When it comes to dream getaways and honeymoon vacations, the Bahamas and Jamaica should be two destinations top of most people’s lists. Both of these friendly island paradises can offer amazing experiences, especially if you’re looking for sun, sea, and sand.
These island nations are also very different from each other. So choosing whether to visit Bahamas or Jamaica for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday or honeymoon destination is very important. Having visited both, we compare them below, and show you what each has to offer.
Bahamas vs Jamaica: Stunning natural scenery
For tourists looking to sunbathe and swim, the Bahamas and its hundreds of beautiful islands seem the natural choice. The Bahamas is huge, and there are countless islands and beaches to discover. Therefore if you’re wanting a holiday focused on beaches and resorts then the Bahamas will suit you better than Jamaica. Furthermore, whilst both Jamaica and the Bahamas have gorgeous white sand beaches, the Bahamas probably has the more beautiful coastline.
However, Jamaica is a tropical island that has a lush green mountainous interior, in comparison to the Bahamas which is much drier and flatter. That makes Jamaica a better vacation choice for tourists who wish to do more outside than just sunbathe – such as hiking, swimming in waterfalls, and culture-based activities. In fact Jamaica’s highest peak is 2256 meters – the Bahamas’ is just 63!
Bahamas’ arid climate – and an average of 340 sunny days a year – does mean it has beach-weather year round though. However away from the coastline there is little to do in comparison to Jamaica.
When deciding between the Bahamas vs Jamaica, expenses are very important to consider. The large local population in Jamaica means that there are many different accommodation and food options in the country, and so it can cater to tourists on a range of budgets. Which is why Jamaica is included on our list of cheapest Caribbean islands to visit! The Bahamas, in contrast, tends to be quite expensive, more upscale, and has far fewer options for budget travelers.
Below we look in more detail at what both islands have to offer potential tourists, before showing how each is different culturally, and what to expect.
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches in the Bahamas, which has countless sandy bays and coves across 655,000 square kilometers! In fact while Jamaica has 635 miles of coastline, the Bahamas has 3,542 miles!
One of our favorite beaches is Greenwood Beach on Cat Island, because it is a long sandy stretch that is far less touristy than other beaches. In many ways this is where the Bahamas shines over Jamaica. If you are adventurous enough, it is still possible to find beaches all to yourself.
Iconic beaches such as Pig Beach on Big Major Cay are a must visit too. It’s famous not for the turquoise-hued waters, but the pigs that swim here! Visiting this uninhabited Bahamian island can be expensive though.
A more accessible, and equally iconic beach, is Gold Rock Beach in Grand Bahama. Regarded as one of the best swimming spots – and beaches in the Caribbean – the sunsets here are unparalleled. In fact it’s the sunset reflecting off a nearby cay that gives this beach its name.
The Bahamas also have some of the world’s best diving spots in arguably the world’s clearest water. And with 340 days of sun a year, there’s rarely a day when scuba diving and snorkeling isn’t possible.
Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park is probably the best snorkeling experience in the country, where you can see a huge variety of colorful sea-life. A great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must.
Jamaica has it all when it comes to a tropical island paradise, but what most tourists want are spectacular beaches!
One of the best on the island is Seven Mile Beach at the town of Negril. This is a popular spot, but this long stretch of gorgeous white sand is your stereotypical Caribbean paradise. Expect clear blue water, great snorkeling, and one of the best sunsets in the region.
For another beautiful beach with calm swimming water, head to Bloody Bay. The turquoise-hued water is a great place to swim, snorkel, paddle board and more.
There are many great snorkeling spots throughout Jamaica’s coastline, but one of our favorites is Montego Bay. Head there to swim beside colorful reef fish and sting rays.
As one of the Caribbean’s largest islands, the diverse geography in Jamaica is one of the reasons to visit. The iconic Blue Mountains are stunning, and the gorgeous 14 mile Blue Mountain Peak Trail takes you through jungle waterfalls, coffee plantations and more as you make your way up Jamaica’s highest peak.
For panoramic views of the island head to Holywell National Park in the Blue Mountains. Here you can hike up through the jungle. Our top tip is to rent a tent and camp for a night or two – the stars up here, and the sunrise in the morning, are unrivaled.
Bahamas vs Jamaica: Explore the sights and experience the tropics
The Bahamas definitely has an American feel to it, whereas Jamaica has more of a colorful Caribbean vibe. Therefore if you want a holiday which feels Caribbean, then Jamaica is the best choice.
