for marlin, sailfish, swordfish, wahoo, grouper, and tuna. But these fish are becoming evasive, and their dwindling numbers are edging them close to extinction. Fishing folk can spin cast for panfish, boat snapper, yellowtail, and kingfish. Many experts consider stalking bonefish, long a pursuit of baseball great Ted Williams, the sport's toughest challenge.

Five charter boats are available in Bimini for big-game and little-game fishing, with some center-console boats rented for both bottom and reef angling. At least eight bonefishing guides are available, and experienced anglers who have made repeated visits to Bimini know the particular skills of each of these men who will take you for a half-day or full day of "fishing in the flats," a local term for bonefishing in the sea-level waterways and estuaries that cut into the island. Most skiffs hold two anglers, and part of the fun in hiring a local guide is to hear his fish tales and other island lore. If a guide tells you that 7.25kg (16-lb.) bonefish have turned up, he may not be exaggerating -- catches that large have really been documented.

Reef and bottom-fishing around Bimini are easier than bonefishing and can be more productive. Numerous species of snapper and grouper can be found, as well as amberjack. This is the simplest and least expensive boat-fishing experience because you need only a local guide, a little boat, tackle, and a lot of bait. Sometimes you can negotiate to go bottom-fishing with a Bahamian, but chances are, he'll ask you to pay for the boat fuel. That night, back at your inn, the cook will serve you the red snapper or grouper you caught that day.

Most hotel owners will tell you to bring your own fishing gear. A couple of small shops do sell some items, but you'd better bring major equipment with you if you're really serious. Bait, of course, can be purchased locally.

Snokeling & Scuba Diving

Explore the black-coral gardens and reefs here, plus wrecks, blue holes, and a mysterious stone formation on the bottom of the sea that some claim is part of the lost continent of Atlantis (it's 457m/1,499 ft. offshore in Bimini Bay, under about 6m/20 ft. of water). Bimini waters are known for a breathtaking drop-off at the rim of the continental shelf, an underwater mountain that plunges 600m (1,969 ft.) down.

The finest and most experienced outfitter is Bimini Undersea, King's Highway, Alice Town (tel. 242/347-3089; www.biminiundersea.com). The people to see here are Bill and Nowdla Keefe. Scuba enthusiasts pay $59 for a one-tank dive, $99 for a two-tank dive. Snorkelers are charged $39 for a single trip, including use of mask and fins. All-inclusive dive packages are also available. For reservations, call tel. 800/348-4644 or 305/653-5572.

Bimini Undersea also gives you the chance to swim with dolphins in the wild two or three times a week, depending on demand. Most excursions take from 3 to 4 hours and cost $129 for adults and $99 for kids 12 and under. Before you go, though, know that this activity has its critics. To learn more about that controversy, visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society's website at www.wdcs.org.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.