Visitors interested in more than lazing on the beach have only to ask hotel staff to make the necessary arrangements. Guests at Atlantis, for example, have access to a surprising number of diversions without so much as leaving the hotel property: They can splash in private pools; play tennis, ping-pong, and shuffleboard; ride the waves; snorkel; or rent WaveRunners, jet skis, banana boats, and catamarans from contractors located in kiosks.
Hitting the Beach
On Paradise Island, Cabbage Beach (also known as West Beach) is the real showcase. Its broad white sands stretch for at least 3km (1 3/4 miles) and are bordered by casuarinas, palms, and sea grapes. It's likely to be crowded in winter, but you can find more elbow room by walking to the beach's northwestern stretch. You can reach Paradise Island from downtown Nassau by walking over the bridge, taking a taxi, or boarding a ferryboat at Prince George Wharf. Cabbage Beach does not have public restrooms, but if you patronize one of the handful of bars and restaurants nearby, you can use its facilities. Note that during the construction of Atlantis's soon-to-come waterfront timeshare property, access to some sections of this beach might be off-limits.
Our other favorite beach in this area is the white-sand Paradise Beach, which is used mainly by guests of the Cove Atlantis and the Reef Atlantis hotels, as it lies at the island's far western tip. If you're not a resident, access is difficult. If you're staying at a hotel in Nassau and want to come to Paradise Island for a day at the beach, it's better to go to Cabbage Beach. However, sunsets viewed from the sands of Paradise Beach look particularly beautiful.
Anglers can fish close to shore for grouper, dolphinfish, red snapper, crabs, even lobster. Farther out, in first-class fishing boats fitted with outriggers and fighting chairs, they troll for billfish or giant marlin.
The best way to pursue this pastime is to go to your hotel's activities desk, where the staff can set you up with a local charter operator for a half or full day of fishing.
Ocean Club Golf Course, Paradise Island Drive (tel. 242/363-2510; www.oneandonlyresorts.com), at the island's east end, is an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Tom Weiskopf that overlooks both the Atlantic Ocean and Nassau Harbour. Attracting every caliber of golfer, the par-72 course is known for its hole 17, which plays entirely along the scenic Snorkelers Cove. Greens fees, including use of a golf cart, are $120 to $300 for 18 holes of play, without reductions for guests at any individual hotels. Rental clubs and shoes are available.
Golfers seeking more variety will find one other course on New Providence Island, the Cable Beach Golf Club.
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
Bahama Divers, Nassau Yacht Haven Marina, on East Bay Street (tel. 800/398-3483 or 242/393-5644; www.bahamadivers.com), is the area's best all-around center for watersports, specializing in scuba diving and snorkeling. A two-tank morning dive goes for $109, a single-tank afternoon dive costs $70, and a half-day snorkeling trip is $50. Dive packages are also offered.
No other hotel in The Bahamas pays as much attention to tennis as the One&Only Ocean Club, Ocean Club Drive (tel. 242/363-2501; www.oneandonlyresorts.com), which has six Har-Tru courts, four lit for night play. Guests here can practically roll out of bed and onto the courts, which are often filled with first-class competitors, although beginners and intermediate players are welcome. One&Only Ocean Club guests have free access to the courts; they can also play with the resident pro for $75 per hour. Nonguests are not admitted.
Other hotels with courts include Atlantis, Casino Drive (tel. 242/363-3000; www.atlantis.com), with six hard-surface and clay courts. Atlantis guests (nonguests are not admitted) pay $20 per hour for access to the courts; they can play with the resident pro for an additional $70 per hour. Ball rentals go for $10 per hour, tennis racquets for another $10 per hour.
An Offshore Yoga Retreat
Ex-Beatle George Harrison and a host of other yoga devotees over the years have checked into Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat (tel. 800/441-2096 or 242/363-2902; fax 242/363-3783; www.sivananda.org), which is reached only by boat from Paradise Island. For some 40 years, it's been completely removed from the rest of Paradise Island's frantic gambling, heady lifestyle, and high prices. Today, the retreat teaches the healing arts and spiritual practices.
Lecturers from all over the world come here to give seminars and practice meditation. When not devoting their time to yoga, guests rest on a lovely sandy beach, all part of a compound that reaches from Nassau Harbour to the Atlantic. Guests attend two daily meditation sessions, the first starting at 5am. Two yoga classes per day are also required, but you're free daily from 10am to 4pm. A boat shuttles guests into Nassau so they can see its sights.
Participants are housed in the simple main house or in small one-room bungalows. The most desirable units, a dozen of them, front the beach. There are also 35 private single rooms, plus seven dormlike spaces. Vegetarian meals are included in the rate of $89 to $99 for a single, $79 to $129 for a double, or $69 to $79 for a three- or four-bed dormitory. Tent space is available for $69 per night.
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.