In the battle between the Bahamas or Jamaica, both countries are fun places to stay when it comes to nightlife. However Jamaica tends to be more lively, and geared towards a younger crowd.
The Bahamas is a fascinating mix of culture, with African, British and American influences. In fact with its close proximity to the U.S., there’s no doubt there’s a very ‘American’ feel to the tourist hot-spots in the Bahamas.
However, the Bahamas still has much culture on offer.
The vibrant rhythmic national music of the Bahamas, Goombay, was created as a way for slaves to pass down traditions and customs. Goombay continues to this day, and is a staple of fun summer festivals in the country. The Heritage Museum of the Bahamas in Nassau is a good place to visit to find out more about the history of the Bahamas.
There’s no doubt that the Bahamas is also a country synonymous with having a good time, so if you fancy a flutter then head to Paradise Island. Here you can try your hand at the casinos, and grab a beach-side cocktail at one of its high-market resorts.
For something a bit more historical then visit Fort Charlotte, which sits on a hill overlooking Nassau. The 18th century fort will introduce you to what the Bahamas was like when piracy was rampant a few centuries ago.
Jamaica’s culture is colorful and vibrant, and the country is a wonderful melting pot of different religions and beliefs.
One of those is the Rastafarianism movement which was borne out of Jamaica in the 1930s. For visitors to the island, the Rastafari Indigenous Village near Montego Bay is an opportunity to connect first-hand with people practicing the religion, while also learning how to make traditional drums and cuisine.
Probably Rastafarianism’s most famous member was Bob Marley, and no visit to Jamaica is complete without visiting the Bob Marley Museum in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston.
For the best nightlife on the island head to Montego Bay – named MoBay by locals. This party town is a place where you can enjoy a cocktail on the beach, or dance to reggae until the early hours of the morning.
Synonymous with both Jamaica and Rastafarians is marijuana – which is legal for medicinal use in Jamaica, and for use by Rastafarians. Being caught with small amounts (2oz or less) will result in just a small fine of around 5 USD. That makes Jamaica a relatively safe place to smoke for tourists looking for their ganja fix. It’s common for tourists to be approached about buying weed in Jamaica – always exercise caution.
Bahamas vs Jamaica: A taste of island life
Both the Bahamas and Jamaica will provide a treat for your taste-buds, with cuisine focused around seafood.
As a nation made up of numerous islands, it will come as no surprise that Bahamian cuisine is focused around seafood. So if you are a seafood lover, this is the country for you!
Fried conch (aka cracked conch) is a popular dish in the Bahamas and is served in a variety of ways. Look out for it on menus. Baked crab is another dish that’s very popular – it’s made up of crab meat, bread crumbs and egg, all baked within the crab shell itself.
As for what to drink, coconut water in the Bahamas is a no brainer! You also have to try Switcha, which is a sort of lemonade, except it’s made with limes.
Want something a little stronger? The beers made by the Bahamian Brewery are definitely worth trying, as are the delicious rum cocktails served up and down the archipelago. The Yellow Bird is a favorite rum cocktail of many Bahamians.
Jamaica’s national food, ackee and saltfish, combines the national fruit of Jamaica (ackee) with salted cod. It’s a popular dish that famous Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has said he often eats for breakfast!
Another iconic Jamaican dish worth trying is jerk chicken or pork. This type of cooking is native to Jamaica and the spicy cooking style may have been invented by slaves who escaped into Jamaica’s wilderness and invented it as they cooked over wood fires.
For something sweet, try Grater cake – a delicious cake made from grated coconut! As for what to drink, Jamaica’s very-own Red Stripe lager is popular on the island (and around the world). Rum cocktails are also made up and down the island with a variety of fresh fruit.
Bahamas vs Jamaica: Which should you choose?
Both the Bahamas and Jamaica are great places to visit for a beach-orientated vacation, with each island home to beautiful white sandy stretches of coastline, and some stunning snorkeling spots.
The Bahamas most popular islands and beaches can be packed and noisy. However with so many beaches and islands, it’s still possible to find remote secluded spots all to yourself. Therefore if beaches are your main priority then an island hopping adventure in the Bahamas would be a better choice than Jamaica.
Jamaica, with its lush forest and mountains, is more suited to holidaymakers who want a vacation that involves activities away from the beach, such as hiking or culture-based activities. Jamaica is also a much cheaper option than the Bahamas too.
Recommended for your trip to the Bahamas or Jamaica
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