Freeport, The Bahamas

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Unlike New Providence Island, long and skinny Grand Bahama Island, with a western tip that curves and an eastern tip that curves south and ends in a string of cays, boasts great expanses of pristine nature and undeveloped beaches. Freeport, home to much of the island’s population, lies near the southwest end and plays host to thousands of day-trippers from cruise ships, diehard shoppers who have helped the town earn its reputation as the “Hong Kong of the Americas.” The best place to buy name-brand goods from Europe, North America, and Asia is the International Bazaar, and Port Lucaya Marketplace is your source for T-shirts and crafted items, but don’t miss the little Straw Market, because that’s where vendors sell hats, baskets, and other items that are actually made in The Bahamas. Resorts run the gamut from anglers’ havens like Bishop’s Bonefish Resort and the exclusive Deep Water Cay Club to modestly priced Sunrise Resort & Marina to the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach All-Inclusive Resort. The big kahuna on the island, of course, is the 500-plus room Grand Lucayan Bahamas.

Grand Lucayan stretches along more than a mile of gorgeous beach and offers championship golf at the Reef Golf Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Naturally, no one would ever be so gauche as to bet on a golf game, so the Grand Lucayan provides a 35,000-sq.-ft. casino for those with a yen for a wager. The Senses Spa & Fitness Center is almost as big as that casino, the tennis pro overseas four courts, and there are plenty of water toys on the beaches. Eight restaurants offer a great choice of dining environments and culinary styles; in particular, China Beach, the Pacific Rim restaurant, is not to be missed.
Grand Bahama Island also offers two nature experiences that should not be missed: One is Peterson’s Cay National Park, a marine park whose thriving reefs are as accessible to snorkelers as they are to divers. The other is the Bahamas National Trust Rand Nature Centre, whose inhabitants include the Bahama parrot, a green birdie with a red chest, blue and white highlights, and a true-blue inclination toward monogamy.