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Nassau

A laidback tropical island with copious amounts of candy-pink colonial (and sometimes funky) charm, Nassau is the capital of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas -- and the largest city on New Providence, one of its smaller islands. In fact, more than half of the Bahamas' 300,000+ residents live on New Providence. Famous Cable Beach, the hotel district and Paradise Island -- a satellite island developed specifically for tourists -- are but a stone's throw from downtown Nassau.

A city with a vibrant swashbuckling pirate past, Nassau offers tropical tree-lined streets filled with horse-drawn surreys and ruled by policemen in white starched jackets and colorful pith helmets. In addition to preserved colonial mansions, cathedrals and 18th-century fortresses, there are lavish Vegas-type casinos with attractions to match, dozens of obscenely good restaurants, and enough duty-free shops to please even the most jaded of fashionistas.

junkanoo new year parade festivalThe city streets fill with wild colors and rhythms each New Year's Day for Junkanoo, a festival similar to Carnival. Parades of people dressed in colorful feathers and bright sequins dance to the sound of cowbells, brass horns, drums and whistles. Junkanoo parades take place on other islands in the Commonwealth, but none compare to those on Nassau.

Yet Nassau's true beauty is its soft-sand beaches, perfect for kicking back and catching ocean breezes. Snorkeling and swimming with dolphins and sea lions is a way to get even closer to nature in the Bahamas. Truly a tropical playground, Nassau offers distraction day and night, on the land and in the water.

There have been some reports of increased crime in the less populous parts of the island recently, so visitors to Nassau should stick to the beaten path, take tours with tourist board recommended operators and always be aware of their surroundings.

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