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In The Bahamas, as in Puerto Rico, the issue regarding public access to beaches is a hot and controversial subject. Recognizing this, the government has made efforts to intersperse public beaches with easy access between more private beaches where access may be impeded. Although mega-resorts discourage nonresidents from accessing their individual beaches, there are so many local public beaches that all you'd have to do is drive or walk to any of the many unmarked, unnamed beaches.

Most visitors stay in one of the large beachfront resorts that have the ocean meeting the sand right outside of their doors. For those hoping to explore more of the coast, here's a list of recommended beaches that are absolutely accessible to the public:

Cable Beach -- No particular beach is actually called Cable Beach, yet this is the most popular stretch of sand on New Providence Island. Cable Beach is the name given not to a single beach, but to a string of resorts and beaches in the center of New Providence's northern coast, attracting the most visitors. This beachfront offers 6.5km (4 miles) of soft white sand, with many different types of restaurants, snack bars, and watersports offered by the hotels lining the waterfront. Calypso music floats to the sand from hotel pool patios, where vacationers play musical chairs and see how low they can limbo. Vendors wend their way between sunscreen-slathered bodies selling armloads of shell jewelry, T-shirts, beach cover-ups, and fresh coconuts for sipping the sweet "water" straight from the shell. Others offer hair-braiding services or sign up visitors for water-skiing, jet-skiing, and banana-boat rides. Kiosks advertise parasailing, scuba-diving, and snorkeling trips, as well as party cruises to offshore islands. Waters can be rough and reefy, but then calm and clear a little farther along the shore. There are no public toilets here because guests of the resorts use their hotel facilities. If you're not a hotel guest and not a customer, you're not supposed to use the facilities. Cable Beach resorts begin 5km (3 miles) west of downtown Nassau, and even though they line much of this long swath of beach, there are various sections where public access is available without crossing through private hotel grounds.

Caves Beach -- On the north shore, past the Cable Beach hotels, Caves Beach is 11km (6 3/4 miles) west of Nassau. It stands near Rock Point, right before the turnoff along Blake Road that leads to the airport. Since many visitors don't know of this place, it's a good spot to escape the hordes. It's also an attractive beach with soft sands. There are no toilets or changing facilities.

Delaporte Beach -- Just west of Cable Beach's busiest section is this public-access beach where you can escape the crowds. It opens onto clear waters and boasts white sands, although it has neither facilities nor toilets.

Goodman's Bay -- This public beach lies east of Cable Beach on the way toward Nassau's center. Goodman's Bay and Saunders Beach often host local fund-raising cookouts, during which vendors sell fish, chicken, conch, peas 'n' rice, and macaroni and cheese. People swim and socialize to blaring reggae and calypso tunes. To find out when one of these beach parties is happening, ask the staff at your hotel or pick up a local newspaper. There's a playground here, plus toilet facilities.

Old Fort Beach -- To escape the crowds on weekdays, we often head here, a 15-minute drive west of Lynden Pindling International Airport (take W. Bay St. toward Lyford Cay). This lovely beach opens onto Old Fort Bay's turquoise waters, near western New Providence. The least developed of the island's beaches, it attracts many homeowners from the swanky Lyford Cay gated community. In winter, it can be quite windy, but in summer, it's as calm as the Caribbean.

Saunders Beach -- East of Cable Beach, this is where many islanders go on the weekends. To reach it, take West Bay Street from Nassau toward Coral Island. This beach lies across from Fort Charlotte, just west of Arawak Cay. Like Goodman's Bay , it often hosts local fund-raising cookouts open to the public. These can be a lot of fun. There are no public facilities.

Western Esplanade -- If you're staying at a hotel in downtown Nassau, such as the British Colonial, this is a good beach to patronize close to town. On this narrow strip of sand convenient to Nassau, you'll find toilets, changing facilities, and a snack bar. It's also known as Junkanoo Beach or Lighthouse Beach.

A Beach for Lovers -- Continuing west along West Bay Street, you'll reach Love Beach, across from Sea Gardens, a nice stretch of sand lying east of Northwest Point. Love Beach, although not big, is a special favorite of lovers (hence the name). The snorkeling is superb, too. It's technically private, but no one bothers visitors, even though locals fervently hope it won't become overrun like Cable Beach.

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.